ON THE OCCASION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, THE UN, INTER-AMERICAN AND AFRICAN PROTECTION MECHANISMS CALL ON GOVERNMENTS TO PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
During the 6th EU Human Rights Discussion Forum organized by the Dutch Presidency of the EU in The Hague, Ms. Hina Jilani, U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary General for Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Jainaba Johm, Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders of the African Commision on Human and People’s Rights and Mr. Santiago Canton, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights met, under the auspices of the International Service for Human Rights and issued the following statement:
“We commend the European Union for adopting its Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. The Guidelines are an important protection tool for activists who are promoting human rights at great personal risk.
The EU Guidelines should inspire other regions to strengthen measures to protect defenders and the environment they operate in. The guidelines recognize the important role that international and regional protection systems play in the protection of defenders and the need to strengthen such mechanisms to increase their effectiveness.
Human Rights defenders are key players for the construction of peace and democracy and for the establishment of the rule of law in all regions. They are crucial actors in the fight against impunity. Despite the efforts made to protect their activity, defenders continue to be the targets of attacks, including assassinations, arbitrary detention and disappearance. Defenders are also the victims of slander campaigns and unfounded prosecutions aimed at discrediting their work.
Having discussed the situation of defenders in the world today, we are particularly concerned by the negative way in which counter-terrorist measures and legislation has impacted on defenders, in many countries of the world.
States have the right and obligation to defend and protect their citizens from terrorist activity. National security policies and legislation should be consistent and conform to international human rights law and standards. We are concerned that in many countries, counter terrorist measures and legislation are being used to limit the activities of human rights defenders, at the detriment of human rights standards.
As UN Special Representative, Special Rapporteur of the African Commission and Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission we recognize that the main challenges to be resolved with regard to the protection of defenders around the world include, amongst others, the killing of human rights defenders; the existence of hostile environments that forces defenders into exile and the labeling and slandering of defenders by authorities to undermine their credibility, putting them at serious risk. Furthermore, we are alarmed by the increasing number of countries that are developing legislation that restricts freedom of association, information, expression and assembly.
We would also like to express our specific concern about the risks and stigmatization suffered by women human rights defenders and in this respect we strongly support the International Campaign on Women Human Rights Defenders.
On the occasion of human rights day, we call on all Governments to protect the rights of defenders”.
Washington D.C. December 10, 2004