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.
Too often, human rights defenders face violence as a result of their work. ISHR and INSEC’s joint written statement to the Council on the situation of human rights defenders in Nepal reports instances of health workers, journalists, civil society activists and human rights advocates being arrested, threatened, treated inhumanely, and beaten by police as a result of their advocacy.
The Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC), a Nepal-based human rights NGO that works to protect and promote the fundamental rights of disadvantaged groups in all sectors of society, has documented 280 cases of defenders’ rights being violated or abused in the past two years. 78 of these violations were committed by State authorities themselves, while 202 were perpetrated by non-State actors. The joint statement highlighted that the government’s response to six defenders being killed by non-State groups in 2020 was ‘incredibly weak’ and
‘This is not acceptable,’ says Bijaya Gautam, Executive Director of INSEC. ‘As a member of the Human Rights Council, Nepal must ensure the development and implementation of genuine and substantial measures for the protection of human rights defenders, and enable their work.’
‘For their own sake and for that of their communities – local, national, regional, global – human rights defenders must be protected, a responsibility which falls to the State,’ adds Guatam. ‘This is especially true in Nepal where impunity and a lack of government transparency associated with the end of a ten-year armed conflict have contributed to increased threats and weak government protection for defenders.’
Recommending States to the Universal Periodic Review have called for Nepal to take measures to protect defenders, but these calls have not been heeded.
The joint statement calls on the State of Nepal to:
Take steps to ensure an enabling environment for human rights defenders through the promulgation or amendment of laws which restrict rights to assembly and expression; and
Collaborate with civil society to take steps to develop a national law for the protection of human rights defenders.
‘We fervently hope that Nepal will recognize the importance of these recommendations and begin to make changes to better support their defenders’ concluded ISHR’s Tess McEvoy.
In its statement before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ISHR denounced the adoption of restrictive civic space laws and requested the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals (‘the Special Rapporteur’) to release his first reprisals report.
ISHR has joined dozens of national, regional and international NGOs expressing concern at the attempts of the government to restrict the right to protest of Guatemalan human rights defenders.