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Essential guide to the right to defend human rights

GENEVA (27 July 2011) – “It is not easy being a human rights defender; in too many countries it is dangerous, plain dangerous,” said United Nations Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya launching her essential guide to the right to defend human rights*, a key document aimed at supporting those who stand for our rights by increasing understanding of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders and awareness on the dangers they face.

“Despite the efforts to implement the Declaration, human rights defenders continue to face numerous violations,” Ms. Sekaggya said. “I hope that this essential guide, the new ‘Commentary to the Declaration on human rights defenders’, will contribute to the development of a safer and more conducive environment for defenders to be able to carry out their work.”

The ‘Commentary to the Declaration on human rights defenders’ is a 100-page downloadable document which maps out the rights provided for in the Declaration, based mostly on information received and reports produced by the two Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders, Hina Jilani (2000-2008) and Margaret Sekaggya (since 2008), during the past eleven years.

From the rights to protection and freedom of opinion and expression, to the rights to communicate with international bodies and to access funding, the ‘Commentary’ analyses what these rights entail and what is needed to ensure their implementation. It also addresses the most common restrictions and violations faced by defenders, and provides recommendations to facilitate States’ implementation of each right.

“More than 12 years after its adoption, the Declaration on human rights defenders is an instrument that is not sufficiently known and I would like to build on the efforts to raise awareness about it and the crucial role of human rights defenders,” Ms. Sekaggya said. “This essential guide also offers a comprehensive reference document for journalists covering the situation of human rights defenders in their countries, their regions and the world.”

For ease of reference the ‘Commentary’ is arranged in 10 sections, each addressing a right in the Declaration, namely: the right to right to be protected, the right to freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of association, the right to access and communicate with international bodies, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to protest, the right to develop and discuss new human rights ideas, the right to an effective remedy and the right to access funding. A final section addresses permissible derogations to these rights.

(*) Download your copy of the Commentary to the Declaration: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Defenders/CommentarytoDeclarationondefendersJuly2011.pdf

Margaret Sekaggya, a lawyer from Uganda, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in March 2008 by the UN Human Rights Council. She is independent from any Government and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/index.htm

Check the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/freedom.htm

For media inquiries, please contact Dolores Infante (Tel: +41 22 917 9730 / email: dinfante@ohchr.org).

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