Posts Tagged ‘20th anniversary UN Declaration on HRDs’

Michel Forst addressed the International Civil Society Week 2019

May 3, 2019

For the International Civil Society Week (ICSW), held  in Belgrade from 8-12 April 2019,  (Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders) contributed through IPS the
following piece: “Human Rights Defenders Need to be Defended as Much as they Defend our Rights”:

They are ordinary people – mothers, fathers, sisters, sons, daughters, brothers, friends. But for me they are extraordinary people – the ones who have the courage to stand up for everyone else’s rights. They are the human rights defenders. Last year, according to reliable sources, 321 of them were killed, in 27 countries. Their murders were directly caused by the work they do to ensure the rest of us enjoy the rights we claim as purely because we are human. Countless others were tortured, raped and threatened, also for the work they do protecting their, and others’ human rights.

In fact, 2018 was deadliest year for human rights defenders since the UN began monitoring the challenges they face through the establishment of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. It shouldn’t be like this.

Last year we marked 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 20 since the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The latter Declaration provides for the practical support and protection of human rights defenders as they go about their work. It is addressed not just to states and to human rights defenders, but to everyone. It tells us that we all have a role to fulfil as human rights defenders and emphasises that there is a global human rights movement that involves us all. This is a task we are not performing well.

Human rights should not need defenders, and human rights defenders should not need protection from the might of oppressive governments, corrupt multinationals and crooked legal systems. But this is an imperfect, human world.

Since 2000, when we UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders began our monitoring work, much progress has been made. There has been extensive discussion on how these courageous people should be protected, and there is a Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in a limited number of countries. Sadly, it is often not properly implemented, or funded. It is impossible to canvass each defender’s particular treatment or mistreatment by the authorities they face, or even that of communities of defenders. There are, however, trends.

  • On 23 October last year, Julián Carrillo, an indigenous rights defender from Mexico’s state of Chihuahua told a friend by phone that he believed he was being watched and that he was going into hiding. On the evening of 25 October, his body was found. He had been shot several times.
  • On 22 August last year, Annaliza Dinopol Gallardo, a Filipina land rights defender known to her community as “Ate Liza”, was shot dead outside Sultan Kudarat State University in Tacurong City. She had four children.

Mr Carillo’s murder is indicative of the largest trend. More than two-thirds – a full 77% – of the total number of defenders killed were defending land, environmental or indigenous peoples’ rights, often in the context of extractive industries and state-aligned mega-projects.

Ms Gallardo’s murder represents another trend – the number of attacks on women and girls who are defenders is increasing. In the recent report that I have presented to the UN Human Rights Council I have highlighted that, in addition to the threats experienced by their male colleagues, women human rights defenders face gendered and sexualised attacks from both state and non-state actors, as well as from within their own human rights movements.

This includes smear campaigns questioning their commitment to their families; sexual assault and rape; militarised violence; and the harassment and targeting of their children.

Changing all this is our task for the future. Protection Mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists need to be properly implemented and funded, at national level.

We need to empower defenders and increase the abilities of those who are responsible for their protection to keep them safe. We also need to improve the accountability mechanisms these officials operate under.

To properly defend the defenders, we also need to recognise their diversity, and that each one of them faces challenges particular to their individual circumstances. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to ensuring each defender is able to do their work unfettered.

We need to acknowledge that defenders, just like all of us, live in this modern, interconnected world.

Protecting them means covering all aspects of their safety: physical, psychological and digital. It means doing so with flexibility. It also means that our protection needs to extend to their families, and the groups and organisations they belong to. We need to speak to them about what they need to feel safe.

In recent years the world has taken a worrying turn away from respect for human rights. Increasingly, groups are becoming inward-looking, and nations nationalistic. We need human rights defenders now more than ever. They also need us.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/2019-international-civil-society-week/

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/04/human-rights-defenders-need-defended-much-defend-rights/

Human Rights House Foundation developed major new tool kit “Rights of Defenders”

December 18, 2018

“Rights of Defenders” aims to promote understanding of international standards that protect and empower human rights defenders. The project is inspired by the 20th anniversary year of the landmark 1998 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

For implementation of international standards to be effective, it is essential that human rights defenders know and understand their rights. The Rights of Defenders project promotes and builds understanding of international standards and provides clear, accessible, and targeted insight into the standards and the context that surrounds them. As part of the project, HRHF has developed tools and resources for defenders to disseminate standards nationally, engage with authorities and hold them accountable to the commitments they make internationally, and initiate national conversations on the importance of defenders and their work.

The Rights of Defenders resources – developed by Human Rights Houses and HRHF – promote and build an understanding of international standards and provide clear, accessible, and targeted insight into the standards and the context that surrounds them. The aim is to provide resources to help defenders to disseminate standards nationally, engage with authorities and hold them accountable to the commitments they make internationally, and initiate national conversations on the importance of defenders and their work.

These resources are currently available in English, Russian, and Georgian. Human Rights Houses and HRHF are in the process of translating the booklet and other related materials into other languages. These will be published on this page when available. We currently expect translations into Armenian, Croatian, Tatar, and Ukrainian.

The Rights of Defenders booklet is divided into 16 standards, inspired by the strong content of landmark resolutions on human rights defenders and their work, adopted at the United Nations and Council of Europe. It condenses the main points of each standard as outlined in the resolutions. The standards confer both positive and negative obligations – whether it is action or refraining from an action. They are illustrated in red or green respectively to illustrate these obligations. The booklet also provides analysis to inform the interpretation and implementation of these standards. This is inspired by the commentary of experts such as UN Special Rapporteurs and by the experience of HRHF and Human Rights Houses in Western and Eastern Europe, Balkans, and the Caucasus. Further, to give context, the booklet outlines the trends affecting each standard and provides recommendations for their implementation.

Download the Rights of Defenders booklet.

References and sources In most cases, defenders may only need the main points of each standard together with analysis and context, as provided in the booklet. Yet there may be other occasions that require more detailed information. Our companion document provides sources and in-depth referencing to the full language of the resolutions.

Download the Rights of Defenders companion document of references and sources.

Poster

The Rights of Defenders poster promotes the 16 international standards outlined in the booklet. It aims to help promote and raise awareness of these standards.

Download the Rights of Defenders poster

Postcards

The Rights of Defenders postcards are a tool to promote and raise awareness of the standards that are most relevant to a particularly country or situation. They are designed to be printed A6, but also work at other sizes. Postcards with five of the most prominent standards are available to download below, though on request we can provide postcards for any of the 16 standards featured in the booklet.

Download postcards for:

Contact

Doriane Anfrie
PROJECT COORDINATOR
Languages: English, French, Spanish
For some of my earlier posts on the HRHF: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/hrhf/

Protection International: A collective approach to the right to defend human rights

December 13, 2018

On 13 December 2018 Protection International launched its latest publication and flagship item of its global campaign #CommunitiesareHRDs.

With the recent 20th anniversary of the UN declaration on Human Rights Defenders, this publication brings to attention the indispensable work carried out by communities of human rights defenders across the globe. Human rights defenders do not usually work alone, but in groups, in association with others, in social movements, building collective networks and supporting each other. Nevertheless, the tendency of protection mechanisms is to choose an individual HRD, a practice which can limit the impact of measures to a very narrow number of defenders and also undermine the collective dimension of human rights defence work.

The publication identifies a number of problems which stem from the individualisation of HRDs, highlighting that most protection programmes, both at international and national level, are based on sets of measures intended to provide security to a given individual, but fail to provide structural policy changes that are indispensable for the effective protection of all those defending rights.

The publication also provides ideas of key measures and actions that should be taken into account when developing collective protection strategies with communities or groups of HRDs. For protection to be effective, sustainable and reach a greater number of human rights defenders, we shift towards a more collective mindset.

https://indd.adobe.com/view/13d2cdbb-fb92-4648-ac56-2f73e7df19ac

Global Statement on the 20th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

December 7, 2018

Twenty years after the adoption the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, there are huge gaps in its implementation, with persistent attacks on HRDs and their organisations continuing unabated. In all types of political systems, democratic and otherwise across the world, the settings in which human rights defenders work is becoming more contested and volatile. Currently signed by over 900 organisations, this global statement can be  used as an advocacy tool to inform specific governments and business about the current state of human rights defenders. HERE THE TEXT OF THE STATEMENT:

Human rights groups globally call for end to killing of activists in record numbers

  • Human rights activists are being violently attacked and killed in record numbers 20 years after historic UN declaration adopted to protect them.
  • More than 900 organisations sign global statement raising concern about crisis for rights campaigners and calling for greater protection of activists
  • December 9 is 20th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
  • More than 3,500 human rights campaigners have been killed since then, mostly at the hands of governments, businesses and armed groups

Exactly twenty years after the United Nations adopted a historic declaration to protect human rights defenders, activists are being violent attacked and killed globally in unprecedented numbers.

This crisis for rights campaigners has prompted more than 900 organisations working on human rights to endorse a global statement raising serious concerns about the glaring gaps between the provisions in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the treatment of those on the frontlines of the fight for human rights.

The statement comes as the world commemorates the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders on December 9.

The Declaration is an inspirational text that upholds the rights of all human rights defenders (HRDs) to promote, protect and defend human rights, from the individual to global spheres. It affirms the responsibility and duty of states to protect defenders against violence, threats, retaliation and arbitrary actions resulting from the exercise of their fundamental rights.

“Twenty years after the adoption of the Declaration on HRDs, HRDs across the world are exposed to excesses by state and non-state actors. There are glaring gaps in the recognition of the work of HRDs and in protecting them. A lot more needs to be done to ensure HRDs are able to do their work without fear of intimidation, threats or violence.” Said David Kode, CIVICUS’s Advocacy and Campaigns Lead.  

The global statement is a collective call to governments, identified as the primary perpetrators of violence against HRDs, to respect the Declaration’s provisions, recognise rights activists as key players in the development of societies and create an enabling environment for them to engage in their activism without fear of intimidation, threats and violence.

As the international community commemorates this milestone, we are reminded of the dangerous environment in which many HRDs operate. Over the past two decades, more than 3,500 rights activists have been killed for their work. Last year alone, more than 300 were murdered in some 27 countries. Despite the fact that these heinous crimes are preceded by threats, which are often reported to the authorities, in almost all cases, pleas for help and protection are routinely ignored. The high levels of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of these acts are enhanced by the fact that culprits are often not prosecuted even when they are known to the authorities.

HRDs continue to be subjected to judicial persecution and are charged with serious crimes such as terrorism, secession, treason, engendering state security and drug trafficking for their part in pro-democracy and human rights campaigns. Most of these charges carry hefty penalties and, in most cases, trials are flawed.

Rights defenders are also subjected to acts of intimidation and smear campaigns and, in a time of heightened geopolitical tensions and bolstered government counter-terror programmes, are labeled “agents of foreign powers,” and “enemies of the state.” The objective is to discredit their work and force them to self-censor or leave their base communities.

Many HRDs have been abducted and simply disappeared with no official information on their whereabouts. Others have fled to other countries to avoid state reprisals. While activists are targeted for violence and attacks by states, increasingly they also face specific and heightened risks because they challenge business interests.  

“It is time for states to ensure that they fully commit to their international human rights obligations. Women human rights defenders, environmental, land rights and indigenous activists as well as those defending the rights of excluded communities continue to bear the brunt of attacks and restrictions by state and non-state actors.” Kode continued.

As leaders of civil society organisations working across different nations and regions at all levels, the statements’ signatories have called on governments as primary duty bearers to guarantee that human rights defenders can carry out their work safely, without fear of intimidation or the threats of violence. The group has urged businesses to respect the rights of people to express their views and protest, in accordance with UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

READ THE FULL STATEMENT and add the name of your organization!

20 Human Rights Defenders under attack: one for each year of the Declaration

December 6, 2018

This 9th of December 2018 marks exactly twenty years since nations around the world adopted the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Twenty years later, human rights defenders continue to face onerous challenges.

Under Attack: Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) Around the World

The CIVICUS map [go to: https://www.civicus.org/index.php/involved/support-campaigns/stand-up-for-human-rights-defenders#] profiles 20 HRDs who are currently in jail or facing judicial persecution for promoting human rights. Read more about who they are and support their campaigns. CIVICUS encourages you to share details of other activists we have not included by emailing them.

General Assembly’s 3rd Committee concludes 2018 session

December 4, 2018

The General Assembly‘s human rights committee – the Third Committee – has concluded its seven week session by adopting 57 resolutions, several of which focus on critical human rights challenges and reassert the importance of fundamental freedoms.  The ISHR – as usual – provides an excellent account of key highlights and outlines how these texts will finally be signed off on by the General Assembly Plenary.

This has been an intense session, where sovereignty has been much cited in clashes between States; where divergences in traditional State groupings have been exposed, and important statements and resolutions have been passed reaffirming fundamental freedoms,‘ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. [ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/05/third-committee-of-un-general-assembly-2018-will-consider-human-rights-issues/]

Several key resolution negotiations and outcomes are outlined below.  This is not the end of the road for these resolutions, however.  Costs of any activities and staffing included in these resolutions will now be considered by the General Assembly’s finance committee – the Fifth Committee –  before all resolutions are finally signed off by the General Assembly Plenary in the third week of December.  States have the opportunity to change their mind on resolutions ahead of final decision-making by the Plenary.  

Thematic Resolutions

Freedom of peaceful assembly and association –  Introduced by the US as a one off, this Third Committee resolution is essentially an ‘omnibus’ text, drawing on language agreed in relevant General Assembly and Human Rights resolutions – including those related to  human rights defenders and the safety of journalists.  The new resolution speaks of the need to protect journalists and media workers, including when covering demonstrations, both online and offline.  It condemns violations and abuses against peaceful protestors on the basis of their political opinion or affiliation.  The resolution does not specifically reference the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association – a given in most such thematic resolutions. This, in the context of the US’ withdrawal from the Human Rights Council – the body that creates such rapporteurships.  

During negotiations, the US withstood pressure to include a greater number of references to sovereignty and the importance of national laws, amongst other suggestions.  A vote was called on the draft resolution by China, Russia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Iran, Belarus, Nicaragua and Syria.  The text received strong cross-regional support however, with a final tally of 140 in favour, 0 against and 38 abstentions.  ISHR calls on States that voted against the resolution on freedom of peaceful assembly and association or abstained, to give this key resolution its support at the GA Plenary stage.  Whilst the negotiation process during the Third Committee session could have allowed for greater input from interested parties, the final resolution is strong, and the thematic focus is an important one, in particular in an era of undue restrictions on the exercise and defence of the freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Extrajudicial and arbitrary executions –  A listing of those most vulnerable to extrajudicial and arbitrary execution in this resolution, became the focus of heated exchanges between States.  This year, divisions between members of a State grouping resulted in a fracturing of the group position.  The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) introduced an amendment to delete the listing. When Albania – an OIC member – made clear the amendment was not being presented in their name and, therefore, there was no group position, other States were able to break rank.  This included Tunisia, Lebanon and Turkey.  The amendment was defeated by a vote of 86 -50 with 25 abstentions.

ISHR’s Tess McEvoy welcomed the defence of the inclusion of the listing, which references people targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and human rights defenders.  ‘By listing those most targeted by extrajudicial executions, you increase attention on the need for their protection,’ said McEvoy. ‘You also hope that impunity – all too common in regard to attacks against particular groups – is effectively challenged.”  A vote was then called on the overall text, to the dismay of lead negotiator Finland.  ‘This resolution is about the right to life,’ said the Finnish Ambassador.  The resolution was adopted, with the listing of those most vulnerable to extrajudicial executions included, 111-0 with 66 abstentions…

..Protecting children from bullying –  Bullying ‘includes a gender dimension’ and is ‘associated with gender-based violence and stereotyping’,  concluded the Third Committee through this consensus text.  The resolution includes strong language on the need to protect all children from and includes agreed language of the most recent CSW on the family.

Violence against women and girls –  With a focus on the experience of women human rights defenders, States are called on to prevent violations and abuses against all women defenders with specific condemnation of gender-based violence, harassment and threats (both online and offline).  US amendments related to the references to sexual and reproductive health and sexual education were defeated on the basis that these would change agreed language. The US ultimately disassociated itself with those paragraphs.

Child, early and forced marriage – Last-minute amendments to include sovereignty language into a resolution focusing on sexual and reproductive health and rights, introduced by the US, were voted down.  

……

Country-specific resolutions

Myanmar –  Key decisions by the Human Rights Council are echoed by the Third Committee in their resolution, including in regard to the establishment of an investigative mechanism to facilitate criminal proceedings in regard to allegations of violations of international law. This said, several elements are missing in the Third Committee text, including references to the ICC and to journalists detained by the Myanmar government.  This year’s resolution gained 20 more votes than last year, passing 142 – 10 with 26 abstentions.   Critics included Russia, China and Laos, who spoke to what they considered the ‘illegitimacy’ or ‘irrelevance’ of country resolutions. Japan explained its abstention on the basis that Myanmar should carry out its own investigations (albeit with international community support).   Myanmar noted that it was the most scrutinised country-  citing ‘at least seven mechanisms’ with a monitoring role- at a cost of 28.6 million USD per year to the UN. Myanmar is a ‘struggling democracy facing many challenges’, noted the representative, comparing Myanmar’s treatment to that of Yemen which, it claimed, didn’t receive the attention it should.  

Iran –  In this resolution introduced by Canada, Iran is urged to end its harassment, intimidation and persecution of human rights defenders, including minority, students’ rights and environmental defenders as well as journalists, lawyers, bloggers, media workers and social media users, and to halt reprisals against them. ISHR, along with several national, regional and international NGOs called on States to vote for these (and other) calls.  

Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine –  Ensuring and maintaining a safe and enabling environment for journalists, media workers, human rights defenders and defence lawyers in Crimea, is a key call in this resolution which passed 67-26, with 82 abstentions.  

Syria –   Recalling resolutions adopted by key mechanisms and bodies across the UN system from 2011 onwards, this latest Third Committee resolutions references concern about a range of issues including chemical weapons attacks, rapes, enforced disappearances, the crackdown on journalists and media and other human rights violations. The resolution, introduced by Saudi Arabia, passed with much support with 106 votes in favour, 16 votes against and 58 abstentions. 

Report of the Human Rights Council

The Human  Rights Council in Geneva sends a report to the General Assembly outlining decisions taken in the previous twelve months.  Controversially, this report is considered first by the Third Committee and a resolution on the report drawn up by the African Group.  This year a vote was called on the resolution by Israel to signal their opposition to the standing item on the Council agenda on Israel.  Ultimately, the resolution passed by 111 – 3, with 65 abstentions.

Attacks against the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

Burundi made several attempts to stop the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi from presenting its report to the Third Committee. When these were foiled, in a repeat of what happened last year, the Burundian Ambassador took the floor to abuse Commission members.  Too few States defended the Commission from these attacks, and the Chair of the Third Committee said nothing.  Swift in condemning the verbal attacks, however, was the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who called on Burundi ‘to issue an immediate retraction of this inflammatory statement’.  The President of the Human Rights Council also spoke up for UN independent experts and denounced the vilification.   ‘The defence of UN experts from any attack or intimidation must be swift and unambiguous,’ said Openshaw. ‘The lack of response from the heads of key UN bodies in NY – including the President of the General Assembly and Chair of the Third Committee – is really regretful.’  

ISHR Third Committee side event

ISHR hosted a Third Committee side event in coordination with Amnesty International on Tuesday, 23 October titled ‘Protecting human rights defenders: Reflections on the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration.’ Featured on the panel were Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; Julia Cruz, a lawyer from the NGO Conectas Human Rights, Brazil and Eleanor Openshaw, New York Director at ISHR. Coming directly from presenting his annual report to the Third Committee, the Special Rapporteur and other panel members addressed contextual questions from electoral violence to good practices in protection policies and legislation as well as implementation of the UN Declaration more broadly. During the event, Forst spoke of the importance of the UN Declaration, which he calls ‘a manifesto for the human rights movement’.  It speaks of the ‘central role of everyone within society in the realisation of human rights for all,’ Forst noted.

ISHR’s Conclusion: dynamics at the Third Committee

1/  The tactic of disassociation from paragraphs of resolutions that a particular State dislikes, has continued this session.  The US called a vote on a paragraph in the draft resolution on violence against women and then – when the vote went against them – disassociated themselves from the paragraph anyway.  It could be argued that this approach avoids calls for votes on entire texts, instead isolating areas of contention from those around which consensus has been reached.  However, it does undermine the value of the text and overall efforts to move human rights consensus forward. It is highly dispiriting to see this tactic being increasingly employed.

2/  The confirmation that draft resolutions can only be introduced in the name of individual States rather than a grouping – as emerged during the back and forth on the text on extrajudicial executions – should provide dissenters within a State grouping with more leeway to resist pressure to conform with positions they disagree with.  

3/   Sovereignty arguments were presented by several States during the negotiations of a fair number of draft resolutions. These were successful in some negotiations, such as in regard to the death penalty, and were successfully rejected in others. The drive to foreground and repeatedly reference sovereignty in texts is likely to continue, and efforts to contest it need to be well-coordinated and arguments refined.  

https://www.ishr.ch/news/ga73-third-committee-human-rights-wrap

Norwegian Human Rights Fund celebrates 30th anniversary with video and conference

November 14, 2018

This video is published in the context of the Norwegian Human Rights Fund’s (NHRF) 30 years anniversary on 13 November 2018. A well-deserved celebration for 30 years service to the worldwide human rights community and especially the human rights defenders. 

Support to human rights in a context of shrinking space, rise of populist regimes and hostile environment lie as a backdrop in the year we celebrate both the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights Defenders and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What are the consequences for the movement and what are the ground realities for human rights work and defenders working in the frontline in these changing realities? What strategies are used to support and respond to juridical harassment, restriction in freedom of association and expression, threats, criminalization and killings of human rights defenders? What new tools can be used in our work and what kind of support and strategies are needed looking ahead? This conference gathers international experts and human rights defenders from a variety of local, national and international contexts, to give us their advice and reflections on how to continue and improve support to human rights work in changing and challenging times. The conference seeks to highlight and celebrate the indispensable work that human rights defenders – individuals, groups and organizations – do every day to promote equality, dignity, justice, peace, sustainable development and freedom in their local communities as well as across the world.
See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/24/i-defend-rights-shifting-the-narrative-about-human-rights-defenders/
Det Norske Menneskerettighetsfond

General Assembly 2018: Human Rights Defenders were a main dish on 23 October

November 7, 2018

On 26 October 2018, the ISHR reported on how the General Assembly addressed the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Special Rapporteur Michel Forst delivered a detailed reflection and assessment of global protection efforts in his report to the General Assembly this week.

On 23/24 October, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, called the international community to action, urging open and frank dialogue and solidarity to address oppression. He addressed the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee and engaged in a dialogue on his report to the General Assembly.

In light of the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, his report focused on effective implementation strategies, incorporating both a reflection of progress made over the past two decades and an overview of recommendations on how to improve systems and mechanisms moving forward. ‘The past 20 years have been an era of struggle for human rights. Victories have been hard fought and challenges have proliferated,’ the Special Rapporteur said in his report. ‘The celebration of this milestone must be tempered by a recognition of the sacrifices of human rights defenders, their families and their communities.’

After surveying 140 States, the Special Rapporteur addressed the following key matters: the evolution of the use of the term ‘human rights defenders’, mechanisms and practices to support them and legal/ administrative frameworks to protect them. “20 years ago, the Declaration laid the groundwork for the protection of human rights defenders and amplified the importance of their inclusion as a stakeholder in human rights initiatives, but there is still work to be done,” said ISHR’s Legal Counsel Tess McEvoy.

Several States voiced their support for the report and the mandate, including Spain, Iceland, Canada, Australia, EU, Poland, Ireland, Switzerland, Mexico, Liechtenstein, Estonia, Czech Republic, Colombia, France, Slovenia, Norway, US, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates.

The United States referenced the Secretary General’s report on reprisals highlighting attacks and intimidation against defenders in more than 38 countries, saying they are ‘alarmed and monitoring all allegations.’ The US then proceeded to list over 20 specific names of individuals from 14 different countries who are victims of such reprisals. These include:

Both China and Iran criticised the report on the basis that defenders, activists and social leaders do not deserve ‘special treatment’ regardless of the risks these individuals face. Cuba rejected any attempts to paint political prisoners as human rights defenders. The Russian Federation challenged the notion of ‘State obligation’ on the basis that the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders is a non-binding document. In response to the Russian Federation’s point on the non-obligatory nature of the Declaration of Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur swiftly reminded States that while the Declaration is non-binding it reaffirms other legally binding human rights obligations.

The Special Rapporteur concluded with a call to action at the upcoming Human Rights Defenders World Summit in Paris, where a statement will be prepared, including for presentation at the upcoming high-level event on defenders at the General Assembly.

The Special Rapporteur also referenced a document—outlining the results of his global survey on defenders in 140 countries—which he hoped would be published on the OHCHR website without further delay. He invited supporters of the mandate to inform OHCHR of the need to disseminate the report via the OHCHR website.

The Special Rapporteur referenced the study being prepared by the UN Secretary-General in efforts to protect global defenders. The report of this study will be shared with States in the coming weeks. The Special Rapporteur also voiced concern about the lack of NGO access to the UN and asked members of the Committee on NGOs to invite him in to engage with the Committee.

The Special Rapporteur concluded by saying that his report to the Human Rights Council in March 2019 will focus on the situation of women defenders.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/ga73-un-expert-defenders-reflects-20-years-struggle-progress-and-remaining-challenges

For earlier posts on the anniversary: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/20th-anniversary-un-declaration-on-hrds/

Forst in UN New York: ‘more concerned than ever for human rights defenders’

October 25, 2018

Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, expressed in New York “grave concern” on Tuesday 23 October 2018 regarding the treatment of human rights defenders, as more than 1,000 have been killed between 2015 and 2017. See also the latest report on the situation of human rights defenders issued earlier this year (http://undocs.org/en/A/73/215 – 23 July 2018).

2018 marks the twentieth anniversary of the UN mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. In a speech made to the UN General Assembly, Forst explained how the program’s very existence is in jeopardy but the anniversary presents an “opportunity not only to review the situation of human rights defenders but also to set out a vision for the human rights movement for the coming years.

Forst praised the work that has been done but fears for the safety of human rights defenders. “The Declaration has become a milestone in the human rights project and resources have been provided for the promotion and protection of human rights defenders. However, I am more concerned than ever. … We are facing an alarming panorama for human rights defenders. Their situation is deteriorating all over the world despite States’ obligations to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.”

In honor of the anniversary, a number of events are scheduled in the upcoming months intended to draw attention to the issue of human rights defenders: From October 29-31, the second Human Rights Defenders World Summit will take place in Paris [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/07/24/announcement-of-the-human-rights-defenders-world-summit-in-paris-october-2018/ ]. A UN  “high-level plenary meeting” in New York will take place in mid-December tasked with addressing good practices and new opportunities in the Declaration’s implementation.

Campaign to give the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 to the global community of Human Rights Defenders

September 18, 2018

Over 200 organisations from all over the world have signed on to an open letter endorsing the idea of giving the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 to the global community of Human Rights Defenders.


12 September 2018

Dear Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee,

9 December 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). It is an ideal and opportune moment to recognise and celebrate the efforts of these extraordinary individuals who despite threats of violence and unlawful imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, torture and assassination, continue to peacefully challenge injustice and call for the implementation and strengthening of the rule of law. Since 1998, over 3000 human rights defenders have been killed for defending the fundamental values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN.

In recognising the increasingly hostile environments globally, in which human rights defenders must work, the late Former Secretary-General to the United Nations, Kofi Annan, recently said:

“To stand up for human rights requires courage, perseverance, vigilance and a strong foundation of knowledge and evidence. We need to be vigilant in the protection of human rights defenders, for when the defenders’ rights are violated, all our rights are injured.”

In the same vein and emphasising the critical role that human rights defenders play in promoting and fostering stable democracies and sustainable peace, Permanent Representative of Norway to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Ambassador Steffen Kongstad said: “Threats and attacks against human rights defenders may hamper the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, undermining social cohesion, and ultimately stability and development.”

Despite this recognition and respect at the highest levels of the international community, human rights defenders are killed every day. HRDs who suffer disproportionately are those activists working at grassroots and community levels, in isolated regions and from marginalised populations, who lack networks and resources to command international attention. Human rights defenders can be community leaders, lawyers, journalists, environmental activists, victims of abuse, trade unionists and teachers.

It is for these urgent reasons that Peace Brigades International with the support of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group has nominated the global community of HRDs for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. It is the highest humanitarian achievement through which to recognise HRDs and celebrate their commitment to advocating for and building societies that are peaceful, safe, inclusive, tolerant, just and sustainable for all. The nomination is currently supported by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs and some governments, diplomats and parliamentarians around the world.

We believe that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the global community of HRDs will mark a milestone in legitimising the crucial work they undertake to protect humanity and bring the trends of persecution they suffer to the public eye.

Furthermore, this collective award would mark a world first. By nominating a community rather than individuals or organisations, we emphasise that the trends making the defence of human rights ever more risky and ever more admirable, are global. We seek to highlight that the community itself is integral to the defence of human rights and it is the idea of community that motivates people to take enormous risks defending the rights of others and advancing peace.


For some of my earlier post on the Declaration: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/20th-anniversary-un-declaration-on-hrds/

The release of the open letter is accompanied by a public petition: Human Rights Defenders for the Nobel Peace Prize, which can be signed here.

https://peacebrigades.org.uk/open-civil-society-letter-support-nobel-peace-prize-human-rights-defenders