“Human rights defender is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights. Human rights defenders are identified above all by what they do and it is through a description of their actions and of some of the contexts in which they work that the term can best be explained. The examples given of the activities of human rights defenders are not an exhaustive list.

To be a human rights defender, a person can act to address any human right (or rights) on behalf of individuals or groups. Human rights defenders seek the promotion and protection of civil and political rights as well as the promotion, protection and realization of economic, social and cultural rights. Human rights defenders address any human rights concerns, which can be as varied as, for example,

  • summary executions
  • torture
  • arbitrary arrest and detention
  • female genital mutilation
  • discrimination
  • employment issues
  • forced evictions
  • access to health care
  • and toxic waste and its impact on the environment

Defenders are active in support of human rights as diverse as the rights to life, to food and water, to the highest attainable standard of health, to adequate housing, to a name and a nationality, to education, to freedom of movement and to non-discrimination.They sometimes address the rights of categories of persons, for example women’s rights, children’s rights, the rights of indigenous persons, the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the rights of national, linguistic or sexual minorities.

They seek to promote and protect human rights in the context of a variety of challenges, including HIV/AIDS, development, migration, structural adjustment policies and political transition.” (For more information see the UNFactsheet 29).

Denouncing the attacks towards human right defenders at the national, regional and international level

The rise of security problems related to the work in favour of all Human Rights led to the creation of specialised security units within the national institutions and within regional and International-governmental Organisations. There are specific appeals for certain professional categories such as journalists and trade unions representatives. To denounce threats and attacks and to draft a request, it may be useful to follow the Guidelines for submitting alleged violations of the Declaration on Human Rights [...]

Online Training on Security and Protection

Course on “Security and protection for human rights defenders and social organizations” Summary Designed for: NGOs, social organisations and individuals. Duration: 60 hours over 3 months (approximately 5 hours per week) Distance learning course via Internet (using the Moodle Virtual Platform) Hosted by PI training staff (protection experts with extensive training experience in many countries) Due to start in mid 2011 (initially in Spanish, and later on in English and [...]

Protection Manuals for Defenders

To support trainings in security management, Protection International drafted the New Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders (3rd Edition) On the basis of the analysis of risks, the guide enables the defenders to incorporate the question of security in their programmes and working plans. This Manual also embodies the subject of security workshop organised in the field by Protection International. Certain professionals like journalists can also benefit from guides and specialised training: The International News Safety Institute (INSI) offers journalist [...]

Reinforcing Ethics and Professionalism

  The quality of defenders’ work is intimately linked to security issues. Accordingly, we notice that one of the means used to undermine defenders and bar their work is to discredit them by questioning their professionalism, their independence and their ethics. To counter these accusations, we must pay due attention to the quality of our reports, publications, communications and adhere to a code of professional ethics. To improve the quality [...]

Risk Analysis

In many countries and regions of the world, the work in favour of human rights is an activity that embodies risks. The risk of being assassinated, tortured, harassed, detained, threatened, &hellip The risk of being “disappeared” The risk of losing our job, of being accused of being a “terrorist agent” or of being at the mercy of “foreign governments” The risk to see our spouse or our children also threatened [...]

Useful Links

Amnesty International – Defenders Section dedicated to the defenders programm of Amnesty International http://web.amnesty.org/pages/hrd-index-eng Defending Women – Defending Rights The International Campaign on Women Human Rights Defenders is an international initiative for the recognition and protection of women who are activists advocating for the realization of all human rights for all. The campaign asserts that women fighting for human rights and particularly focusing on women’s human rights face specific violations [...]