Intervention du Président de l’EHAHRDP/Net
Ligue Djiboutienne des Droits Humains (LDDH) reste très préoccupée
de la situation intolérable et imposée par des régimes
autoritaires de la Corne d’Afrique contre les Défenseurs des Droits
de l’Homme, notamment des journalistes, cibles privilégiés des
assassinats, des emprisonnements, et des harcèlements constants.
Elle appelle les instances Onusiennes à combattre plus franchement
NOEL ABDI Jean-Paul
AND HORN OF AFRICA HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS NETWORK
EHAHRDN Index: UGA 012/008/2007 (Public)
15th May 2007
A report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the state
of human rights defenders in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region
On the OCCASION OF THE 41ST ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION
ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS AND 15TH AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS BOOK FAIR, 12TH
– 14TH MAY, 2007, COCONUT GROOVE HOTEL, ACCRA, GHANA
Presented by: Hassan Shire Sheikh, Chairperson, EHAHRDP/Net
yet another opportunity, where the African Commission and human rights defenders
across Africa, meet to discuss pressing issues in the realm of human rights.
At this juncture, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
(EHAHRD-Net), comprising of human rights organizations from the East and Horn
of Africa countries of; Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Somaliland,
Sudan including Southern Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, reiterates the dire need
for the stakeholders in these countries, to observe the rights of HRDs in
pursuit of their duties, without hindrance.
Madam Chairperson, in Djibouti, the President
of the lone human rights organization, the Djibouti League for Human Rights
(LDDH) was recently arrested; in Somalia, human rights defenders
are being killed because of their work, while journalists are arrested over
unclear circumstances; in Somaliland, editors of Haatuf media house just left
prison; in Sudan, the media operates under daily threats; in Eritrea, no independent
media operates, while tens of journalists still languish behind the bars more
than half a decade since their arrest by government authorities; in Ethiopia,
the situation of HRDs is still as shaky as was highlighted in previous reports,
and though Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda have been relatively calm, recent clashes
between the media, Environmentalists and the police in Uganda, are an indicator
of looming trouble.
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) has held
a number of capacity building workshops, highlighting the existence of the
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, but on each occasion, participants
frequently ask why, despite the availability of various international bodies
and international human rights instruments, perpetrators of violations are
not brought to book. It is hoped that through this gathering, cases involving
human rights defenders in the sub-region shall be offered priority, to ensure
that justice prevails.
A number of fresh violations have happened since the last gathering of the
Commission, while some cases mentioned in previous reports still remain unchanged.
Below is a brief overview indicating the situation of HRDs in selected countries
of the sub-region:
The government of Djibouti recently launched
scathing harassment against the only existing human rights organization in
the country, the Djibouti League for Human Rights.
First, the organisation’s President, Noel Abdi was prevented from attending
a sub-regional Journalists’ Conference in November 2006, organized by EHAHRDP;
lately, on the 18th of March 2007, he was sentenced to six (6) months in prison,
and fined 100.000 Djiboutian Francs, accused of « libelous statements »,
and « slandering », in connection with a communication released by
his organisation on February 14th 2007, concerning the discovery of a mass
grave in the village of Day, Tadjourah district.
The situation in Eritrea has equally been bad with the continued detention
of at least 16 journalists whose whereabouts are still unclear, and the private
press banned since September 2001. It is very unfortunate that the Eritrean
Government has ignored any level of international pleas to accord the detained
journalists a fair hearing. Yet on top of that, their whereabouts are still
year 2006, EHAHRD-Net reported that several HRDs in Ethiopia including journalists
were under detention following the November 2005 violent demonstrations against
alleged fraudulent General Elections held in the country in May of the same
year (2005). It was also reported that many other journalists and HRDs had
been forced into exile as their names prominently featured on the police list
of most wanted persons. Whereas at least 8 of the detained journalists were
recently acquitted of various charges including treason, about 9 others plus
tens of HRDs still await justice to prevail in their case.
According to information received from Network members in Ethiopia, those
acquitted include; Publisher Sisay Agena of Ethiop and Abay; Publisher Serkalem
Fassil and Columnist Eskinder Nega of Menilik, Asqual, and Satanaw; Editor-in-Chief
Nardos Meaza of Satanaw; Publisher Zekarias Tesfaye and Deputy Editor Dereje
Habtewold of Netsanet; Deputy Editor Feleke Tibebu of Hadar; and Publisher
Fasil Yenealem of Addis Zena were acquitted of three criminal charges and
ordered released from Kality prison. The publications have been banned since
the crackdown. Meanwhile, Kifle Mulat, the exiled President of the banned
Ethiopian Free press Journalists Association (EFJA), was also acquitted of
the single charge of « outrage to the Constitution and constitutional
Human rights violations in Somalia considerably escalated towards the end
of 2006 when Ethiopian troops entered Somalia in a bid to drive out the Union
of Islamic Courts (UIC) who had previously overtaken the capital Mogadishu.
This was done to reinstall the weak but internationally recognized Transitional
Federal Government (TFG). However, following the expulsion of the UIC from
Mogadishu, war broke out that has so far claimed the lives of hundreds of
civilians, and caused over half a million others to flee the country. This
trend of affairs has not spared journalists and other human rights defenders
working in Somalia.
The deaths of Isse Abdi Isse, formerly Chairperson of Kisima Peace and Development
Organisation based in Mogadishu (March 2007), journalist Mohammed Abdullahi
Khalif murdered in Galkayo puntland (May 2007), and journalist Ali Mohammed
Omar murdered in Baidoa (Feb 2007), (see EHAHRDP statements; EHAHRD-Net Index:
SOMA 003/005/2007, EHAHRD-Net Index: SOMA 004/005/2007), have further darkened
the already blurred situation of human
rights defenders in war-torn Somalia. That aside, Radio HornAfrik was hit
by artilleries on April 21st 2007, temporarily halting its operations.
Journalist Yahye Ali Farah and Cameraman Abdi Dhaqane, sustained injuries
in the attack; on April 19th 2007, the Global Broadcasting Corporation (GBC)
based in Mogadishu experienced « indiscriminate bombardments », damaging
its equipment; Ayaamaha Daily Newspaper was also hit; Shabelle Media Network
been repeatedly shut; and the Al Jazeera TV offices were also closed early
the infamous raid of the offices of Haatuf Media Network on January 2nd, 2007,
leading to the arrest of three journalists, has been the major highlight up
to this part of the year. Those arrested include, Chairman Yusuf Abdi Gabobe,
Editor Ali Abdi Dini and Mohamed Omar Sheikh Ibrahim, Haatuf’s correspondent
in Borame. The fourth journalist, Mohamed Rashid Muhumed Farah escaped the
arrest and has since been living in exile.
The arrests were made in connection with a series of articles published by
Haatuf from November 2006 to January 2007, in which alleged corruption and
nepotism by Somaliland President H.E Dahir Riyaale’s wife had been exposed.
Ali Abdi Dini was charged among others with « offending the honour or
prestige of the Head of State », while Yusuf Abdi Gabobe was charged with
resisting public officers during his arrest. The author of some of the articles
Mohamed Rashid Muhumed Farah was charged in absentia. The verdict was delivered
on March 4th, 2007 basing on the outdated Penal Code dating back to the 1960s
of the Somalia Union. Yusuf Abdi Gabobe was sentenced to two years imprisonment,
while Ali Abdi Dini and Mohamed Omar Sheikh Ibrahim, together with investigative
reporter Mohamed Rashid Muhumed Farah who was tried in absentia, received
sentences of two years and five months. In addition, the media house was fined
5 Million Somaliland Shillings (estimated US$ 800). Though they later received
Presidential pardon on March 30th, 2007, such arrests were unwarranted in
the first place and must be condemned.
Latest information received from Somaliland indicates that Mrs Zamzam Abdi
Adam, the Shuronet Chairperson, Ibrahim Lidle Suleiman and three Journalists
were rounded up on Saturday May 12th while organizing a press conference on
the abolition of the unlawful Public Order Law and the Security Committee,
which had been disbanded by the Somaliland Parliament but the Somaliland Government,
still uses to suppress demonstrations and freedom of expression.
The journalists detained included; Mohamed AMin of Haatuf Media Network, Abdi
Gaab a reporter from the Hargeisa Independent TV and a Jamhuuriya Newspaper
reporter only identified as Illig.
In Sudan, the Press has been under continued pressure of censorship as reported
by journalists who attended the Journalists’ Conference for the East and Horn
of Africa. Al Sudani, one of the most vocal newspapers in Khartoum has repeatedly
faced intimidation and closure. In January this year, Chief Editor Mhajoub
Erowa and journalist Hafiz AlKhiare were detained in relation to a story they
published about the murder of Mohamed Taha, who was killed in September 2006.
They were later released after brief interrogation. Generally, the situation
of HRDs in Sudan still remains unpredictable especially with the Darfur crisis
getting worse by the day.
the fact that Uganda has previously had a relatively calm working environment
for HRDs, recent events appear to be a prelude to challenging times ahead.
While praying that does not come to happen, on 1st March 2007, Ugandan security
operatives besieged the High Court in Kampala, and in the presence of the
Deputy Chief Justice, Lady Leticia Kikonyogo, Principle Judge, James Ogoola
and other judicial officials, they proceeded to unleash violence against suspects
in a treason case. In the scuffles that ensued, some journalists who had gone
to cover the hearing, were either beaten, pushed or had their gadgets confiscated
Richard Ssemakula, a journalist working with Bukedde newspaper was beaten
while taking photos of the PRA suspects who were being re-arrested. His gadgets
including a camera, a Motorola mobile phone, and a wallet containing valuable
documents, were also confiscated. Other journalists affected include; Sam
Matekha, a Journalist with Radio Simba, who was beaten by security personnel;
Charles Sekajja, a journalist with Ddembe FM, who sustained injuries after
being assaulted by police using a Radio Call; and Wokulira Ssebaggala of Radio
Sapientia, who was also beaten. (Source: Human Rights Network for Journalists.
Additional notes by the Press Officer)
The other incident that has caused particular attention in Uganda in recent
weeks has been the government’s planned sale of the Mabira forest. While protesting
this action, many people including environmentalists campaigning for people’s
right to a good environment were either arrested or beaten up in a fight with
police that left at least three people dead. One journalist, Simon Kaggwa
from Radio One, was serious injured and hospitalized at the International
Hospital in Kampala.
This country overview indicates a continuously sad operating environment for
HRDs in most countries within the East and Horn of Africa sub-region.
Innocent HRDs continue to lose their lives; many have been forced into exile
while those still surviving are working under untold fear for their lives.
They continue to ponder what the regional and international human rights bodies
are planning to do to ensure their safety.
As a Network, we feel that the security of our members deserves priority.
We understand that the African Commission shares the view that no one should
be kept in custody without his/her case being determined by a court or any
other judicial authority. In any event still, no one ought to be kept in detention
beyond a period within which the State can provide appropriate justification
implicating the suspect. Yet in most countries of the sub-region, many HRDs
are detained, some for years without a fair trial.
The institution of the African Court comes as a great relief to many HRDs
facing various challenges in their work, and we can only wait to see action
being taken against the countries violating the rights, which most have incidentally
The Network calls
upon you Madam Chairperson; to pay regular visits to countries within the
sub-region to familiarize yourself with the gravity of violations being committed,
acting as a timely intervention with the authorities involved.
Whereas we believe all this cannot be done overnight, we maintain hope that
once the struggle starts now, one time we shall realize our dream- a healthier
working environment for HRDs and the respect for their rights as legislated
nationally, regionally and internationally.