NGO Forum | African civil society express their concerns to the ACHPR’s Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders

09.05.2018

On 24 April, ISHR organised a meeting between the African Commission's Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the defenders participating in the NGO Forum.

The Special Rapporteur, Remy Lumbu Ngoy, who was nominated during the 61st ordinary session of the ACHPR last November, met with 15 defenders from all around Africa.

During this meeting, the Rapporteur presented his mandate and emphasised the need and importance of the work of defenders at the local level. He encouraged them to keep interacting with his mandate as regularly as possible to update him on the situation of human rights defenders on the ground.

Defenders were then able to provide the Rapporteur with first hand information on their daily challenges. Some mentioned the difficulty in getting the proper financial and human resources to do the work. Defenders called on the Special Rapporteur to focus on community leaders and defenders, especially women human rights defenders, who can become the victims of attacks by law enforcement forces when working on human rights. Recent cases include forced evictions of communities by the government, especially the Marievale community in South Africa. Defenders emphasised the much needed support they need when working on social, economic and cultural rights.

They also brought to the Special Rapporteur's attention the need for measures to implement legal decisions at the national level as well as communications delivered by the ACHPR. Communities and defenders often lack the means to put pressure on their governments when these refuse to implement decisions.

Defenders working on business and human rights issues highlighted the difficulties they face when working on the mining sector. Their main concern revolves around working alongside the communities they are trying to protect while at the same time making sure these communities understand what their role is as defenders. However, their oppositions to the mining sector often lead to more restrictions in their work.

Finally, defenders raised their concerns about the current draft law that is under consideration in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If adopted as it stands, the law would not respect international human rights principles and would further restrict the work of human rights defenders instead of promoting it. While acknowledging their concerns, the Rapporteur assured defenders that this law was one of his priorities and that he would keep on advocating for such laws to align with the UN Declaration on human rights defenders and other international principles. Furthermore, he expressed his willingness to follow up and make sure he calls on African countries to implement these laws once adopted.  

'We need to rely on each other for the realisation of human rights and the protection of human rights defenders in Africa', added the Special Rapporteur.

Photo: African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies

Category:

Region
  • Africa
Topic
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • Women's rights and WHRD
Mechanism
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • ACHPR Special Rapporteur on HRDs