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Human rights defenders: UN Special Rapporteur to probe their current situation in Australia

GENEVA / CANBERRA (30 September 2016) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Michel Forst will visit Australia from 4 to 18 October 2016 to assess the overall environment for human rights defenders and civil society in the country.

“Experience has taught us that human rights defenders are critical to sustaining a democratic society and strengthening the rule of law,” the expert said. “The visit is a fertile opportunity for me to consult the vibrant Australian civil society about their situation and to have a focused dialogue with the Government on ways and means to support the important work of rights defenders in the country.”

The independent expert, with the global mandate from the UN Human Rights Council to assess the promotion and protection of defenders, will gather first-hand evidence on potential challenges facing civil society organizations in Australia and explore possible actions that can help enable the environment for human rights defenders.

“I look forward to the dialogue with the Government and civil society organizations to identify concrete ways of empowering human rights defenders and supporting their vital and legitimate work,” Mr. Forst said.

During the two-week visit, at the invitation of the Australian Government, the Special Rapporteur will meet with both federal and state level officials, parliamentarians, various rights commissioners and ombudsman, as well as human rights defenders and a broad range of civil society representatives from various parts of the country.

The rights expert will visit Melbourne (3-4 Oct), Sydney (5-6 Oct), Hobart (7-9 Oct), Brisbane (12-13 Oct), Darwin (14-15 Oct) and Canberra (10-11 Oct and 16-18 Oct).

The Special Rapporteur will share his preliminary findings and recommendations at a press conference on Tuesday, 18 October 2016, at 11.30 am, at the UN Information Center, Level 1, 7 National Circuit, Barton, ACT 2600 Australia. Access to the press conference is limited to journalists.

The Special Rapporteur’s final report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in a future session.

Mr. Michel Forst (France) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2014. Michel Forst has extensive experience on human rights issues and particularly on the situation of human rights defenders. In particular, he was the Director General of Amnesty International (France) and Secretary General of the first World Summit on Human Rights Defenders in 1998.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. For more information, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Australia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/AUIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact:
In Canberra (during the visit): Ms. Julia Dean, UNIC (tel: +61 2 6270 9205 / mobile: +61 433 944 427 / dean@un.org)
In Geneva (during and after the visit): Mr. Jamshid Gaziyev (+41 79 4444 355 / +41 22 917 9183 / jgaziyev@ohchr.org) or write to defenders@ohchr.org

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Australia:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/AUIndex.aspx

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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