A key resolution to protect human rights defenders was passed on 1 April in Geneva, during the latest session of the Human Rights Council. This comes at a moment of increasing attacks against human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations, and in the context of mounting tension with Russia, which led to the country being suspended from the Council on 7 April.
The resolution had strong support from states across different regions, but given the current international geopolitical context, negotiations were tense.
During these talks, APC and other international and national civil society organisations called on states to cover important ground such as the need to address internet shutdowns and recognition of the threats faced by women human rights defenders.
The resolution on human rights defenders is an important tool to exert international pressure against increasing persecution faced by human rights defenders. APC has been particularly focused on the cases of Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, co-founder of APC member Motoon, as well as Philippine Nobel Laureate and founder of Rappler news outlet Maria Ressa, and computer expert Ola Bini, who has been facing a political-judicial process in Ecuador.
What does the resolution emphasise?
The text stresses that states should refrain from implementing internet shutdowns, from conducting surveillance against human rights defenders and from any other restrictions that prevent them from having access to information and communicating safely and securely.
The resolution puts a special focus on gender, recognising that women human rights defenders are in a particularly vulnerable situation. They face the risk of sexual and gender-based violence and harassment in addition to other types of threats, violence and smear campaigns.
Legislation should not be used to impose restrictions on the work of human rights defenders or to criminalise them, including anti-terrorism, national security and cybercrime legislation, the text stresses. This comes at a moment when negotiations on a new cyber treaty are under way.
The private sector is also addressed as having a responsibility to respect human rights. The resolution encourages businesses, including social media companies, to engage in heightened due diligence and to establish or participate in effective, accessible and conflict-sensitive, operations-level grievance mechanisms.
For better protection of human rights defenders, APC also recommends more recognition of the intersectional dimensions of discrimination, violations and abuses against specific groups of human rights defenders. These include women human rights defenders, Indigenous people, people of colour, children, people belonging to minorities, defenders working on issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, older persons, and rural and marginalised communities.
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