The ICJ voiced its concern today over the fact that a small clique of States continues to systematically insist on trying to set limitations on the work of human rights defenders.
These defenders are vital to any society. It is they who promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms on the ground. Limiting their effectiveness is to limit human rights.
The 10th Session of the UN Working Group on Human Rights Defenders ended last Friday 27 January. But while confirming the need for greater protection for defenders, it has been a profound disappointment. A declaration reinforcing rights for persons and groups promoting the observance of human rights in all countries of the world has been the goal of ten years of annual meetings of the Working Group. And while there has been the persistent call from the international community for a rapid achievement of a “Defenders’ Charter,” this year, only three articles of the Charter were agreed to during the two-week session in Geneva.
Cuba, for instance, never lost one opportunity to suggest that the defenders should act “subject to national law” throughout every operative article ot the proposed Charter. Furthermore, one or two States suggested that defenders should be permitted to defend only “their” own rights. This position was maintained despite reminders from the ICJ and others that many victims are unable to advocate their own rights, such as children, the internally displaced, and the disappeared.
But the ICJ considers it encouraging that notwithstanding the negative attitude displayed by a minority of participants, a clear majority of States and NGOs recognized that the real objectives of the Working Group were sufficiently important to warrant continuation of this body’s efforts in the future. The ICJ hopes that the 1996 Session will be able to adopt a clear and unambiguous Declaration to ensure the protection of human rights workers throughout the world.NewsWeb stories