By Geoffrey Mutegeki Araali
Journalists and other human rights defenders are to get better legal, medical and family assistance under a 1.8 million Euros project launched byPan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRD-Net).
The chairperson of PAHRD-Net, Hassan Shire Sheikh, said the3-year project aims at meeting 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/post-conflict areas, and those engaging with natural resources and extractive industries.
“We shall be providing support to HRD’s by getting them lawyers, giving them medical support in case one is injured, and family support if for example one is incapacitated or die 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 it on Feb. 4 in Kampala, noted that the Anti-homosexuality Bill that is before parliament scares 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 HRD Network noted that Africa is to face more violence and unrests as a result of human rights abuse.
“When you don’t acknowledge citizen’s 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,with its headquarters in Kampala, brings together five sub-regional human rights defenders networks from central, north, south, and the East and Horn of Africa. Representatives of the five networks and members of the PAHRD-Net Steering Committee were at the launch.
Human rights defenders are individuals working alone or through organisations to promote respect for universal human rights norms.
HRDs are often the victims of harassment, threats, assault, injury, and death across Africa, and many are forced into exile. Meddie Kagwa the chairman Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) said his organisation will defend the rights of people.