بسبب عملهم الشجاع، يتعرض المدافعون عن حقوق الإنسان في كثير من الأحيان إلى الاضطهاد أو المضايقة أو العقاب أو الاعتقال التعسفي أو الاحتجاز، لا سيما في البلدان التي تفتقر إلى قاعدة فعالة من القانون.
Human rights defenders from across all corners of the world gathered this week in Paris for the Human Rights Defenders World Summit, to develop a plan of action for how to protect and promote the work of activists fighting for rights, 20 years on from the first UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
After three days of discussions and strategy development spanning regional and global issues, environmental rights and women human rights defenders and the increasing attacks on human rights defenders everywhere, the momentum culminated in the presentation of a landmark action plan which will be presented to the UN in December.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who spoke at the opening ceremony said: "What human rights defenders teach us is that all of us can stand up for our rights and for the rights of others, in our neighborhoods, in our countries and all over the world. We can change the world.”
The Summit discussed calls on Governments, corporations, international financial institutions, donors and others, including the adoption of national governmental action plans, implementation of legislation to legally uphold the UN declaration, protecting defenders as a priority in foreign policy and prioritizing the protection and work of women human rights defenders, LGBT+, indigenous rights defenders and other marginalized defenders.
Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “The level of danger facing activists worldwide has reached crisis point. Every day ordinary people are threatened, tortured, imprisoned and killed for what they fight for or simply for who they are. Now is the time to act and tackle the global surge in repression of human rights defenders.”
The closing ceremony took place at the Palais de Chaillot, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed 70 years ago. The 150 defenders gathered together to set out the Action Plan and pay tribute to the men and women who work tirelessly to defend human rights around the world.
Among those in attendance over the last three days were Alice Mogwe, Secretary General of FIDH and the Director of Botswana Ditshwanelo; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia, who is calling for justice after his mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was assassinated one year ago in Malta; Anielle Franco, who is bravely campaigning on behalf of her sister, Marielle Franco, a Brazilian activist and elected councillor who was shot dead in her car seven months ago.
Hina Jilani, President of OMCT, founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and the first UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders said: “States have never given us space. It is because of human rights defenders that there is space for civil society. Seeing you all here engaged in defending human rights, I am not too pessimistic. As a movement, we have never been as global as we are now. But we have to be clear to states: you need to live up to the challenge and speak out for defenders. Human rights don’t come for free.”
A human rights defender is somebody who demands justice and dignity for us all. Some expose corruption and call for those in power to face justice. Some demand basic services, such as health, education, housing to be widely available. Some defend the right for anyone to live according to their own gender and sexual orientation. Some are women who defend the right of every woman to choose their own life freely, without being forced into marriage or maternity. Some are farmers and communities that want to protect their land from pollution and from businesses that bleed the land dry of precious resources like water and forests. They are brave - but regular - people. And they’re under attack.
Those in power, such as governments and large companies, are trying to silence human rights defenders – unfairly branding them as criminals, terrorists or “foreign agents”. Human rights defenders are locked up for speaking up. They are threatened, attacked and even murdered in horrifying numbers.
Enough is enough. It’s time we do something so bold that the governments can’t ignore us.
20 years ago, governments around the world signed a declaration, promising they would protect human rights defenders. This December, those governments will hold a special meeting at the UN to discuss the situation.
With your help, we can show that the world is watching the outcome of this meeting. Human rights defenders will hand in all your signatures and demand real protection, not just lip service.
Sign your name now, and call on governments to:
• Celebrate and protect human rights defenders, especially those who are marginalized and under attack because of their gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity and race, religion, status, ability, age, class.
• Stop attacking, smearing and stigmatizing those who fight for human rights to become a reality for every person in the world.
For this global call, we all need to join forces. Together, and with your support, our voices can be louder than ever.