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18 October 2017

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney TD Speaks at Ireland's Largest Human Rights Conference

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney TD spoke to Ireland's largest human rights gathering this morning about the government's commitment to protecting activists at risk, on the second day of the 2017 Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders.

Minister Coveney spoke alongside a line up of United Nations and European Union officials, including Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU's high-ranking human rights representative, at-risk activists from around the world, and Twitter's VP for Public Policy and Communications Sinead McSweeney.

"It is no small act of courage to volunteer to defend the rights of one's community, especially in circumstances of crisis," said Minister Conveney, as he spoke of the importance of human rights defenders worldover.

"The promotion of human rights is a cornerstone of Irish foreign policy ... and is one of the EU's main goals. ... Ireland is particularly concerned by the rise in reprisals against human rights defenders in recent years. Ireland was part of a core group of countries that secured a resolution on reprisals, that exists to protect those cooperating with the United Nations."

Minister Coveney and Special Representative Lambrinidis spoke in front of more than 100 human rights defenders from around the world, who arrived in Ireland Monday for a week of strategising and meetings on increasing security threats and risks. On 17 October, Front Line Defenders opened its 2017 Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders, bringing persecuted activists from more than 80 countries.

"We are honoured to welcome Minister Coveney to meet more than 100 of the world's most persecuted activists," said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders. "Dublin Platform is a time for building solidarity across continents, for defenders to remind one another that they are not alone in their dangerous struggle for human rights. The EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders were adopted when Ireland had the Presidency of the European Union, and continues to lead on protection of at-risk defenders today."

Arriving in Dublin from South Africa, Nonhle Mbuthuma has been named on a hitlist for defending her community's land from a destructive mine. Belhedi Bouhdid has been attacked on the street and threatened by religious officials in Tunisia for boldly demanding an end to the country's criminalisation of homosexuality. In the United States, Kim Smith is a renowned artist and activist who recently marched alongside thousands of land rights defenders from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

In Dublin, the defenders will share stories of resistance, struggle, persecution, as well as strategies for security and protection. Front Line Defenders Digital Protection Consultants will also stage a pop up digital security clinic for activists. Participants will also have the opportunity to meet with Irish activists, United Nations representatives, and Irish parliamentarians.

To arrange interviews with international human rights defenders visiting Dublin Castle, please contact:

Erin Kilbride

Media Coordinator, International