CEPIL trains HRDs in legal protection protocols and safeguards


The Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), in collaboration with Oxfam in Ghana, has organised a day’s capacity-building training and engagement forum for civil society organisations (CSOs), media practitioners and human rights activists in legal protection protocols and safeguards, as part of efforts toward ensuring a strengthened civil society and protection for human rights activists.

The training, held in Accra, was attended by CSOs such as Institute for Energy Security (IES), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) Ghana, Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) and many others. It sought to contribute toward improving protection for human rights defenders, advocates and influencing work, especially in the cocoa and mining value chains.

A legal practitioner at CEPIL, Alhassan Iddrisu, presenting a human rights and legal protection protocols manual developed by CEPIL in collaboration with Oxfam in Ghana, noted that over the years, human rights defenders (HRDs) – including civil society organisations, journalists, lawyers and other individuals – have experienced risks like arrest and detention, threats of harm or death, harassments as well as defamation suits and many more, based on the nature of their activism.

He added that the impact of such violations and abuses on the individual, their families and communities and respect for human rights and the rule of law is profound.

Further highlighting the risks and threats to human rights defenders in Ghana, he noted that: “They are often subject to intimidation, threats, job loss and restrictions on their freedoms of movement, expression, association and assembly”.

According to the Front Line Defenders Global Analysis 2018, about 321 human rights defenders in 27 countries were targeted and killed for their work in 2018. More than three-quarters of these were defending land, environmental or indigenous peoples’ rights, often in the context of extractive industries and mega projects.

To curb some of these happenings, he underscored the need for CSOs and human rights activists and defenders to be continuously trained to improve their knowledge on human rights protection and safety in advocacy.

On the local scene, he bemoaned Ghana’s fast deteriorating human rights record, which has seen the country move from the 30th to 60th position on the global human rights rankings, citing the gruesome murder of the late investigative journalist, Ahmed Hussein-Suale, and others whose rights were abused in the line of duty as factors leading to the poor rankings.

Worryingly, he noted that although the African continent is heavily reliant on extractive resources to provide socio-economic infrastructure and support economic growth, the sector is characterised by challenges, such as human rights violations, poor extractive sector governance, corruption and poor citizenry oversight, among others.

“Human rights violation is one of the major challenges affecting the people of Africa, especially in extractive-based communities and the rural poor, particularly vulnerable women, children and persons with disabilities,” he said.

Mr. Iddrisu added that despite equality and non-discrimination being fundamental principles of the United Nations charter adopted by world leaders in 1945, millions of women around the world continue to experience discrimination in the enjoyment of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, adding that effectively ensuring full enjoyment of human rights by women, girls, men, boys and people of diverse gender identities requires a comprehensive understanding of the social structures, social norms and stereotypes.

He cautioned the media to be circumspect in its reportage, checking and cross-checking facts in order not to tarnish the image and reputation of others.

“It is unfortunate that some of you in the media don’t live up to the tenets and principles guiding your profession. You are supposed to fight for the oppressed and the underprivileged, not for the privileged,” he added.

CEPIL’s vision is to have a society free of injustice, oppression and social inequality, where people live a life of dignity irrespective of sex, class, colour, race and geographical location, he stated.

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