What’s a human rights defender?
The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
It is the human rights defenders who expose violations and campaign for compensations to be paid to victims. They are the people out there who work to stop injustice every day by taking peaceful action in order to ensure that everyone enjoys the rights they’re entitled to.
There is no exhaustive or definitive list as to what qualifies someone as a human rights defender. They work, in many different ways, to transform political, social, economic and cultural institutions so that they are based on respect for human rights and the belief in fundamental freedoms for all. These defenders understand that everyone has equal human rights and they work to guarantee nothing changes that.
Unfortunately, their efforts often mean they face constant challenges and threats. They become the targets of violence, repression, restrictions and abuse. Attacks on and threats to human rights defenders happen all over the world. Sometimes their families become the targets of threats and attacks as well; with the violators hoping that the added pressure will force the defenders to give up their causes.
In many places human rights defenders are the objects of smear campaigns, falsely accused of criminality and persecuted through the use of legal systems in order to hinder their work.
Defenders are frequently silenced and censored by restrictive laws, harassed, tortured, made to disappear or murdered.
A human rights defender is a hero to many who can’t fight themselves, and we stand by them every step of the way.
Luis Guillermo Pérez Casas, Lawyers Collective José Alvear Restrepo (Colombia) “I can say with certainty that if we are still alive, it is mainly because of PBI's work.”