African States: Strengthen legislative frameworks to ensure enabling environment for HRDs


African States should strengthen legislative frameworks to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, particularly women human rights defenders, ISHR has said in a statement to the opening of the 56th session of the African Commission.

French version of this article can be found here

(Banjul, The Gambia) - African States should strengthen legislative frameworks to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, particularly women human rights defenders, ISHR has said during the opening of the 56th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which began on 21 April 2015.

While welcoming the adoption and promulgation of the Law on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Côte d’Ivoire last June, Clément Voulé, programme manager at ISHR, stressed that a clear framework for implementation still needs to be developed. ‘We urge the government of Côte d’Ivoire to adopt an executive decree to ensure full implementation of this law,’ said Mr Voulé. He added that the government should periodically review the application of the law in partnership and consultation with civil society and national human rights institutions with the view to closing protection gaps.

Highlighting the ACHPR report on the situation of women human rights defenders, to be launched this week, Mr Voulé reiterated key recommendations to African States. ‘States Parties must take immediate steps to identify and eliminate all legal and political barriers to the right to equality of women and their full and effective participation in public and political life,’ said Mr Voulé. He added that States should adopt specific provisions for the protection of women human rights defenders within a broader framework for protection of all human rights defenders, in compliance with the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. ‘States also must establish an effective, independent and impartial national mechanism to prevent and address violations and discrimination against women human rights defenders,’ said Mr Voulé, stressing that impunity for such violations fuels recurrence.

The ACHPR will launch its report on the freedom of association and assembly at its present session. In this context, ISHR expressed its concern over the increased arbitrary detention, killings and judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Africa under severely restrictive NGO laws and anti-protest laws, particularly in Egypt.  ISHR called on the Commission to fully engage with States Parties to implement the recommendations of the study.

ISHR welcomed the ACHPR’s adoption of resolution 273 at its previous session, which created a follow-up mechanism to address reprisals against anyone who collaborates with the African human rights system. In her opening statement, Commissioner Sylvie Kayitesi Zainabo, Chairperson of the ACHPR, paid tribute to the work of human rights defenders and called upon States Parties to desist from engaging in reprisals against human rights defenders.

She highlighted that ‘unfortunately, many human rights defenders continue to be victims of harassment and reprisals, both by the State and the communities they serve. This counterproductive trend is worrying particularly because the Commission relies on these selfless individuals to monitor, report on, and highlight human rights issues and violations for attention. The diminution of this space for collaborative work between the Commission and human rights defenders undermines the execution of the mandate of the Commission’.

At its previous session, the ACHPR also adopted its first ever resolution on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity’ (275). ‘We call on States Parties to implement his resolution by taking necessary legislative and administrative measures to end violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity’ said Mr Voulé.

Contact: Clément Voulé, Head of African Commission Advocacy, ISHR, on


  • Africa
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • LGBT rights
  • NGOs
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • Women's rights and WHRD
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • Egypt
  • Ivory Coast