African Commission: Establish a mechanism to prevent and redress reprisals


The African Commission must take concrete and effective action to prevent and remedy reprisals perpetrated by both State and non-State actors against civil society activists for the purpose of deterring or punishing their cooperation with human rights mechanisms.

(Luanda, Angola) - The African Commission must take concrete and effective action to prevent and remedy reprisals against civil society activists, ISHR has told the 55th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights currently underway in Luanda, Angola.

‘It is vital that the Commission acts decisively to protect human rights defenders in their all-important role engaging with this Commission’, said Mr Clement Voule, Head of ISHR's Africa Programme.

‘This requires taking concrete steps to prevent and ensure redress for reprisals by creating an institutional mechanism to receive information, and to investigate, monitor and follow up on alleged cases.’

The Chair of the African Commission, Mme Kayitesi Zainabo Sylvie, emphasised this point in her own remarks to the Commission during its opening session, condemning reprisals and calling for implementation of Commission resolution 196(L) on reprisals adopted in November 2011.

This session of the Commission marks an important point in the global efforts to address reprisals perpetrated by both State and non-State actors for the purpose of deterring or punishing people in relation to their cooperation with human rights mechanisms. At the UN Human Rights Council, in March, Botswana led a group of 56 States - including Benin, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Tunisia and Togo - in a statement condemning reprisals and calling for a more effective and unified UN response.

'As we look to the UN General Assembly to approve the Human Rights Council adoption of a resolution appointing a UN-wide focal point on reprisals, action from the African Commission would be an important signal that it takes reprisals seriously and intends to act effectively against them,' said Mr Voule.

ISHR's statement to the Commission also drew attention to the increasing trend across Africa as to the misuse and abuse of laws, malicious prosecutions, unfair trials and judicial harassment to criminalise the legitimate and important work of human rights defenders, including journalists.

‘The adoption of laws that restrict and shrink the space of civil society is increasingly used by some States to silence human rights defenders,’ Mr Voule said.

ISHR referenced the passage of anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda and Nigeria, noting that both laws target human rights defenders who take a stand for equality and against discrimination, effectively criminalising their work.

During the three-day NGO Forum, which preceded the opening of the African Commission, NGOs called for the Commission to urge States to implement at the domestic level protections for human rights defenders that exist in international law.

‘We urge States to develop, enact and ensure the effective enforcement of specific national laws and policies which recognise and protect the work of human rights defenders in accordance with the International Declaration on Human Rights Defenders’, Mr Voule said in his address to Commissioners.

‘States have an obligation to ensure that human rights defenders can undertake their important work in a safe and enabling environment’, said Mr Voule. ‘We urge the Commission and States to ensure that relevant protections are put in place.’

Contact: Clement Voule,


  • Africa
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • Angola