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Mary Lawlor's first message as newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur for HRDs

Dear Friends,

Today I start as the new UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and want to begin by thanking Michel Forst for all his great work in the post over the last six years, and for all his support since I was appointed.  

I’d like to thank his advisor, Valentine Sébile, for all her work in the past and over the transition period too.

I look forward to working with the office in OHCHR as we collaborate to find ways to help protect Human Rights Defenders in these particularly difficult times.


As you know, these are difficult days for HRDs, and we will be exploring how best to support their work during and after the current global health crisis. 

The pandemic has changed the world suddenly, and forever. We’ve seen authoritarian regimes taking advantage of the current crisis to grab more power and target those defending human rights. We could lose, in the coming few months, valuable ground it took us long decades to win in establishing human rights protections. 

It is an alarming reminder of our interdependence and fragility, the weaknesses of our political systems, and the strength of individual human resilience.


My priorities in the coming years will include a focus on the killings of HRDs, the issue of HRDs serving long prison sentences, online attacks and abuse aimed at HRDS, and the safety of marginalised defenders, including those woking in remote rural areas, who are often most at physical risk. 


I’m looking forward to working with you in the coming years, and to developing together the best ways to promote that fundamental principle of the right to defend rights. 

Brian Dooley is joining me as Senior Advisor on a part-time basis from today, and his email is dooleyhumanrights@gmail.com Twitter @dooley_dooley. 

Adriana Zarraluqui, human rights officer, continues to support the mandate at OHCHR together with Fiachra BourkeThey can be contacted at defenders@ohchr.org respectively.


I hope we can start to meet in person again soon, but until then please stay in close touch.



Best wishes,


Mary Lawlor

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders


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