New DefendDefenders Statement Encourages African Commission Engagement

On May 9, 2017, Hassan Shire, the Executive Director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (DefendDefenders), addressed the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and encouraged them to play a stronger role in protecting human rights on the continent. Shire drew attention to a number of recent human rights violations in the East and Horn of Africa region.

According to Shire, for almost a year now, South Sudan’s government has killed citizens and humanitarian workers delivering aid in the country. In neighboring Sudan, recent government bombing campaigns devastated the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have been detained since Ethiopia declared a State of Emergency in October 2016, which empowered the government to crackdown on political dissent. Shire points out that no one has faced persecution for the ongoing state-sponsored attacks against members of civil society in Ethiopia, as well as Burundi, Eritrea, and Uganda.

Restrictions on independent media and freedom of assembly in Kenya and Tanzania have increased, ahead of the countries’ 2017 and 2018 elections.

To address these concerns, Shire recommended that the African Commission establish new legal mechanisms to address grievances in South Sudan, as well as support independent investigations into violations of international law in Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Burundi. Read Shire’s full statement here.

Hassan Shire is a World Movement for Democracy Steering Committee member and is a recent recipient of Refugee International’s Richard C. Holbrooke Award, which honors civil society organizations working in humanitarian crisis zones.