Joint Letter: UN General Assembly urged to support draft resolution on human rights defenders

Joint Letter: UN General Assembly urged to support draft resolution on human rights defenders - Protection

To: All Member States of the United Nations General Assembly 


We write to you as a group of human rights defenders and civil society organizations located across the world working at national, regional and international levels. We write in regard to the draft resolution entitled ”Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection“ currently being advanced in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, and due to be adopted on Wednesday 25 November 2015.

We urge your government to support the abovementioned resolution and to reject amendments, tabled by the African Group, China and Iran, designed to weaken the text.1

Among other things, the proposed amendments remove references to the legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, delete or weaken language regarding the need for their protection, and delete whole paragraphs related to the need to combat impunity for violations and abuses against defenders and the need to ensure adequate procedural safeguards in judicial proceedings. A call for the release of defenders detained or imprisoned in violation of international human rights law, for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms, is also proposed for deletion. In addition, the amendments introduce notions that States should only support and enable their work ‘as appropriate’, rather than in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other obligations arising under international human rights law

Human rights defenders make a vital contribution to the promotion and respect for human rights, democratic processes, securing and maintaining peace and security, and advancing development in our countries. However, in doing this work, defenders often face a range of violations and abuses at the hands of State and non-State actors. States must acknowledge the role of defenders and the specific risks they face, and commit to ensuring their protection.

Fifteen years ago, all States agreed to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including State obligations to protect all human rights defenders working on all human rights. This commitment has been reiterated and built upon in subsequent General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. We are therefore extremely concerned to hear that the abovementioned delegations have objected to several core elements of the draft resolution.

Based on consultations with over 500 defenders from 111 States, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders found that in the vast majority of States the situation for human rights defenders is deteriorating in law and in practice. He concluded that a lack of awareness regarding their vital and legitimate work, combined with a lack of political commitment and weak institutional arrangements for their protection, is placing them, their organisations and families at elevated risk.2

The resolution as drafted reflects a number of these findings and makes a series of recommendations for States and other actors. Importantly, this year’s text includes a key focus on the implementation of the resolution itself. This will hopefully prompt States and other actors to move beyond rhetoric in addressing the challenges faced by human rights defenders and take action to ensure the implementation of the calls in the resolution.

We urge all States to live up to their human rights commitments by supporting this resolution, by rejecting amendments designed to weaken it, and by taking concrete steps to protect human rights defenders.



Acción Solidaria on HIV/Aids

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

Action Trans-Crime Uganda

ActionAid International

ADC Memorial

African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies

Alkarama Foundation

Alliance for Democracy in Laos

Amnesty International

Analytical Center for Interethnic Cooperation and Consultations ARTICLE 19

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Asian Legal Resource Centre

Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA)

Association des Victimes Parents et Amis du 28 Septembre 2009 (AVIPA) Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)

Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

Association of World Citizens

Association UMDPL

Bahrain Centre for human rights

Balance Mexico

Belarus Watch

British Humanist Association Brot für die Welt

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Cambodian Center for Human Rights CELS

Center for Civil Liberties

Center for Inquiry

Centre for Civil and Political Rights

Centre for Civil Liberties

Centre for Human Rights and Development

Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights

Child Rights Connect (formerly Le Groupe des ONG pour la Convention Relative aux Droits de L’Enfant) Child Rights International Network


Civil Rights Defenders

CIVILIS Human Rights

Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains

Comité de ONG de América Latina y el Caribe -CoNGO- sobre la Condición de la Mujer -CSW- Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario Mx

Desaparecidos – Philippines

Diaspora Action Australia

EarthRights International

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

Equality Myanmar

Equidad de Género, Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia

FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Fortress of Hope Africa

Foundation HELP

Freedom House

Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama – Ecuador

Front Line Defenders

Fundacion Arcoiris por el Respeto a la Diversidad Sexual

Geneva for Human Rights

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Global Human Rights Group

Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Global Justice Center

Green Advocates

Gulf Center for Human Rights

Health and Human Rights Info

Helsiniki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor

Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia

Helsinki Committee of Armenia

HRM “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”

Human Rights Campaign in China

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea

Human Rights Defenders Alert – India

Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)

Human Rights Information Center

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Hustisya – Philippines


International Center for Justice and Human Rights

International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

International Commission of Jurists Victoria

International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO)

International Helsinki Association for Human Rights

International Justice Project

International Justice Resource Center

International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) International Partnership for Human Rights

International Platform against Impunity

International Refugee Rights Initiative

International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)

International Service for Human Rights

International Women’s Development Agency

International Women’s Health Coalition

International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific) International Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM)


Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

Just Associates (JASS)

Justice and Peace Netherlands

Justice Connect

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement for People’s Rights – Philippines Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)

Legal-informational Centre for NGOs – Slovenia Legal Resources Centre (LRC)

LGBT Human Rights NASH MIR Center

Ligue des Électeurs – DRC

Loretto Community

Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility

MOLI – Burundi

Moscow Helsinki Group

Moscow regional Public Charity Foundation “Social Partnership” National Association of Community Legal Centres – Australia Nazra for Feminist Studies

Netherlands Helsinki Committee

Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF)

OutRight Action International

Peace Brigades International

People’s Watch

Promo LEX

Protection International

Public Foundation Notabene

Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Public Union of Democracy and Human Rights Resource Centre Public Verdict Foundation

Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services Inc Refugee Council of Australia


Sexuality Policy Watch

Society of Ex-detainees Against Detention and Arrests – Philippines Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE)

Sri Lanka Brief