Lesson Series 59: The protection of human rights defenders

The Issue

In a region where the realization of human rights is low, and where governments and public institutions are responsible for many rights abuses, human rights defenders are viciously targeted for exposing such abuse and helping victims to obtain redress. It is in societies where all manner of rights are routinely denied ‘be they the right to food, land or due process’ and where the law is used to protect those in power, that groups and individuals working to promote human rights are particularly vital. Not only do they identify rights violations, but they also work to address them. Their work serves not only as immediate intervention for victims of abuse, but also as a beacon for others, whether victims, social activists or fellow defenders. It opens up a little more space for the discussion and practice of rule of law and good governance. Their protection is therefore particularly important.

Human rights defenders should be protected not least of all for themselves; they have every right to work towards the realization of norms and principles set forth some 60 years ago, which have since become part of international law.


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