Ahead of Human Rights Day, Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, calls on member states to halt the attacks against human rights defenders and improve their safety and working environment.
“In spite of an international declaration and clear standards protecting the work of human rights defenders, there remains a huge gap between the principles and reality,” says the Commissioner.
“I have observed a worrying retrogression in the protection of human rights defenders and their ability to work in a growing number of European countries. They face a variety of forms of reprisals, including judicial harassment, prosecution, illegal deprivation of liberty, abusive checks and surveillance, smear campaigns, threats and intimidation. Some have been physically attacked, subjected to ill-treatment, abducted and even killed. Activists defending the rights of migrants, LGBTI persons, or women, as well as human rights defenders working on sensitive issues, such as accountability for serious human rights violations and environmental issues, have been increasingly targeted by state and non-state actors. Restrictive legislation and harmful political rhetoric is making the work of human rights NGOs increasingly difficult and unsafe."