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Cote d’Ivoire: Strengthen collaboration between human rights defenders and international human rights mechanisms

Strengthening the collaboration between human rights defenders and international human rights protection mechanisms is important to ensure effective protection of human rights and the rights of human rights defenders.

The 5th training session organised by the René Cassin Foundation of Strasbourg (International Institute of Human Rights) in partnership with the Friedrich Nauman Foundation took place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire from 25th to 30th October 2021. It focused on human rights defenders and international justice. On 25th October 2021, the Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CIDDH) and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) co-organised a side event at the headquarters of the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH).

Through this session, ISHR aimed to better equip defenders and encourage them to engage with international human rights mechanisms. It was also an opportunity for them to share their experience collaborating with those mechanisms.

The panel was organised around the general theme “Strengthen collaboration between human rights defenders and international human rights mechanisms” with three panelists on specifics sub-themes.

During the open ceremony Dr Joachim Holden, Director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation West Africa, noted that “the side event organised by ISHR marks the opening of the side events in the context of the training week and the proposed topic is of the most importance and relevance today”.

Pédan Marthe COULIBALY, National Coordinator of the Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CIDDH) on “the use of international human rights protection mechanisms by human rights defenders” outlined the different human rights mechanisms with which defenders can collaborate at the international level and how this can be done, including the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, the Special Procedures and independent experts, and the treaty bodies. She then went on to explain what reprisals for engaging with international mechanisms are and the mechanisms in place to protect defenders against those.

Barrister Mohamed PONGATHIE, lawyer at the Abidjan Court of Appeal intervened on judicial and legal assistance for human rights defenders in cases of reprisals after collaboration with international mechanisms. He highlighted that in Côte d’Ivoire it exists a pool of lawyers available to ensure the protection and defense of defenders before the courts in the event of reprisals and intimidation. But in Côte d’Ivoire there are no recorded cases of reprisals at the moment.

On the collaboration of special procedures with human rights defenders, the participation of Clément VOULE, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association was an opportunity for defenders to better understand his mandate, exchange and benefit from his experience on the freedom of peaceful assembly and association. It was also useful for defenders to know more on how to collaborate with his office and under which circumstances. “Freedom of peaceful assembly and association is the keystone of human rights protection” he concluded.

“Reprisals and intimidation are all forms of threats that human rights defenders may face before, during and after their collaboration with international and regional human rights mechanisms» concluded, Stephanie WAMBA, ISHR Africa Programme Advocate Consultant and moderator of the event.

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