Commissioner Rémy Ngoy Lumbu ACHPR 75. © Photo: ACHPR

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ACHPR75: The African human rights system must work to its full potential for the protection of defenders

During the 75th session of the African Commission, ISHR delivered a statement on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa. The aim was to highlight the impact of anti-constitutional changes of government on the rights of human rights defenders and to call on the Focal Point on Reprisals to publish his first report.

On 6 May 2023, under item 6 on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and focal point on reprisals, ISHR statement noted that despite the adoption of laws and the establishment of specific mechanisms to protect human rights defenders, the rise of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa and increasing insecurity in several countries continue to have a considerable impact on the security of defenders who face numerous challenges in promoting and protecting their rights.

ISHR seized the opportunity to share its concern about the cases of Thulani Rudolf Maseko, a human rights lawyer and member of Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland who was shot at close range by unidentified gunmen in Luhleko, Mbabane on 21 January 2023, and of Daouda Diallo from Burkina Faso, recipient of the Martin Ennals Award and Secretary-General of the Collective against Impunity and Stigmatisation of Communities (CISC), who escaped several kidnapping attempts on 6 January 2023.

“ISHR encourages the Special Rapporteur to continue to draw the States’ attention to the respect of defenders’ rights in all circumstances and to closely monitor the situation of defenders in these contexts,” said Stéphanie Wamba, Africa Programme Advocate.

In addition to the threats faced by human rights defenders, civic and democratic space is increasingly restricted. 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 “freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration are essential rights for collective expression and the defense of all human rights.” Indeed, the right to peaceful assembly includes the right to organise meetings, sit-ins, strikes, rallies, demonstrations and other events, both online and offline. 

“States should adopt laws on the protection of human rights and their activities. Above all, they should refrain from adopting freedom-suppressing laws that tend to restrict civic space and the legitimate activities of defenders to promote and defend human rights,” added Commissioner Rémy Ngoy Lumbu.

Watch the video of the session here.

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