Session of the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights Banjul, Gambia, 21 April 2015
Madame Chairperson, distinguished Commissioners, State Delegates, representatives of NHRIs and NGOs; all protocols respectfully observed.
On behalf of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, I would like to thank the Commission for this opportunity to raise some of the key human rights issues from the East and Horn of Africa in the past twelve months.
The past year has been marked in most countries by renewed government clampdowns on fundamental human rights, and the targeting through various means of human rights defenders working on the front lines of human rights protection.
I would like to focus on the three countries from our sub-region whose state reports are under consideration at this session, as well as focussing on other countries where the human rights concerns, especially relating to human rights defenders and civil society, have reached critical proportions.
Let me begin by framing these issues. In many countries from our sub-region, counter-terrorism laws were wilfully misapplied to target the work of journalists and human rights defenders. Across the region, administrative and bureaucratic obstacles were used by governments to disrupt the work of human rights defenders and journalists. In many countries, including Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, brutal armed conflicts and terrorist atrocities resulted in appalling human rights abuses against civilian populations.
In Djibouti, whose state report is due for consideration at this session, we warmly welcome the delegation of Djibouti to the African Commission, and express our gratitude for the presentation of their first ever Periodic Report to the African Commission.
In spite of these encouraging signs of engagement, I am concerned that human rights continue to be severely curtailed, with political freedoms and freedoms of expression being most notably restricted. In August 2014, Mohamed Ibrahim Waiss, a journalist with the radio station ‘The Voice of Djibouti’, was arrested and detained in Djibouti City, and accused of ‘incitement and publishing false news’. This followed his coverage of a demonstration organized by a coalition of opposition political parties. This is sadly representative of how journalists and human rights defenders are treated in this small, and overlooked state.
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