International Advocacy & Resources

Dr Soraya Rahim Sobhrang, winner of the 2010 Front Line Award meeting High Representative Catherine AshtonDr Soraya Rahim Sobhrang, winner of the 2010 Front Line Award meeting High Representative Catherine Ashton

Front Line Advocacy:

Front Line works to ensure that the principles and standards set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders are known, respected and adhered to worldwide.

The Declaration, which was adopted by consensus at the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, makes clear that all Governments have a duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It states in article 1 that "'Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.'"

Front Line Board member Michel Forst outlines here the background to the development of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders .

Feedback from Human Rights Defenders

Human rights defenders tell Front Line that rapid international action can in many cases make a real difference to their security. Even where international action does not result in the release of detained human rights defenders it can often result in better treatment. In addition, international action gives moral support and solidarity to human rights defenders and encourages them to continue their work. Human rights defenders also tell us that international reactions have a preventive effect, i.e. the authorities are often less likely to repeat the repressive measures if they know they are likely to provoke a reaction. In some cases international action can be counter-productive; therefore, in its advocacy work, Front Line is always led by the views of human rights defenders or their family members about what could be most effective.

Front Line engages in advocacy for strengthened protection of human rights defenders with individual Governments and with international and regional organisations.

United Nations

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are to facilitate co-operation in international law, international security, economic development, and social equity. It was founded in 1945 at the signing of the United Nations Charter by 50 countries, replacing the League of Nations founded in 1919. There are currently 192 United Nations member states.

A key element within the UN system for the protection of human rights defenders at risk is the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Background to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

Front Line is working to ensure that the principles and standards set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders] are known, respected and adhered to worldwide. The Declaration, which was adopted by consensus at the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, makes clear that all Governments have a duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It states in article 1 that

Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.

In August 2000, Ms Hina Jilani was named by the Secretary General as Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders. Her mandate was renewed by the Commission on Human Rights in 2003 and by the Human Rights Council in 2007. In March 2008, the Human Rights Council decided to renew the mandate on human rights defenders for a period of three years. The Human Rights Council appointed Ms Margaret Sekaggya as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

In the fulfillment of the mandate, the Special Rapporteur takes up individual cases of concern with Governments, undertakes country visits, and presents annual reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on particular topics or situations of special importance regarding the promotion and protection of the rights of human rights defenders.

UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs, Margaret SekaggyaUN Special
Rapporteur on
HRDs, Margaret
Sekaggya

Front Line seeks to promote the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. Front Line sends individual cases and provides practical support to the office of the Special Rapporteur through funding an internship programme in Geneva. Front Line also seeks to facilitate access to the UN human rights mechanisms for human rights defenders.

 

 

 

 

Other useful links re United Nations

African Commission on Human and People's Rights

Established by the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights which came into force on 21 October 1986 after its adoption in Nairobi (Kenya) in 1981 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACPHR) is charged with ensuring the promotion and protection of Human and Peoples' Rights throughout the African Continent. The Commission has its headquarters in Banjul, The Gambia.

In 2004, the Special Rapporteur mandate on the protection of defenders was created within the ACPHR. The Special Rapporteur mandate was renewed in 2005, 2007 and 2009. The Special Rapporteur:

  • seeks, receives, examines and acts upon information on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa;
  • submits reports at every Ordinary Session of the African Commission;
  • cooperates and engages in dialogue with Member States, National Human Rights Institutions, relevant intergovernmental bodies, international and regional mechanisms of protection of human rights defenders, human rights defenders and other stakeholders;
  • develops and recommends effective strategies to better protect human rights defenders and to follow up on recommendations.
  • .

    Front Line has launched an internship at the African Commission on Human and People's Rights in Banjul which is intended to support the work of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) – Unit for Human Rights Defenders

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is one of two bodies in the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The other human rights body is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is located in San José, Costa Rica. The IACHR is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS). Its mandate is found in the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The IACHR represents all of the member States of the OAS. It has seven members who act independently, without representing any particular country. The members of the IACHR are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS.

On 7 December 2001, the IACHR decided to create a Human Rights Defenders Functional Unit within the Office of the Executive Secretary.

The Unit gathers information regarding the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas, and may encourage the IACHR to adopt precautionary measures or measures of any other kind in order to protect threatened human rights defenders. When precautionary measures are granted, the authorities must enter into contact with the beneficiaries to agree upon protection measures for them, members of their organisations and, when applicable, their families. The Unit also visits countries to assess the situation of local human rights defenders.

Council of Europe – Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights

The Council of Europe is an international organisation founded in 1949, seated in Strasbourg, France, and consisting of 47 member countries across Europe. Its objectives are the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law; the promotion of Europe's cultural diversity; and the fight against discrimination, xenophobia, intolerance, etc. In 1950, the Council established the European Court of Human Rights to monitor the compliance to the fundamental freedoms listed in the Convention by the member states. The Council of Europe should not be mixed up with the Council of the European Union or any other institution from the European Union. The Council of Europe is a separate institution.

The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote the awareness of and respect for human rights in the 47 member states. The current Commissioner is Mr Thomas Hammarberg, from Sweden, who took his position in 2006. The previous Commissioner was Alvaro Gil-Robles (1999-2006). The Commissioner is mandated to:

  • foster the effective observance of human rights among member states;
  • promote human rights in member states by means of education and awareness tools;
  • identify possible shortcomings in the law and practice concerning human rights;
  • facilitate the activities of national Ombudsperson institutions and other human rights structures;
  • provide advice and information on the protection of human rights across Europe.

The Commissioner’s role has been reinforced through the Committee of Ministers’ Declaration on Council of Europe action to improve the protection of human rights defenders and promote their activities, adopted in February 2008.

OSCE Focal Point for Human Rights Defenders

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is a security-oriented intergovernmental organisation covering issues such as arms control, conflict prevention, freedom of the press, and fair elections, with currently 56 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America. The OSCE was created as a security organisation, the CSCE (Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe) in 1975, and was renamed OSCE in 1995. Based on a broad concept of security, it also deals with human rights.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is based in Warsaw, Poland. It is active since 1991 throughout the OSCE area in the fields of election observation, democratic development, human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination, and rule of law. The ODIHR particularly monitors the areas of freedom of assembly and association, the right to liberty and to a fair trial, and death penalty.

In 2006, the ODIHR established a Focal Point for Human Rights Defenders and National Human Rights Institutions, which is a small team in Warsaw observing the situation of defenders and human rights institutions throughout the territory covered by the OSCE. The Focal Point identifies issues of concern, and seeks to promote and protect the interests of human rights defenders. It also organises education and training for them, in order to improve their expertise of human rights standards, and develop their monitoring and advocacy skills. The ODIHR Focal Point also seeks to promote the establishment of independent national human rights institutions where they do not exist and to support them where they do.

Other useful OSCE links :

The European Union and the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

The European Union (EU) was set up by European countries who wanted to build a future of peace and prosperity in Europe. What started in 1957 merely as an economic community between six European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) has become a project which now gathers together 27 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The main EU Institutions are the Council of the EU, the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European External Action Service.

In June 2004, the EU adopted the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (revised in 2008) for the support and protection of HRDs. Even though they are not legally binding, these Guidelines represent a clear political commitment by the EU Institutions and individual Member States, and tend to become a priority within the EU’s human rights foreign polic .

In 2006, Front Line established an EU office in Brussels to raise cases of human rights defenders at risk with the different EU institutions and with individual European Governments, encouraging them to take quick action, such as raising cases with the authorities, contacting human rights defenders and their families, observing trials, visiting detained human rights defenders, in accordance with the EU Guidelines.

Front Line lobbying has resulted in concrete action and statements by the European Union towards countries where human rights defenders are threatened, which have contributed to an improvement of their situation, e.g. release of detained defenders in DRC and Swaziland, prevention of arrests of labour activists in Cambodia, withdrawal of legal case against a woman human rights defender in the Russian Federation.

Front Line Defenders has published a handbook for human rights defenders 'The European Union: What it can do, Getting it to take action' . It aims to help inform human rights defenders on when and how they should seek help from the EU – with a particular focus on its field Missions, i.e. EU Delegations and Member State Embassies –, and how to proceed to get the EU to take action. It gives some tips for effective strategies for lobbying and advocacy aimed at the EU. It also contains a quick reference table for requesting EU action, as well as the full text of the EU Guidelines on human rights defenders.

Human Rights Defenders and Development Agencies: How to Build Stronger Synergies?

The EU Guidelines ascribe an important role to development agencies in the promotion and protection of human rights and of HRDs in particular. This reflects the now conventional wisdom that human rights and development are interlinked. Human rights defenders are key agents of development while development agencies can play a key role in nhancing the protection of human rights defenders.

In practice, however, it is less clear how development agencies could effectively participate in the implementation of the EU guidelines on HRDS. So far, there has been only limited stocktaking of experiences and lessons learnt with the (growing) exposure to and involvement of development agencies in HRD-related activities.

Against this background, a two-day conference (15-16 October 2007), organised by Front Line Defenders with the with the support of the European Commission and of the King Baudouin Foundation, and with the assistance of ECDPM, gathered both development agencies and human rights defenders to take stock of current policies and practices with regards to protecting HRDs and to explore ways and means to strengthen the synergies between development agencies and HRDs.

Eighty participants, human rights defenders, development practitioners from NGOs and donor agencies, as well as representatives of human rights NGOs, the European Union Institutions, EU Member States and International organisations, participated to the conference.

The Conference made certain additional operational recommendations and identified other areas for further consideration. The full text of the report id available here"

Other useful EU links:

The International Criminal Court

The International Court ICC is a permanent international criminal tribunal that can try the most heinous international crimes. It was established after the Rome Summit in 1998 and entered into force on 1st July 2002 after sixty states ratified the Rome Statute.

The Rome Statute provides for the establishment of a permanent Court with the jurisdiction to try cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Previously, tribunals set up to prosecute such crimes were established after the crimes were committed and this meant that they had no deterrent value. It is a court with much greater jurisdiction over such crimes than the previous tribunals. However the court’s jurisdiction is not yet global. The Rome Statute enters into force in a country when that country formally ratifies, accepts, approves of or accedes to the Statute. Once the Statute has entered into force in a country, that country is known as a State Party.

International NGOs and Networks

Norwegian Guidelines for Human Rights Defenders