“Courageous people like you give us hope”

Mozambique human rights defenders discuss the human rights situation in Mozambique with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). From left, Sousa Goncalves Chele, head of strategic planning department of the Human Rights League-Mozambique, Dr. Alice Mabota, founder of the Human Rights League, LWF Advocacy Officer in Mozambique Nordine Ferrao, LWF Project Coordinator in Beira (Mozambique) Luis Maibeque Gonda , LWF Advocacy Officer Dr Ojot Ojulu, High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Abigail Noko, OHCHR-Africa Branch. Photo: LWF/E. Gore

(LWI) – “It is people like you who give us hope,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights said, addressing a delegation of Human Rights Defenders from Mozambique, who, supported by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), have been participating in a review of the human rights situation in their country at the latest session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Human Rights Council adopted the Universal Periodic Review report of Mozambique at its 32nd session meeting in Geneva. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an instrument of the UN Human Rights Council to review the situation in all the UN member states every 4.5 years.

Local to global

Civil society organizations are invited to submit so-called parallel reports of their finding, which can be taken up by national governments for their official recommendations to the country under review. LWF has been supporting local communities and organizations in several countries to bring their perspective to the global stage.

One of these organizations is a coalition of human rights defenders from Mozambique, who prior to the adoption of the report were invited to discuss the situation in their country with the Africa Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) and with the High Commissioner himself, H.E. Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. 

Prioritize peace

Alice Mabota, founder of the Human Rights League and leader of the delegation, especially addressed the on-going conflict between government and rebel forces in her country. “The conflict in some regions of Mozambique is causing human rights violations and holding back much needed development. The government of Mozambique needs to prioritize a genuine and participatory peace process”, said Mabota.

She also mentioned a weak rule of law and lack of integrity of the judicial system, shrinking civil society space and the right of minorities, especially persons with Albinism.

The delegation expressed their readiness to work together with the government to jointly address those human rights violations and their root causes.  “As we go back to Mozambique we plan to launch a country wide strategy together with the government to improve the human rights situation according to the recommendations which Mozambique received from the Human Rights Council today,”  says Sousa Goncalves Chele, of the Mozambique Human Rights League. “We want to make sure those recommendations make a real difference on the ground.” 

Continued support needed

The High Commissioner commended the human rights defenders for their courage and efforts to promote human rights in the country and promised the support of his office. His office has provided technical support for civil society organizations, which greatly helped in organizing a coalition of human rights organizations in Mozambique and submitting a parallel report to the UN, Nordine Ferrao, LWF Advocacy Officer in Mozambique, said.  “Now as we move to the next phase, we need continued support to push for the implementation of these recommendations.”

The High Commissioner reiterated how people like the human rights defenders from Mozambique  are a source of encouragement and motivation for the work of his office. “Sometimes, I and my staff feel like we are not making a difference because things look so bad. But people that are as courageous as you make us have hope”, he said.