ISHR joined Sudan Women Rights Action, Nora Center for Combating Sexual Violence and MENA WHRD Coalition in calling on the Human Rights Council to support Sudanese women human rights defenders in their struggle for democratic transition, gender equality, peace, and protection from violence.
As provided by article Articles 23 (3) and 72 of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, each of the 11 Commissioners presented their activity reports. These reports summarise the work accomplished by each one of them according to their mandates since the last ordinary session of the African Commission. ISHR used this opportunity to deliver a statement following the reports of the Special Rapporteur on Women, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Chairperson of the working group on extractive industries, the environment and human rights violations.
On 21 November, Commissioner Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi presented her last report on the work of her mandate since the 66th ordinary session of the Commission, as her term as a Commissioner is coming to an end. Indeed, she shared the numerous meetings she had with partner NGOs in order to assess the impact of COVID-19 on women’s rights. She called on State Parties to prioritise the protection of women and children in the conception, planning, development and implementation of national response measures to the novel COVID-19, as well as employ gender-equality sensitive approaches to provide adequate protection of the rights of this vulnerable group as provided in the African Charter, the Maputo Protocol and other relevant human rights instruments.
“The situation of women human rights defenders is more than worrying. They are often work in an unsafe environment in which their place is devalued and unrecognised. The COVID-19 pandemic has particularly affected women whose situation of vulnerability has intensified in terms of access to health services, and the respect of their economic, social, and cultural rights” said Nadia Ruminy, ISHR Programme intern, in her statement.
Watch the statement here (in French):
Reminding that women’s rights are recognised and defined in numerous international and regional instruments, ISHR encouraged the Special Rapporteur to continue to call on States to domesticate and effectively implement all international and regional legal instruments relating to women’s rights, particularly the Maputo Protocol.
On 23 November, Commissioner Remy Ngoy Lumbu presented his report. He highlighted the increasing thumber of violations against defenders since the beginning of the pandemic and assured that though his first report on reprisals is yet to be presented, it will be at the 68th ordinary session of the Commission. Following his presentation, ISHR delivered a statement which focused, among other things, on the importance of the work of defenders during the pandemic.
Watch the statement here (in French):
“The pandemic has been instrumentalised to legitimise unjustified restrictions on freedoms and to prevent civil society from planning and implementing its activities. These include unprecedented levels of censorship, attacks against journalists and human rights defenders, violence by police forces and widespread violations of the right to privacy” said ISHR’s Africa Programme Consultant Stéphanie Wamba.
She called on the Commission and member States to pay particular attention to the increased restrictions faced by advocates to carry out their work during this health crisis. She also mentioned that ISHR is conducting a study on the impact on civil society of measures taken to combat Covid-19 in African countries, which highlights a resurgence of bans on gatherings, restrictions on freedom of movement and censorship hindering freedom of expression.
Finally, on 25 November the Chairperson of the Commission who is also the Chairperson of the Working Group on extractive industries, the environment and human rights violations, Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, presented his report. He mentioned the statement of the working group in response to the oil spill in the Indian Ocean, on the south east coast of the Mauritian island and its dire consequences on the environment, the appointment of new Expert members of the working group and shared the progress made on the Background Study on Extractive Industries, the Environment and Human Rights in Africa which will be published at the 68th ordinary session. In its statement, ISHR reiterates the importance and usefulness of the State reporting guidelines under Articles 21 and 24 of the African Charter to guide and encourage States to report on the implementation of these articles at the national level.
Watch the statement here (in French):
“Nevertheless, since the adoption of these guidelines, only a few States provide relevant and necessary information that would allow the Commission to thoroughly assess the implementation of these articles” said ISHR Africa Programme Manager Adélaïde Etong Kame.
It also emphasised the danger environmental, land and indigenous peoples’ defenders continue to face, especially with the recent death of Fikile Ntshangase, a South African environmental activist who was shot dead at her home after opposing the expansion of a coal mine and getting involved in a legal dispute with the company Tendele Coal. Finally, the Commission was reminded that points 24 and 39 of the guidelines provide that defenders speaking out to ensure respect for the human rights of people and communities affected by the exploitation of extractive industries, must be protected against any act of reprisal, harassment, restriction and intimidation from businesses or States.
Contact: Adélaïde Etong Kame, Africa Programme Manager, [email protected]
Photo: Fikile Ntshangase
To commemorate the International Safe Abortion Day, ISHR joined 372 organisations as well as women human rights defenders working to prevent maternal deaths, including through ensuring safe abortions, to demand free, safe and accessible abortion for everyone, NOW!
This week in an online event, 10 candidate States publicly spoke to an audience of around 200 people on their pledges as incoming Human Rights Council members for 2022 – 2024. They also faced questions on pressing human rights issues from both States and civil society organisations.
Faced with the appropriation of their name, Peruvian NGO Madres en Acción is pushing back, filing a legal action to recover it. In an amicus brief in support of the action, ISHR argues that trademark law is being used to attack defenders and this must stop.
In the first case on violence against trans people heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Court held Honduras responsible for the transfemicide of human rights defender Vicky Hernández.
ISHR joined 74 civil society organisations from across the world in urging Egypt to release researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy, and to ensure that, pending his release, he is granted immediate and regular access to his family and lawyers, provided with adequate healthcare, and protected from torture and other ill-treatment.
Beyond the discrimination and indignation that ordinary women suffer, indigenous women in Africa continue to be marginalised and denied the full recognition and protection of their rights. Decisively, the long-awaited National Human Rights Institutions’ (NHRIs) Forum organised by the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) convened on 8 and 9 April 2021 to discuss the role of NHRIs in promoting the realisation of indigenous women’s rights in Africa. The Forum was convened ahead of the 68th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The result of the deliberations was a final draft Statement on the “Rights of indigenous women in Africa” that will be submitted to the ACHPR.
The Martin Ennals Foundation has granted Yu Wensheng, a leading Chinese human rights lawyer, the 2021 Martin Ennals Award. Lawyer Yu was among the three finalists to the Award selected by a jury of ten global human rights organisations - among which ISHR -, along with Loujain AlHathloul from Saudi Arabia and Soltan Achilova from Turkmenistan.
It's difficult to encapsulate such a complex year in a word, but "interconnected" is one that comes to mind when reflecting on 2020. We are proud to have remained deeply interconnected with defenders and to have supported, protected and amplified their work at the national, regional and international levels. With them, the "essential workers" of our times, we strive for a 2021 full of freedom, equality, dignity and justice.
In an online discussion organised by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), Uyghur camp survivor Gülbahar Jalilova shared her story of long-term arbitrary detention. Her testimony echoes mounting evidence of human rights violations that call for systematic UN monitoring and public reporting.
Operating in a context of persistent insecurity and aggravated by the Covid19 crisis, human rights defenders in Burkina Faso are exposed to many risks. The law on the protection of defenders and its implementing decree were adopted in 2018, but its implementation and use remain a challenge for defenders.
Members of the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights met in March 2021 to prepare two ‘Lists of Issues’ to guide their respective reviews of the People’s Republic of China.