UN rights expert: nations must establish legal framework for rights defenders

[JURIST] A human rights expert presented her report [text, PDF] to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] Tuesday urging nations to provide a "bare minimum" legal framework to protect those working within their states to defend human rights. The report by Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya claims [press release] that rights advocates and groups can be a "vital actor in the fight against impunity for human rights violations" and that they should be "supported by public authorities and protected if needed." Sekagga found that nations often undermine the efforts of those rights defenders through "laws and administrative provisions to unduly restrict the work of human rights defenders." In her presentation [UN News Centre report] to the UNHRC, Sekaggya suggested nations are undermining the efforts of those trying to campaign for human rights claiming:

From anti-terrorism and other legislation relating to public security to legislation governing registration, functioning and funding of associations, from defamation and blasphemy legislation to legislation relating to public morals, States are using laws and administrative provisions to unduly restrict the work of human rights defenders.
The report concludes with recommendations for the "bare minimum" states should to protect rights defenders, including creating a specific legal recognition of those advocating for human rights, establishing programs to help protect rights defenders, and a legal autonomy for those defenders so that they may "investigate all allegations of violations by all branches of the State and all types of actors, including armed forces and private businesses."

The UNHRC has recently addressed a variety of human rights abuses around the world. In February UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged [JURIST report] the international community to continue to prevent human rights abuses and hold perpetrators accountable. Speaking at the opening of the 22nd session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Pillay specifically mentioned the ongoing situations in Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Palestine, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan and Syria. Also in February, Pillay expressed concern [JURIST report] over reports that three Palestinians being held in Israeli custody are in poor health from hunger strikes protesting Israel's use of administrative detention. In the same timeframe, Pillay unveiled a report [JURIST report] criticizing Sri Lanka for failing to investigate widespread reports of killings and other atrocities during the latter days of the nation's 26-year civil war it fought with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Also in February, Pillay expressed shock and sadness [JURIST report] concerning the brutal rape and murder of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in South Africa. Pillay urged South Africa to take a stronger approach to prevent the ongoing sexual violence incidents against tens of thousands of South African women every year.

 

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