Developed in consultation with over 500 defenders from every region, and settled and adopted by 28 of the world’s leading human rights experts and jurists, the Model Law provides authoritative guidance to States on how to implement the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders at the national level. It also provides an influential new tool for civil society to promote, evaluate and report on implementation.
(Geneva) – ISHR today launched a groundbreaking Model National Law which countries will be able to use to create or improve their own legal protections for human rights defenders.
Developed in consultation with over 500 defenders from every region, and settled and adopted by 28 of the world’s leading human rights experts and jurists, the Model Law for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders provides authoritative guidance to States on how to implement the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders at the national level. It also provides an influential new tool for civil society to promote, evaluate and report on implementation.
‘The Model Law will be a powerful and important new tool in the hands of both human rights defenders and governments,’ said UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, one of the experts endorsing the Law.
Fellow expert, Kamala Chandrakirana of the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice, said, ‘The Model Law will trigger and open the space for discussion as to how to effectively protect human rights defenders.’
‘We urge all States to legislate and implement this Model Law,’ added Guadalupe Marengo, Head of the Global Human Rights Defenders Team with Amnesty International, and another expert to endorse the Law.
The Model Law was developed over a three year period and informed by inputs including:
‘I fully endorse this Model Law and especially wish to thank the members of the ISHR team, whose work has from the outset been truly outstanding,’ said Sir Nicolas Bratza, former President of the European Court of Human Rights.
‘The effort undertaken by ISHR over the past years to elaborate this Model Law will contribute to advancing the right to protect human rights worldwide and to do it without fear,’ added Mauricio Angel of Protection International.
The launch of the Model Law coincides with the launch of a new report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the key elements of a safe and enabling environment for defenders and other civil society actors. Foremost among the elements identified in the report is ensuring a ‘supportive legal framework and effective access to justice’.
In the report, the High Commissioner concludes that the legal recognition of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association and participation in public affairs is essential to the protection, exercise and realisation of all other human rights. Accordingly, the High Commissioner says, States should enact specific laws on the protection of human rights defenders, ‘review and repeal or amend all legal provisions that impede the free and independent work of civil society actors’ and ‘ensure that all legislation affecting their ability to work complies with relevant international human rights laws and standards and with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders’.
The Model Law adopted by the 28 high-level experts will assist States to implement these recommendations and contains detailed, precise legal provisions relating to:
The provisions, each of which is accompanied by a commentary, are drafted in such a way as to be adaptable to different national legal contexts, systems and traditions.
The Model Law also contains detailed annexures with model provisions on the effective operation of a protection mechanism, and processes and principles to ensure that other laws are developed, interpreted and applied compatibly with the Model Law.
‘The Model Law on the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders is comprehensive and substantive. I am confident that it will provide a valuable tool for human rights defenders in their domestic jurisdictions,’ said leading Indian human rights lawyer and defender Vrinda Grover.
ISHR launches the law recognising that the enactment of a specific human rights defender protection laws is a vital but in itself insufficient measure to ensure a safe and enabling environment for defenders. Such laws need to be accompanied by high-level political support and adequate resources for their implementation.
They also need to be complemented by a range of other measures, including strong, independent and effective judiciaries and national human rights institutions, close attention to the particular situation and protection needs of women human rights defenders, and safe and open access to UN and regional human rights mechanisms.
‘The legal recognition and protection of defenders is crucial to ensuring that they can work in a safe, supportive environment and be free from attacks, reprisals and unreasonable restrictions. The legal recognition and protection of defenders also contributes to the broader goals of upholding human rights, and promoting democracy, good government, sustainable development and respect for the rule of law,’ said ISHR Director Phil Lynch.
‘The enactment of this Model Law, therefore, will not just serve and pursue the interests of rights holders and victims of violations, but of society as a whole,’ Mr Lynch said.
Following the launch, ISHR will now work with national and regional partners towards the enactment of the Model Law in a number of jurisdictions, including Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Sierra Leone. It is our hope and aspiration, however, that it is used by a diverse and dynamic range of defenders, together with progressive governments and policy makers across the world, to ensure the effective implementation of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders at the national level.
The 28 experts formally endorsing the Model Law, many of whom were involved in the negotiation of the Declaration itself, are: