01.12.2009
News
Regional Projects

EHAHRDP Protects Human Rights Defenders in East and Horn of Africa

Human rights defenders in Eastern Africa face intimidation, illegal arrests, unfair trials, torture and disappearances. Many are forced to leave their country as refugees. Before East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and the related human rights defenders network were founded in 2005, it was not possible for human rights defenders to support each other and make their situation internationally known. Nowadays, the network hosted by EHAHRDP is a link for over 70 human rights defenders and their organizations in Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

Photo: KIOS

Photo: KIOS

KIOS started supporting EHAHRDP in 2006. With KIOS support EHAHRDP organized a conference which brought together journalists and human rights defenders from the entire region. The participants shared experiences and information on the plight of human rights defenders in the region, and how to best protect them. Journalists are key actors in bringing the situation of human rights defenders out in the open, and many journalists are active human rights defenders themselves. Conference covered also the ethics of journalistic reporting, campaign strategies for human rights defenders and security situation of especially female journalists. KIOS supported the conference with 32 100 €.

”The environment in which human rights defenders operate, is becoming more and more hostile, limiting space for negotiation. Those who stand up for human rights continue to pay a high price for their courage.”

KIOS continued supporting EHARHDP in 2007-2008 with a grant of 39 400 €. This time the support was focused in strengthening the work of the network itself: extending the network to Rwanda and Burundi, making future guidelines for the organization and at strengthening the advocacy, education and protection work. Institutional support from KIOS enabled the work of EHAHRDP’s key programs and employment and training of new staff members.

The core support from KIOS contributed to several of EHAHRDP’s activities on the ground. EHAHRDP’s concerns during the project period were attacks against journalists in Somalia, human rights violations committed by Kenyan armed forces and rebellion groups in Mt. Elgon, intimidation of human rights defenders belonging to sexual minorities in Uganda and violations of freedom of expression in South Sudan. EHAHRDP was also active in advocacy work and lobbying, for example during the meetings of UN Human Rights Council, by writing reports regarding the regional situation of human rights defenders for African Commission on Human and Peoples´ Rights and by meeting representatives of US congress.

Whilst expanding its work to international advocacy, EHAHRP also strengthened its protection work for human rights defenders at risk. EHAHRDP’s work in protecting human rights defenders provides refuge and economic support. EHAHRDP has also built the capacity of human rights defenders by organizing local workshops and regional meetings.

”Ironically, it is the States themselves that are perpetrators of these violations, despite their commitment to protect and defend the rights of their citizens.”

In 2008 KIOS granted support for EHAHRDP for the third time: 79 800 € for a two-year project which aims at supporting the work of human rights defenders and building the capacity of especially Burundian human rights movement. Part of the grant is meant for supporting the core activities of the organization.

During the past few years, EHAHRDP has become more recognized both regionally and internationally. Regional network has proved to be essential especially in the time of crisis. EHAHRDP has been able to react swiftly and has helped several human rights defenders at grassroots level. EHAHRDP has also been valuable source of information for the international community. In 2009 EHAHRDP was one of the organizations establishing a human rights defenders network covering the whole of Africa.