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13 January 2015

2015 Annual Report

The Front Line Defenders 2015 Annual Report, Human Rights Defenders, Lives in the Balance, examines in detail the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders (HRDs) around the world, in the period January – December 2014.

The report was launched internationally at a press conference in Dublin by Mary Lawlor, Founder and Executive Director, Front Line Defenders, Andrea Rocca, Head of Protection, Front Line Defenders and keynote speaker Mary Akrami, Co-founder and Director of the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre (AWSDC) in Kabul and Board Member of the Afghan Women's Network (AWN). The AWSDC was the first safe house for women and children in Afghanistan.

Over the last two years Front Line Defenders has documented a growing global backlash against human rights defenders (HRDs) which has now reached crisis point. Against this backdrop, international human rights institutions as well as governments traditionally supportive of human rights defenders appear to be incapable of forcefully and effectively opposing the shutting down of civil society space.

This is a crucial political moment. If we are to challenge the systematic erosion of human rights standards there needs to be a more consistent and credible political response, which must give the same priority and resources to creating a safe space for HRDs as authoritarian governments give to closing it down. There can be no human rights progress if those at the forefront of human rights work are not allowed to work.
- Mary Lawlor

Governments must recognise the vital role of human rights defenders in building more equal and just societies, especially in conflict and post conflict situations. In eastern Congo women human rights defenders continue to be targeted with impunity while in Afghanistan women human rights defenders face the prospect of losing the limited gains they have made in recent years.

Four years ago the government introduced new laws to protect women from violence. To date only 7% of women in Afghanistan have access to these laws which is hugely disappointing. But now, in the present political situation, we are afraid of losing even that small gain. Our human rights should not be traded off as part of a political settlement.
- Mary Akrami

The report highlights:

  • that over 130 HRDs were killed or died in detention in the first ten months of 2014 as reported to Front Line Defenders
  • Colombia accounted for 46 of those 130 HRDs killed in 2014
  • The Americas overall claimed 101 of the 130 HRDs killed in 2014
  • Globally, deprivation of liberty and court proceedings were the most widely used strategies to silence and intimidate HRDs
  • Repressive laws continued their viral spread across the world with the growth of cut and paste repression as governments replicate legislation
  • HRDs are exposed to digital attacks, with varying degrees of sophistication, virtually everywhere.