ACHPR Special Rapporteur Urges Member States to Strengthen Laws Protecting Human Rights Defenders

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Hon. Commissioner Rémy Lumbu, African Union Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa, Commissioner Rémy Lumbu, has called on member states of the African Union (AU) to develop, adopt and implement more robust and adequate national laws, policies and programmes for the protection of human rights defenders on the continent.

Commissioner Lumbu who also doubles as a Member of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa and Country Rapporteur made this call in an intersession report presented at the 77th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights which took place from October 20 to November 9, 2023, in Arusha, Tanzania.

The report was submitted in accordance with Articles 25(3) and 64 of the Rules of Procedure (2020) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) and details the activities for the promotion and protection of human rights he undertook during the intersessional period, since the 75th Ordinary Session of the Commission held from May 3 to 23, 2023.

The report is subdivided into four essential parts: The first part reports on the activities carried out in his capacity as Commissioner, member of the Commission and member of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa and as country rapporteur in charge of monitoring the human rights situation in Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mali, and Togo.

The second, indicates the activities carried out under the mandate entrusted to him in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa. The third presents a brief analysis of the situation of defenders of human rights, freedom of association and assembly as well as reprisals in Africa while the fourth part highlights recommendations for the different actors who interact with the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

In his activities as Commissioner (Member of the African Commission), Hon. Lumbu participated in meetings related to the Working Group on Economic and Social Cultural Rights in Africa, discussing the group’s work plan and a study on economic, social, and cultural rights.

In his activities as a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa, Hon. Lumbu was involved in some promotional activities which included a joint Declaration on protecting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in emergency situations; participating in a webinar on the 2018 Marrakech Declaration and the African Court’s Advisory Opinion on Human Rights Defenders and participating in a webinar on guarantees of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

He supported group meetings on the Implementation of the Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa by participating in discussions around the situation of freedom of association and assembly in Africa, focusing on the implementation of guidelines and strategic actions.

He also participated in side events on the situation of human rights defenders by

attending various events and sessions related to the protection of civic space and human rights defenders during the 77th Ordinary Session.

The report highlighted the urgent appeals of various complaints about alleged violations of human rights defenders’ rights in Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Senegal, and Uganda which were not responded to by respective states.

Commissioner Ngoy Lumbu in the report pointed out the positive developments, including the adoption of protective laws in the Democratic Republic of Congo and engagement in the protection process by West African states. He, however, identified areas of concern such as legislative restrictions hindering civil society work in some states.

The report found that while some countries receive regular complaints, follow-up on urgent appeals remains a challenge, but the overall number of complaints is stable.

The following recommendations among others were given in the report.

  • States to adopt robust laws for the protection of human rights defenders, engage in dialogue with defenders, and refrain from adopting repressive laws.
  • States should take appropriate measures to ensure that defenders carry out their activities in security conditions free from any threats to their physical and moral integrity.
  • African Union and other regional and sub-regional organizations should recognize the essential role of human rights defenders in the effective implementation of democratic principles, the rule of law, good governance and sustainable development in Africa as well as encourage Member States and African Union organs to conduct awareness campaigns on the fundamental role played by human rights defenders.
  • National Human Rights Institutions should fully exercise their promotion and protection mandates in order to hold States accountable for violations committed against human rights defenders and intervene in support of defenders who are victims of human rights violations as well as establish internal mechanisms on the protection of human rights defenders within the institution and ensure that they have sufficient resources and actively collaborate with all human rights defenders
  • Civil Society Organisations should establish and strengthen national and regional advocate networks to promote collaboration and cross-sectoral approaches that enable the establishment of alliances with diverse groups as well as develop innovative approaches to engage the general public, political actors and other opinion leaders, including the media, in the work of human rights defenders.
  • Media should engage in dialogue with all human rights defenders and support their efforts to advance human rights, the rule of law, social change and development as well as work in solidarity alongside human rights defenders to enable them to inform themselves and the populations wisely.

 Please visit here to read the full details of the report.