In a letter addressed to Member States, well over a hundred 100 international and national NGOs urged Members States to reject amendments intended to weaken the resolution on protection of human rights defenders, which will be adopted today, Wednesday, 25 November 2015 in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee.
The resolution, as drafted, includes robust protection measures for human rights defenders, including the need to combat impunity for violence against human rights defenders and to release defenders who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms. With the recent attacks on human rights defenders in places such as Burundi where the prominent activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa and members of his family have been systematically attacked, it is time for UN Member States to take strong action to prevent and punish reprisals. However, amendments, tabled by the African Group, China, and Iran seek to dramatically weaken the resolution on human rights defenders and delete entire paragraphs regarding the need for their protection.At a time when the work of human rights defenders has become extraordinarily dangerous and increasingly criminalized in many states, it is important for Member States to send a strong message on the need to protect human rights defenders.
The text of the draft follows in toto:
SUPPORT THE DRAFT RESOLUTION ON RECOGNIZING THE ROLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND THE NEED FOR THEIR PROTECTION
We write to you as a group of human rights defenders and civil society organizations located across the world working at national, regional and international levels. We write in regard to the draft resolution entitled ”Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection“ currently being advanced in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, and due to be adopted on Wednesday 25 November 2015.
We urge your government to support the abovementioned resolution and to reject amendments, tabled by the African Group, China and Iran, designed to weaken the text.
Among other things, the proposed amendments remove references to the legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, delete or weaken language regarding the need for their protection, and delete whole paragraphs related to the need to combat impunity for violations and abuses against defenders and the need to ensure adequate procedural safeguards in judicial proceedings. A call for the release of defenders detained or imprisoned in violation of international human rights law, for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms, is also proposed for deletion. In addition, the amendments introduce notions that States should only support and enable their work ‘as appropriate’, rather than in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other obligations arising under international human rights law
Human rights defenders make a vital contribution to the promotion and respect for human rights, democratic processes, securing and maintaining peace and security, and advancing development in our countries. However, in doing this work, defenders often face a range of violations and abuses at the hands of State and non-State actors. States must acknowledge the role of defenders and the specific risks they face, and commit to ensuring their protection.
Seventeen years ago, all States agreed to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including State obligations to protect all human rights defenders working on all human rights. This commitment has been reiterated and built upon in subsequent General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. We are therefore extremely concerned to hear that the abovementioned delegations have objected to several core elements of the draft resolution.
Based on consultations with over 500 defenders from 111 States, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders found that in the vast majority of States the situation for human rights defenders is deteriorating in law and in practice. He concluded that a lack of awareness regarding their vital and legitimate work, combined with a lack of political commitment and weak institutional arrangements for their protection, is placing them, their organisations and families at elevated risk.