Journalists and other human rights defenders are to get better legal, medical and family assistance under a 1.8 million Euro project launched by Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRD-Net).
The chairperson of PAHRD-Net, Hassan Shire Sheikh, said the 3-year project will aim to met the protection needs of human rights defenders, especially those working on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, those under oppressive regimes or in armed or post-conflict areas, and those that engage with natural resource and extractive industries.
“We shall be providing support to HRDs by getting them lawyers, giving them medical support in case one is injured, and family support if, for example, one is incapacitated or dies during the struggle. And if one is persecuted by their countries or is at risk from other persons we shall be able to help them get international asylum or protection,” Hassan said.
The programme is supported by the European Commission under the Global Fund of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.
Robert Ridolfi, the European ambassador to Uganda, who launched the project on Feb. 4 in Kampala, noted that the anti-homosexuality bill currently before parliament is scaring away investors who believe in the protection of human rights.
“How can any investor come to Uganda if there is no rule of law and a lot of discrimination? Human rights are human rights, we have to protect all of them not some,” Ridolfi said.
Zaid Tawab, the deputy director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, representing the North Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, noted that Africa is to face more violence and unrest as a result of human rights abuses.
“When you don’t acknowledge citizens’ rights and respect of human rights we shall keep in violence and turmoil. That’s why you see violence in North Africa, people are oppressed but they have to fight for their rights,” Tawab said.
PAHRD-Net, which has headquarters in Kampala, brings together five sub-regional human rights defender networks, one each from the central, north, south, and east of the continent, and one from the Horn of Africa. Representatives of the five networks and members of the PAHRD-Net steering committee were at the launch of the project.
Meddie Kagwa, the chairman Uganda Human Rights Commission, said his organisation will defend the rights of people.
Human rights defenders are individuals working alone or through organisations to promote respect for universal human rights norms.
Across Africa, human rights defenders are often the victims of harassment, threats, assault, injury and death and many are forced into exile.