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National protection

National legal protection for human rights defenders is essential for them to do their work safely. In order to facilitate awareness and understanding of developments, ISHR collates latest developments in national legal instruments for defenders and compares them to the Model law.

ISHR works to support human rights defenders to strengthen their national legal recognition and protection, providing legal and technical guidance to Civil Society Organisations and States developing and implementing laws, policies and mechanisms that protect human rights defenders. Find further analysis from ISHR on legislative protection.

Below map shows developments in national legal instruments for human rights defenders. It intends to complement existing resources on human rights defender protection, and provide a short summarised comparison of each instrument to the Model Law for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders.

Protection Instruments

This map shows the countries where there have been developments in legal instruments regarding human rights defenders. References to instruments in this map includes laws, policies, protection mechanisms and guidelines.

Show countries where instruments are:

In Burkina Faso

  • 1 law adopted

Adopted in 2017, the law contains several rights in the Model Law, albeit in a simpler form. There are obligations on the State, but not all in the Model Law. It includes criminal sanctions for crimes committed against HRDs. While the law itself doesn’t create a protection mechanism, one was established through the law establishing the NHRI.

detailed overview

In Côte d’Ivoire

  • 1 law and 1 decree adopted

The Law, when complemented by the Decree, is comprehensive and contains almost all provisions of the Model Law, albeit in a simplified form. However, obligations of human rights defenders in the Decree are broad (i.e. ‘not spreading troubling information and presenting annual activity reports) and could be used to restrict their rights. The protection mechanism’s functions are broad and lack specific protection measures.

detailed overview

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • 2 laws adopted
  • 3 laws under review by Parliament, 1 draft law before Parliament

There are five instruments relevant to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 1. Senate draft law initially drafted by civil society and modified by the Senate. It is simple and does not create a protection mechanism; 2. National Assembly draft law initially prepared by civil society and amended by the National Assembly. While it recognises rights in the Model Law, it also contains many restrictive provisions. 3. NHRI draft law is comprehensive and practically analogous to the Model Law 4. South Kivu Provincial Edict is short and missing many rights from the Model Law 5. North Kivu Provincial Edict is short and contains only some rights from the Model Law.

detailed overview

In Mali

  • 1 law and 1 decree adopted

The Law (adopted 2018) and Decree contain several substantive rights from the Model Law, albeit in undetailed language. Regretfully, the Implementation Decree and Decision limit the law’s application to a small subset of human rights defenders.

detailed overview

In Guinea

  • 1 draft law submitted to Minister of National Unity and Citizenship

The law, prepared by civil society, is comprehensive and contains almost all rights and obligations enshrined in the Model Law, albeit not in as much detail. A positive aspect is that Chapter IV establishes that nothing in the law can affect any more favourable provisions for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders contained in other national or international instruments.

detailed overview

In Sierra Leone

  • 1 draft law under review by the attorney general

Draft is simple and comprehensive, containing most of human rights defenders’ rights and state obligations enshrined in the Model Law. Protection Mechanism is broadly established with clear purposes.

detailed overview

In Togo

  • 1 draft law submitted to the Minister of Human Rights

Short and comprehensive draft containing most rights and obligations of the Model Law, albeit simply listed.

detailed overview

In Benin

  • 1 draft law submitted to the Minister of Justice

The Draft contains most rights and obligations in the Model Law, but is undetailed. Currently on hold, Civil Society Organisations restarting the process.

detailed overview

In the Central African Republic

  • 1 draft law being prepared by CSOs and presented to Government

The Draft contains most rights and obligations in the Model Law, however, most rights are explicitly listed within only a few articles and not adequately detailed.

detailed overview

In Madagascar

  • 1 draft law being finalised by the Haut Conseil pour la Défense de la Démocratie et de l`État de Droit (HCDDED)

Draft is comprehensive, containing all rights and obligations in the Model Law, with similar text. The articles related to the Protection Mechanism are less comprehensive, with several aspects in the Model Law absent or incomplete.

detailed overview

In Niger

  • 1 draft law submitted to the Minister of Justice

Draft contains almost all rights and obligations in the Model Law. Articles establishing a Protection Mechanism are scant and with few substantive provisions.

detailed overview

In Uganda

  • 1 draft law under review in Parliament

Draft still being prepared, current draft includes important rights contained in the Model Law, others not properly developed. State obligations in a similar state. Protection Mechanism not yet properly developed.

detailed overview

In United Republic of Tanzania

  • National policy not adopted

The Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (Thuman rights defenderC) was developing a National Policy for human rights defenders and lobbied for the inclusion of an article for the protection of human rights defenders in the new Constitution, drafted in 2013. This initiative was dropped when elected members who supported the proposal left the National Assembly. In mid-2021, after the change of government, conversations resumed, with no recent developments.

In Senegal

  • 1 draft law being reviewed by civil society

Draft contains most rights in the Model Law, but State obligations are lacking.

detailed overview

In Zambia

  • 1 draft law in preparation by civil society

A draft law has been developed collaboratively by the Zambia Law Development Commission, the National Human Rights Commission and a diverse group of civil society representatives. The process included consultations in 2019 and 2021 with civil society and HRDs, and its content has been guided by the Model Law. Next steps in the process include consultations outside of the capital, and then the country to consider best practices.

In Brazil

  • 1 protection mechanism and 1 decree adopted

Decree 6044 establishes a short national policy containing elements for human rights defender protection. It is one of few analysed policies that calls for campaigns to recognise the value of human rights defenders. It is complemented by Decree 9937, which elaborates on protection measures and adds an appeal process. Both decrees lack detail in protection measures.

detailed overview

In Colombia

  • 1 law (2020), 1 protection mechanism (2018), and 1 resolution adopted (2017)

Colombia has two protection mechanisms. One under the Ministry of Interior (MININ) and one under the ‘National Protection Unit’ (NPU). While the NPU is under the MININ and their protection mechanisms complement each other, some legal bases differ. Both establish a collective protection mechanism to protect communities and organisations.

detailed overview

In Honduras

  • 1 law and 1 decree adopted

The Law,adopted in 2015 and its’ Bylaw adopted 2016, is fairly comprehensive as compared to the Model Law, with some rights missing.

detailed overview

In Mexico

  • 1 law and 1 regulation adopted
  • 1 law pending before Congressional Committee

There are two instruments relevant to Mexico.

  1. The 2012 Law establishes a comprehensive protection mechanism, aligning mostly with the Model Law.
  2. The current draft law seeks to add substantive elements to the existing protection mechanism established in the 2012 Law, with elements related to the protection mechanism almost identical to the 2012 law.
detailed overview

In Peru

  • 1 protocol adopted

Relatively short as compared to the Model Law, however, it establishes a decently comprehensive Protection Mechanism. Its adoption in 2019 by a Ministry means it contains no explicit State obligations.

detailed overview

In Paraguay

  • 1 protocol adopted

Relatively short and essentially a series of recommendations journalists should follow if harassed or attacked; and procedures for police to protect threatened journalists.

detailed overview

In El Salvador

  • Law not adopted. Submitted in 2018, archived in2021.

Prepared by civil society, the law is comprehensive and aligns with all elements in the Model Law, going further in some cases. The protection mechanism is comprehensive. It never left the parliament floor nor was properly discussed.

detailed overview

In Nicaragua

  • not adopted

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Acosta et al. v. Nicaragua (25 March 2017) recommended that the Nicaraguan government create a protection mechanism for human rights defenders. The Nicaraguan government has taken no steps towards compliance.

In Ecuador

  • 1 resolution adopted

Functions include receiving and submitting petitions on action against human rights defenders, risk assessments for human rights defenders; visiting persons deprived of liberty; monitoring due process; carrying out investigations; generating precautionary measures; establishing measures of obligatory and immediate compliance, public actions, and activation of international mechanisms.

In Mongolia

  • 1 law adopted

A draft was Initially prepared by civil society and based on the Model Law, but was then revised by a Parliamentary Working Group in a process that had few opportunities for civil society input. The Bill that was adopted shortly afterwards in 2021, became the first human rights defenders law in Asia, however, it contains some articles which could limit human rights defenders’ rights. The Bill states that the NHRI must create the protection mechanism.

detailed overview

In the Philippines

  • 2 draft laws, before Senate and before House of Representatives

1. Draft presented to the Senate in February 2018. It is an almost verbatim transcript of the Model Law;
2. Draft refiled to House of Representatives on 4 July 2022. Almost verbatim transcript of Model Law, sometimes going further. Protection Mechanism established is comprehensive. A reconciliation of lower and upper house’s bills would ultimately become law.

detailed overview

In Kazakhstan

  • 1 law in initial conversations among civil society

A draft law is currently being developed by civil society based on the Model Law, following human rights defender seminars in 2016 and 2021. The concept was presented to the Government in January 2022,  with the crackdown on protests in January 2022 providing further impetus in the need for a human rights defender protection law.

In Afghanistan

  • Not Adopted. Taliban now in power.

A Presidential Decree was enacted in 2020 to protect human rights defenders, and a Joint Commission for the Protection of Human Rights was established. The Decree aims to provide protection of human rights issues and human rights defenders. The Commission’s goals include outlining the mechanism for protecting human rights defenders and addressing the recommendations, plans and complaints of human rights defenders. However, the Joint Commission for the Protection of human rights defenders has yet to be operationalized.

In Nepal

  • 1 law under discussion by civil society

The first draft human rights defender law was developed around 10 years ago. In 2019 following a national level workshop, human rights defenders and civil society in the country agreed that the best way forward was to draft a revised human rights defender protection law to ensure a more comprehensive draft, it is intended that it will be based on the Model Law.

In Canada

  • Human rights defender guidelines adopted

‘Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders’ (2017, revised in 2019) are guidelines that outline Canada’s approach and offer practical advice for officials at Canadian missions abroad and at Headquarters to promote respect for and support human rights defenders.

Access the guidelines: Voices at Risk

In the United States of America

  • Human rights defender guidelines adopted

The ‘Guidelines for U.S. Diplomatic Mission Support to Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders’ (2021) provide guidance to US missions in third countries to support civil society and human rights defenders to continue their work without hindrance or undue restriction.

Access the national guidelines

In Finland

  • Human rights defender guidelines adopted

The ‘Public Guidelines of the Foreign Ministry of Finland on the implementation of the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders’ (2014)  are based on the EU Guidelines and Finland’s Human Rights Strategy of the Foreign Service. They encourage Finnish diplomatic missions to take an active role in promoting, protecting and supporting human rights defenders in third countries.  

Download the national guidelines

In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

  • Human rights defender guidelines adopted

The ‘UK Support for Human Rights Defenders’ (2019) outlines the importance of human rights defenders to the UK and how the government can support them.

Download the national guidelines

In Switzerland

  • Human rights defender guidelines adopted

The ‘Swiss Guidelines on human rights defenders’ (2013, revised in 2019) aim to raise awareness among mission and head office staff on problems faced by human rights defenders, encourage a consolidated bilateral and multilateral approach to improving the protection of human rights defenders and set out specific action to provide efficient and consistent support to them.

Download the national guidelines

In Norway

  • Human rights defender guidelines adopted

‘Norway’s efforts to support human rights defenders. Guide for the foreign service’ (2010) are guidelines to help the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the missions in third countries to systematise measures and intensify efforts to support human rights defenders and their work.

Download the national guidelines

In Ireland

  • Human rights defender guidelines adopted

Guidelines for Irish Embassies and Missions on Human Rights Defenders (2010) publicise the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and take action to support human rights defenders at risk.

Download the national guidelines

In Belgium

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted
The EU Guidelines (2008) are a tool for missions of EU Member States and contain recommendations on supporting human rights defenders in non-EU countries, as well as in multilateral fora. They apply to the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
Some EU countries, like Finland, have also adopted their own country-specific guidelines that complement these regional ones.
Download the EU guidelines

In Austria

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted
The EU Guidelines (2008) are a tool for missions of EU Member States and contain recommendations on supporting human rights defenders in non-EU countries, as well as in multilateral fora. They apply to the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
Some EU countries, like Finland, have also adopted their own country-specific guidelines that complement these regional ones.
Download the EU guidelines

In Bulgaria

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted
The EU Guidelines (2008) are a tool for missions of EU Member States and contain recommendations on supporting human rights defenders in non-EU countries, as well as in multilateral fora. They apply to the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
Some EU countries, like Finland, have also adopted their own country-specific guidelines that complement these regional ones.
Download the EU guidelines

In Czechia

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Denmark

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Estonia

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In France

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Germany

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Greece

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Hungary

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Italy

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Lithuania

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Luxembourg

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Malta

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In the Netherlands

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Poland

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Portugal

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Romania

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Slovakia

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Slovenia

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Spain

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Sweden

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Latvia

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Cyprus

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

In Croatia

  • Human rights defender EU guidelines adopted

See here for the Observatory on public policies for defenders by Protection International which follows national processes and compiles relevant analyses and updates. 

Using this map

Clicking on a country will show basic information on the instrument. Through the country-details panel you can access a summary of that instrument as compared to the Model Law for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders, as well as a link to the instrument itself. Some countries have more than one instrument, such as where different instruments exist at different levels (national & provincial), where there are complementary instruments, or where different drafts have been prepared by different bodies.

Key terms

What Instruments are included in this map?

Specific laws, policies or protocols for the recognition, promotion and protection of human rights defenders.

National mechanisms that function to protect human rights defenders.

Provide guidance to public authorities and diplomatic missions on steps and measures to support human rights defenders.

What does each status mean?

Instrument has been enacted and is in force.

Instrument was presented for adoption and was not adopted, was withdrawn or was archived.

Instrument is under consultation, being drafted, or before the competent authority.

Disclaimers

These analyses are specific comparisons only, they do not consider the wider national legal frameworks nor the extent to which HRDs’ rights are protected in other laws, policies or jurisprudence. 

We do our best to keep these summaries updated as processes develop, but please send through updates or comments to: [email protected].

 

Our thanks go to the Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN in Geneva and Wilsdorf for its support in the development of this interactive map.