In a statement delivered today before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), ISHR commended progress made on legal protection and recognition of human rights defenders while expressing serious concerns on increasing violations in various countries.
An increasing number of African countries are adopting, drafting or considering drafting specific laws protecting human rights defenders, as ISHR recalled in a statement delivered today at the 61st session of the African Commission. Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have been praised for respectively being the first and second countries to make such a step, in close collaboration with ISHR. Other countries such as Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or Guinea were commended for drafting such laws though ISHR underlined the need for these laws to be fully in line with the regional and international human rights instruments.
‘These laws must be in conformity with both the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the African Charter. They should create a conducive environment for defenders’ work, and must not contain any provisions – or be implemented in a way – to restrict defenders’ vital work,’ said Clément Voulé, ISHR’s African advocacy director.
The statement reiterated the invitation made by ISHR to all States to draw inspiration from its Model Law developed in collaboration with 28 human rights experts from across the globe.
Despite these encouraging signs, ISHR swiftly turned to expressing serious concerns over the worsening human rights situation in countries such as Burundi, the DRC or Eritrea. Much emphasis was put on Burundi who obstinately refuses to cooperate with any human rights mechanism. ISHR recalled that the Commission of Inquiry (COI) appointed by the UN Human Rights Council concluded that ‘there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that crimes against humanity have been and continue to be perpetrated in Burundi since April 2015.’
ISHR mentioned some of the most defiant steps taken by Burundian authorities such as declaring UN experts persona non grata, denying access to the country to the COI, etc. ‘Human rights defenders are constantly targeted and victims of arbitrary detention’ Clément Voulé continued.
In that regard, ISHR urged the African Commission to address the situation and call Burundi to, inter alia and without delay, put an end to impunity and to the suspension of human rights NGOs.
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