Brussels March 27th, 2013
Protection International welcomes the adoption of a new and important resolution on human rights defenders at the 22nd Session of the United Nation Human Rights Council on 21 March 2013.
“Criminalization puts the ax to the roots of the human rights movement in so many countries. It’s important that the Human Rights Council takes a clear position” says Luis Enrique Eguren, Chair of Protection International’s Board.
The resolution reminds us of « the serious nature of risks faced by human rights defenders, due to threats, attacks, and acts of intimidation against them » and expresses the UN HCR’s grave concerns regarding the growing misuse of « national security and counter-terrorism legislation and other measures, such as laws regulating civil society organizations » to target defenders or prevent them from doing their work.
It is an important step forward as it constitutes a strong response from the UN’s top human rights body to the growing criminalization of human rights defender’s activities throughout the world. It reminds the States of their responsibility to protect defenders. The resolution:
- Urges States to create a safe environment for human rights defenders (especially women human rights defenders), to ensure that they’re not subject to « excessive or indiscriminate use of force, arbitrary arrest or detention, torture, […], enforced disappearance » or any kind of judicial harassment, and to fulfill the duty to end impunity for attacks committed against defenders.
- Stresses that each piece of legislation impacting the activities of human rights defenders should be consistent with international human rights laws, and condemns any limitation on their activities « enforced in contravention of international human rights law ».
- Calls upon States to ensure that the registration process for civil society organizations is « transparent, accessible, non-discriminatory, expeditious and inexpensive » and that no laws impose discriminatory restrictions on funding sources.
- Calls upon States that the way they fight against terrorism complies with international human rights law and does not have any negative effect on the work of human rights defenders.
The resolution was adopted by consensus and proposed by Norway, a country that often plays a highly constructive role regarding issues affecting human rights defenders and sets a high standard for other members of the international community2.
Protection International recommends all members of the international community to concretize their pledge to support the most vulnerable human rights defenders in a similar fashion.
Protection International is researching criminalization of defenders and the ways in which national protection laws and mechanisms succeed or fail to protect those actors 3.
1 Norway adopted guidelines for its diplomats to intensify support to defenders and to put this support at the heart of Norway’s foreign human rights policy. In an interview in June 2012 Claire Hubert, First Secretary of Norway’s permanent mission to Geneva, told Protection International that it encourages defenders to reach out to Norwegian diplomats so that they can react more efficiently when protection issues and security threats arise.
2 Criminalisation series