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UN experts urge states to boost protection for rights defenders

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June 4, 2018 (GENEVA) – United Nations human rights experts have called on states to ramp up measures to safeguard and support human rights defenders at a time when they are coming under increasing pressure globally, adding that civil society’s role in the international human rights system is vital.

A general view of participants during the 29th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 3 July 2015 - (UN Photo)

In a statement issued at the end of a meeting initiated by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders to mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the experts acknowledged civil society’s crucial contribution to promoting human rights and sustainable development, and maintaining peace and security.

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders met with experts who monitor the 10 core international human rights treaties in New York on 23 May.

It called on human rights defenders and civil society to work more closely with the UN treaty bodies.

“The Treaty Bodies consider any interference, intimidation, abuse, threat, violence, reprisal or undue restrictions against human rights defenders as constituting violations of States parties’ obligations towards the realization of the rights set out in the Treaties,” the statement added.

However, the calls reiterates the vital and central role played by human rights defenders to promote and support the application of the fundamental rights enshrined in the core international human rights treaties.

It further contextualizes the importance and relevance of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, which “reaffirms, is underpinned by, and elaborates binding human rights obligations, including rights set out in the Treaties, and is relevant to the interpretation and implementation of the Treaties".

It urged states to strengthen institutions responsible for safeguarding and supporting the work of human rights defenders, and to amend or repeal any legislation that criminalizes or obstructs the work of human rights defenders.

“This document constitutes a major step forward in the protection of human rights defenders, and underscores the vital role they have in monitoring and reporting to the Treaty Bodies system to ensure States’ compliance with international law,” said the Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Virginia Brás-Gomes.

“As the global human rights movement faces greater restrictions and increased challenges, human rights defenders more than ever need to be encouraged and protected," she added.

The statement reaffirms that all individuals should be able to engage with the treaty bodies free from all forms of interference, intimidation, abuse, threat, violence, reprisal, or undue restriction.

(ST)

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