UN Rapporteur Michel Forst documents good practices in the protection of human rights defenders

March 7, 2016

A major new report by the UN Special Rapporteur on human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, documents good practices and policies in the protection of defenders and makes concrete recommendations to States, business enterprises, national human rights institutions, donors, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to ensure a safe and enabling environment for defenders’ work (A/HRC/31/55).

Key among these is a recommendation that, in consultation with civil society, States should develop and implement specific national laws and mechanisms to protect defenders and to investigate and ensure accountability for threats and attacks against them. [ISHR’s work to develop a model national law on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders is specifically referenced in this regard.] [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/two-more-side-events-on-human-rights-defenders-on-10-and-12-march/]

In addition to enacting laws, the Special Rapporteur recommends that States establish and adequately-resourced protection mechanisms, in consultation with civil society.

Through the report, the Special Rapporteur endorses a ‘holistic’ approach to the protection of defenders, engaging the responsibility of a range of actors. Key insights and recommendations included in the report include that:

  • States should publicly recognise the vital and legitimate work of human rights defenders, disseminate and raise awareness about the Declaration and actively respect and protect ‘the right to defend rights’.
  • National human rights institutions should develop concrete action plans to support and protect defenders and establish focal points to ensure effective implementation and evaluation of such plans.
  • Business enterprises have an important and influential role to play in protecting defenders and should be engaged in this regard: ‘The condemnation of violations by members of the business community not only legitimises defenders’ concerns but also builds opposition to bad business practices,’ the report says. ‘In addition, due to their economic and political influence, the support of business leaders can draw in wider support of society.’
  • Donors should provide long-term, sustainable, flexible financial support to defenders and their organisations and networks, providing for their ‘holistic protection’.
  • The UN itself should strengthen the protection of defenders and prevent violations against them, including through the ‘Rights Up Front’ initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals, and by strengthening its institutional response to cases of reprisals against those who for cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms. The need to prevent and ensure accountability for reprisals is particularly important given the Special Rapporteur’s finding that international and regional human rights mechanisms are increasingly being turned to and relied upon by defenders either to complement and strengthen domestic advocacy efforts, or because democratic institutions and the rule of law are weak or non-existent at the national level. [see also my ‘old’ post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/]

In addition to making concrete recommendations, the Special Rapporteur also articulates 7 key principles for all stakeholders that he considers should inform and underpin all policies and practices namely:

  • Principle 1: They should adopt a rights-based approach to protection, empowering defenders to know and claim their rights.
  • Principle 2: They should recognise that defenders are diverse and come from different backgrounds, cultures, and belief systems.
  • Principle 3: They should recognise the significance of gender in the protection of defenders and apply an intersectionality lens to the assessment of risks and to the design of protection initiatives.
  • Principle 4: They should focus on ‘holistic security’ of defenders, including physical security, digital security, and psychosocial wellbeing.
  • Principle 5: They should not focus on the rights and security of individual defenders alone, but also include the groups, organisations, communities, and family members who share their risks.
  • Principle 6: They should involve defenders in the development, choice, implementation and evaluation of strategies and tactics for their protection. The participation of defenders is key to their security.
  • Principle 7: They should be flexible, adaptable, and tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of defenders.


See more at: http://www.ishr.ch/news/good-practices-protection-human-rights-defenders-major-new-report#sthash.VjHvu4uZ.dpuf


One Response to “UN Rapporteur Michel Forst documents good practices in the protection of human rights defenders”

  1. […] UN Rapporteur Michel Forst documents good practices in the protection of human rights defenders […]

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