Tag - Africa ( 71 )

News | Zimbabwe: Kiai intervenes in African Commission case alleging suppression of WOZA’s assembly rights

Apr 28 2017

BANJUL/NAIROBI – Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has filed an amicus curiae brief before the African Commission’s top human rights body, in a case concerning peaceful assembly rights in Zimbabwe. The case, Jenifer Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu and Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) v. The Republic of Zimbabwe, was originally filed before the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in 2013. The applicants allege that Zimbabwean authorities have systematically suppressed their ability to engage in peaceful protest and public demonstrations through a pattern of threats, harassment, physical abuse and torture, disproportionate and excessive use of force, illegal dispersals as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions. The State argues that it only took actions in response to failures to respect laws of general application such as the failure to comply with prior notification requirements. The Special Rapporteur’s brief – which was filed on April 28 – does not take a position on the facts of the case, but instead outlines relevant regional and international law, norms and standards on the right to peaceful assembly. Specifically, it examines (1) notification and authorization requirements; (2) sanctioning non-notification or peaceful participation in an assembly – clarifying that there is... Continue reading →

News | South Africa Gatherings Act imposes ‘illegitimate’ restrictions on assemblies, Special Rapporteur tells court

Apr 10 2017

NAIROBI/CAPE TOWN – The notification provisions of South Africa’s Gatherings Act constitute “illegitimate” restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, according to a brief filed by Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai before a court in Cape Town. The amicus curiae brief was filed on 31 March 2017 in the appeal of Phumeza Mlungwana, et. al vs. the State, which concerns the constitutionality of section 12(1)(a) of the Regulation of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993. The act imposes criminal sanctions on any person who convenes a gathering of more than 15 people without notifying the relevant authority. Sanctions can also be imposed for “inadequate” notification. The case arose from a peaceful protest at the Cape Town Civic Centre on 11 September 2013. Police arrested 21 people and charged them under section 12(1)(a) of the Gatherings Act for convening a gathering without providing notice to the relevant municipal authority. The 10 individuals who filed the appeal were convicted on 11 February 2015. In his brief, the Special Rapporteur notes that State authorities are permitted to request notification for assemblies in order to fulfill their positive obligation to facilitate such assemblies. But this should not be construed as a permission requirement, he added. Thus, the imposition of... Continue reading →

News | UN experts urge Kenya to end crackdown on rights groups to ensure fair elections

Feb 14 2017

GENEVA – Three United Nations human rights experts have called on the Government of Kenya to cease its systematic crackdown on civil society groups, which has intensified in the lead-up to national elections scheduled in August. “We are extremely alarmed at the increasing number of attacks on civil society as the elections draw closer,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye; and on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst. “It appears that there is a systematic and deliberate pattern to crack down on civil society groups which challenge governmental policies, educate voters, investigate human rights abuses and uncover corruption. These issues are extremely important in a democracy, and attempting to shut down the debate taking place in the civic space threatens to irreparably taint the legitimacy of the upcoming elections,” they added.* The experts’ call comes just a month after the Interior Ministry called for the closure of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) deemed to be ‘not properly licensed’. A Government circular alleged the groups had been involved in ‘nefarious activities’ and claimed they posed a serious threat to national security including money... Continue reading →

News | Burundi: Des experts de l’ONU tirent la sonnette d’alarme face à la répression croissante des ONG et des défenseurs des droits humains

Feb 06 2017

GENEVE - Un groupe d’experts des droits humains des Nations Unies a condamné aujourd’hui la récente interdiction et la suspension provisoire d’un certain nombre d’organisations de la société civile au Burundi et a mis en garde contre «l’effet obstructif, restrictif et stigmatisant de la législation récente sur les ONG, dans un contexte de répression croissante des défenseurs des droits humains ». Le 19 octobre 2016, les autorités burundaises ont radié cinq organisations de la société civile*. De même, en décembre 2016, la Ligue ITEKA, l’une des principales organisations de défense des droits humains du pays, suspendue en octobre, ainsi que l’OLUFAD - ONG de promotion de la bonne gouvernance et de lutte contre la corruption - ont également été interdites. Par ailleurs, quatre autres organisations ** ont été provisoirement suspendues. Suite à cette décision, l’Assemblée nationale a adopté, en décembre 2016, deux projets de loi visant à contrôler étroitement l’action des ONG locales et internationales. Cette nouvelle législation oblige les ONG locales à obtenir l’autorisation du ministre de l’Intérieur pour toute activité ainsi qu’à recevoir des fonds d’origine étrangère par l’intermédiaire de la Banque centrale. Le travail des ONG... Continue reading →

News | Burundi: UN experts raise alarm at growing repression of NGOs and human rights defenders

Feb 06 2017

GENEVA – A group of United Nations human rights experts today condemned the recent ban and provisional suspension of a number of civil society organizations in Burundi, and warned about “the obstructive, restrictive and stigmatizing effect of recent legislation on NGOs, in a context of growing repression of human rights defenders.” On 19 October 2016, the Burundian authorities banned five civil society organizations*. In December 2016, the Ligue ITEKA, one of the leading human rights institutions of the country, which was suspended in October as well as OLUFAD – an NGO promoting good governance and the fight against corruption - have also been barred. Another four organizations** were provisionally suspended. Following that move, the National Assembly adopted two bills in December 2016 aimed at closely controlling the action of local and international NGOs. This new legislation compels local NGOs to obtain authorization from the Minister of the Interior for any activity and to transfer funds of foreign origin through the Central Bank. The work of foreign NGOs must comply with priorities set by the Government. “These moves are just the latest in a series of attacks on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Burundi,” the experts, said. “Disturbingly, these measures take... Continue reading →

News | Authorities should not interfere with internal affairs of associations, Kiai tells African Court in Rwanda case

Jan 06 2017

NAIROBI/ARUSHA – Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has filed an amicus curiae brief before Africa’s top human rights court stating that authorities which interfere with the internal affairs of associations violate the international right to freedom of association. The brief was filed in the case of Laurent Munyandilikirwa versus The Republic of Rwanda, which concerns the alleged government-supported takeover in 2013-14 of the Rwandan League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LIPRODHOR), one of Rwanda’s most prominent and outspoken human rights organizations at the time. The case is currently pending before the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania. In July 2013, a group of LIPRODHOR members met in violation of the organization’s by-laws and voted in a new board, ousting the NGO’s previous leadership. The ousted board challenged the change in leadership via LIPRODHOR’s internal dispute resolution process, which ruled in their favor. Despite this, the Rwanda Governance Board – the government body that regulates NGOs in the country – moved rapidly to recognize the new board. Government authorities then doubled down by preventing members of the old board from conducting a human rights training in 2013, and from meeting to discuss the status of LIPRODHOR... Continue reading →

News | Cameroon: UN experts urge Government to halt violence against English-speaking minority protests

Dec 21 2016

GENEVA – Two United Nations human rights experts have called on the government of Cameroon to exercise restraint and begin dialogue, amid rising attacks on peaceful protesters. Special Rapporteurs Maina Kiai and Rita Izsak-Ndiaye said they were deeply concerned about the worsening violence in the north-west and south-west, which has included the use of force against English-speaking demonstrators protesting against the growing appointment of French-speaking civil servants in their regions. Most of the protests have been led by regional bar associations and teachers’ unions. English speakers have long complained that they face discrimination and marginalization, and are excluded from top civil service positions and public services. They also claim their access to justice is limited because the majority of legislation and judicial proceedings are in French. “We call on the authorities to engage in a fruitful and inclusive dialogue with civil society, particularly the lawyers’ and teachers’ unions in Anglophone regions who are asking for bilingual public services and more inclusion of English speakers in the public sphere,” said the experts. Mr. Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, said he was particularly alarmed by reports that... Continue reading →

News | DRC: UN experts urge Government to lift “abusive” restrictions on protesters to head off violence

Dec 19 2016

GENEVA – United Nations experts, including Maina Kiai, are calling on the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to lift political restrictions which they say are curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. These restrictions, which include a de facto ban on all public political rallies and meetings in the country’s main cities, were introduced over the past year and were reiterated with an announcement issued on 1 December banning organizations not registered. “These measures have most recently affected the citizens’ movements LUCHA and Filimbi, both young citizen movements aiming at promoting political participation, which recently launched a public awareness campaign calling for respect for the Constitution,” said the UN experts. “These measures are in violation of international human rights conventions to which the government in Kinshasa is a signatory, and breaches the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,” they stressed. The DRC has recently known a wave of protests from demonstrators concerned that President Joseph Kabila will refuse to step down from office today - 19 December - when his second and final term under the current constitutional arrangements is due to end. Elections to replace him have been... Continue reading →

News | ‘Fragile’ DRC at risk as government clamps down on critics, UN expert warns

Dec 01 2016

GENEVA – The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is silencing critics in clear violation of international human rights law, a United Nations expert has warned. The action, which includes jamming radio broadcasts and arresting journalists, is targeting the independent media at a time of high political tension, says the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye. “These actions are not only in clear violation of the DRC’s obligations under international human rights law, but the silencing of critical voices through arrests, censorship and other forms of government control poses risks for the stability of the country which is already in a seriously fragile state,” the expert said. “Freedom of expression in the DRC has increasingly been threatened by the criminalization of critics and the opposition, including the use of harsh punishments. The government has a responsibility to uphold people’s rights to freedom of expression and a free media, as guaranteed in the 2005 constitution,” Mr. Kaye added. “It should also take the opportunity to promote and protect these rights to establish a foundation for growth and stability.” The independent expert highlighted examples including a decree issued by the Minister of Information and Media, Lambert Mende,... Continue reading →

News | UN experts criticize Kenya police for excessive use of force against peaceful protesters

Nov 10 2016

GENEVA – A group of UN human rights experts* has condemned a violent clampdown on a peaceful protest in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, while urging the authorities to investigate claims of excessive use of force and arbitrary arrest – both against demonstrators and journalists – and to hold all perpetrators accountable. The demonstrators were protesting against alleged government corruption when police used teargas and batons to disperse them. A number of people are reported to have been injured or detained during the incident on 3 November. “Interference with the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is inexcusable at any time, but it is especially repugnant when demonstrators are calling for government accountability,” the experts said. “Protesters may sometimes raise uncomfortable truths, but holding people in power to account is a central function of peaceful assemblies in a democracy.” The experts also expressed alarm at the timing of the crackdown, less than a year before Kenyans elect a new president in August 2017. They said creating an environment where opinions could be expressed peacefully was key to avoiding a repeat of the wave of violence which followed the disputed presidential poll in 2007. “Beating protesters does not make their grudges go away. Rather, it... Continue reading →