Last week the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association presented his report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly urging states and private sector to respect the exercise of human rights of those mobilising peacefully to address the climate crisis.
On 12 April 2021, during the NGO Forum preceding the 68th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) a panel was held on the impact of Covid-19 on elections in Africa, focusing on electoral violence, shrinking civic space, and human rights defenders.
In her introductory remarks, the moderator, Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, Executive Director of the Central African Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC) noted that this panel was an opportunity for the panelists to say how they experienced the elections in their countries during the Covid-19 period. In particular, what lessons have they learned and what are the strong recommendations they have made so that after Covid-19 peaceful elections can be held in Africa.
The various exchanges and analyses were guided by questions addressed to the panelists such as: How did the elections happen in their respective countries? Did the Covid-19 accentuate human rights violations or was it beneficial during the elections? How did women and girls experience the elections under Covid-19 and what about the defenders?
The organisation of elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) faced numerous security and health challenges. Many candidates at the presidential elections were unable to travel to cities across the country due to restrictions. Lucie Boala Hayali, REDHAC Coordinator in CAR shared that despite efforts to encourage women’s participation in the electoral process, the pandemic and the lack of financial resources considerably limited their ability to mobilise. In addition, the number of infected people has increased considerably in the capital Bangui after the elections, where more than 700 cases have been recorded in screening centers.
In Niger, the pandemic has also had a considerable impact on fundamental freedoms and the organisation of presidential elections. For Abdoulaye Kanni, Coordinator of the Collectif des Organisations de Défense de Droits de l’Homme de promotion de la Démocratie (CODDHD), the state of emergency implemented by the government, the isolation of Niamey, the prohibition of gatherings of more than 50 people and the numerous violations of fundamental freedoms in the name of the fight against the pandemic have limited the capacity of the population to be enrolled on the biometric file and impacted the rate of voter participation. However, in Niger the pandemic has favored the participation of women through the availability of sufficient means, he concluded.
Finally, the experts recommended to States to support the continued work of human rights defenders at all times, to ensure that countries at risk are secure and that sufficient resources are available for women to stand for election, to take an interest in the process and for women’s enrolment.
Civil society organisations must continue to monitor, document and report on human rights violations to bring about change in the leadership and they must unite for advocacy actions to encourage the adoption of laws on the protection of human rights defenders in different countries.
Today, UN member States elected members to the UN's top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, for the 2022-2024 term. 18 candidates ran for 18 seats, and all were elected, leaving civil society disappointed in a process that can hardly be called an election.
During the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, civil society expressed concern and condemnation about an anti LGBTI bill in Ghana, while the second joint government statement on the rights of intersex persons was delivered on behalf of 52 States.
ISHR joined Sudan Women Rights Action, Nora Center for Combating Sexual Violence and MENA WHRD Coalition in calling on the Human Rights Council to support Sudanese women human rights defenders in their struggle for democratic transition, gender equality, peace, and protection from violence.
Mozambique has accepted 236 of the 266 recommendations received. While this highlights a slight progress since their last Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the human rights situation in the country still needs large structural improvements.
During the adoption of the outcome of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, Niger manifested its willingness to cooperate with human rights mechanisms by accepting almost all the recommendations. However, more efforts for an efficient implementation remain necessary.
Despite Sierra Leone's acceptance of recommendations aiming to improve civil society’s space, cases of reprisals against human rights defenders are still reported.
To commemorate the International Safe Abortion Day, ISHR joined 372 organisations as well as women human rights defenders working to prevent maternal deaths, including through ensuring safe abortions, to demand free, safe and accessible abortion for everyone, NOW!
The DRC has noticeably improved the protection of human rights in the Kasaï region but progress remains slow and action is still needed towards transitional justice and the protection of defenders in this region.
LGBTQ communities in Namibia and those defending their rights remain targeted, suffering various forms of discrimination, stigmatisation and violence. It is time for the Namibian government to take action and decriminalise same-sex sexual relations, revise laws discriminating against, and take measures to address violence in, LGBT communities.
Defender Zhang Haitao's wife addressed the UN Human Rights Council on 20 September, after more than 1240 days without information about her husband's status. He is serving 19 years on 'national security'-related charges, punishing him for exercising freedom of speech.
Human rights organisations* urge the immediate and unconditional release of Egyptian human rights defender Mohamed El-Baqer, who completes today two years in arbitrary detention.