Madam Chair esteemed guests, all protocols observed.
We would like to bring to your attention and highlight key concerns regarding the state of human rights in Africa.
The right to freedom of assembly and association is the pillar of freedom of expression, democracy and good governance which provides the foundation for the promotion and protection of other fundamental rights and freedom. It is therefore worrying that, a number of African governments have enacted, or are in the process of enacting restrictive laws that prevent human rights defenders, journalists, activists and civil society organizations to freely access and share information, protest, organize and actively participate in the running of their governments.
We are also deeply concerned with the increasingly arbitrary changes to Constitutions to either relax term limits or scrap them altogether. After an initial period of limited presidential mandates, the continent is now faced with a return of life presidencies. The changes to constitutions in this manner also limit the powers of the judiciary and installs autocratic executive governments. This goes against the principle of the judicial independence which is a key foundation to ensuring that the rule of law is upheld even when it might be unpopular. It is also one of the pillars for ensuring equal treatment of everyone before the law.
We join those who have spoken in other forums, to express concern about the human right situation in Egypt. The silencing of the voices of dissents especially from human rights activists, journalists and civil society organizations is now at a perilous pitch. The democratic space in this country is under challenge. This is manifested by the freezing of the assets of civil society organization in Egypt. Independent media has come under threat or is totally non-existent. We note with concern the crackdown against civil society organizations, which has forced some of them into exile. The promotion and protection of human rights in Egypt has been met with force, which has been reinforced through a number of human rights violations notably enforced disappearance, torture and other forms of cruel and degrading treatment, violations of the right of defense, the court’s excessive reliance on anonymously sourced police investigation reports, and the filming and the broadcasting of defendants’ confessions before and during trial, and even after the handing down of death sentences . The death penalty is rampantly used in Egypt making it the 6th highest executioners in the world and the leading in Africa.
Even in the hosting of a continental session on human rights in Africa, we continue to see Egypt blatantly restrict participation of human rights organizations through the denial visas to some civil society colleagues, restrictions on meeting space that has deterred many of us from holding meeting in the sidelines of NGO forum and the ordinary session; no presence of the Egyptian press; and importantly low participation of Egyptian women.
We call on the Commission to:
- Urge all states to respect and uphold the African declaration of the principles on freedom of expression in Africa
- Call on Egypt to repeal all its laws that restrict fundamental rights and freedoms and ensure that the there is an environment for meaningful participation of the civil society organizations, the independent media and other independent voices.
- In future ensure that state that offer to host the ordinary session avail the necessary environment for genuine human rights dialogue.
- Ensure that the review of the human rights situation is meaningful and takes into account the views of Egyptians including those in exile and detention
Kenya Human Rights Commission (Observers status number 191)