Advocates boycott African human rights conference in Egypt

Repression of LGBT rights defenders marred the recently ended session of the African continent’s human rights commission.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

Many human rights defenders boycotted the April-May 2019 session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Steeves Winner photo)

By Steeves Winner

The 64th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, was a sad time for the African continent’s human rights body.

Logo of the Coalition of African Lesbians
Logo of the Coalition of African Lesbians

Human rights defenders boycotted the session to express their dissatisfaction with the commission’s decision to cancel the observer status it had previously granted to the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL).

Many defenders also objected to the homophobia and hostility to human rights that are prevalent in Egypt, which is currently taking its turn as leader of the African Union.

At the ACHPR’s previous session, held in Banjul-Gambia in October 2018, the commission’s independence was thrown into question after it bowed to political pressure by canceling the observer status of CAL.

That decision, which had been encouraged by the current head of the African Union, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, shocked human rights defenders. The large community of human rights defenders, especially advocates for LGBTI people, had decided to boycott the April 24-May 14 session of the ACHPR in Egypt unless CAL’s status was reviewed.

Some LGBTI rights advocates who decided to attend were stymied when Egypt refused to issue visas to them.

Those who did attend encountered Egypt’s repression of both local and foreign human rights defenders. Egyptian police under orders from the government violently removed some human rights defenders from a plane heading toward the Sharm El Sheikh conference.

No Egyptian human rights defenders could been seen during the session.

Other defenders were denied badges to enter the conference room to share their frustration, as reported by a judge of the African Court of Human Rights who decried such hostile and irregular behavior by the Egyptian state.

Overall, the 64th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights was a misfortune for human rights and even more so for defenders of LGBTI people in Africa.

Steeves Winner, the author of this article, is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at

Related articles about the rejection of CAL:

Earlier articles:

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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