Press Release
KAMPALA: Launch of New Programme for Improved Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Africa

Marking the commencement of support from the European Commission under the global fund of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRD-Net) today officially launches a 3-year programme totalling 1.8 million Euros to promote a safe legal and working environment for human rights defenders (HRD) across Africa.

“The tireless and innovative work done at the sub-regional level to protect human rights defenders will now have a dedicated venue at the Pan-African level for mutual support and reinforcement,” said Hassan Shire Sheikh, Chairperson of PAHRD-Net and Executive Director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). Today’s launch marks the fruition of a process set off in 1998 at the Johannesburg All-Africa Human Rights Defenders Conference and renewed in 2009 at the Johannesburg +10 Conference in Kampala where the need for such a protection programme was discussed.

As stated in European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, “the EU acknowledges that the activities of human rights defenders have over the years become more widely recognised. They have increasingly come to ensure greater protection for the victims of violations. However, this progress has been achieved at a high price: the defenders themselves have increasingly become targets of attacks and their rights are violated in many countries. The EU believes it is important to ensure the safety of human rights defenders and protect their rights.”

The secretariat of PAHRD-Net hosted by EHAHRDP coordinates the implementation of the programme with the ultimate objective of improving the quality, capacity and consistency of protection support available to the most-at-risk HRDs across the continent. PAHRD-Net brings together the five sub-regional human rights defenders networks in Africa (the Central African HRD Network, the East and Horn of Africa HRD Network, the North Africa HRD Network represented through the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Southern Africa HRD Network hosted by the International Commission for Jurists and the West African HRD Network) to meet the protection needs of human rights defenders and especially to address the needs of the five groups of most-at-risk HRDs: journalists fighting to end impunity and corruption, women human rights defenders, defenders working on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, HRDs working under oppressive regimes or in armed/post-conflict areas, and HRDs engaging with the resource extraction industries.

Human rights defenders are individuals working alone or through organizations under the goal of promoting respect for universal human rights norms. Frequently HRDs come into conflict with the entrenched local power structures of state and non-state actors through their activism. This conflict can put in jeopardy the security of the HRD and their work and family networks. HRDs are often the victims of harassment, threats, assault, injury, and death across Africa, and many are forced into exile, a move which may effectively end their advocacy for human rights. The consolidation and growth of protection mechanisms within the sub-regions will improve the responses available to mitigate these threats and develop HRDs’ ability to manage their own security effectively.

Participants at today’s launch event include representatives of the five sub-regional HRD member networks, members of the PAHRD-Net Steering Committee, the EU Ambassador to Uganda, the EU Delegation to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, HRDs who have benefited from the EHAHRDP protection programme, and other members of the diplomatic and NGO community in Uganda.

For further information please contact:

Hassan Shire Sheikh – Chairperson, Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network: Tel +256-772-753-753, or [email protected]

Joseph Bikanda – Coordinator, Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network: Tel +256-312-202133, +256-312-265825, or [email protected]

Rachel Nicholson – Advocacy Officer, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project: Tel +256-312-265-824, +256-778-921274, or [email protected]