Posts Tagged ‘african region’

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 seeks Project Coordinator for the Great Lakes region

January 17, 2017

DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) is the secretariat to a network of more than 75 member organisations drawn from eleven countries in the sub-region. Additionally, DefendDefenders acts as the secretariat for the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network, which brings together five sub-regional networks from North, Central, West, Southern and the East and Horn of Africa. Further information can be found on the website.
DefendDefenders is in the process of recruiting a Project Coordinator for its work in supporting human rights defenders in the Great Lakes region.
Key responsibilities:
  • Coordinate the implementation of our Great Lakes region project, including project design and planning, implementation, coordination of activities, budget management, evaluation and reporting to ensure that the project is effectively and efficiently managed in accordance with the strategy of DefendDefenders and the parameters of its partner regulations and procedures;
  • Ensuring high quality, integrity, transparency and accountability of key processes in the project, including: project design, development, and budgeting; project approval process; financial management; and reporting;
  • Ensure swift communication and collaboration with the Great Lakes region project partners for the effective implementation of the project;
  • Establish or reinforce partnerships with other organizations in the field, to create synergies for raising awareness on human rights compliance and protection in the Great Lakes region ;
  • Undertake regular visits to countries of the Great Lakes;
  • Monitoring the human rights legislations, issues and development in the Great Lakes region;
  • Support network of human rights defenders and organization in the Great Lakes region;
  • Engage in strategic advocacy activities, including press releases and statements in conjunction with the advocacy team.
Competencies include:
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills (spoken/written), including the ability to listen to and incorporate the views of stakeholders;
  • Ability to engage with project partners, donors and state authorities clearly and effectively, both orally and in writing;
  • Proven ability to operate effectively across organizational boundaries;
  • Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity.
  • Ensure all personnel related issues for the staff are carried out in accordance with DefendDefenders guidelines;
  • Strong time management and coordination skills.
  • Ability to foresee risks and allow for contingencies when planning;
  • Ability to identify beneficiaries’ needs and suggest appropriate solutions;
  • Strong comfort with usage of information and internet technologies;
  • Ability to follow digital security protocols.
Education and experience
  • A master’s degree in human rights, law, social sciences, political science or a related field from an accredited academic institution with a minimum of three years of relevant professional experience on project management;
  • A solid understanding of human rights and protection mechanisms;
  • Familiarity with the Great Lakes region and previous experience working in the region ;
  • Good conceptual and analytical capacity;
  • Very good budgeting, project management and report writing skills;
  • Ability and willingness to travel.
Languages
  • Fluency in English and French (both spoken and written) is a must, and fluency in Kirundi and/or Kinyarwanda a strong asset. As part of the recruitment process, short-listed candidates will be tested on their knowledge of both English and French.
The position will be based in Kampala, Uganda with frequent travels within and out of the country. Applicants should be eligible to work in Uganda without restriction. Applicants should send a letter of motivation, CV and contacts of three references to: jobs@defenddefenders.org by 25 January 2017.  The subject line of the email should read “Application for Project Coordinator Great Lakes Region position”

Source: – East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

2016 FIDH Congress concludes in Johannesburg: FIGHTING BACK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

August 25, 2016

On Wednesday 24 August the 39th Congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) closed after two days in Johannesburg. More than 400 delegates from more than 120 countries participated and in the closing session some of the action points taken were recognized by regional bodies such as the European Union (EU) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

EU special representative on Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis said: “We need to have the EU itself judged, criticized and advised every day. Because the fact of the matter is, no one is perfect in Human Rights and that includes the European Union”.

ACHPR Chairperson Pansy Tlakula said her organization will continue to support FIDH in their efforts. “The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights values the collaborative and mutual beneficial relationship with FIDH. And on our part we will continue to collaborate with you, we will continue to support you and we also count on your support. Because even if we have to say so ourselves, our commission remains one of the most welcoming inter-governmental organizations to civil society organizations.”

The video below contains excerpts from these statements:

The forum discussed the following topics:

• Restricting freedom of association and human rights in the name of security

• Defending Human Rights principles within heterogeneous societies

• Invoking morals, religious or traditional values to build a new world order: States opposing Human Rights principles

• An unbalanced and unfair globalisation: the consequences of an economy disregarding Human Rights and civil society groups

• Redesigning Human Rights funding

• Civil society influencing global economic projects

• Whistle-blowers: Exposing violence violations and corruption, seeking transparency and the right to freedom of information

• How can the Human Rights movement further engage with the rest of society?

• A shield and a sword: Enforcing rights through the judiciary

• Deploying innovate advocacy

•Using the web and social networks – securely reaching out, accessing new audiences and generating engagement

http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/e417a1004dfc68499faebf0ede96a075/Human-Rights-congress-concludes-on-a-high-20160824

for earlier posts on the FIDH, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/fidh/

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

10 years supporting Human Rights Defenders in Africa

October 27, 2015

Hassan Shire established the organization in 2005, after being forced into exile for his human rights work in Somalia. “I realized that many others shared the pain that I felt at having been forced away from my country and the sub-region,” says the Executive Director of EHAHRDP. “I began developing a project that would allow endangered human right defenders to continue their valuable work while safely staying in the region.” A decade later EHAHRDP has grown into an organization with 25 full-time staff dedicated to protecting human rights defenders throughout the region. Through capacity building and advocacy, EHAHRDP continues to empower defenders and strengthen their work, while ensuring their safety through its protection team and its network of national coalitions it established in the region.

This video explores the roots of EHAHRDP: how the idea of one human rights activist who was forced to leave Somalia became a fully functional support structure for human rights defenders across the sub-region.

https://vimeo.com/142100987

UN’s NGO Committee seems not very fond of NGOs

June 7, 2015

I referred in an earlier post to the undervalued importance of the UN’s ‘NGO Committee‘ [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/jean-daniel-vigny-hopes-to-improve-ngo-participation-at-the-un/]. Now there is a new case that would seem to underscore the danger of letting human rights unfriendly Governments (such as China, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Iran, and Russia) decide the fate of NGO status.

The article cited below, by Ahmar Mustikhan in the Epoch Times of 6 June, centers on the case of two African NGOs. In the absence of any detail regarding their alleged ‘misconduct’, I cannot say anything about the substantive side but there are certainly important procedural misgivings (exceptionally speedy, no proper hearing of the NGOs) and this may have a chilling effect on NGOs and human rights defenders who want to engage with the UN.

Gilbert Sendugwa: African human rights defender and freedom of information campaigner

May 15, 2015

 

Interview with Gilbert Sendugwa, Coordinator of Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), a pan-African network based in Kampala, Uganda, published by the International Service for Human Rights [ISHR] on 28 April 2015:

Before I started working with the Centre, I worked with issues of health and education. And it was always a big issue: information. I always asked: How do we get the information we need? How do people get the information they need from the Government in order to get on in life?’ In 2010 Gilbert went to work for AFIC, a network which has grown to 35 member organisations from 22 African countries, which are working on issues of access to information at the national level.

The main focus of the Centre so far has been to push for ratification of the many African instruments which enshrine the right of freedom of information, as well as ensure that these rights are reflected in national legislation and practice’. They do this through international advocacy campaigns and supporting national strategies. And with a good degree of success. In 2010 Angola, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe were the only States with Freedom of Information Legislation. The number now totals 16, and with Tanzania likely to become number 17 next month….

Nonetheless, as Gilbert says ‘We have come to see that the passage of laws might be the easiest part’. Therefore AFIC is putting increasingly more energy into initiatives for implementation.

The objective of these laws is to empower the people. Implicitly, this means taking power away from those who have it and giving it to the population, so that they can help themselves advance in all of their rights. However, sometimes this provokes fear in the powerful and a reluctance to provide the information’.

Gilbert suggests that this fear can manifest itself in two ways: some Governments will not legislate on the issue, whilst others do, but ensure that the environment for civil society is not conducive to people having the confidence to use the law. He says that in many States fear of reprisals deters requests for information. A successful law on access to information, it seems, must go hand in hand with a safe and enabling environment for human rights defence in general. However he points out that a common mistake of advocates on this issue is to see the State as a monolith. Rather, he argues, when it comes to implementation it is necessary to look at the various agencies from which you are soliciting information. ‘It is them who can grant the information or not. If you look at Uganda –  as pointed out in their review by the ACHPR this week – some ministries have responded to all requests for information, whilst the response rate from the ministries for finance and education, for example, is zero’.

AFIC is pushing for implementation by training civil society on accessing information and producing a manual for them. They are also increasing their work with States, having seen results when these two approaches work in parallel. Developing a website with the Ugandan Government led Rwanda to follow, whilst they have also trained officials and are producing a separate manual for them.

As ISHR prepared to make a statement on the importance of an enabling environment for human rights defenders working on corporate accountability, Gilbert admitted that this was one of the most challenging areas for freedom of information activists across the continent. ‘It is very difficult and risky to request information, whether it be regarding concessions, payments or environmental impact. But at the end of the day we are simply talking about the ability for communities to evaluate the impact of a project upon their lives and check the level of compliance of a business or a State with human rights law’.

Gilbert Sendugwa can be contacted at gilbert@africainfocentre.org. Follow him on Twitter: @GilbertSendugwa

Gilbert Sendugwa: Human rights defender and freedom of information campaigner from Uganda | ISHR.

NGO Forum preceding the April session of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

April 22, 2015

ISHR-logo-colour-highpublished on 21 April “KUMULIKA – THE AFRICAN COMMISSION MONITOR” which describes the NGO Forum that was held from 17-19 April prior to the 56th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). It involved close to 200 civil society participants from the continent. As usual. the NGO Forum followed the practice of holding a series of panel discussions combined with smaller special interest discussion groups, over the course of which recommendations and resolutions were developed to put to the Commission at the upcoming session. You can find more detail in that Newsletter but some key elements are:

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.