Long Read: Removing the Obstacles to Freedom of Religion or Belief in Africa

Religion-related tensions continue to arise in many African countries. They come in varying forms and degrees of intensity, and can be intra-religious or occur between religious communities.

Religion is either instrumentalised as a rallying point or is the raison d’étre of armed non state actors seeking to enforce an extremist interpretation of their creed or to gain material advantage. It is used by individuals or political parties as a bridge to power and rallying point.  In addition, some governments view religion, or certain religious or non-religious groups, as threats, exercising control through excessive registration requirements or more forcible means. 

Every country on the African continent is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), with its expanded articulation of the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), and to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), where the right to change or refuse one’s religion or belief as an act of conscience can be inferred from Article 8. However, in parts of the continent, human rights in general, and FoRB in particular, are challenged by arguments about cultural relativism and frequent but erroneous assertions that they are a Western construct. 

Thus, despite being parties to international and regional treaties, many African countries either do not give legal effect to them, or create exemptions for their implementation. This has further exacerbated their already poor profile on human rights protection.

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“There is no excuse”: The international community must finish the work of holding North Korea to account

Content warning: This blog contains descriptions of rape, sexual violence and violence against infants


By Benedict Rogers

Almost exactly twenty years ago, CSW began to investigate the human rights situation in North Korea, and in particular the persecution of Christians.

It is fair to say that we were one of the very first human rights organisations to sound the alarm about the gravity and scale of human rights atrocities in the world’s most closed and most repressed nation.

The tragedy is that twenty years on, little has changed and the world continues to turn a blind eye.

Dislodging the bricks

In 2007 we published one of the first and most comprehensive studies of the atrocity crimes in North Korea, in a report titled North Korea: A Case to Answer, a Call to Act. In so doing, we became one of the first organisations to call for the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity.

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The Syrian Uprising: A decade on

On 18 March 2011, Syrians across the country drew inspiration from the Arab spring and took to the streets demanding peace, human rights and democratic reform. Not only did these calls go unheeded; the government, which had ruled through terror since 1970, also responded with extreme force. Today, a little over ten years since the uprising began, Syria remains one of the most precarious states in the world, and in urgent need of further international action.

No mercy

President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling regime showed no mercy in the response to the demonstrations, using enforced disappearance, torture, extrajudicial execution, and extreme military force, including aerial bombardment, heavy artillery and chemical weapons. The government was quick to portray the uprising as a fundamentalist Sunni movement that threatened minorities, and what began as a peaceful uprising swiftly degenerated into a full-blown military conflict with a prominent sectarian aspect.

President Assad had long presented himself as a secular leader who protected minorities and promoted modernity and inclusion, casting any opposition as backward and sectarian, but it is worth noting that the Assad regime regularly fostered and used extremist groups to destabilise neighbouring countries such as Iraq and Lebanon.  The regime also released hundreds of extremist prisoners at the beginning of the uprising in order to undermine it, many of whom joined Al Qaeda, Islamic State (IS) and other extremist militia.

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Corea del Norte y la Región Autónoma Uigur de Sinkiang: paralelos sombríos entre dos de los lugares con más represión del mundo

El 3 de marzo la plataforma de información enfocada en China, SupChina, publicó extractos traducidos de una discusión de 16 horas de una ‘sala’ en la aplicación Clubhouse llamada, “¿Hay un campo de concentración en Sinkiang?” Increíblemente la sala atrajo 4,000 participantes, pero la situación verdaderamente extraordinaria de la conversación era la reunión de los uigures y los chinos han por un momento – tanto dentro como fuera de China – en un espacio momentáneamente más allá de las restricciones gubernamentales.

La Información fiable sobre lo que está pasando en contra de los uigures es fuertemente censurada en China; las únicas noticias sobre la Región Autónoma Uigur de Sinkiang uigurson de los medios estatales que pintan a los uigures como terroristas potenciales o intrumentos agradecidos del programa de “reeducación” del gobierno.

Antes de su prohibición, Clubhouse proporcionó brevemente un canal nuevo para la discusión abierta de uno de los asuntos más sensibles en China hoy. SupChina describrió la conversación como “histórica”, y ciertamente fue: histórica, emotiva, trágica y esclarecedora.

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Massacres, famine et destruction gratuite : La communauté internationale doit agir rapidement pour sauver la région du Tigré en Éthiopie

Il y a des signes inquiétants qui indiquent que des atrocités sont commises au Tigré, où les civils sont les principales victimes du conflit opposant les armées d’Ethiopie, d’Erythrée, de Somalie et d’une milice alliée de l’ethnie Amhara aux forces de l’ancienne administration régionale. 

Par une tragique ironie, le gouvernement d’Ethiopie, l’une des premières nations à avoir signé la Convention sur le génocide de 1948, est actuellement accusé d’avoir permis et participé à des violences qui pourraient être assimilées à un génocide et à des crimes contre l’humanité.

Tout aussi ironique est le fait que l’avenir d’un prix Nobel qui professe le christianisme évangélique, est désormais inextricablement lié à celui du dirigeant dont le régime est réputé avoir commis des crimes contre l’humanité, y compris le crime de persécution religieuse qui vise en grande partie les chrétiens évangéliques érythréens.

Pour le dirigeant érythréen, Isais Afewerki, la guerre contre le Tigré est l’accomplissement d’une vendetta de longue date contre le Front de libération du peuple du Tigré (TPLF). Il a efficacement rallié à sa cause les dirigeants de l’Éthiopie et de la Somalie, aidé dans cette entreprise par l’antipathie que nourrit le Premier ministre éthiopien Abiy Ahmed à l’égard des dirigeants du Tigré et par ses ambitions de centralisation du pouvoir.

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