U.S. Asylum Policy Founded on Politics, Not Humanitarianism

Child from Honduras

This post is part of a series delving into the plight of the Central American children and families fleeing violence in Central America. The series will examine the historical context of the crisis, challenges that refugees face, international human rights obligations, and costs of a response.

United States’ hypocrisy and its pick-and-choose humanitarianism is pointed out in The Advocates’ friend Mary Turck in her op-ed posted on Al Jazeera America. “U.S. immigration laws pose almost insurmountable barriers for these Central American youths fleeing gangs, drug lords and threats of death or rape,” she writes. “But consider another group of refugees that it welcomes without question: Cubans. The erratic treatment says that U.S. immigration policy is guided more by politics than by humanitarian considerations or respect for international standards for treatment of refugees.”

Mary Turck is an adjunct faculty member at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and a former editor of The Twin Cities Daily Planet.

“They return just to die”

Child from Honduras

This post is part of a series delving into the plight of the Central American children and families fleeing violence in Central America. The series will examine the historical context of the crisis, challenges that refugees face, international human rights obligations, and costs of a response.

Children and families fleeing for their lives from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are being “processed”  by the United States at warp-speed and deported back to their “home” countries. Far too often, each person’s fate is quickly sealed upon their return. “There are many youngsters who only three days after they’ve been deported are killed, shot by a firearm,” said Hector Hernandez, who runs the morgue in San Pedro Sula. “They return just to die.” Hernandez was quoted in the August 18, 2014 Los Angeles Times’ article, “In Honduras, U.S. deportees seek to journey north again.”

From the top down, the process seems to be operating under three simple principles: “Detain. Deny. Deport.” Nationwide, 70 percent of people seeking asylum make it through the initial step of the asylum process, known as the credible fear interview. That percentage does not hold true for the Central American children and families now at the U.S. doorstep. In fact, the percentage plummets to 37 percent at the government’s family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. This is not an accident; it is a deliberate policy decision to deter future asylum seekers.

Read about what is happening to people after they are deported in “In Honduras, U.S. deportees seek to journey north again.” For them, it’s a matter of life and death.

Not as Easy as “A-B-C”

Child from Honduras

This post is the third in a series that delves into the plight of the Central American children and families fleeing violence in Central America. The series will examine the historical context of the crisis, challenges that refugees face, international human rights obligations, and costs of a response.

Several weeks ago Jon Stewart joked that it seemed entirely reasonable for unaccompanied minors to traverse the complex network of the United States asylum process without legal representation. Stewart began rambling off forms N-400, I-130, and I-140 (none of which will grant you asylum) as routes to obtain different immigration statuses. Stewart quipped, “If they didn’t fill out the forms, can’t we just deport them?” And to the heartless adults willing to ask that question, I say, “Try doing it yourself.”

For the past three months I have worked as an intern at the Advocates of Human Rights assisting with “barebones” asylum applications. The applications I file are nowhere near complete. They lack sufficient country reports, affidavits, and other evidence necessary to make a compelling asylum case. It is simply a means to ensure that the client meets their one-year filing deadline. Even though these applications are far from complete, the shortest one I have assembled has been just shy of three hundred pages. Assembling an asylum application is more than just filling out some biographical information and mailing it to the Nebraska Service Center. It is more comparable to writing a casebook than filing a 1040ez.

Prior to July, most of my clients were former attorneys, scientists, and financial advisors; highly sophisticated individuals who still needed legal assistance to ensure all of the paperwork was properly filed. The first child I assisted, I approached in exactly the same manner as all of my other clients. I began with an explanation of the legal process and what the child could expect. I used acronyms for agencies, jargon for grounds, and form numbers instead of explanations. Forty-five minutes into the conversation, the child sheepishly told the interpreter, “No entiendo.”

I was at a loss for words. I tried using simpler terms, but was unable to condense a multi-year, multi-agency process into child-friendly concepts. I had become so immersed in the bureaucratic nature of the United States immigration system that it had become second nature to me. In the end, I do not think he ever fully understood what it is that he filed. To him, it was just a chance that he may be able to stay in the United States.

To think that people are telling kids to “just fill out the forms” — in a language that they do not understand, for a form of relief they do not understand —, is ludicrous. I am ashamed to watch our country respond to a refugee crisis by telling kids too young to reach the kitchen cabinets to engage in years of complex litigation without the assistance of an attorney.

Over the course of this summer, I have never once met an asylum seeker who I felt would not be harmed returning to their country. I have sat in interviews listening to people tell me about being tortured, raped, and abused. These people are stronger than anyone I have ever met. It takes a lot more strength and integrity to endure beatings, ride on top of trains, and finally admit that you need help than it does to stand at our border and shout, “Not our kids, not our problem.”

By: Nick Bednar, entering his second year at the University of Minnesota Law School, has worked as a summer intern at The Advocates for Human Rights. He graduated with from the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota and from Hopkins High School.

We Need Your Help Today
Help The Advocates for Human Rights protect and help children and families fleeing the horrendous violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Their lives depend on it. Together we can meet this challenge. Please respond to this urgent need with a gift today.

The Advocates for Human Rights is a 501(c)(3) organization. Your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Making an Example Out of the Most Vulnerable

Child from Honduras

This post is the second in a series that will delve into the plight of the Central American children and families fleeing violence in Central America. The series will examine the historical context of the crisis, challenges that refugees face, international human rights obligations, and costs of a response.

I spent the week of July 28th at the Artesia “family detention” center, a four-hour drive from both Albuquerque and El Paso. I was part of a group of roughly ten volunteers (attorneys, translators, and administrative staff) trying to stop warp-speed deportations and to see that the “residents”— mothers with their children — received some modicum of due process. This was the first week there was a full-time volunteer attorney presence on-site during the month since the center opened.

The conditions there are abhorrent. The center houses over 600 people, from over 200 families.  ALL of the children are sick, with coughs at minimum. They are dehydrated and listless. Children are not eating, and there is little to no access to medication or to medical care. Mothers are afraid to ask for what little help exists because they fear being targeted for even faster deportation.

Mothers and children alike are all cold. There are no jackets or blankets. The “residents” (as ICE refers to them) wrap towels around their shoulders for at least some comfort, and mothers cover their infants with multiple washcloths in an effort to keep them warm. There is no school for the children, and no area to play. ICE requires children to be with their mothers at all times, even to the point of women breast feeding their babies while appearing before immigration judges.

The physical conditions, absence of basic fairness, and failure to release families from custody are so bad that some mothers are giving up, asking to be deported.

Deportation officers, rather than detention officers, staff the center. Deportation officers are trained to get people out of the U.S.; they are not trained to house and care for them. The officers have been pulled from around the country for “details” of varying lengths (typically from 45 to 90 days). They don’t want to be there, and unfortunately we heard that several vent their frustrations by verbally abusing the families

Every ICE detention facility is supposed to provide access to legal materials. At Artesia, the “law library” is housed in a FEMA trailer that holds two computers, one printer, a copier that was out of ink, and NO books.

Based upon our interviews, our volunteer group estimates that about 80 percent of the mothers and families in the center have valid claims for asylum. The majority of claims are based on domestic violence or gang issues. So, nearly all of the people in the center have credible fear of death or injury if they return to their home countries. But, the mothers and children in Artesia are being railroaded, and an unfortunate number of them have already been deported without the opportunity to even consult with an attorney. From the top down, the process seems to have been set under three simple operating principles: “Detain. Deny. Deport.”

Last week, both an asylum officer and an immigration judge ruled against a mother who had been beaten so severely that she miscarried. Before project volunteers could reach her, she was sent back to her home country, and to heightened danger. In many instances, the government is actively ignoring clear domestic violence claims.

Nationwide, 70 percent of people seeking asylum make it through the initial step of the asylum process, known as the credible fear interview. In Artesia, that percentage plummets to 37 percent. This is not an accident; it is a deliberate policy decision to deter future asylum seekers.

Our team prioritized preparing women for their credible fear interviews with asylum officers, representing them at credible fear reviews before immigration judges (who are “beamed in” from Arlington, VA), and requesting bond. As of today’s date, we are not aware of anyone actually being released on bond, though one attorney reported that an immigration judge set bond for one of his clients at $25,000.00. Representing the government’s position on bond, ICE is filing a boilerplate 131-page exhibit at all hearings, claiming that the mothers at Artesia are a “security risk” and therefore should remain in custody. Even families who have relatives and loved ones in the U.S. who are willing to house and provide for them remain jailed. And of course, ICE’s policy memos on placing people on parole after they have a positive credible fear determination are being completely disregarded.

About 200 women have requested a consultation with a pro bono attorney. The volunteers are struggling to keep up with nearly endless demand and best utilize limited resources. In some cases where there was an obvious error by the asylum office, volunteers succeeded at getting a new credible fear interview. Meanwhile, although the regulations require that detainees receive a free legal services list, none of the three organizations on the Artesia list provides direct representation. Only one — out of El Paso, a four-hour drive away — is available to come on site and do “Know Your Rights” presentations.

After the immigration judges deny (or set unreasonably high) bond, these mothers are given three to four weeks to prepare for individual hearings. They are expected to complete the 10-page asylum form (which is only in English, and many of them have little to no education or speak English) at the “law library” to present their case. Interview summaries written by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) are being used to impeach the women’s credibility if the document does not explain that they stated a fear of returning to their home country. Many of the mothers told us that they did state a fear of returning, yet CBP officials refused to believe them. Or, CBP first asked whether they intended to work in the U.S. Once the mothers responds with “yes,” CBP concludes that the person’s primary concern is economic and, therefore, she has no fear of returning to her home country.

In sum, the on-the-ground reality feels as though the worst of all of the border legislation that was proposed and failed at the end of July actually passed. Mothers and children are being herded through the system en masse, with absolutely no genuine regard for due process.

Why bother to change the law when our government can accomplish the same goals by limiting people’s access to attorneys and to release from custody until these mothers decide to give up? Why bother to change the law when mothers with their children can be rushed to a final hearing  — in front of a judge who is over 2,000 miles away  — on an application written in a language they don’t understand?

It shocks the conscience that we are making an example out of the world’s most vulnerable people after they arrive at our doorstep. These mothers need to know that at least some people in the U.S. are standing up for them.

By: Immigration attorney Kim Hunter, of Kim Hunter & Associates, P.L.L.C. Kim is a long-time volunteer with The Advocates for Human Rights. She received the organization’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2008 for her work representing people seeking asylum. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigration Project, and is a frequent presenter on immigration panels at continuing legal education seminars.

The Unholy Trinity Chasing Central America’s Fleeing Children

Child from Honduras

This post is the first in a series that will delve into the plight of the Central American children and families fleeing violence in Central America. The series will examine the historical context of the crisis, challenges that refugees face, international human rights obligations, and costs of a response.

Even before the U.S. refugee law was passed in 1980, during the final months of the Carter administration, Central American refugees faced an unequal and uphill battle for recognition. The resistance movements that challenged repressive and genocidal regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala were also up against anti-communist ideological fervor in the United States, which translated to U.S. economic, political, and military support for those regimes and their armies.

El Salvador’s civil war is generally said to have begun in 1980, but right wing death squads operated prior to that time, and so did the FMLN resistance to military-led governments, which repressed any human rights and labor organizing activities. 1980 was marked both by the election of the first civilian president since 1931 and by the military-backed assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Massacres, assassinations, and violence continued into the early 1990s. In 1991, a U.N.-sponsored peace accord led to recognition of the FMLN as a political party. President Marco Funes, elected in 2009, is a member of the FMLN political party.

In Guatemala, the CIA collaborated in the overthrow of a democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, in 1954. A military government that replaced him ended any attempts at land reform or labor rights, and solidified the controlling position of U.S. banana companies. Guatemala’s long civil war began in about 1960 and did not end until 1996. It was marked by brutal right-wing regimes that promoted genocide against the Mayan half of the Guatemalan population, and particularly targeted teachers, religious figures, and peasant and union organizers. Current president Otto Perez Molina, a former general, was elected at the end of 2011 on a platform that promised he would rule with an iron fist. His promise to take on gangs and drug dealers has not met notable success. Extreme poverty, crime, and organized gang violence remain commonplace.

BBC calls Honduras “one of the least developed and least secure countries in Central America,” with “a spiraling homicide rate.” Its military allied with the United States in the 1980s, turning the country into a staging ground for the U.S.-sponsored contra war in Nicaragua. Though governments were elected after 1986, death squad activity continued. In the 2000s, gang activity escalates. A military coup in 2009 threw out a moderate-to-left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya, and drove him into exile. The current elected President Juan Orlando Hernandez was inaugurated in January 2014. Extremely high rates of gang activity continue, as do sometimes-violent conflicts over land ownership and use, mining, and human rights issues.

Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans, especially from El Salvador and Guatemala, fled to the United States during the 1980s. Because the United States backed the right-wing governments in those countries, it generally rejected their claims for refugee or asylum status. Then, as now, the United States offers unquestioned asylum to Cubans arriving on our shores because they fit U.S. anti-communist political ideology. Then, as now, the United States rejects Central American refugees because they don’t fit that easy anti-communism.

Even after the civil wars ended, repression of unions, human rights advocates, journalists, and others continued. In addition, Central American youth who had formed gangs in Los Angeles were deported back to their home countries. They brought gang structure and connections with them, proving stronger than the often-corrupt police. One police response was to target young people. Violence — both as part of gang culture and as standard police practice — was one of the legacies of the civil war era.

The 2006 Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) further marginalized poor people in Central America. While granting some advantages to manufacturers, it disadvantaged small farmers, who now faced competition from cheaper (and subsidized) U.S. corn. Eight years after CAFTA implementation, poverty is still endemic in Central America, and particularly in Honduras and Guatemala.

Finally, the U.S. War on Drugs has shifted drug trade routes to Central America, with disastrous consequences. As Charles Kenny wrote in Bloomberg Business Week:

Trade routes can also be displaced. Around 2006, when Mexico declared war on its own drug cartels, violence ticked up in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. One result: The homicide rate in Honduras is now the highest in the world. The number of murders has more than doubled since 2006 and the rate is now 19 times that in the U.S., according to the United Nations.

Today’s refugee children flee violence, corruption, and instability in their home countries, a disaster fed by the unholy trinity of last century’s wars, CAFTA, and war on drugs.

By guest blogger Mary Turck, a freelance writer and editor, and an adjunct faculty member at Macalester College and Metropolitan State University, teaching occasional journalism and writing courses. She edited the TC Daily Planet, an online daily news publication, from January 2007 to July 2014, and before that, edited the Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG. In earlier years, she worked as a freelance writer and editor, practiced law in Chicago and Minnesota, taught in elementary schools, colleges and prisons, and worked as a community organizer. She is also the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues. She currently lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

 

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back for LGBTI Rights in Africa

An asylum seeker from Uganda covers his head with a paper bag in order to protect his identity. (Photo: Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters)

Today, the Ugandan Constitutional Court struck down that country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which had been signed into law in February of this year. And earlier this summer, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Africa’s regional human rights body, issued a landmark resolution calling on its member states to respect and protect the human rights of sexual minorities. Meanwhile, however, as friends and family of Cameroonian human rights defender Eric Ohena Lembembe recently gathered to mark the one-year anniversary of his brutal murder, the police investigation remains at a standstill.

Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act Struck down on procedural grounds
Uganda’s new Anti-Homosexuality Act imposed harsh penalties for “homosexuality” and “aggravated homosexuality,” and even criminalized “aiding and abetting homosexuality” and promoting homosexuality. A Ugandan LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) rights group has alleged in ongoing proceedings in U.S. court that American Scott Lively played a central role in lobbying for the legislation.

Ten petitioners, including academics, journalists, human rights groups, activists, and members of parliament from the ruling and opposition parties, challenged the law on several grounds, arguing that it violates the privacy and dignity rights enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution, as well as the right to be free from discrimination and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. They also argued a procedural point, contending the act was adopted unlawfully because parliament lacked a quorum when it voted on the bill.

The Court considered the procedural argument first, and agreed with the petitioners. The five-judge panel ruled that the speaker of parliament acted unlawfully in allowing the bill to come up for a vote, because there were at least three objections that not enough members of parliament were present. “The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was a quorum,” the court ruled. “We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally.” The vote was unlawful, the court concluded, and therefore the act is null and void.

Because the court ruled on procedural grounds, rather than on the merits, the court’s decision does not bar parliament from adopting an identical law in the future. And homosexuality remains a criminal act in Uganda, as it was before the new law was signed. The Ugandan government is considering whether to appeal the decision of the Constitutional Court to the Ugandan Supreme Court.

The Advocates and partners mobilize in wake of Cameroonian activist’s murder
Eric Ohena LembembeUganda is not the only country in Africa where laws, the justice system, and societal homophobia endanger LGBTI people and human rights defenders who work on their behalf. In advance of the African Commission’s 54th Ordinary session in October 2013, The Advocates for Human Rights and its partner organizations, Le Reseau des Defenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC), Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), and L’Association pour la Defense des Droits des Homosexuels (ADEFHO), submitted a report to the African Commission detailing rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in Cameroon.

The report came on the heels of the brutal torture and murder of Cameroonian human rights defender Eric Ohena Lembembe, executive director of CAMFAIDS. Just weeks before his murder, as the report noted, Lembembe had spoken out about the dangers facing human rights defenders in Cameroon working on behalf of LGBTI people:

“There is no doubt: Anti-gay thugs are targeting those who support equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Unfortunately, a climate of hatred and bigotry in Cameroon, which extends to high levels in government, reassures homophobes that they can get away with these crimes.”

Before the African Commission session, REDHAC and CAMFAIDS also participated in an NGO forum that culminated in an oral presentation to the African Commission and the NGO forum’s adoption of a resolution on violence and human rights violations based on imputed or actual sexual orientation and gender identity. The African Commission’s history-making resolution mirrors the resolution adopted by the NGO forum.

Coalition condemns Cameroonian authorities’ lackluster response to Lembembe’s murder, calls for thorough and fair investigation
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, along with CAMFAIDS, ADEFHO, REDHAC, Alternatives Cameroon, and MDHC, recently denounced the dysfunctional justice system in the case of Lembembe’s murder. One year after the murder, the investigating judge has summoned only Lembembe’s family members. Authorities never took any photographs or fingerprints at the scene of the crime. The medical certificate indicating the nature of the death does not mention the burns and other obvious injuries visible on Lembembe’s body. In what seems to be an attempt at intimidation, several of Lembembe’s friends and family members were placed in police custody early in the investigation.

Coalition members fear that the attitude of the police and judiciary authorities in the investigation reflects those institutions’ disregard for the respect and protection of LGBTI people’s human rights in Cameroon. “The Cameroonian authorities’ inertia in this case is all the more worrying that it might reinforce the sentiment of impunity of the authors of the crimes and persecutions against LGBTI people, and feed the stigma and discrimination against these people and the defenders of their rights,” added Michel Togue, a Cameroonian lawyer and Legal Advisor for CAMFAIDS.

The coalition renewed its call for Cameroonian authorities to conduct an independent, effective, rigorous, impartial, and transparent investigation in order to identify the perpetrators, bring them before an independent, competent, and impartial court in accordance with international and regional human rights protection instruments, and to apply criminal, civil, and/or administrative sanctions as provided for by the law.

African Commission’s landmark resolution condemns anti-LGBTI violence on the continent, calls for end to impunity
The African Commission’s resolution is particularly timely in light of the breakdown in the investigation into Lembembe’s murder. The Resolution on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity  unequivocally confirms that violence and human rights abuses directed at individuals based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity breach the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This is the Commission’s first official resolution on the issue of LGBTI human rights.

The Commission expresses alarm at the ongoing violence, abuse, and discrimination against sexual minorities by state and non-state actors as well as the failure of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators. The Commission directs state parties to the African Charter to comply with their obligations to protect all Africans from human rights abuses and violence and urges them to enact and enforce laws to prohibit and punish violence directed at the LGBTI community and its defenders.

Laws and public attitudes in many African countries reflect and foster widespread discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
The African Commission is responsible for setting the human rights standards to be observed by states that have ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; essentially every African country except South Sudan and Morocco. A significant number of those states outlaw same-sex activity, and African governments continue to enact new repressive legislation, such as the Anti-Homosexuality Act that the Ugandan Constitutional Court struck down today.

In January, the president of Nigeria signed a law that mandates a 14-year prison sentence for anyone entering a same-sex union and a 10-year term for anyone “who supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings.” “Supporters” would include health centers providing treatment and counseling for AIDS and other health concerns as well as civil society organizations and human rights defenders. The potential impact on HIV transmission and treatment alone is tremendous, yet public opinion appears to favor these laws.

According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than 90 percent of the population in Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal consider same sex activity “unacceptable,” according to The Global Divide on Homosexuality. Over the past year, reports of mob violence, murder, rape, assault, arbitrary arrests, and detention have increased.

African Commission on Human and People's RightsAfrican Commission Resolution is groundbreaking step toward tolerance
In this context, the resolution is especially meaningful and groundbreaking. Taking a firm stand against the widespread intolerance of non-conforming sexual minorities, the Commission has articulated a legal basis for the protection against discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and advised its member states that their commitments to universal equality under the African Charter require them to respect the human rights of sexual minorities.

The resolution states:

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), meeting at its 55th Ordinary Session held in Luanda, Angola, from 28 April to 12 May 2014:

Recalling that Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) prohibits discrimination of the individual on the basis of distinctions of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or any status;

Further recalling that Article 3 of the African Charter entitles every individual to equal protection of the law;

Noting that Articles 4 and 5 of the African Charter entitle every individual to respect of their life and the integrity of their person, and prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment;

Alarmed that acts of violence, discrimination and other human rights violations continue to be committed on individuals in many parts of Africa because of their actual or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity;

Noting that such violence includes ‘corrective’ rape, physical assaults, torture, murder, arbitrary arrests, detentions, extra-judicial killings and executions forced disappearances, extortion and blackmail;

Further alarmed at the incidence of violence and human rights violations and abuses by State and non-State actors targeting human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on issues of sexual orientation or gender identity in Africa;

Specifically condemns the situation of systematic attacks by State and non-state actors against persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identity;

Deeply disturbed by the failure of law enforcement agencies to diligently investigate and prosecute perpetrators of violence and other human rights violations targeting persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identity;

  1. Condemns the increasing incidence of violence and other human rights violations, including murder, rape, assault, arbitrary imprisonment and other forms of persecution of persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identity;
  2. Specifically condemns the situation of systematic attacks by State and non-state actors against persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identity;
  3. Calls on State Parties to ensure that human rights defenders work in an enabling environment that is free of stigma, reprisals or criminal prosecution as a result of their human rights protection activities, including the rights of sexual minorities; and
  4. Strongly urges States to end all acts of violence and abuse, whether committed by State or non-state actors, including by enacting and effectively applying appropriate laws prohibiting and punishing all forms of violence including those targeting persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identities, ensuring proper investigation and diligent prosecution of perpetrators, and establishing judicial procedures responsive to the needs of victims.

Adopted at the 55th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Luanda, Angola, 28 April to
12 May 2014.

Julie Shelton
Julie Shelton

By Julie Shelton and Amy Bergquist. Guest-blogger Julie Shelton was the team leader on The Advocates for Human Rights’ trip to Cameroon in February 2013. The team conducted a pro bono needs assessment with over 35 Cameroonian organizations that work to promote human rights and rule of law. Shelton led the project to draft the shadow report to the African Commission on LGBTI rights in Cameroon. She was honored for her volunteer work on June 25 at The Advocates’ Human Rights Awards Dinner.

More from The Advocates Post on LGBTI rights in Africa:

Moving Forward: Four Steps and Six Strategies for Promoting LGBTI Rights Around the World

Recent Anti-LGBTI Laws Violate Human Rights

African Commission to Consider Violence Perpetrated Because of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

“Look at the details of Eric Ohena Lembembe’s life and you will understand why he died.”

Top photo: Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters