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 12 May 2023, ISHR organised a workshop in collaboration with DIS MOI – Droit Humains Océan Indien. The workshop aimed at discussing issues faced by defenders in Mauritius as well as sensitising civil society on the international framework protecting defenders and possibilities to engage with international and regional human rights mechanisms, especially as Mauritius will be reviewed by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism in January 2024.
The workshop gathered defenders working on a range of issues such as the protection of the environment, children’s rights, the rights of disabled people, the rights of LGBTIQ+ persons as well as gender-based violations. Participants shared information about the environment in which they work, including the legal framework.
“In Mauritius, companies are obliged to dedicate 2% of their annual profits to corporate social responsibility. These funds can be donated to the NGO of their choice. Since 2019, the State, through the National Corporate Social Responsibility Foundation, has been collecting 75% of the corporate social responsibility funds. This has greatly impeded the work of civil society, which is not able to access the source of funding it used to,” said a participant.
As most participants had never engaged with the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations nor with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, they had the opportunity to learn more about the UN Declaration on human rights defenders and the international and regional framework available to defenders to protect their rights.
“It is key that the international community knows what is happening in Mauritius and the challenges faced by civil society. While the restrictions might not be the most obvious, they exist and go against Mauritius’ international obligations,” commented Lindley Couronne, President of DIS MOI.
As Mauritius is scheduled to be reviewed by the UPR mechanism, the workshop was also the opportunity for the participants to learn more about the importance of engaging with this mechanism and how they could use this mechanism to share more about the situation of defenders in the country and ensure the government of Mauritius takes the necessary steps to strengthen their rights.
On 19 October 2023, in collaboration with KUTAKESA and African Defenders, ISHR held an event on the sidelines of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on restrictive laws affecting human rights defenders in Africa.
The discussion, held on 17 October, emphasised the importance of safeguarding fundamental civil and political rights. Key topics covered included the freedom of association, freedom of demonstration, freedom of expression, and the protection of human rights defenders.