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NHC welcomes increased attention OSCE for protection human rights defenders

12 June 2013

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE has decided to develop recommendations for the effective protection of human rights defenders. NHC director Harry Hummel attended an expert meeting on the subject on 10 and 11 June. He said: “Human rights defenders in a range of OSCE participatingstates are increasingly under pressure. The defense of human rights by citizens and by committed professionals and officials is key for the advancement of justice, equality and good governance. It is important that the OSCE promotes this work as much as possible. Human rights defense generally implies a critical attitude towards governmental practices but this generally is a force for good, and very much in the spirit of the Helsinki process.”

The initiative of ODIHR follows the launch in December 2012 of the Dublin Declaration by the Civic Solidarity Platform, urging to pay attention to the difficulties human rights defenders all too often face. The Platform is a network of human rights NGOs from the OSCE region.

The expert meeting advised ODIHR on areas and issues which should be dealt with in the Recommendations. These include putting in place legislation conducive to freedom of expression and association and repealing legislation limiting these freedoms. Where personal safety of human rights defenders is under threat from persons or bodies opposing their work, specific protection programs should be in place. The Recommendations should not just cover persons working in NGOs defending human rights, but anybody who as engaged citizens or in the course of his/her work takes up human rights problems in a peaceful manner. Governments should be fostering this type of engagement, including by promoting human rights education and taking other steps to foster a human rights culture.

OSCE participating States should also pay attention to the situation of human rights defenders in other countries of the OSCE region, the meeting said. ODIHR and other OSCE institutions should strengthen their work to assist the defense of human rights across the region.