From April 21-23, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) East Africa Programme held a regional symposium of Chief Justices in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss digital transformation of judiciaries and the critical role of the judiciary in protecting human rights online in East and Southern Africa. The symposium was in collaboration with the Southern African Chief Justices Forum (SACJF), the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Africa Judges & Jurists Forum, Advancing Rights in Southern Africa (ARISA) and ICJ Kenya.
Participants in the symposium noted that, in recent years, Africa had experienced an increased incidence of shutdowns and other restrictions on access to the internet, including in Ethiopia, Eswatini, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Such restrictions tended to be imposed during or ahead of major political events such as elections or mass protests. Both the United Nations Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights have expressed concern at this growing trend of government-mandated restrictions against human rights and fundamental freedoms online.