With three countries adopting a national law for the protection of defenders in the past five years, West Africa has become a leading region on the continent. Guinea recently made some steps to possibly join them soon.
On 25 and 26 September, a collective of NGOs, including the Coordination of Human Rights Organisations (CODDH) and Amnesty Guinea, in collaboration with ISHR, hosted a two-days-workshop during which authorities and civil society discussed and finalised a draft law for the promotion and protection of defenders. This workshop was the opportunity for civil society and authorities to work collaboratively on an instrument which can then be discussed and adopted within the council of ministers, before being submitted to the Parliament.
The CODDH gave an overview of the process and past steps accomplished at the national level, in particular:
the identification of a need for a national law protecting human rights defenders
the first draft law initiated by the government and
a workshop organised last year which led to the current draft text.
While presenting the international legal framework, ISHR Africa Advocacy Consultant Adélaïde Etong Kame emphasised that ‘the law ultimately adopted by Guinea’s National Assembly must comply with international legal standards in order to create a legal environment which is supportive to the work of human rights defenders – not restrictive’.
The draft law proposed by civil society identifies:
the rights of defenders and the responsibility to defend human rights
the State’s obligations towards defenders
applicable sanctions and remedies for breaches of rights and obligations
dispositions for a specific protection for women and disabled human rights defenders.
Furthermore, the participants discussed the need for a protection mechanism monitoring the implementation of the law once it is adopted. Indeed, as envisaged in A Model Law on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders, the mechanism must be enabled to prevent, protect against and investigate all attacks and violations against defenders.
ISHR and the collective of NGOs reiterate their willingness to continue collaborating with the authorities towards the adoption of the national human rights defender protection law in Guinea, and the designation of an effective protection mechanism for defenders.