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ACHPR 73: ISHR urges States to respect the rights of defenders and end reprisals against them

ISHR registered to deliver a statement on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa during the 73th session of the African Commission. It highlighted progress in drafting and enacting legislation to protect human rights defenders and expressed concern about reprisals and the impact of unconstitutional changes of government on protecting of human rights defenders

Under item 6 on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and focal point on reprisals, ISHR welcomed the establishment of the protection mechanism for human rights defenders in Côte d’Ivoire on 10 November 2021 and the recent adoption of the law establishing the duties and rights of human rights defenders on 15 June 2022 in Niger. 

However, ISHR urged States to work closely with defenders and include them in the composition and functioning of mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders.

During the presentation of his report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa and focal point on reprisals stated that States should ensure that mechanisms set up for the protection of human rights defenders are inclusive and feature representatives of civil society in their composition.

He therefore congratulated Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger for having adopted laws for the protection of human rights defenders before calling States to refrain from adopting repressive laws that restrict the civic space and legitimate activities of human rights defenders to promote and defend human rights.

It was also an opportunity for ISHR to remind the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and focal point on reprisals in Africa to publish the first report on reprisals at the next session of the Commission and to continue his efforts to publicise its mandate on reprisals. Indeed, for the African human rights system to function at its full potential, defenders need to be able to share crucial information and perspectives on the situations on the ground. “Acts of reprisal against human rights defenders continue to be widespread and manifest in various forms and are virtually common to all countries, with varying degrees of severity,” Commissioner Lumbu concluded.

Finally, ISHR’s statement shared its concern about the unconstitutional changes of government in Africa and particularly in West Africa on the security of human rights defenders. This was the case in Burkina Faso in January 2022 and October 2022, in Sudan in October 2021, in Guinea in September 2021, in Chad in April 2021 and in Mali in August 2020 and May 2021.

ISHR then urged the Special Rapporteur to draw the attention of States to the respect of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rights of defenders in all circumstances and to monitor the situation of defenders in this context.

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