On 17 September 2021, the UN Secretary-General released his annual report on reprisals and intimidation against individuals and groups seeking to cooperate with the UN on human rights. Once again, the report identifies a high number of threats and attacks aimed at retaliating against defenders and discouraging cooperation with the UN.
Human rights defenders are people who act with humanity, serve humanity and who contribute to and bring out the best in humanity. They are key to our daily lives – they work so our governments are more transparent and accountable, our environment cleaner and safer, our schools and workplaces fairer, and our futures more sustainable. As human rights defenders confront power, privilege and prejudice, they frequently face a wide range of risks and threats, including against their organisations and their families, friends and loved ones.
Despite their vital contribution, both some governments and non-State actors are still seeking to silence defenders as they expose injustices and demand accountability for all.
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders is integral to their protection and recognition, globally. It gathers and responds to information on the situation of defenders around the world, engages constructively with governments and non-State actors and provides expert recommendations to promote the effective implementation of the Declaration on human rights defenders (‘the Declaration’).
In 2019, the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly supported the vital work of defenders. The Human Rights Council recognised the critical role of environmental human rights defenders in protecting natural ecosystems, addressing climate change, attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The General Assembly passed by consensus a resolution focusing on implementation of the Declaration and some key elements of protection policy; the resolution also attracted a record number of co-sponsors.
At the 43rd session of the Council, States will consider a resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for three years. This is a key opportunity for States and the Council to demonstrate their support and recognition for the indispensable role defenders play to ensure that all people enjoy freedom, dignity, justice and equality.
Civil society organisations* from across the world are calling on all States to support the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur by:
- Participating positively in the negotiations on the resolution,
- Presenting early co-sponsorship of the text,
- Resisting any attempts to dilute the mandate or State obligations, and
- Supporting consensus renewal of the mandate.
List updated on a rolling basis*
- International Service For Human Rights (ISHR)
- Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
- Sudanese Development Initiative
- Partnership for Justice- Nigeria
- Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
- European Center for Democracy and Human Rights
- Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business
- Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
- Centro de Justicia y Paz – Cepaz
- World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
- International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
- Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)
- Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
- Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience – EU
- Article 19
- The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
- Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
- DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
- The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – ILGA World
- Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
- Global Witness
- Association for Advancement of Legal Right
- Emonyo Yefwe International – Kenya
- International Centre for Ethnic Studies- Sri Lanka
- Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
- Peace Brigades International
- MENA Rights Group
- Brot für die Welt
- child rights connect
- Amnesty International
- Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH)
- Coalition Burkinabé des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CBDDH)
- Dominicans for Justice and Peace
- International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)
- Coalition Malienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (COMADDH)
- Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains
- Seguridad en Democracia (SEDEM)
- The ICCA Consortium
- Natural Justice
- URG (Universal Rights Group)
- World Assembly of Youth (WAY)
- Forest Peoples Programme
- The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
- Freedom House
- UIA-IROL (the Institute for the Rule of Law of the International Association of Lawyers)
- Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID)
- Publish What You Pay UK
- Publish What You Pay Australia
- Transparency International – Initiative Madagascar
- Witness Radio Uganda
- Le comité de solidarité avec les victimes de violations des Droits Humains en Mauritanie
- Protection International
- Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
In Difesa Di, per i diritti umani e chi li difende – Italy
Terra Nuova – Italy
COSPE – Italy
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Save the Children
International Accountability Project
The United Church of Canada
Transparency Coalition fur Extractive Industries – Yemen (TCEI)
The Liberty Community Foundation (Kazakhstan)
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Hannah youth organization (Iraq)
On 7 September 2021, the International Service for Human Rights facilitated a multi-stakeholder dialogue with United Nations experts, the International Chamber of Commerce and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to discuss about Business, Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders.
This week in an online event, 10 candidate States publicly spoke to an audience of around 200 people on their pledges as incoming Human Rights Council members for 2022 – 2024. They also faced questions on pressing human rights issues from both States and civil society organisations.
At the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR along with the Informal Sector Service Center presented a joint statement in Nepal’s Universal Periodic Review expressing concern about the situation of human rights defenders in the country.
A new ISHR report maps China’s presence and influence in the UN economic and social affairs system, highlighting potential risks for civil society participation and the promotion and protection of human rights.
In the first case on violence against trans people heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Court held Honduras responsible for the transfemicide of human rights defender Vicky Hernández.
Public servants, journalists, and indigenous defenders have suffered targeting and reprisals from an increasingly brazen government, confirming the urgent need to adopt legal mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders.
As part of a response to increased human right violations in the Philippines, over 100 NGOs and individuals called on the Supreme Court for enhanced legal protections for human rights defenders.
It's difficult to encapsulate such a complex year in a word, but "interconnected" is one that comes to mind when reflecting on 2020. We are proud to have remained deeply interconnected with defenders and to have supported, protected and amplified their work at the national, regional and international levels. With them, the "essential workers" of our times, we strive for a 2021 full of freedom, equality, dignity and justice.
On May 8, 2021, Hassanna Abba, member of the executive board of the League for the Protection of Sahrawi Prisoners in Moroccan Prisons (LPPS) was physically attacked by Moroccan police officers. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), ACAT-France and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) strongly condemn this aggression and call on the Moroccan authorities to conduct an investigation and to immediately cease any act of harassment against Hassana Abba and all Sahrawi human rights defenders.
Germain Rukuki's right to a swift and fair appeal against his prison sentence must be upheld, says a coalition of 43 NGOs in a joint letter to Burundi authorities.
ISHR joined 64 organisations* from around the world to call on the Egyptian authorities, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to take immediate action to end the Egyptian authorities’ wholesale crackdown on independent organisations and peaceful dissent.