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Human rights defenders

Protecting and promoting Human Rights Defenders and their work across Europe

Human Rights Defenders are among the main actors contributing to the effective observance and full enjoyment of human rights in the Council of Europe’s member States. Their protection and the development of an enabling environment for their activities are at the core of the mandate of the Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Commissioner’s role has been reinforced through the Committee of Ministers’ Declaration on Council of Europe action to improve the protection of human rights defenders and promote their activities. Its adoption, in February 2008, marked the strong commitment of Council of Europe member States to offer effective protection to human rights defenders and their work, especially in situations of danger. It further calls upon Council of Europe bodies and institutions to pay special attention to issues concerning human rights defenders and their work.

Furthermore, the Declaration invites the Commissioner for Human Rights to strengthen his role and capacity of his Office in order to provide strong and effective protection for human rights defenders by:

  • continuing to act upon information received from human rights defenders and other relevant sources, including ombudsmen or national human rights institutions;
  • continuing to meet with a broad range of defenders during his country visits and to report publicly on the situation of human rights defenders;
  • intervening, in the manner the Commissioner deems appropriate, with the competent authorities, in order to assist them in looking for solutions, in accordance with their obligations, to the problems which human rights defenders may face, especially in serious situations where there is a need for urgent action;
  • working in close co-operation with other intergovernmental organisations and institutions, in particular the OSCE/ODHIR focal point for human rights defenders, the European Union, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders and other existing mechanisms.

    The Committee of Ministers’ Declaration is the outcome of the work of the Group of Specialists on Human Rights Defenders and the Colloquy “Protecting and Supporting Human Rights Defenders in Europe” held in Strasbourg in November 2006.


    Opinion of the Commissioner for Human Rights on the legislation of the Russian Federation on non-commercial organisations in light of Council of Europe standards (15.07.2013)

    Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on Council of Europe action to improve the protection of human rights defenders and promote their activities (06.02.2008)

    UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (08.03.1999)

    European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (.pdf format)
    Read in Russian (.pdf)

    Report of the participants to the Round Table on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Council of Europe Member States CommHR Office (3/4.11.2008)
    Declaration of Human Rights Defenders :
    Read in Russian (.pdf)

    Commissioner's Viewpoint: "Human rights defenders must be able to criticise" (13.11.06)

    Our documents

    More Online resources


    Information regarding the status of human rights defenders and their work, including reports on threats and violations of their human rights, in the 47 member States of the Council of Europe can be submitted at:

    Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
    Human Rights’ Defenders Programme
    Council of Europe
    F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex, FRANCE
    + 33 (0)3 90 21 50 53
    Contact us by email