UN Expert Calls for Strengthening Good Practices in Protecting Human Rights Defenders

On Thursday, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, presented a new report to the Human Rights Council on good practices in the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs). The Special Rapporteur’s important work helps human rights organizations provide protective visibility to HRDs, raise awareness among policymakers about their situations, and shed light on conditions that inhibit or disrupt their work.

Forst’s report calls on states to:

  • Adopt a rights-based approach to protection
  • Recognize that HRDs are diverse and may not self-identify or be identified by others as HRDs
  • Recognize the significance of gender in the protection of HRDs
  • Focus on the “holistic security” of defenders including not only physical safety but also digital security and psychosocial wellbeing
  • Focus not only on the rights and security of individual HRDs but also their groups, organizations, communities, and families
  • Involve HRDs in developing, choosing, implementing, and evaluating protection strategies and tactics
  • Adapt and tailor protection responses to HRDs’ specific needs and circumstances.

This new report is a welcome synopsis of the kinds of practices at the local, national, regional, and international levels that can help HRDs operate free from violence, threats, and intimidation.

In 2013, the Obama Administration released a policy statement about how the State Department, in particular through its embassies, can support HRDs. This statement, which Human Rights First encouraged the State Department to issue, is an important tool to set shared expectations between HRDs and U.S. diplomats. It puts the U.S. on similar footing with the E.U., Norway, and Switzerland, which have all issued guidelines.

Human Rights First recently produced a new list of resources for defenders. This tool provides information about sources of emergency funding, fellowships abroad, training opportunities, human rights awards, and guidelines on how embassies and missions should support defenders.

Human Rights First is accepting nominations of individuals and organizations for the 2016 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award. The deadline for submissions is March 10, 2016. For more information, please visit our website.


Published on March 4, 2016


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