Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Defend the Defenders newsletter about African developments

October 2, 2017

One of my sources is the Defend the Defenders network run by the East & Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. I will continue to follow it for you, but those with special interest in Africa should subscribe themselves:  https://app.getresponse.com/site2/publicsignup?u=Bl16k&webforms_id=1980102. Below the latest newsletter as an example: Read the rest of this entry »

Africa’s DefendDefenders new website

August 30, 2017

In 2015, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (then still abbreviated EHAHRDP) celebrated its ten-year anniversary and decided it was time to give the organisation a new, fresh face under its new name: DefendDefenders. In February, after a year of consultations, it presented its new logo and rebranded image during the third general assembly of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network. Today, it launched its new website at https://www.defenddefenders.org as the final step. 

On DefendDefenders’ new website, it is easier to find information and stay up to date on its work. HRDs will be able to contact them more quickly in case of emergencies and to access essential resources they can use to improve their safety. The website itself was developed with the specific requirements of the East and Horn of Africa in mind, and is designed to work with low bandwidth Internet or on mobile devices.

Every element of DefendDefenders’ new brand represents the changes over the years, without losing sight where it came from: from prominent features in the logo, such as the shield which remains the core of its identity, to a font inspired by anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko.
For earlier posts on DefendDefenders: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/defenddefenders/

Source: DefendDefenders | East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

DefendDefenders launched new security manual for human rights defenders in Africa

May 9, 2017

On 5 May, 2017, at the NGO forum preceding the 60th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) launched “Stand Up!”, a new organisational and personal security manual to help human rights defenders (HRDs) do their work in a safe and effective manner.
DefendDefenders was founded to protect HRDs from immediate risks. However, a decade of experience has taught us that much can be done to prevent them from reaching this critical point,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director.By carefully considering their safety, developing strong security plans, and rigidly adhering to them, even HRDs working in extreme conditions can mitigate the risk they face as individuals and organisations.” “Stand Up!” helps defenders to reduce the risks inherent in achieving their goals. They can use it to better understand the opposing and supporting factors in their environment, identify their vulnerabilities, and create new capacities to stand up to adversity.
 
Book One covers personal, physical, and organisational security planning. HRDs can learn the essential framework for security analysis and planning as well as the support mechanisms available at the regional and international level for human rights defenders.
 
Book Two covers digital security for electronic devices, and online accounts and communications. It extends the lessons of security management into the digital realm with risk assessment of electronic workspaces and the essential steps to secure human rights work when it is conducted from phones, computers, email, websites, social media accounts and more.
Download the full manual here.
 
At the same time, the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRDN) also launched its annual “State of African HRDs” report, which examines the major events affecting the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression in the last year. The report is compiled with input from PAHRDN’s five sub-regional networks and is available in English and French.

African human rights defenders defend the ICC against attacks by their governments

July 6, 2016

Human rights defenders from across Africa clarify misconceptions about the International Criminal Court (ICC) and highlight the need for African governments to support the court in a video released on 6 July 2016 by 21 African and international nongovernmental organizations. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-fight-against-impunity-for-international-crimes-in-africa-no-free-pass-for-leaders-say-human-rights-defenders/]

In January 2016, the African Union (AU) gave its Open-Ended Committee of African Ministers on the ICC a mandate to develop a “comprehensive strategy” on the ICC, including considering the withdrawal of African member countries from the court. The committee met in April and agreed on three conditions that needed to be met by the ICC in order for the AU to agree not to call on African countries to withdraw from the court. These include a demand for immunity from ICC prosecution for sitting heads of state and other senior government officials – which is contrary to a fundamental principle of the court.

Human rights defenders from across Africa highlight the need for African governments to support the International Criminal Court in a video by 21 African and international nongovernmental organizations. The video features 12 African activists who raise concerns about AU actions toward the ICC.

It is not clear if the AU will consider any of the open-ended committee’s assessments and recommendations at its upcoming summit in Kigali, Rwanda, from 10 – 18 July.

The reasons why we supported the establishment of a permanent court as Africa have not changed,” says Stella Ndirangu of the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya. “The only thing that has changed is that now leaders are being held to account.”

To say that the ICC is targeting Africa, I think, is a misrepresentation of the situation,” says Angela Mudukuti of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. “It’s more Africans making use of the court they helped to create.”

Six out of the nine African situations under ICC investigation came about as a result of requests or grants of jurisdictions by African governments – Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Uganda, and the Central African Republic twice. Two other investigations in Africa, the Darfur region of Sudan and Libya, were referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council. In Kenya, the ICC prosecutor received the authorization of an ICC pretrial chamber to open investigations after Kenya repeatedly failed to investigate the 2007-08 post-election violence domestically. In January, the ICC prosecutor opened the court’s first investigation outside Africa, into Georgia, and is conducting several preliminary examinations of situations outside Africa – including in Afghanistan, Colombia, Palestine, and alleged crimes attributed to the armed forces of the United Kingdom deployed in Iraq.

The recommendations from the open-ended committee are the latest development in a backlash against the ICC from some African leaders, which has focused on claims that the ICC is “unfairly targeting Africa.” The backlash first intensified following the ICC’s 2009 arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for serious crimes committed in Darfur. While blanket immunity for sitting heads of state is available in some domestic jurisdictions, it has never been available before international criminal courts dealing with grave crimes. The AU, in 2015, adopted a protocol to give its continental court authority to prosecute grave crimes, but also, in a controversial provision, grants immunity for sitting heads of states and other senior government officials. That protocol will need 15 ratifications before coming into force, but has yet to be ratified by any country.

The video is endorsed by the following organizations that are part of an informal group that works to promote support for justice for grave crimes in Africa and beyond:

Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (Ghana)
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (Uganda)
Africa Legal Aid
Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (Sierra Leone)
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (Malawi)
Children Education Society (Tanzania)
Club des Amis du Droit du Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (Burundi)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (Global)
DefendDefenders – East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda)
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists (Kenya)
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice
Legal Defense and Assistance Project (Nigeria)
Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Réseau Justice Et Développement (Togo)
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Southern Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Zambia)

 

Source: AU: Activists Challenge Attacks on ICC | Human Rights Watch

“Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong” – revealing piece by Alex de Waal

June 10, 2016

Alex de Waal {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_de_Waal} published on 6 June 2016 a long piece entitled “Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong” in the Boston Review. There is no way I can give you a summary but reading the whole article is certain worth the time. It is bound to be controversial – especially within the international human rights movement – and stands out by being critical and mostly self-critical about the role of human rights monitors. The focus of the narrative is on Africa (Sudan, Rwanda) and genocide but the former HRW staff reaches out to the general questions of context and impartiality that human rights defenders struggle with, still today.  READ IT!

Read the rest of this entry »

AI’s Ambassador of Conscience Award 2016 shared by Angelique Kidjo and African youth groups

May 7, 2016

Every year, the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award celebrates individuals and groups who speak out for justice. The 2016, award will be shared between world-renowned musician Angélique Kidjo from Benin and three African youth activist groups: Y’en a marre from Senegal, Le Balai Citoyen from Burkina Faso and LUCHA from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Angélique Kidjo. Credit: Pierre Marie Ziimmerman.Angélique Kidjo. Credit: Pierre Marie Ziimmerman.

Grammy-winning artist Kidjo fled her homeland Benin in the 1980s after being pressured to perform for the country’s repressive regime. In a 40-year-career spawning 12 albums, she has been a prominent campaigner for freedom of expression and for the education of girls in Africa, as well as against female genital mutilation.

LUCHA, DRC. Credit: Private.
LUCHA, DRC. Credit: Private.

Read the rest of this entry »

Events in memory of Alison Des Forges at Buffalo University

April 19, 2015

Alison Des Forges (1942-2009) was a well-known human rights defender and one of the world’s leading experts on the Rwandan genocide. She was senior adviser of Human Rights Watch at the time of her death in the crash of Continental flight 3407. HRW named its human rights award after her [see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/alison-des-forges-award-extraordinary-activism]. Now the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee in her native Buffalo (NY) is organizing three events in Buffalo on 23 and 24 April 2015 with as focus “Islam, Islamism, and Human Rights in Africa”:
  • An international symposium on April 23 featuring talks by university researchers and representatives of human rights organizations working in Africa. This event is free and open to the public.
  • A scholarship dinner and discussion on April 23. [reservation is required, and tickets are $100 per person. Proceeds go to the Alison Des Forges Memorial Scholarships]
  • A community roundtable on April 24, where university researchers will reflect on the previous day’s symposium topics: “The Interplay of Politics, Religion, Terrorism, Modernity and Human Rights”.

In an effort to address issues of intense public concern, these events will explore in depth the recent rise of violent extremist groups in Africa,” said Dussourd, co-chair of the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee. “In so doing, we will go beyond sensational media headlines to the historical roots of this phenomenon as we examine groups such as Boko Haram, Seleka and Al-Shabaab.”

For information about the events contact Ellen Dussourd  dussourd@buffalo.edu)

Events in memory of Alison Des Forges will focus on Islam and human rights in Africa – University at Buffalo.

Joseph Bikanda, Coordinator of Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network, has the floor

April 16, 2015

The Newsletter of International Service for Human Rights in Geneva gave on 2 April 2015 the floor to Joseph Bikanda, the Coordinator of the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRDN), a Network made up of 5 sub-regional networks of human right defenders (HRDs), including the East and Horn of Africa, the Central, the West, the Southern and the North African HRDs Networks.

Joseph first became involved in human rights as a university student. A group of students needed a voice to advocate on their behalf. Joseph became that voice. In doing so, Joseph learnt about human rights mechanisms existing at the time. ‘I found myself surrounded by the human rights world and knew that it was the right place for me. Since then I have been working in human rights in various capacities.

Joseph stated that PAHRDN’s key focus is to strengthen the capacity and provide support to regional networks, civil society organisations and HRDs. ‘You are always stronger working together in a network, and if each element of the network is more capable and works together – you are even stronger’

..Regional and international human rights mechanisms support HRDs, but networks such as PAHRDN are essential to create local supporting mechanisms for HRDs’.. Joseph explains that PAHRDN has established local mechanisms to ‘fill the gap as best we can’. These mechanisms include providing emergency support, lawyers, trial observation and practical support for HRDs.

One of our key roles is to provide support for HRDs in emergency situations when they are being harassed, targeted or when their lives are in danger. We have also created urgent mechanisms which apply pressure to perpetrators of human rights abuses.’

Joseph commented on the essential role that HRDs played in initiating the development of the law for the protection of HRDs in Côte d’Ivoire. He shared his hope that each African country develops similar laws in the near future and, in particular, that each of those laws is effectively implemented. ‘I hope to see HRDs develop further as key actors combatting corruption and promoting transparency. Involving HRDs in decisions ensures that the views of civil society are raised and considered.’

In his discussion with ISHR, Joseph identified that his primary objectives of attending the March session of the Human Rights Council were to raise awareness of – the horrific situation in Burundi, in particular the persecution of journalists and HRDs; the continued fighting in South Sudan and the abduction of children for combat; and the concerning counter terrorism laws in Cameroon and Ethiopia, which lack differentiation between defenders and terrorists.

You can follow Joseph Bikanda on Twitter at @Bikjo.

Joseph Bikanda: Coordinator of Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network | ISHR.

Austria and Netherlands pledge €1.35 million to African human rights defenders

February 16, 2015

World Bulletin News (from Turkey) reports on 13 February about the Dutch and Austrian governments funding a three-year project to support African human rights defenders. One always wonders why this kind of information pops up in one news source but not in others. Read the rest of this entry »

Homegrown African decision promotes press freedom and protects human rights defenders

February 5, 2015

A court has ruled that criminal defamation laws cannot include custodial sentences or sanctions that are disproportionate, such as excessive fines. (Gallo)

Simon Delaney, a media lawyer and advisor to the Decriminalisation of Expression Campaign, in The Guardian of 4 February reports on an important judgement by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights on press freedom by ruling that criminal defamation laws cannot include custodial sentences or sanctions that are disproportionate, such as excessive fines.

[In 2012, Lohé Issa Konaté, the editor of a weekly newspaper in Burkina Faso, was found guilty of criminal defamation and sentenced to 12 months in prison after he published two articles accusing a public prosecutor of abusing his power. Konaté‘s paper was shut down for six months and he was ordered to pay an exorbitant fine, plus compensation and costs. Konaté argued that he was wrongfully punished for legitimate investigative journalism and his rights to freedom of expression were violated. A coalition of 18 media and human rights organisations added that criminal defamation laws undermine the democratic rights of the media and citizens to hold their governments to account. The court found that, although the Burkinabé law served the legitimate objective to protect the honour and reputation of public officials, the penalty of imprisonment was a disproportionate interference in the exercise of freedom of expression by Konaté and journalists in general. The court ordered Burkina Faso to change its criminal defamation laws and pay compensation to Konaté.]

The judgment is significant not so much because of the content of the decision (which is in line with international standards] but because it is homegrown ‘African’ decision.

The judgment, which is binding on African Union member states, gives impetus to the continent-wide campaign to decriminalise defamation. It also paves the way for the decriminalisation of ubiquitous laws prohibiting “the publication of matter with intent to bring the president into hatred, ridicule or contempt” and “the publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public”.

Homegrown African decision promotes press freedom | Opinion | Analysis | Mail & Guardian.