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Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

About the mandate

Human rights defenders (HRDs) are all persons, who individually or in association with others, act to promote or protect human rights peacefully. This mandate was created to:

  • promote the effective implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in cooperation and dialogue with Governments and other actors;
  • study developments and challenges on the right to promote and protect human rights and seek, receive and respond to information on the situation of human rights defenders;
  • recommend effective strategies to better protect human rights defenders;
  • integrate a gender perspective and pay particular attention to women human rights defenders.

The Human Rights Commission first established the mandate on the situation of human rights defenders in 2000. The mandate was most recently renewed by the Human Rights Council in 2020 with decision 43/115 and resolution 43/16.

Learn more about the mandate, human rights defenders and the challenges they face.

Current mandate holder

Ms Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders © UN PhotoMs. Mary Lawlor is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders since 1 May 2020. She was born and educated in Ireland and is an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Rights. She was the founder and director of Front Line Defenders (2001-2016) and Director of the Irish Section of Amnesty International (1988 to 2000). Read Ms. Lawlor's full biography.

Key documents

Fact Sheet 29 - Human Rights Defenders: Protecting the Right to Defend Human Rights

This Fact Sheet aims to support human rights defenders in their invaluable work. It is addressed primarily to State authorities, national and international non-governmental organizations, UN personnel, major private sector actors and human rights defenders themselves. The Fact Sheet is also aimed at the wider public and may be useful to journalists and others in disseminating information on the role and situation of human rights defenders.

PDF: العربية | 中文 | English | Français | русский | Español

Declaration on human rights defenders

The Declaration contains a series of principles and rights that provide for the support and protection of human rights defenders in the context of their work. The Declaration recognizes human rights and principles enshrined in human rights legally binding instruments. It was adopted by consensus by the General Assembly and therefore represents a very strong commitment by States to its implementation.

PDF: العربية | 中文 | English | Français | Русский | Español | 50+ unofficial translations

Commentary to the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders: a guide to the right to defend human rights

The Commentary to the Declaration on human rights defenders is a document aimed at increasing understanding of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders and awareness on the dangers they face.

PDF: العربية | English | Español

Latest thematic reports

Death threats and killings of human rights defenders: This report, presented at the 46th session of the HRC in 2020, analyses the situation of the killing of human rights defenders. The Special Rapporteur raises the alarm about the prevalence of killings in many parts of the world, and considers the issue of death threats that often precede the killing of human rights defenders. View report page | View document A/HRC/46/35

Special Rapporteur priorities for the mandate: This report, presented at the 75th session of the General Assembly in 2020 is the first submitted by the newly appointed mandate holder, Mary Lawlor. The report outlines her priorities and how she intends to approach and develop the subject of her mandate in the coming years. View report page | View document A/75/165

Human rights defenders operating in conflict and post-conflict situations: This report, presented at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in 2020, analyses the situation of human rights defenders operating in conflict and post- conflict areas. It addresses their critical contribution in these settings, spells out the applicable legal framework and the attached obligations, and considers current trends with respect to their protection and key rights for them to operate effectively. View report page | View document A/HRC/43/51

Latest country reports

Mission to Peru (21 Jan – 3 Feb 2020)
View document A/HRC/46/35/Add.2

Mission to Colombia (20 November – 3 December 2018)
View document A/HRC/43/51/Add.1

Mission to Mongolia (30 April – 13 May 2019)
View document A/HRC/43/51/Add.2



Latest press releases:

More press releases and statements...

Archived news
(over 3 years old)

Calls for input

Human rights defenders anti-corruption work
Deadline: 15 October 2021

Long term detention of human rights defenders
Deadline: 19 March 2021

Activities

Joint open letter on the Finance in Common Summit to be held in Paris from 10 to 12 November 2020 (Available in
English and French PDF | Word)
25 September 2020

Webinar recording: “In the shadow of COVID-19: Lessons learned on civic space and public freedoms” by UN Human Rights - Special Procedures, featuring three Special Rapporteurs and civil society representatives.
9 July 2020

Former Special Rapporteurs:

Mr. Michel Forst (France),
2014-2020

Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya (Uganda),
2008-2014

Mrs Hina Jilani (Pakistan),
2000-2008