ACHPR 65 | Ending intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with regional mechanisms in Africa


The free engagement of individuals and groups with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) is critical to its efficiency and effectiveness. However, in recent years there has been increased concern at the threats, intimidation and reprisals experienced by human rights activists and defenders willing and trying to engage with the Commission.

On 22 October, ISHR, in collaboration with DefendDefenders and African Defenders, organised a side event aimed at providing more visibility and clarity on the Special Rapporteur’s mandate on reprisals, sharing some lessons learned from efforts to address reprisals and intimidation at the international level, and honing in on what more can be done at the regional level.

In particular, the event was an opportunity for Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, the African Commission's Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and Focal Point on reprisals in Africa, to share key information on how to engage with the reprisal aspect of his mandate. He presented the mandate’s working documents in this regard.

In his opening remarks, Ngoy Lumbu reminded the audience that it is an internationally recognised right for any person to be able to engage with human rights mechanisms and mandates, without fear of reprisals. ‘Reprisals seriously affect victims and their families - sometimes the families themselves are the ones targeted,’ he added. He then presented his policy and information note on how to communicate with his mandate regarding reprisals, which he hopes will give more clarity on his work and encourage defenders to engage with his mandate on this important issue.  

Bringing some lessons learned about the work of the mechanism on reprisals at the UN level, Madeleine Sinclair, ISHR New York co-director and legal counsel, highlighted how crucial it is to follow up cases brought to the attention of the mandate. ‘If States are not continuously pursued about them, there is little chance to ensure they will be held accountable about these violations,’ she concluded.

Following her presentation, Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, emphasised that the report on reprisals published by the United Nations does not consider reprisals committed against defenders collaborating with the Commission, a real gap which could be filled by the Commission’s Focal Point on reprisals.

To conclude, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and assembly, Clément Voule outlined that reprisals have created a state of fear with human rights defenders unable to return home. ‘This makes them lose faith in the system. It is a failure on the part of States to protect and promote human rights,’ he ended.

Contact: Adélaïde Etong Kame, Africa Advocacy Consultant,

Photo: ISHR


  • Africa
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • ACHPR Special Rapporteur on HRDs