29 October 2013
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights Defenders


There was a great need for States to ensure the safety and protection of human rights defenders in carrying out their activities without fear of harassment, intimidation and threats to their lives, the Special Rapporteur on the issue said at a Headquarters press conference this morning.


Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, who presented her latest report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), said it focused on the relationship between States and the activities of human rights defenders monitoring large-scale development projects.  (See Press Release GA/SHC/4079 of 28 October.)


“The human rights activists are trying to help communities affected by large-scale projects such as the construction of hydroelectric power stations, dams, stadiums and roads, but they face challenges, such as harassment, death threats, and physical attacks and in some cases are even killed for doing their work,” she said.


States must adopt a human rights-approach that would involved the safe, active participation of human rights defenders at all stages of development projects, from initiation, design and planning to implementation, monitoring and evaluation, she said.  States also should take concrete steps to promote tolerance and an open attitude towards the defenders, and set up suitable redress mechanisms in case of mistreatment during the project monitoring phase, while bolstering efforts to implement the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.


She said that such an approach could significantly help defuse tensions, warning that a lack of transparency could not only increase the vulnerability of defenders and affected communities it also could seriously undermine the credibility and legitimacy of both State and private involvement in such projects.


Responding to questions, Ms. Sekaggya, who was appointed in March 2008, said this was her last report to the Third Committee, as her mandate would end in March 2014.  She would present a final report to the Human Rights Council the last month of her mandate.


On the proposed world human rights court, she said she was exploring the mechanism for its viability and noted that, if established, it would be a good platform to treat cases involving human rights violations.


Regarding the human rights situation in Honduras, the Rapporteur said it was “very bad”.  Since her visit there last year, journalists and other human rights defenders had been attacked and killed.  She added that human rights rapporteurs and experts had communicated with Governments in Latin America after receiving various reports of abuse.  But violations still occurred in Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere.


She urged Governments to always abide by United Nations resolutions, conventions, and treaties, in order to be accountable to the people; to boost human rights standards, and implement recommendations made by the Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review of countries’ human rights records.


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For information media • not an official record