Our Story

Protection International (PI) started in 1998 to work with grass-roots Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) at risk. Over the last 20 years, PI has made a major contribution to the definition and implementation of tools and strategies for the protection of HRDs, by:

  • Piloting new methodologies and innovative approaches, through activities such as publishing the first manual on the protection of HRDs.
  • Providing systematic overviews on existing public policies initiatives for HRDs protection.
  • Developing security and protection tools for grass root HRDs at risk.
  • Exploring innovative approaches for the self-protection of organizations and communities based on this experience.
  • Contributing to the recognition of human rights defenders as actors of positive social change over the years.


We can improve the protection of HRDs at risk - the simple goal that inspired Protection International’s work back in 1998, when it all started in Brussels as the European Office of PBI founded by Pascale Boosten, Marie Caraj, Enrique Eguren and Christoph Klotz. Since then, we have come a long way!

Here are our milestones: 




  • PI opens in Geneva its award-winning photo exhibition For Those who Died Trying photographed by Luke Duggleby.
  • PI's docummentary "No estamos solas", directed by Maria Aizpuru about the lenca women human rights defenders in Honduras and El Salvador, won the gender equality prize at the International Festival of Invisible Cinema of Bilbao.
  • See our 2016 Impact stories.



  • PI releases its first FOCUS report providing a global overview of Public Policies for the protection of HRDs.
  • PI delivered 100 security trainings for 600 HRDs in 22 countries.


PI’s new Manual on Protection for Human Rights Defenders is now translated in 12 languages.



  • Protection Desks open in Thailand, Kenya, Colombia in partnership with Piensiamento y Accion Social (PAS) and Mexico (with ACUDDEH, the latter closed in 2012).
  • PI, together with AI Belgium, launches the first twinning initiative between defenders in Burundi and members of the Belgian Parliament. In 2012, it expands to Dutch Parliament jointly with Justice and Peace Commission.


  • PI, jointly with 20 national and international organizations, launches the National and International Campaign for the Right to Defend Human Rights.
  • PI publishes its first trial observation report on the Maheshe case in DRC.
  • Protection Desk DRCongo opens in the Kivu region.


  • PI publishes its New Manual on Protection for Human Rights Defenders based on research by Enrique Eguren and Marie Caraj, and contributions by defenders from all over the world.
  • Protection Desks open in Uganda, in partnership with East and Horn HRD Project (closed nowadays), and in Guatemala, in partnership with UDEFEGUA.


Protection International is registered as an international not for profit association by Pascale Boosten, Marie Caraj, Enrique Eguren and Christoph Klotz. PI becomes the legal successor of the former EU Office of Peace Brigades International.



  • PI produces its first documentary on situation on HRDs (in Nepal) and the protection of Internally displaced people (IDPs) in DRC. It sets up its dedicated video centre featuring testimonies from HRDs.
  • PI launches Protectionline.org as a web platform to provide information from 50 human rights defenders organizations worldwide.


PI contributes to the development of the EU guidelines for the protection of HRDs and sets up steering committees and consultations fora with HRDs for in-country implementation of EU human rights strategies.


PBI Europe and Frontline Defenders publish their manual on the protection of HRD researched and written by PI founding members, Enrique Eguren and Marie Caraj.



PI advocates and participates in the drafting committee of the Deng Principles on IDPs (today the UN Guiding Principles on IDPs).


PI organizes the first European Parliament hearing on the newly adopted UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.