The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights concluded its 77th Ordinary Session held in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania from 20 October to 9 November 2023. During the session, the Commission renewed its Bureau. It received solemn declarations from elected and re-elected members and launched several documents and newsletters, among others.
On 23 April 2022, ISHR delivered its statement under item 3 on the situation of human rights in Africa, with a particular focus on some positive developments on the African continent regarding the protection and promotion of the rights of defenders and the continued dire human rights situation in Egypt.
In her statement, ISHR’s Africa programme advocate Stéphanie Wamba welcomed the establishment by Côte d’Ivoire of a national mechanism that will be responsible for the protection of defenders and more broadly for the implementation of law no. 2014-388 of 20 June 2014 on the protection of defenders’ rights. However, she regrets that defenders are not part of the mechanism. To be effective, the mechanism must work closely with defenders.
The statement was also an opportunity to congratulate the government of Niger for the recent adoption in the Council of Ministers of the draft law establishing the rights and duties of human rights defenders; and the government of Madagascar for the progress made in the process of adopting the draft law on defenders.
In addition, the statement highlighted the restrictions on fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly, that continue to limit civil society action. Indeed, some African countries are yet to withdraw restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We recall that these restrictions were intended to protect the population from the spread of the virus and cannot be maintained with the purpose of silencing civil societies in Africa.
“The situation of human rights and human rights defenders in Egypt remains worrying. Indeed, although the Egyptian government has officially launched its first national human rights strategy in September 2021, which it presented as a key step towards improving human rights in the country, the reality is quite different. Through this strategy, the government continues to deny the depth of the human rights crisis in the country and uses it to divert the attention of the international community rather than actually addressing the crisis,” Wamba concluded.
On 15 June 2022, the National Assembly of Niger passed a law on the rights and duties of human rights defenders. This makes Niger the fourth African country to adopt such a law. However, for the law to produce the desired effects, it must be widely known and understood by all stakeholders. The establishment of an independent and inclusive protection mechanism will ensure the full implementation of the law.
The adoption of the draft law approving the status of Non-Governmental Organisation in Angola by the National Assembly considerably limits in its provisions the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and shrinks civic and democratic space. We are calling the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders to help address this situation.