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“More concerned than ever for human rights defenders” - UN

Human rights defenders are being attacked and criminalised and face growing legal and administrative restrictions, a UN human rights expert said today, calling on States to renew their commitment to the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders on the 20th anniversary of its adoption.

“The Declaration has become a milestone in the human rights project and resources have been provided for the promotion and protection of human rights defenders. However, I am more concerned than ever,” Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, said in his latest report.

“We are facing an alarming panorama for human rights defenders. Their situation is deteriorating all over the world despite States’ obligations to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.”

Forst said despite the resources provided under the Declaration for the promotion and protection of human rights defenders, more than 1,000 had been killed between 2015 and 2017.

“The systemic, widespread impunity is a very bad signal sent to the families of the victims and to anyone standing up for human rights”, the Special Rapporteur told UN General Assembly. “Beyond these attacks and killings, it is ultimately our rights, our democracies that are in great danger.”

Forst also warned that the very existence of the UN mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders was being questioned.

The Special Rapporteur said this year’s 20th anniversary celebrations presented an opportunity not only to review the situation of human rights defenders but also to set out a vision for the human rights movement for the coming years. A series of events before the end of the year will include the second Human Rights Defenders World Summit in Paris from 29-31 October. In mid-December, a high-level plenary meeting in New York will discuss good practices and new opportunities in implementation of the Declaration.

Forst said the Declaration recognises the centrality of individuals and groups to the realisation of human rights. “Human rights defenders do not heroically stand in front of or apart from the rest of us; they are each of us and among us, they are ourselves, our parents, our neighbours, our friends and colleagues,” he said.

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