Strategic Session for human rights defenders in West, East and Southern Africa

The ICJ hosted over 40 human rights defenders (HRDs) from Southern, Eastern and Western Africa to deliberate on strategies for enhancing the protection of human rights and human rights defenders.

The event took place on 27-28 March 2014 in Tswane, Pretoria.

Several African dignitaries attended the strategy session, including various independent experts from the African Union and United Nations focusing on protection and promotion of the work of human rights defenders.

This reflection session came in the wake of the increased sophistication of acts that undermine the independent, safe and secure operation of human rights defenders in Africa.

These acts include restrictive and punitive legislative enactments, in countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, and extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and South Sudan.

Other acts undermining the work and security of human rights defenders include the prohibition of access to funding; defamatory labeling of HRDs as “spies”, “unpatriotic”, “traitors”, and “foreign agents”; and the passing of laws criminalizing homosexuality.

The Universally acclaimed Declaration on Human Rights Defenders has recorded a greater number of breaches in recent times than before.

There is an increasing need for defenders to identify and reflect on opportunities to strengthen their collective responses and to provide rapid in-country and regional support and solidarity that nurtures a spirit of resilience, collectiveness and camaraderie within universally accepted norms of the defence of human rights.


Arnold Tsunga, Director, ICJ Africa Regional Programme, Arnold.tsunga(a),  +27731318411, or

Martin Okumu-Masiga, Deputy Director, ICJ Afria Regional Programme, Martin.okumu-masiga(a),  +27110248268 (full text in PDF)

Southern Africa-Strategic Session rapide response-Publications-Workshop report-2015-ENG (full text in PDF)

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