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May 22, 2022

ABA ROLI Trains Initial Cohort of Lawyer Human Rights Defender Network in Southern Africa

From May 17-19, 2022, ABA ROLI conducted a three-day training session for lawyer human rights defenders (HRDs), in Johannesburg, South Africa through its Advancing Rights in Southern Africa (ARISA) Program. Twenty-eight lawyer human rights defenders attended the session, delivered by two prominent HRDs, Arnold Tsunga and Jacob van Garderen. Participants hailed from seven Southern African countries: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. The ARISA program’s thematic areas are women’s customary land rights, media freedoms and digital rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, and the protection of human rights defenders.

The purpose of the session was to identify the specific needs of lawyer HRDs within the Southern Africa region, and then to identify the best mechanisms and strategies for the protection of their rights. It provided lawyer HRDs with skills to litigate, protect and promote rights under the ARISA thematic areas, using National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), national courts, regional and international human rights mechanisms, and other forums. It was also used as a platform to rally human rights defenders and NHRIs to support an initiative to encourage the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government to adopt regional guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders. 

As a result of the three-day training:

  • Seven cases were identified that ABA ROLI and the trainees will litigate or approach other redress mechanisms to resolve;
  • Participants said they were more aware of mechanisms and strategies that protect the rights of HRDs, and that they were better able to identify resources, partnerships and support needed in filing cases and engaging in effective advocacy on human rights defender work in the region;
  • Lawyer HRDs and NHRI representatives at the workshop committed to strengthen their collaboration in Southern Africa and to work together with other CSOs for the development and adoption of regional guidelines for the protection of HRDs; and
  • Attending lawyer HRDs formed the initial cohort of a network of lawyer HRDs in Southern Africa under the auspices of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders’ Network.

ABA ROLI will continue to provide the lawyer HRDs with ongoing support needed to file cases and engage in effective advocacy in Southern Africa. Additionally, because of the training session, ABA ROLI was able to identify opportunities for improved collaboration with its partners through sub granting, collaborative advocacy, and technical legal assistance when filing cases in different fora.

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Africa.