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“Protect the right to defend human rights” – expert on rights defenders urges the UN General Assembly

NEW YORK (24 October 2011) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya today presented to the UN General Assembly her fourth report and 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 1998 UN Declaration on human rights defenders and awareness on the dangers they face.

“Implementing the Declaration is an essential precondition for creating an environment that allows human rights defenders to carry out their work,” Ms. Sekaggya said recalling that it sets out the rights and responsibilities crucial to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. “However, more than 12 years after its adoption by the General Assembly, the Declaration is not sufficiently known either by Governments or by human rights defenders themselves.”

“The aim of the report is twofold: to increase the awareness of States of the rights provided for in the Declaration and to serve as a practical tool to defenders working to ensure respect for the rights to which they are entitled under this instrument,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur’s fourth report to the General Assembly addresses the most common restrictions and violations faced by defenders, and offers specific recommendations to help States implementing each right. It focuses on the rights provided for in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and on what the different rights entail, as well as on the various aspects necessary to ensure their implementation. The report has been further developed in the form of a Commentary to the Declaration, an on-line practical guide for States, human rights defenders and other practitioners.

For ease of reference, each section of the report addresses a right in the Declaration, namely: the 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.

Another section addresses under which circumstances States can take measures derogating from their obligations in time of public emergency. Finally, the report lays out recommendations for the implementation of each right contained in the Declaration.

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:

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

Check the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights:

For media requests please contact:
In New York: Fred Kirungi (+1 917 367 3431 / kirungi@un.org)
In Geneva: Dolores Infante (+41 22 917 9730 / dinfante@ohchr.org) or write to defenders@ohchr.org

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

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