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Human Rights Defenders are Critical Players

Human Rights Defenders are Critical Players in Advocacy

Human rights defenders play an important role in promoting and protecting the rights of people around the world, serving as guardians for dignity, justice and freedom. They promote awareness of human rights issues and abuses, provide important information on the promotion of human rights and share their expertise on local conditions, said Dr Purna Sen, Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat.

She said the Commonwealth values the support and advocacy work of human rights defenders in promoting the realisation of citizens’ rights, serving as important partners in the promotion and delivery of human rights for all. Dr Sen stated that this year is particularly significant as it marks the 10th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders.

“Human rights defenders provide useful knowledge, assessment and advice at the local and national levels that helps to inform the work we do in member countries,” said Dr Sen. “Their involvement at the grassroots provides us with insights into the practical implementation of human rights principles. Their co-operation can help us all to address the gaps in human rights practices in our member countries.”

Dr Sen commended the human rights defenders for their dedication and bravery, particularly those who face sometimes dangerous situations in their advocacy work. In their efforts to promote justice, equality and fairness to individuals and communities, many human rights defenders themselves have faced threats, abuse and physical danger. She added that they too need protection to undertake their valuable work.

“I applaud the commitment and bravery of human rights defenders. They have made meaningful contributions to our awareness of the rights and wrongs of the justice system, the political system or the cultural mores that have infringed on human rights. We are all entitled to lead lives that are free from fear of persecution, discrimination and violence – physical, emotional and psychological. The work of human rights defenders is not easy and their steadfastness in the face of adversity is admirable.”

Dr Sen stated that the human rights defenders also need the support of civil society, as well as international organisations such as the United Nations and the Commonwealth in building solidarity through co-operation.

“We will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December – this Declaration promotes universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. On this occasion we also acknowledge the contributions of human rights defenders in the Commonwealth and all over the world. They have helped to shine a light into the dark corners that have been ignored or poorly addressed for too long. These human rights defenders have appealed to our conscience and the shared principles that bring us together,” said Dr Sen.

She welcomed the appointment of Ms Margaret Sekaggya as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders in March this year. Ms Sekaggya is also the Chair of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions where she has continued to promote and protect human rights by taking a lead in strengthening this network.


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