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What rights for human rights defenders?

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What rights for human rights defenders?

Essentially, the Declaration provides specific rights and protections for human rights defenders.


Human rights defenders have the following rights:


  • To seek protection and realisation of human rights at the national and international levels

This means that a defender has the right to conduct his/her activities in the field of human rights, and this wherever he/she wants.


  • To conduct human rights work individually or in association with others and therefore, to form associations and non-governmental organisations


Human rights defenders can act alone or with other persons, in a free environment, in an association, a NGO, in a community or any other structure, according to their convenience. They also have the right to establish associations or NGOs without anyone stopping them or make it difficult for them.


  • To meet or assembly peacefully


As long as they act in with peaceful means, human rights defenders cannot be deprived of their rights of association and assembly.


  • To seek, obtain, receive and hold information related to human rights


This right is essential for human rights defenders in order to conduct their activities of collection and dissemination of the information regarding human rights violation. The Declaration ensures them to freely conduct searches or to collect any evidence from victims or witnesses of human rights violations in order to, for instance, publish a report on a specific situation.


  • To develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance


Human rights defenders have to be able to freely express themselves on any situation related to human rights or even disseminate their ideas, values, knowledge on fundamental freedoms and all that without being preoccupied of any reprisal. For example, a human right defender can, without fear of reprisals, publish a report, organise a conference to reach the general public or speak in front of media or through the website of a NGOs.


  • To submit to governmental bodies, agencies and organisations concerned by public affairs criticisms and proposals in order to improve their functioning and to draw attention to any aspect of their work that may impede the realization of human rights


The Declaration aims to pacify the relations between States, public authorities and human rights defenders by encouraging mutual contact. Alerting the public authorities is a key action in the protection and promotion of human rights,. In that regard, defenders must be able to carry it out freely and peacefully, without any fear of reprisals. For example, a human rights defender is entitled to inform States about human rights violations so it can act to end these violations.


  • To benefit from an effective remedy


Each human rights defender has the right to benefit from an effective remedy and to be protected in case of human rights violations committed against him. When the defender sees his rights violated, he can submit a complaint and make examine his situation by an independent, impartial and competent authority. This also means that in case of judicial decision, the State must repair the violation and act without any delay.


  • To offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other advice and assistance in defence of human rights


This right is essential for human rights defenders in order to help victims, especially when victims come to them to be represented before court or because they seek information on protection procedures.


  • To attend public hearings, proceedings and trials in order to assess their compliance with national law and international human rights obligations


With this right at their disposal, human rights defenders can examine the actions and decisions of the State while it dispenses Justice. Thus, defenders can make sure that actions taken by the State are in compliance with human rights. They can conduct human rights promotion and protection activities by ensuring that the State applies its international human rights obligations.


  • To unhindered access to international organisations competent to receive and examine communicaions relating to human rights and to freely dialogue with them


This means that each defender must be able, without any obstacles, to contact an international organisation, such as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and to inform him about human rights violations.


  • To effective protection under national law in reaction against or opposing, through peaceful means, acts or omissions attributable to the State that result in violations of human rights


States must protect human rights defenders like any other person when they report a human rights violation and even if this violation was committed by the State itself. Human rights defenders should have the same rights as anyone and should not be discriminated against due to what they are, what they do and what they denounce.


  • To solicit, receive and utilize resources for the purpose of protecting human rights, including the receipt of funds from abroad


Human rights defender can obtain funds to finance their promotion and protection human rights activities. This means that they can freely receive funds without being forbidden to access and use them as they wish to protect and promote human rights.


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