NGO Forum bemoans the situation of human rights in Africa

08.04.2016

(Banjul, The Gambia) - Civil society organisations expressed concern at the increasing number of regressive legislation such as: restrictive non-governmental organisation (NGO) laws and anti-terrorist laws that hinder freedom of expression and association. Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Egypt, Burundi and South Africa have been threatened, experienced reprisals and have been brutally murdered.

(Banjul, The Gambia) - Civil society organisations expressed concern at the increasing number of regressive legislation such as: restrictive non-governmental organisation (NGO) laws and anti-terrorist laws that hinder freedom of expression and association. Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Egypt, Burundi and South Africa have been threatened, experienced reprisals and have been brutally murdered.

In East Africa the past six months have seen heightened restrictions of civil and political freedoms during electoral periods in Uganda, Tanzania and Djibouti. There is a worsening pattern of harassment, intimidation and attacks on HRDs across the board, and renewed government clampdowns on human rights activities. The African Union and United Nations have reported grave deterioration of the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Burundi and South Sudan.

Civil society space in South Sudan is under constant attack. HRDs are repeatedly beaten, attacked, harassed, intimidated and threatened by the National Security Services and Military Intelligence in response to their work on the implementation of the August 2015 peace and transitional justice agreement.

During Uganda’s fifth presidential and parliamentary elections, HRDs working on civil and political rights, journalists, independent media houses and political activists were frequently targeted. Opposition leader Dr. Kiiza Besigye, presidential aspirant for Forum for Democratic Change has been under house arrest since the conclusion of the 18 February polls.

In North Africa restrictive NGO laws and travel bans on NGO staff have been increasingly used to curtail freedom of association in Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Sudan. Freedom of assembly has continued to be restricted, often with the use of the war on terror as a justification in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria. There has been a systematic crackdown on freedom of expression, including those reporting on human rights violations.

In Egypt, journalists and media workers' personal safety and security have been increasingly threatened. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Egypt is second only to China as the world’s highest jailer of journalists. Libya has witnessed at least 49 attacks and threats on journalists and media outlets between July and December 2015, according to a report by the Libyan Center for Freedom of Press (LCFP). 

In Western Sahara, Moroccan authorities have subjected foreign activists and journalists to several unlawful expulsions.

West Africa has suffered from a high incidence of terrorist activities over the last six months specifically in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso. The defenders in Côte d’Ivoire continue to urge the Government to adopt the draft decree that operationalises the human rights defenders law. There are cases and reports of human rights violations committed by soldiers in Mali, as well as the clamp down on opposition leaders and arbitrary arrests of defenders. Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou was re-elected in a controversial run-off and it is with concern that NGOs note that democracy in Niger is not referenced any more in the sub-region and media, despite the opposition leader being imprisoned. It was highlighted that the areas facing most repression are the extractive communities in Niger. 

Southern Africa’s HRDs have been murdered, disappeared and face continuous harassment, intimidation and reprisals. Zimbabwe and Angola were highlighted as having particularly repressed and suppressed defenders with unfair trail and detentions. 

There is continued persecution and prosecution of HRDs in Angola, including the recent conviction of  17 human rights activists meeting to discuss the political situation in the country and the continued detention of José Marcos Mavungo despite a decision by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions that his detention was arbitrary.

The enforced disappearance of Itai Dzamara in Zimbabwe and the continued lack of information about his whereabouts is particularly concerning. In South Africa there were concerns about the arrests and attacks against HRDs addressing human rights in the context of customary land rights and environmental issues, including the recent killing of Mr Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe.

According to the Southern Africa Litigation Center’s Shadow Report on Namibia, State capture and corruption are problems the Government is not taking adequate steps to deal with forced sterilisation of women and there is a higher incidence of media clapdown in the country. 

Contact: Clément Voulé, Director of African Advocacy, ISHR on c.voule@ishr.ch

 

Category:

Region
  • Africa
Topic
  • Corporate accountability
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
Mechanism
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • ACHPR Special Rapporteur on HRDs
Country
  • Angola
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Ivory Coast
  • Mali
  • Namibia
  • Niger
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zimbabwe