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[Oral Statement] 52 Session of the ACHPR: Human Rights defenders protection in Africa

October 2012

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Fifty-second ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Yamoussoukro - Côte d’Ivoire, 9 - 22 October 2012

Oral Statement by FIACAT
Item 9: Reports of the Members of the African Commission and Special Mechanisms on 25 years of the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa

Madam Chair, Dear Commissioners,

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in Africa has been particularly dynamic since its creation 8 years ago and FIACAT wishes to commend the Special Rapporteur for its activities and for his proposals to make the mandate evolve.

Madam Chair,

FIACAT is a network of human rights defenders in thirty countries who act in favour of the abolition of torture and the death penalty. 16 of these ACAT are active in sub-Saharan Africa. Because of their associational activities, many members of ACAT have been threatened in recent years and FIACAT sometimes had to bring members of African ACAT in Europe where they were granted refugee status.

Madam Chair,

The security situation in North-Kivu Province has greatly deteriorated since clashes broke out between the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and the many militia groups in North-Kivu, especially involving the rebels from the Goma Agreement Movement of 23 March, known as M23.

Since the renewal of hostilities, the North-Kivu Branch of ACAT DRC has been threatened, its offices in Rutshuru territory have been ransacked and two of its members are in danger.

The offices of the North-Kivu Branch of ACAT DRC in Rutshuru territory were broken into on the morning of 9 July 2012 by M23 rebels. The thieves stole books, brochures on human rights awareness and the ACAT archives. Many documents were burned. Mr Athanase Kanyamanza, 33, married and a human rights defender who is a member of the North-Kivu Branch of ACAT DRC and who worked in the office, was forced to flee to Uganda. He fears for his safely if he returns to his village of Ntamugenga in Rutshuru territory. He has received threats and been warned by close friends that M23 rebels are looking for him.

The head of the North-Kivu Branch of ACAT DRC in Rutshuru territory, Mr Josias Shaetera, was also forced to flee to the MONUSCO camp in Kiwandja. Since his safety was not guaranteed, however, he tried to reach Goma but was unable to as the Goma-Rutshuru road was blocked. He is still in Rutshuru territory in hiding. Some M23 rebels are looking for him following the publication of several reports investigating acts of torture committed in January 2012 by Colonel Muhire who is currently a member of M23.

Madam Chair,

In view of the above facts and circumstances which take place in North Kivu Province for human rights defenders, FIACAT asked the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in Africa:
- to monitor these cases;
- to request from the Congolese Government an invitation for a fact-finding visit in Democratic Republic of Congo;
- take all necessary measures to protect members of ACAT North Kivu.

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