Joint letter to UN Member States at the Human Rights Council urging their support for the consensus renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

February 27, 2023

MENA Rights Group joined 168 human rights organisations in signing an open letter to the UN Human Rights Council and its member states, urging their support for the consensus renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.
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A general view of participants at the last day the 18th Session of the Human Rights Council. © UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

To: All UN Member States

HRC52: Support consensus renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

Human rights defenders are people who act with humanity, serve humanity and who contribute to and bring out the best in humanity. They are key to our daily lives - they work so our governments are more transparent and accountable, our environment cleaner and safer, our schools and workplaces fairer, and our futures more sustainable. As human rights defenders confront power, privilege and prejudice, they frequently face a wide range of risks and threats, including against their organisations and their families, friends and loved ones. Despite their vital contribution, both some governments and non-State actors are still seeking to silence defenders as they expose injustices and demand accountability for all.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders is integral to their protection and recognition, globally. It gathers and responds to information on the situation of defenders around the world, engages constructively with governments and non-State actors and provides expert recommendations to promote the effective implementation of the ‘Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms’ (The Declaration on human rights defenders).

2023 marks 25 years since the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on human rights defenders. The adoption of the Declaration was a critical point in human rights history where it articulated how existing human rights law applies to the situation of human rights defenders, recognised the importance and legitimacy of human rights activity, and the need to protect it along with those who carry it out. It is apposite that this major anniversary coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, reflecting the integral role that human rights defenders play in the realisation of universal human rights.

In 2022, the Human Rights Council reaffirmed the importance of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and its full and effective implementation, and that promoting respect, support and protection for the activities of human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, is essential to the overall enjoyment of human rights, including in conflict and post-conflict situations. In 2021, the General Assembly passed by consensus with 85 State co-sponsors a resolution acknowledging the important and legitimate role that human rights defenders played in the COVID-19 response, as well as the challenges faced as a result.

At the 52nd session of the Council, States will consider a resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for three years. This is a key opportunity for States and the Council to demonstrate their support and recognition for the indispensable role human rights defenders play to ensure that all people enjoy freedom, dignity, justice and equality.

Our organisations therefore urge all States to support the resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by:

●   participating positively in the negotiations on the resolution;

●   presenting early co-sponsorship of the text;

●   resisting any attempts to dilute the mandate or State obligations; and

●   supporting consensus renewal of the mandate.


ACAT Belgium, ACAT Germany (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), ACAT Italia, ACAT RDC, ACAT Spain-Catalonia, ACAT Ghana, ACAT-France, ACAT-Liberia, ACAT-Switzerland, ACAT-UK (Action by Christians Against Torture - UK), Accion Solidaria on HIV/Aids, Action by Christians against Torture in Togo (ACAT TOGO), Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture - Canada, Action by Christians for the abolition of torture - Congo, Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) - Cameroon, Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture of Côte d'Ivoire, Action of Christians for the Abolition of Torture in Burundi (Acat-Burundi), Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, Agir ensemble pour les droits humains, AlertaVenezuela, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man, ALKARAMA, Alliance for Democracy in Laos, American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, Amnesty International Mongolia, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Asian Legal Resource Center, Association for Progressive Communications - APC, Association For Promotion Sustainable Development, Association for the respect of indigenous rights, sustainable development and human rights, Association for women and Children at Risk, Association of balal, Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM), Aula Abierta, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), Brot für die Welt, Burkina Faso Coaltion of Human Right Defenders (CBDDH), Bytes For All Pakistan, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Center to Alternatives to Development, Centre for Human Rights & Democracy in Africa (CHRDA), Centro de Alternativas al Desarrollo (CEALDES) - Colombia, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), Child Rights Connect, CIVICUS, CIVILIS Human Rights, Collective of the Families of the Disappeared in Algeria (CFDA), Committee for Free Expression (Comité por la Libre Expresión C-Libre), Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, Community Resource Centre (CRC), Coordiantion of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience, DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Emonyo Yefwe International, End Impunity Organization, Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial - ECAP, Euro-mediterranean federation against enforced disappearances, European Network Against Racism, Federal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Forum Menschenrechte, Franciscans International, Freedom House, GALE The Global Alliance for LGBT Education, Geneva for Human Rights - Global Training (GHR), Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted  Minorities, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Global Human Rights Group, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Global Observatory of Communication and Democracy (OGCD), Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Habitat International Coalition, Hallmark Media, Human Rights Association (Insan Haklari Dernegi), Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE), Human Rights Council of Australia, Human Rights Defenders Fund, Human Rights House Foundation, Humanists International, Idheas Strategic Human Rights Litigation, IFEX, ILEX Acción Jurídica, In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND), Inclusive Bangladesh, Indigenous Peoples Rights International, Initiative for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS), Inc., Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Sri Lanka, International Commission of Jurists, International Commission of Jurists Australia, International Dalit Solidarity Network, International Federation of ACATs (FIACAT), International Planned Parenthood Federation, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), International volunteer organization for women education development, Intersex Society of Zambia, Ivorian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CIDDH), Journalists and Writers Foundation, Judicial Reform Foundation Taiwan, Karapatan Alliance Philippines, KIOS Foundation, Law Society of England and Wales, Lawyers without Borders Canada, Maldivian Democracy Network, Mauritanian association for socio-educational development, MENA Rights Group, Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras), Mongolian Women's Employment Supporting Federation, Namibia Diverse Women's Association (NDWA), Network of the independent Commission for Human rights in North Africa CIDH AFRICA, ORGANIZATION OF ACTIVE WOMEN IN CÔTE D'IVOIRE, Organization Solidarity Development, OYU TOLGOI WATCH NGO, Peace Brigades International, People Forum for Human Rights (People Forum), PICUM (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants), Plateforme Droits de l'Homme, POS Foundation, Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER), PROMEDEHUM, Protection International Mesoamérica, Public Verdict Foundation, Rainbow Pride Foundation, Red Dot Foundation, Refugee Council of Australia, Renewable Freedom Foundation, Riposte Internationale, Rivers without Boundaries, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Safety and Rights Society (SRS), SAHR, Scholars at Risk, SHOAA for Human Rights, Society for Threatened Peoples, SOS-Esclaves, Speak Up, Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE), Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU), Swedwatch, Syrians for Truth and Justice - STJ, The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, The Community Action Center at Al-Quds University, The Global Interfaith Network (GIN-SSOGIE), The Kvinna till Kvinna foundation, The Norwegian Human Rights Fund, The Regional Coalition for WHRDs in MENA (WHRDMENA Coalition), The William Gomes Podcast, Togolese Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Tournons La Page, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), Viet Tan, West African Human Rights Defenders Network, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Women's World Summit Foundation, World Justice Project, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, World Uyghur Congress (WUC),WWF International, Yemeni Institute for Strategic Affairs, Youth Care Motivators, Youth Initiative for Human Rights Serbia, Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN), Zo Indigenous Forum (ZIF)

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