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Reflections on the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council

Last week, the Human Rights Council concluded its 30th session, the final one in 2015. The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project’s advocacy team attended the last week of the session with a large delegation of HRDs from Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia. Their feedback on their experience and participation at the Human Rights Council has been compiled in a video below.

Panel on the need for transitional justice in South Sudan

Panel on the need for transitional justice in South Sudan

During this session, we continued our advocacy efforts alongside our partners on South Sudan during a panel discussion with two prominent South Sudanese human rights defenders. The passing of resolution 29/13 during the 29th session of the Council on establishing a mission by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor, report and make recommendations on the alleged human rights violations in South Sudan is to be commended. However, as the civil war in South Sudan rages on, we are determined to continue pushing the international community to substantially address the crisis and look forward to OHCHR’s first report in March 2016.

I was pleased with the reports of the Independent Experts on Sudan and Somalia, which gave in-depth accounts of the human rights situations in both countries. Delegates from my organisation were able to deliver oral statements to the Council during both Interactive Dialogues highlighting the challenges of human rights defenders in these countries.

Mr. Bahame Tom Nyanduga, the Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia

Mr. Bahame Tom Nyanduga, IE on Human Rights in Somalia

Mr Bahame Tom Nyanduga, the Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia, made a compelling presentation of his report during our side-event on Somalia, which focused on the situation of journalists and women human rights defenders in Somalia. Resolutions were passed renewing both mandates, although the lack of transparency and of genuine engagement with Sudanese civil society in the course of the discussions on the content of the resolution was disappointing.

Elections report

My organisation also successfully launched its new report, “Caught Up in Bitter Contests: Human Rights Defenders Working in the Context of Elections in Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi and Uganda” during a parallel event on 30th September. The launch event included a panel discussion with human rights defenders from Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda and focused on the restriction of civil society space prior to, during and after elections. The report documents the specific challenges of human rights defenders working on civil and political rights during election periods, which should be addressed by the Human Rights Council. With elections in Tanzania at the end of the year, in Somalia and Uganda in 2016, in Rwanda in 2017, and Kenya in 2018, the HRDs in the sub-region are facing very tense and challenging times and heightened risks.

Finally, I welcome the Council’s resolution L.31 on Burundi under Item 10. The resolution strongly condemns the widespread human rights violations taking place in Burundi, and calls upon Burundian authorities to ensure accountability and prevent further violations. The resolution also strengthens the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and places Burundi on the agenda of the Human Rights Council for the three sessions to come in 2016. I am pleased that the Council is responding strongly to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Burundi, and taking action to pressure the Burundian government and place under international scrutiny.