Human Rights Day 2010: Freedom to Speak Out Essential For Human Rights Defenders
London. December 9, 2010/3mnews.org/Article19.org/– On the occasion of the Human Rights Day, ARTICLE 19 calls on governments to protect the freedom of expression of human rights defenders speaking out against discrimination and other human rights abuses. Human rights defenders – whether human rights monitors, activists or journalists – actively seek justice, accountability and transparency for human rights abuses by working alone or in collaboration with others, at the local, national and/or international levels. Over the past year, ARTICLE 19 has witnessed that human rights defenders across the world have faced ever increasing threats to both themselves and their families simply for exercising their the right to freedom of expression and speaking out against discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence. This issue, which confronts states such as Mexico, Egypt, Sri Lanka and China among many others, deserves more focussed attention and action by the international community.
Yet, too often, a culture of impunity surrounds such threats and actual attacks on human rights defenders who have raised their voices against violations. The denial of human rights defenders’ rights leads to a “chilling effect” on their right to freedom of expression, impedes the public’s “right to know” and is a significant restraint upon their ability to hold state and non-state actors accountable for abuses.
ARTICLE 19 therefore urges states to properly implement their existing international human rights obligations to protect human rights defenders, including those indicated in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. State officials or agents should not be involved directly or indirectly in targeted attacks against human rights defenders for exercising their right to speak out against human rights abuses, or any other reason. Any attacks on human rights defenders, wherever they occur, should be promptly and thoroughly investigated by a competent, independent and impartial body established by the state. The state authorities should hold accountable all persons found to have committed abuses against human rights defenders, regardless of political affiliation or rank, and according to procedures that meet international standards of due process. States should prevent, punish and redress the harm caused by state or private actors, including unidentified armed groups, to human rights defenders.
ARTICLE 19 also hopes that Human Rights Day 2010 will inspire and embolden a new generation of human rights defenders to speak up to end discrimination and other human rights violations whenever and wherever they are manifested.