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.
ISHR’s statement focused on the current situation of the village of Similimi in Côte d’Ivoire, which is affected by the operations of Bondoukou Manganese SA (BMSA), an Indian manganese extracting company. The operations of BMSA have had a catastrophic impact on the human rights of the communities living in Similimi. Therefore, 14 village inhabitants filed a complaint to the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice (ECOWAS), a regional court, to denounce the responsibility of the Ivorian State. The statement also highlighted that environmental defender Kobenan Kra Michel, who works with the “Comité de Développement Local Minier”, had not received any compensation for his work.
In addition, the increase in violence, harassment, and attacks experienced by environmental and land defenders was mentioned. Examples of South African environmental defenders’ assassinations were highlighted, including those of Fikile Ntshangase and three Abahlali baseMjondolo movement (AbM) members.
ISHR joins the call of the African civil society to urge the African Commission to draft, in consultation with defenders, and adopt a regional legal instrument to protect the environment, human rights and defenders protecting those rights.
The Chairperson of the Working Group on Extractive Industries (WGEI), Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, replied to ISHR’s statement by stating that granting licenses for extractive industries’ operations, land grabs, destruction of livelihoods, attacks against and protection of environmental human rights defenders all require increased attention and focus by the Working Group on Extractive Industries and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa.
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.