The work of human rights defenders is crucial to the work of this Council

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 Item 3 General Debate

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Mr President.

The work of human rights defenders is crucial to the work of this council. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to power, at great personal risk. The report by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders shows all too clearly what this risk entails.

In Belarus, seven members of the Human Rights Centre Viasna have been jailed for their human rights work – which is evidence of a larger repression. In Nicaragua, human rights defender María Esperanza Sánchez García has been arbitrarily detained for over two years under false charges. Nicaragua has systematically sought to silence the voices of human rights defenders.

The Special Rapporteur reiterated again that States must ensure an enabling environment to protect human rights defenders. Spurious legal proceedings brought against defenders not only act as a chilling effect but are also a serious drain of the human and financial resources of defenders and NGOs, compounding other serious challenges in access to resources which prevent defenders and NGOs from carrying out their work. We call on States to ensure access to resources for human rights defenders and other civil society.

The Council is currently negotiating a resolution which will highlight the work of human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations which resonates all too well in the world today.

Human rights defenders play a crucial role in conflict prevention and in post-conflict reconstruction, and it is vital to ensure their safety and ability to operate. We call on all states to support and implement the resolution, and we call on the Council to hold states accountable for their treatment of human rights defenders.