On the 21st of February 2023 the 36th Ordinary session of the African Union took place in Bishoftu, Ethiopia. During this session, human rights defenders from the 36 African Union member states gathered to present the Bishoftu Declaration, calling for concrete measures and collaborating towards a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders in African Union Member States.
The Declaration was prompted by recent killings of human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Cameroon, Mauritania Rwanda and South Africa, as well as the escalating situations in Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia. The declaration calls for “independent and transparent investigations” into recent killings and “immediate measures to increase the protection and security of HRDs”.
Through the Declaration, the human rights defenders call upon African Union Heads of States, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the Regional Economic Communities, National Human rights Institutions and African human rights defenders to collaborate towards the development of concrete measures to track violations against human rights defenders and act against their repression, including:
- Take steps and immediate measures to increase the protection and security of HRDs, including by adopting legislation for the domestication and implementation of the UN Declaration on HRDs;
- Take steps and immediate measures to withdraw overly restrictive and repressive policies and practices that hamper an enabling environment for civil society to operate, participate and fulfil their mandates;
- Ratify the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Good Governance and implement domestic legislation to protect fundamental rights such as freedom of movement, association and expression which are imperatives for democratic participation and inclusion;