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High Commissioner: protect human rights defenders

Over 100 human rights defenders from some 90 countries met in Dublin, Ireland from 10-12 February for the 5th Dublin Platform on Human Rights Defenders. The meeting was organised by Front Line, an international foundation for the protection of human rights defenders based in the Irish capital.

UN Human Rights Chief with Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Front Line delegates - Front Line

Human rights defenders act to promote and protect the human rights of individuals or groups everywhere. They are often the targets of repression, restrictions and abuse in weak or emerging democracies as well as in States with long-established democratic traditions. Mary Lawlor, Director of Front Line, noted an increase in the number of human rights defenders killed in recent years.  The foundation recorded at least 24 such deeaths in 2009.

The Dublin meeting aimed to analyse and expose the reality of repression of human rights activists, prioritize sharing of experience and make practical recommendations to influence thinking at the international level.

In her opening remarks, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay reminded the assembly that States must protect human rights defenders in compliance with human rights standards and with the Human Rights Council resolution on cooperation with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights adopted in October 2009.

“States also bear the primary responsibility to ensure that acts of intimidation and violence against human rights advocates and victims are punished.  To that end, States must investigate violations and prosecute perpetrators irrespective of their affiliation. In order to do so States may need to carry out necessary reforms to improve access to justice for victims and their defenders, apply the rule of law and ensure the independence of judges and lawyers”, she said.

The High Commissioner also praised the work of civil society which has been instrumental in the development of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including the recent adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin also paid tribute to human rights defenders. “Human rights defenders put their own lives at risk to break the deafening silence of indifference and complacency. Without human rights defenders, the voices of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society would not be heard.”

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekkagya informed participants that her report to the next Human Rights Council session in March would review the security and protection of human rights defenders.

12 February 2010