New UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Appointed

Human Rights House Foundation welcomes the appointment of Mary Lawlor as the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. The appointment was made during the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council.

“Mary is ideal for the UN mandate. She is a globally recognised advocate for human rights defenders and a true champion of their cause. We have worked with and known Mary for many years and congratulate her on this important next role. Under her leadership as its founder, Front Line Defenders became one the most crucial organisations for the protection and promotion of defenders at risk internationally. We are certain that Mary will excel in this new position and continue to be a relentless champion for human rights defenders around the world.”

Maria Dahle, Director, Human Rights House Foundation

Human Rights House Foundation warmly congratulates the new Special Rapporteur. This mandate is vitally important and Mary Lawlor steps into this role at a critical moment. Read HRHF’s full welcome letter to the new Special Rapporteur.

About the new Special Rapporteur on HRDs

Mary Lawlor is a globally recognized human rights defender who has lived a professional life dedicated to human rights. For decades, Mary Lawlor has been a leading figure in the protection and promotion of human rights defenders. In 2001 she founded Front Line Defenders in order to meet security and protection needs of human rights defenders at risk around the world. Prior to FLD, she was the director of Amnesty International’s Irish section for more than a decade.

The appointment of the new mandate holder comes at a critical time for human rights defenders. Globally, we are experiencing a decline in freedom for human rights defenders as well as on-going challenges to them in their work.  These challenges – arbitrary arrest, harassment, intimidation, home arrest, and travel bans, to name a few – are faced by human rights defenders across the network of Human Rights Houses.

Human Rights House Foundation welcomes the opportunity to continue to support the Special Rapporteur in sharing expertise and developments and increasing direct contact between the Special Rapporteur and civil society. We are committed to continuing this close cooperation as she seeks to further deepen the UN and member states’ commitments towards human rights defenders.

We also wish to express our gratitude to Michel Forst for his two terms as Special Rapporteur. Among his many achievements, Mr. Forst made an unofficial visit to Belarus in April 2019 and used that visit to meet with local human rights defenders and informally encourage progress on the part of the government with regard to its human rights defenders. This recognition of local human rights defenders by mandate holders is critical and we thank Mr. Forst and wish him well.

Top photo: Front Line Defenders


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