(Geneva) - The UN Human Rights Council has adopted a crucial resolution on the protection of human rights defenders.
The resolution calls on States to protect human rights defenders from attacks and reprisals and ensure that national laws and policies support and enable their work. The resolution also renews the mandate of an independent international expert tasked with supporting and protecting human rights defenders.
'Human rights defenders play a crucial role in promoting human rights, accountability and the rule of law. They work to expose violations, seek justice for victims and challenge inequality,' said Phil Lynch, Director of the International Service for Human Rights.
'ISHR is delighted that the Human Rights Council has reaffirmed the importance of the work of defenders and highlighted the obligations of States to ensure that defenders are able to undertake this work in a safe and enabling environment, free from reprisals and attacks.'
The resolution was championed by Norway and enjoyed strong support from all regions of the world, including Australia, Brazil, Benin, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, the Maldives, Mexico, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uruguay, the US and the UK. It was co-sponsored by 79 States and ultimately adopted by consensus after a number of hostile amendments proposed by Russia, South Africa and others were strongly defeated.
'In light of our serious concern over the situation for human rights defenders in many places in the world, it is encouraging that 79 countries have already co-sponsored this important mandate renewal resolution,' said Norwegian Ambassador to the UN, Steffen Kongstad.
'Human rights defenders in all regions of the world face risks and reprisals for their work. In this context it is significant that States from all regions strongly supported the resolution,' said ISHR Director of Human Rights Council Advocacy, Michael Ineichen.
The resolution renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders - an independent international human rights expert - for a period of three years.
'The reason this mandate needs to be extended is because of the serious risks faced by human rights defenders. They, their families and those associated with them, face loss of employment, denigration, harassment, stigmatisation, physical violence, arrest, torture and even the threat of death on a daily basis,' said Irish Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Patricia O'Brien.
'The Special Rapporteur's work is crucial to support the work of defenders and assist States to discharge their obligations to ensure a safe and enabling environment in which human rights defenders can operate free from hindrance and insecurity,' Mr Ineichen said.
'The work of the Special Rapporteur over the last six years, Margaret Sekaggya, has highlighted the situation and protection needs of women human rights defenders, LGBT defenders, defenders working to promote corporate accountability, and many others. It has also shone a light on the shrinking space for human rights defenders, including through the passage of laws which criminalise, stigmatise and restrict their work.'
'The ability of civil society activists to submit information and complaints to the Special Rapporteur is an important avenue to accountability in circumstances where there are weak or no accountability mechanisms at the domestic level,' said Mr Ineichen.
'ISHR looks forward to working very closely with the next mandate holder to ensure that defenders are supported and not restricted in their work to challenge repression and to promote good governance, inclusive development and the rule of law,' Mr Ineichen said.