This document presents a set of professional and ethical principles determining the requirements for human rights defenders and their professional activities. It is based on the ethical criteria and traditions of human rights work in Belarus, as well as on the international standards and rules for human rights activities.
“The recent more than 20 years period is a time of occurrence, formation and development of the human rights community in Belarus. This period is also marked with formation of self-awareness of this community as a separate part of civil society, with professionalization, with becoming a part of the global human rights movement. Now we can say for sure, that the human rights community in Belarus was formed, that it exists, develops, absorbes the international standards. And now we have reached a certain “maturity” for awareness about ourselves, about our activities, our values. The creation of the Principles is a sign of this “maturity”. This document was created not only for ourselves, but this is a certain message to the society: who we are, what values we have, which standards and rules we stick to,” said Tatsiana Reviaka, the President of the Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House.
The purpose of these Principles is to foster responsible corporate culture in the human rights community, which will contribute to raising public trust to and respect for the human rights community, taking into account the social importance of human rights work. The adherence to the Principles is the moral duty of every human rights defender.
Tatsiana Reviaka also stressed that the Principles are intended to integrate the human rights community. “When the development of the Principles just started, there were concerns that the set standards would not unite, but divide: those are real human right defenders and those are not. But at the end we can say that the principles are uniting for human rights defenders: if you are defending and promoting human rights, adhere to the principle of universality and do it by peaceful means, then you are acting according to the human rights standards. But if one of these components “falls out”, then maybe your activity in a certain direction is important and useful, but it shouldn’t be called human rights activity. You can not support the death penalty or oppose LGBT and refugees and consider it human rights defender position.”
The Principles of Human Rights Work apply to relations between human rights defenders and to relations of human rights defenders with victims of human rights violations, public authorities, international organizations, civil society organizations, other professional communities, and the media.
“In my opinion, the work on the Principles has opened a very important debate about the human rights protection standards, self-identification of certain organizations and individuals as human rights defenders. Probably, this debate will not be easy, but I hope that it will encourage to a deeper understanding of both the concept of human rights, and human rights standards,” said Tatsiana Reviaka.
The document applies to the Belarusian human rights organizations and human rights defenders in their individual capacity and is open for the accession.