According to Amnesty International, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters in West and Central Africa are facing ever-higher levels of persecution, intimidation and violence.
Launching ‘Brave’, a global campaign to demand an end to the onslaught of attacks against brave individuals standing up to injustice, Amnesty called on states in West and Central Africa to recognize the legitimacy of human rights defenders by respecting their work, giving space for it and protecting them from threats.
“States across the region have deployed a broad and increasingly inventive range of tactics to stop people standing up against injustice and to coerce them into self-censorship, “said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
‘“Shut down for speaking out: Human Rights Defenders under attack in West and Central Africa”an Amnesty International report published May 15, 2017, documents the mounting danger faced by those defending human rights in the region.
The report indicates that in almost every country in West and Central Africa, people participating in peaceful protests have been repressed.
Other troubling information, documented in the report is that at least 87 human rights defenders and 48 journalists were arbitrarily arrested in West Africa since 2014; that one protester killed every five days during demonstrations and that states across West and Central Africa deploy unlawful killings, arrests, surveillance and administrative sanctions to inhibit human rights work
“When they are not threatening or harassing them, governments are attempting to cultivate open hostility towards human rights defenders by peddling demonizing rhetoric that portrays activists as threats to national security,” said Alioune Tine.
Amnesty International further urged authorities in West and Central Africa to refrain from using language that disparages human rights defenders including by labelling them “criminals”, “foreign agents”, “terrorists”, or “undesirables”.
The report is a “tribute to the brave men and women across the region”, whom in spite of repression continue to fight for justice.
Photo: Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa