Human rights defenders are individuals, groups of people or organizations who promote and protect human rights through peaceful and non-violent means. Anyone, regardless of their occupation, can be a human rights defender: they are identified primarily by what they do rather than by their profession. Some human rights defenders are professional human rights workers, lawyers working on human rights cases, journalists, trade unionists or development workers.
The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders—adopted under the formal name "Declaration on the right and responsibility of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms"—is the first UN instrument that recognizes the importance and legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, as well as their need for better protection. The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is an important addition to the current body of international human rights standards. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly by consensus, constitutes a clear commitment on the part of all UN member states to respect the rights of human rights defenders at the national and international levels. Although the Declaration is not legally binding, it draws together provisions from other conventions and covenants most relevant to human rights defenders that are legally binding.
Since the year 2000 the UN has had a Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. Since March 2008, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya holds this position. The Special Rapporteur submits annual reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on particular topics or situations of special importance regarding the promotion and protection of the rights of human rights defenders. The annual reports can be found here.
Council of Europe declaraction to improve the protection of human rights defenders
Website of ODIHR's Focal Point for Human Rights Defenders and National Human Rights Institutions
UN Factsheet 29 on Human Rights Defenders: Protecting the right to protect human rights
Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Handbook for Human Rights Defenders: What protection can EU and Norwegian Diplomatic Missions offer?
Human Rights Defenders in the OSCE region
Browse trends by region
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- Be a human rights defender (details)
- Freedom of assembly (details)
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