Draft Resolution on Human Rights Defenders – Open Letter to Member States of the UN General Assembly
24 November 2015 4:37 pm
To: All Member States of the United Nations General Assembly
We write to you as a group of human rights defenders and civil society organizations located across the world working at national, regional and international levels. We write in regard to the draft resolution entitled ”Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection” currently being advanced in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, and due to be adopted Wednesday 25 November 2015.
We urge your government to support the above mentioned resolution and to reject amendments tabled by the African Group and supported by the African Group, China and Iran, designed to weaken the text.
Among other things, the proposed amendments remove references to the legitimacy of the work of defenders, delete or weaken language regarding the need for their protection, and introduce notions that States should only support and enable their work ‘as appropriate’, rather than in accordance with the Declaration and other obligations arising under international human rights law.
Human rights defenders make a vital contribution to the promotion and respect for human rights, democratic processes, securing and maintaining peace and security, and advancing development in our countries. However, in doing this work, defenders often face a range of violations and abuses at the hands of State and non-State actors. States must acknowledge the role of defenders and the specific risks they face, and commit to ensuring their protection.
Fifteen years ago, all States agreed to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including State obligations to protect all human rights defenders working on all human rights. This commitment has been reiterated and built upon in subsequent General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. We are therefore extremely concerned to hear that the above mentioned delegations have objected to several core elements of the draft resolution.
Based on consultations with over 500 defenders from 111 States, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders found that in the vast majority of States the situation for human rights defenders is deteriorating in law and in practice. He concluded that a lack of awareness regarding their vital and legitimate work, combined with a lack of political commitment and weak institutional arrangements for their protection, is placing them, their organisations and families at elevated risk.
The resolution as drafted reflects a number of these findings and makes a series of recommendations for States and other actors. Importantly, this year’s text includes a key focus on the implementation of the resolution itself. This will hopefully prompt States and other actors to move beyond rhetoric in addressing the challenges faced by human rights defenders and take action to ensure the implementation of the calls in the resolution.
We urge all States to live up to their human rights commitments by supporting this resolution, by rejecting amendments designed to weaken it, and by taking concrete steps to protect human rights defenders.