Pictured above: a genocide survivor. Photograph – Jenny Matthews.
African Rights is a human rights organization with a difference. We do not claim to be “neutral”. We advocate on behalf of those suffering injustice and oppression.
Through research and publications programmes focused on countries scarred by violence, including Rwanda and Somaliland, we highlight abuses and bring the voices of victims, as well as other concerned parties, to the centre of debates on how to secure rights.
We aim to help bring about positive changes in people’s lives and to widen understanding of their problems.
As a small organization with limited resources, African Rights works only in those countries and situations where our particular approach can be of use, sometimes because the international response has been inadequate. With a focus firmly on the interests of ordinary people deprived of their rights, at African Rights we are not afraid of controversy.
African Rights’ work is defined by a participatory approach and accessible style. The concerns of Africans from all walks of life are directly reflected in the content and approach of our research and publication programmes and practical assistance projects. Our work centres on the following issues:
African Rights reports on human rights abuses by groups, individuals and states. We carry out extensive and rigorous field research in order to produce information of a depth and quality that is useful to justice bodies, policymakers and academics, in Africa and beyond.
Beyond documenting human rights violations, we seek to understand the causes. African Rights takes account of the political, social and economic context, believing responses should be tailored to fit unique realities. Our recommendations are based on listening to ordinary people who are often pitied, but frequently sidelined. We consider their insights into the causes of the violence afflicting their own lives, and the potential solutions, as the point of departure for an informed and constructive analysis.
African Rights has uncovered accusations against individuals, groups and institutions and fought for those suspected of human rights abuses or genocide to be brought before the courts, with notable successes. We have also frequently called for states and rebel groups to be held accountable for their crimes. We have produced detailed critiques of judicial systems in Africa and given practical or material assistance to justice bodies.
Other areas of interest have been legal reforms, and the use of customary approaches to justice, based upon the principles of disclosure and redress. The pursuit of justice in its widest sense is at the heart of African Rights’ work.
African Rights hopes that its own publications, by including lengthy testimony from victims, will encourage public acknowledgement of abuses. Widespread acceptance of the truth can help to lessen the sense of despair felt by victims and contribute to promoting understanding and tolerance, particularly where justice is unattainable.
African Rights was established in 1992, when the military intervention in Somalia highlighted the need for an independent critical voice. The organization initially concentrated on examining the international approach to conflict and famine in Somalia, but soon developed human rights and justice oriented programmes in other parts of Africa.
From the outset, we employed local researchers in the countries we work on. By 2001, improved communications enabled us to transfer most of our administration and publication activities from London to Africa. We retain an information officer in the UK.
African Rights communicates directly with governments and agencies to encourage them to respond to our findings. We write articles for the international and African press and we contribute directly and indirectly to news and documentaries on subjects we care about. We regularly issue statements or write open letters responding to events relevant to countries or issues of concern. These are circulated to the media and to our mailing list. Contact us on [email protected] for details.
African Rights’ programmes are mainly funded by institutional donors. We also rely upon income from the sales of our publications. We are not a membership organization but you can make an important individual contribution to our work. By either purchasing publications or making a donation you will help us continue to research and inform on human rights issues in Africa.