The Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), a non-profit organisation, in collaboration with Oxfam Ghana has developed a manual, which seeks to contribute towards improving protection for human rights defenders and advocates.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), human right defenders and other actors involved in human rights protection and advocacy often focus more on the protection of others while neglecting their own security amidst threats and risks associated with the influencing work they do.
Countless number of human rights defenders have suffered all forms of indignities and abuses. The situation is even worst in Africa largely due to instability, weak state institutions, resource-based conflicts and wars.
In recognition of the adverse effects of the risks and threats encountered by these human rights defenders and CSO advocates, the centre together with their partners have developed the manual, which provides practical guide on prevention and mitigation measures when faced with situation of risk.
The manual is titled “Human Rights and Legal Protection Protocols for CSO Partners, Staff and Human Rights Defenders Facing Risk as a Result of Their Influencing Work in Ghana.”
It provides practical guide on prevention and mitigation measures when faced with situation of risk. These include the legal and constitutional safeguards, provision of fallback mechanisms and relevant support systems to create an enabling environment to respect, protect and promote the rights of human rights defenders and advocates.
The purpose of the manual, according to CEPIL, is to serve as guide for the protection of human rights defenders at all levels, seeking to support and strengthen ongoing efforts to promote and encourage respect for their fundamental human rights.
The primary audience of the manual is practitioners within the CSOs space, media people and other human rights advocates in Ghana and across the African continent.
It is also helpful to those working at the national and sub-national levels engaging with communities, stakeholders, advocacy and promoting transparency and accountability inter alia.
Also, it provides for interventions by CSOs and other organisations for human rights defenders at risk and suggest practical means of supporting and assisting human rights defenders.
Additionally, it will assist human rights defenders to identify, assess and report risk factors that posit danger to their lives and security. Click here to download full manual
Speaking at a workshop on Tuesday in Accra to enhance the understanding of media people and journalists on human rights, its nature and how to protect themselves, Legal Representative of CEPIL, Mr Alhassan Iddrissu said it was necessary for all hands to be on deck to get a system which supports and protects human right defenders in the course of doing their work and influencing policy change.
He said as SCOs, as human rights defenders and actors involved in the protection of human rights, we are exposed to a number of risks that increase our vulnerability to adapt to persecution to suit because of the work we do.
Mr. Iddrissu mentioned that unfortunately, a lot of journalists do not know that they have certain protection protocols in the constitution as well as the global treaties and declarations such as the 1948 United Nations Declarations on Human Rights.
“We have noticed that as these human right defenders do their work, they do so at the risk of their own lives. They don’t have any personal motive but what they seek to do is to protect the lives and human rights of the vulnerable in our communities. Therefore, the state that is in signatory to the United Nations Declaration, has a duty and a mandate to protect the lives of these human right defenders,” he said.
He said in 2019 alone, about 281 human rights defenders were killed adding this was recorded but those that were unrecorded and unreported may be more than 281.
He also outlined that since 2015, a total of 1,323 people had been killed while striving to work and to protect the interest of the weak, the vulnerable, the uneducated and the under privileged
“When the media work, they don’t do so because of their own personal interest. They do so because they want to change some wrong that is adversely affecting the lives and wellbeing of other vulnerable people. So if in the course of doing so they lose their lives, it becomes a matter of concern to the whole world,” he said.
“Any individual or a group that acts to promote or protect human rights regardless of their profession, must be protected. Nobody’s life should be taken arbitrary without a lawful pronouncement and nobody should be held in slavery, and in servitude,” he noted.
Mr Iddrissu advised the participants to assess every situation, especially those involved in investigative media who go to isolated places to bring news, endanger their lives going to people’s homes and offices for interviews to collect data for the consumption of the general public.
“Journalists must be aware that as they do these things their lives matter and they must exist to continue to do the work. I also think that the media must abide by their training ethics and procedure.”
“Sometimes when you don’t comply with the methods of investigation or the training that has been given to you as media and in accordance with the standards which are allowed by your profession, you will end up endangering yourself and your life,” he said.
The Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) was founded in 1999 as a non-partisan, not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO), with the primary aim of making the pursuit of justice accessible and affordable to poor and marginalized communities and individuals.
CEPIL advocates for and facilitates access to justice by poor communities against policies and actions, of both private and public institutions, which adversely affect the interests of those communities.