At the 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, during the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report of Benin, ISHR and Changement Social Benin delivered a joint statement encouraging Benin to do more for the protection of defenders in the country.
Zambia accepted 226 recommendations out of the 250 recommendations received during its 4th cycle of the UPR. The delegation explained that it noted recommendations related to the LGBTQI community due to its incompatibility with the Zambian Constitution. Zambia justified its refusal to accept recommendations addressing Indigenous Peoples and their rights, explaining that there are no Indigenous People within Zambia. Additionally, the delegation mentioned launching a national mechanism for the implementation, reporting and follow-up on international instruments to fight the backlog.
In their statement, ISHR jointly with the Southern African Centre for Constructive Resolutions of Disputes (SACCORD) and the Zambia Human Rights Defenders Network welcomed the acceptance of recommendations focusing on the protection of freedom of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly, protection of human rights defenders and civil society by enacting legislation prohibiting torture. Nevertheless, the statement mentioned some important concerns, including provisions of the Penal Code of 1955 instrumentalised against defenders.
‘We remain equally concerned by the Government’s refusal to repeal laws which criminalise minority groups, as they hinder the work of defenders who work on issues related to gender-based violence’, stated Arthur Muyunda, Coordinator of the Zambia Human Rights Defenders Network.
In July 2022, ISHR and the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) submitted a UPR briefing paper highlighting the serious risks defenders in Zambia face for expressing their views and opinions. The risks may be in the form of verbal attacks, harassment and severe police charges and court sentences.
Finally, ISHR and the Zambia Human Rights Defenders Network call on Zambia :
- To develop and enact a specific legal framework to recognise and protect defenders’ work, giving full effect to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders at the national level
- To amend section 155 of the Penal Code to ensure consistency with international human rights standards.
For many rights holders, victims and human rights defenders, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) provides a vital lever increasing pressure for change at the national level, while for others it provides the last resort or only opportunity to expose violations, seek accountability, and garner support for their vital work towards a fair, equal and sustainable world. We need the HRC to be credible, effective and accessible to everyone. This is only possible if States demonstrate leadership, take action in line with objective human rights criteria, ensure that HRC members live up to their responsibilities, and fully cooperate with the HRC and its mechanisms.
In compliance with Article 62 of the African Charter, States have the obligation to report every two years on the legislative, administrative and political measures taken with a view to give effect to human rights guaranteed by the Charter. The Islamic Republic of Mauritania, which ratified the Charter in 1986, submitted its 15th-16th and 17th Periodic Reports for its review.