US State Department sets out its actions to support Human Rights Defenders

March 10, 2013

On 8 March 2013 – probably timed to coincide with the debate in the UN Human Rights Council – the U.S. Department of  State published an overview of it support for Human Rights Defenders. It reads in part:

Protecting and supporting human rights defenders is a key priority of U.S. foreign policy. The Department’s objective is to enable human rights defenders to promote and defend human rights without hindrance or undue restriction and free from fear of retribution against them or their families. The work of these brave individuals and groups is an integral part of a vibrant civil society, and our investment in and support of them is likewise an investment in and support of the rule of law and democracy. Every day, around the world, many in civil society turn to us for assistance in emergency situations and to help them achieve longer-term goals that will make their countries more just and democratic.

After a short description of who are considered Human Rights Defenders and a quote from Hillary Rodham Clinton (as U.S. Secretary of State Krakow, Poland on July 3, 2010): When NGOs come under threat, we should provide protection where we can, and amplify the voices of activists by meeting with them publicly at home and abroad, and citing their work in what we say and do.” The webpage sets out the way in which the State Department protects and supports human rights defenders, including:
Designating a human rights officer at every post whose portfolio includes activities to support human rights defenders;• Documenting and reporting on the situation of human rights defenders worldwide throughout the year and in the annual U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices;• Maintaining regular contact with human rights defenders, including by engaging at the ambassadorial level and more regular engagement by the human rights officer and other embassy personnel;

• Advancing instruments in multilateral fora that protect human rights defenders, such as the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;

• Working with like-minded governments, the UN, regional and/or international organizations to address specific threats to human rights defenders and discourage laws that restrict the freedoms of assembly, association, or expression or otherwise constrain the operating space for human rights defenders. The UN has special rapporteurs in each of these areas, including one on the situation of human rights defenders.

• Amplifying the voices of human rights defenders through public diplomacy as well as local initiatives by posts to highlight the work of human rights defenders. The United States raises the profile of human rights defenders through its annual Human Rights Defender Award and International Women of Courage Award and its celebration of Human Rights Week each December;

• Encouraging host governments to engage constructively with human rights defenders and seriously consider their information and concerns;

• Protecting human rights defenders through emergency assistance. The U.S. Government provides quick help to human rights defenders around the world through emergency technical and financial assistance. Through the “Lifeline: Embattled CSOs Assistance Fund,” which includes contributions from fifteen donor governments, the U.S. Government provides emergency assistance when CSOs get into trouble for their work to promote human rights, democracy, and labor issues;

• Visiting human rights defenders in prison, as appropriate, or, if they are under house arrest, at their homes (or visiting their families, if access to human rights defenders in prison cannot be obtained);

• Attending human rights defender hearings and observing their trials; and

• Helping human rights defenders obtain international protection, where they request it, through international organizations, non-governmental organizations or governments, including our own, when appropriate.


One Response to “US State Department sets out its actions to support Human Rights Defenders”

  1. […] US State Department sets out its actions to support Human Rights Defenders […]

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