OSCE publishes Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

June 11, 2014
Didier Burkhalter (r), OSCE-Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister, alongside Janez Lenarčič, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, at a conference on human rights defenders, Bern, 10 June 2014. (FDFA)
The two-day conference “The OSCE and Human Rights Defenders: The Budapest Document 20 Years On” brings together national human rights experts, human rights defenders and civil society representatives from across the OSCE region. Opening the conference, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, stressed the role of political will in supporting the work of human rights defenders: “The implementation of human rights norms first and foremost needs one thing: political will … Allowing the voices of human rights defenders and civil society to be heard – even  when these are uncomfortable voices – is at the basis of a well-functioning democracy,” .. “These men and women working to increase awareness and respect for human rights often take high risks to help their fellow citizens be able to live their lives in dignity. They need and deserve our support.” In his keynote address, Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, told participants that human rights have never been a battle between different cultures, but within them. He added that human rights have always been the universal language of the powerless against the relativism of the powerful: “Freedom of expression makes sense when we disagree, and especially when we strongly disagree,” Lambrinidis said. “Governments don’t have the obligation to agree with civil society; they have clear obligations, including providing human rights defenders with a safe and enabling environment. Strong confident countries speak to human rights defenders.” The first day of the conference saw the launch of the ODIHR Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a publication designed to assist OSCE participating States in promoting security for human rights defenders, in light of the increasing risks they face in carrying out their work. Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, Director of ODIHR, stressed that the approach presented in the Guidelines to ensuring such protection has to be based on co-operation. “The Guidelines will only prove as effective as their implementation will be,” Lenarčič said. “I believe the key to success is precisely that genuine partnership that the Budapest Document spoke of 20 years ago. It has to include all those involved in efforts to protect human rights defenders – from States and civil society to regional and international governmental organizations. This remains as important today as it was two decades ago.”

Political will the key to ensuring the protection of human rights defenders, say participants at OSCE conference in Bern | OSCE.

3 Responses to “OSCE publishes Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders”

  1. […] But NGOs are also a bit frustrated with the OSCE. Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch‘s executive director, called on the OSCE to change the way it works with regard to specific issues. “The OSCE needs to catch up with the real world,” Roth said, noting that the group’s consensus-based decisionmaking process at times hampers the organization’s efforts. The OSCE, with 57 members, operates via consensus. “But consensus for the basic acts of monitoring and reporting on human rights violations, or for the budgetary allocations to finance that basic work, should not be required on a case-by-case basis.” The ability of a member to veto such initiatives has stymied the group’s work and impeded its effectiveness. Roth said that the Moscow Mechanism, an OSCE instrument adopted in 1991 that can be initiated by a group of participating states to investigate human rights violations in an OSCE member country, should be “dusted off.” The mechanism has only been used twice since 1999. Such tools, which do not need consensus, can be useful when an abusive government is “putting narrow national interests ahead of the overriding human rights mandate of the OSCE” Roth said. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/osce-publishes-guidelines-on-the-protection-of-human-rights…%5D […]

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