March 1, 2013 – Hans Thoolen on Human Rights Defenders – Norway will present a new resolution on protecting human rights defenders to the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council. In an informal meeting with States and NGOs in Geneva, the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations has already presented a draft resolution aiming at adressing the problem of legislation affecting the work of human rights defenders. In a related intervention at the United Nations in Geneva on 27 February 2013, the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) welcomed the resolution and welcomed the fact that this year the Council will again adopt a substantial resolution on human rights defenders, as the Council did not do so since 2010 with the resolution on protection of human rights defenders.
In her intervention at the Human Rights Council on Thursday 28 February 2013, Anna Dobrokovskaya from the Youth Human Rights Movement (Human Rights House Voronezh) has underlined that “the special role of human rights defenders should be fully recognised in all the countries, as they are ambassadors of the universal ideas and values.” She added that human rights defenders are often presented as having anti-state actions, hence criminalised. “Some states adopted legal frameworks that bring human rights defenders to the position of criminals and make it impossible for them to carry out publicly their legitimate work without breaking the law”.
Even more worrying, human rights defenders “may be labeled as ‘extremists’ for peacefully exercising freedom of expresion, sanctioned for acting on behalf of unregistered association or labeled as ‘foreign agents’ for receiving foreign funding for their activities, as if they were acting as spies”, Anna Dobrokovskaya added. Therefore, HRHF believes that the resolution comes timely as in many countries of the world human rights defenders are more under pressure than before and face more and more severe situations and repression, including by non-State actors.
The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders will present her report to the Human Rights Council on Monday 4 March. The resolution will be further discussed in negociations at the Human Rights Council and will be adopted at the end of the session.