Human rights defenders still threatened: UN expert

[JURIST] Human rights defenders are still harassed, attacked and killed [press release] more than a decade after the international declaration adopted for their protection, a UN rights expert said Monday. UN Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya presented her fourth report [text, PDF] on the right to defend human rights, which is aimed to increase understanding of the 1998 UN Declaration addressing the dangers that human rights defenders face. Sekaggya stressed that implementing the declaration, which sets out the rights and responsibilities crucial to the promotion and protection of human rights, is essential to allowing human rights defenders to carry out their work [UN News Centre report]. The report states:

although some progress has been made, many countries continue to pass laws and regulations that restrict the space for human rights activities and that are incompatible with international standards and with the Declaration in particular. Even where efforts are made to adopt laws that are in line with international standards, their ineffective implementation often remains a problem.
The aim of this report is both to make states aware of the rights provided for in the declaration and to ensure respect for the rights to which rights defenders are entitled.

Protection of human rights remains a central concern for the UN, with rights activists across the globe being subject to violence and arrest. In August, Chinese authorities in Beijing began the trial [JURIST report] of Wang Lihong, one of the dozens of human rights activists the government detained earlier this year as part of a crackdown on dissidents in the country. Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] remains imprisoned in China despite international calls for his release. In July a coalition of human rights organizations issued a joint statement urging the Russian government to investigate the murder [JURIST report] of rights activist Natalia Estemirova [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Estemirova, who was kidnapped in Grozny in July 2009 and shot to death, reported regularly on human rights abuses committed by the Chechen government, including extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances. In June, Zimbabwean human rights activist Farai Maguwu was arrested for allegedly supplying false information about Zimbabwe's controversial diamond mining practices to the international diamond control body the Kimberley Process (KP) [advocacy website].

 

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