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24 November 2016

Celebrating those who were killed defending human rights

On 24 November, President Michael D Higgins of Ireland welcomed representatives of 20 national and international human rights organisations from around the world to Dublin, for the  launch of the HRD Memorial. The project will commemorate the estimated 3,500 human rights defenders who have been killed since 1998, when the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders came into effect.

Inaugurating the HRD Memorial in Dublin, President Michael D Higgins of Ireland said,

“It is important to hold States to account, to hold those who wield power to account. This a matter of life and death, the erosion of dignity, and the imposition of grief on families and communities. Yet, the power of these HRDs lives on in all those who are inspired by their example across the globe. We need to name them, not allow their lives to be lost in statistics. As we speak, more names are being added. We cannot afford to be indifferent. The launch of this memorial will dislodge indifference. It will provide a tool to track investigations and advance the struggle for justice for human rights defenders who have been killed."

Front Line Defenders is increasingly concerned at the number of human rights defenders who are killed annually because of their peaceful human rights work, and it believes that we need to find a way of working together to challenge this trend head on.

145 HRDs killed in 2014
196 HRDs killed in 2015
205 HRDs killed so far in 2016 

The Memorial will provide a definitive record of all the HRDs who have been killed around the world. It will also celebrate the lives, work and achievements of these courageous people, sending a message of support and solidarity to their friends, families and colleagues.

Visit the HRD Memorial Website

Speaking at the launch of the HRD Memorial, Front Line Defenders Executive Director Andrew Anderson said:

These are not random acts of violence. This is the targetted elimination of those who work peacefully to defend the rights of others. And yet we risk that these horrific murders become mere statistical footnotes in the catalogue of injustice. It seems the international community is no longer shocked. The killers, and those who command and pay them, want to silence these brave HRDs, and close down their struggle for basic human rights.

Front Line Defenders is particularly keen to highlight the situation of women and LGBT+ human rights defenders who face double discrimination, being targeted for who they are, as well as for what they do. Speaking at the event, Veronica Vidal (representative from AWID and IM-Defensoras) said that women human rights defenders (WHRDs) face the same risks as their male counterparts, but also face specific risks related to their gender:

Sexual violence, smear and slander campaigns, threats to their families and especially their daughters and sons, exclusion from decision making processes in their own organisations, violence in their own communities and private spaces: these are some of the specific risks to which WHRDs are exposed because of their work.

Initiated by Front Line Defenders, the HRD Memorial is coordinated by a coalition of 20 national and international human rights organisations, including: ACI-Participa (Honduras); ACCUDEH (Mexico); Amnesty International, International Secretariat; AWID; CALAS (Guatemala); CIVICUS; East and Horn of Africa Defend the Defenders Programme; ESCR-Net; FIDH; Front Line Defenders; Forum Asia; Brazilian Committee for Human Rights Defenders; Global Witness; Human Rights First; ILGA; IM Defensoras; KARAPATAN (the Philippines); Meso American Initiative; OMCT; PBI; Protection International; Reporters Without Borders; RMP-NMR (the Philippines); Somos Defensores (Colombia); UDEFEGUA (Guatemala); Urgent Action Fund.

For further information on the HRD Memorial please contact:

Erin Kilbride - - 0 353 (0)85 74 23 767

or Jim Loughran - - 00 353 (0)87 231 60 49.