Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.

Speak Up, Stop Discrimination, Human Rights Day 2010

Defending the defenders

“In deciding to act on principle, the security of human rights defenders and their ability to work is often jeopardized, either by blatant repression and violence, particularly in areas of conflict, or by increasingly insidious patterns of restrictions and abuse. Each one of us has a responsibility to support their efforts and to add our voices to those who demand protection for the defenders and their families. ”

Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The activities of human rights defenders galvanize action and spur change. Often, however, defenders’ actions are met with hostile, negative reactions from individuals, groups and authorities. Thousands of human rights defenders lose their jobs, are threatened, harassed, defamed, imprisoned illegally, tortured, murdered and forced into exile. Even in States with a democratic tradition and functioning judicial institutions, there can be, and often are, violations of the fundamental rights of those who are themselves standing up for the human rights of others.

Human Rights Defender:
Danilo Lambada

Danilo Lambada (Mozambique) runs a non-governmental organization that speaks out and fights for the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals.

The Declaration on human rights defenders 1 recognizes that the implementation of international human rights standards is to a great extent dependent on the activities of human rights defenders and that defenders, precisely because of their work, often require additional protection.

In 2000, the UN Secretary-General appointed a special representative whose role it is to monitor and support the implementation of the Declaration. The current Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders is Margaret Sekaggya.

In April 2010, the Human Rights Council expressed grave concern at continuing threats and attacks faced by many human rights defenders and adopted a resolution on their protection, which identifies the State as having the key role in fully supporting human rights defenders and promoting for them a safe and enabling environment. The resolution is also clear that when there are violations against human rights defenders, States should ensure that incidents are promptly and impartially investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted.


1 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 was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998.