USA: Briefing paper on the situation of human rights defenders


A new ISHR briefing paper, prepared in advance of the Universal Periodic Review of the USA in 2015, examines the situation and protection of human rights defenders, including journalists, activists and peaceful protesters, in the country.

(Geneva) - The United States of America is scheduled to be reviewed at the 22nd session of the Universal Periodic Review in April 2015.

While the US maintains a relatively strong legal framework for HRDs, activists and journalists, its national security policy has increasingly threatened their freedoms and shrunk the space in which they can work. Since the USA last faced review in 2010, cases of surveillance of activists, attacks against human rights defenders and excessive use of force against protesters have threatened the enabling environment which civil society requires in order to operate freely.

Human rights defenders working on sexual and reproductive rights face a particularly elevated level of risk, whilst journalists and those working for religious minority rights are subject to excessive restrictions to their work.

Key recommendations that should be made to the USA at the UPR in 2015 include that the Government should create a National Human Rights Institution which includes a focal point for human rights defenders, and reform national security legislation to guarantee respect for civil liberties.

This Briefing Paper on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the USA is intended to assist States and other stakeholders to formulate questions and recommendations regarding the protection of human rights defenders during the UPR.

For further information about the Briefing Paper or for any assistance or advice in the formulation of recommendations, please contact ISHR's Eleanor Openshaw, on

Photo: President Obama addresses the UN General Assembly, UN Photo/Marco Castro


  • North America
  • Human rights defenders
  • United Nations
  • Universal Periodic Review
  • United States