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Netherlands Helsinki Committee / Themes / Strengthening Civil Society / Supporting Human Rights Defence

Supporting Human Rights Defence

Maintaining, and, when necessary, enhancing the space for civil society to independently promote and defend human rights is one of the current key human rights challenges. Authoritarian and semi-authoritarian governments suppress critical voices, stimulating abandonment of the notion of human rights and stigmatising those who defend human rights.

The freedoms essential to exercising the right to defend human rights – freedom of association, expression and assembly are severely limited in countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey. Human rights defenders and the organisations through which they work face serious challenges. They are targets of death threats, torture, harassment and restrictions on access to funding. Criminal justice systems are increasingly used to arbitrarily convict and sentence human rights defenders, forcing them to suspend their activities. Smear campaigns are used to discredit civil society. A clear threat exists of stigmatisation of human rights, rigid and undemocratic governance spreading further to Central and South-Eastern Europe.

The NHC works to defend and protect organisations and individuals that fall victim to repression. We help organisations increase their resilience in the context of worsening circumstances and to resort to legal, digital, physical and communication safe-havens, pre-emptively protecting oneself against threats. We also help defenders enhance their capabilities to relate to external stakeholders and build the relationship with the general public, engaging specialised expertise from other sectors for action-oriented knowledge-sharing, coaching and implementation support.

Current projects

Finished projects

Campaign by a coalition of human rights groups to raise awareness about the work of human rights defenders.