Mozambique creates a network that is “the bulletproof vest” for human rights activists – Watch

Mozambican civil society organisations launched a new National Network of Human Rights Defenders in Maputo yesterday, calling it a “bulletproof vest” for the protection of activists in the country.

“The network aims to ensure that activists feel protected. This platform is a bulletproof vest to help activists continue to do their job,” Adriano Nuvunga, director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) said at the launch.

The National Network of Human Rights Defenders brings together Mozambican civil society organisations and aims to “strengthen the capacity and resilience of human rights defenders, as well as improve their protection and security”.

“The network’s job is precisely to protect people who stand up and offer their chests to the bullets so that the population may realise and find their rights. This is the platform’s central objective,” Nuvunga said.

The initiative, launched yesterday on the first anniversary of the murder of activist Anastácio Matavel, also aims to make defenders of human rights and the civic space more aware of the risks associated with their work and the needs they have in terms of protection.

“A scenario like this, of the creation of a network, actually aims to make the role and voice of activists more active,” former president of the National Human Rights Commission, Custódio Duma said.

Anastácio Matavel, an election observer, was murdered days before last year’s October 15 elections.

“He died, but the cause he was defending continues. His blood was not spilled in vain,” a family member said.

For Mozambican activist Graça Machel, the event marks Matavel’s “immortalisation”, placing him among the country’s “civil society heroes”.

“In addition to defending specific cases, [the network] must educate Mozambican society in the value of human rights,” Graça Machel said. “In Mozambique, to stand as a human rights defender requires firmness and courage,” she added.

The ceremony also saw the release of a report on the investigation into Anastácio Matavel and his trial, presenting the “main incidents and a deep analysis of the sentence” in the case.

“This document serves to continue to fight for justice for Matavel, but above all to strengthen the capacity of defenders and activists in the fight for the defence of civic space, human rights and protection in carrying out our work,” Nuvunga concluded.

The Judicial Court of Gaza Province, southern Mozambique, in June sentenced six police officers to between three years and 24 years for their involvement in the murder.

Another police officer accused of participating in the murder, Agapito Matavel, is still at large, and is the subject of a separate lawsuit.

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