Document Type: Policy Makers Tools

National Human Rights Institutions and the Protection of Human Rights Defenders: Insights from Indonesia and Thailand

19 May 2020

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) that comply with the Paris Principles are in a unique position to guide and advice Governments on their human rights obligations, including their duty to protect human rights defenders. Even if their mandate may be limited on paper, there is a whole range of actions they can undertake to contribute to fostering an enabling environment for HRDs in their country. Drawing on examples from Indonesia and Thailand, this Policy Brief identifies opportunities and vulnerabilities of NHRIs in protecting HRDs.


According to the recommendations set by the UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs, there is a wide range of actions NHRIs can undertake to play a prominent role in HRD protection. For instance, they can promote awareness about the right to defend rights, thus contributing to legitimizing HRDs. They can monitor the situation of HRDs, for instance by observing the handling of public demonstrations and documenting police abuse when applicable. The can gather concerns raised by national CSOs and put them forward in regional and international mechanisms. Whenever their mandate allows for it, NHRIs receive and investigate complaints of violations, through which they can identify and raise systemic concerns with the judiciary and with other national bodies.


Thailand and Indonesia are two very interesting case studies that show how, despite the limited legal mandates and the sensitive political environment, both countries’ NHRIs have found avenues to provide some sort of support to groups and individuals who engage in human rights defence. This policy brief summarises insights and reflections on the role both NHRIs have played in HRD protection based on interviews held with commissioners and staff of these institutions, as well as individual HRDs of both countries.

This policy brief, available on the Human Rights Defenders Hub, was made in collaboration between Protection International and York University.

Download your files here