"Council of Europe member states must urgently address the increasing gap between human rights standards and reality. Strengthening the protection of human rights defenders should be among their top priorities," said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, on Human Rights Day, shortly before attending the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo to show support for human rights defenders.
“The prize given to Ales Bialiatski, Memorial, and the Center for Civil Liberties who are longstanding partners of my Office is a powerful worldwide recognition of the importance of human rights defenders. It is also an acknowledgement of the universality of their work, which transcends boundaries and divisions. Human rights defenders all across Europe, including Russia and Belarus, are key partners of the Council of Europe as they share our common values and courageously struggle for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in our societies. In the face of increasing pressure on human rights defenders in Europe, I urge Council of Europe member states to step up their efforts to protect and support human rights defenders and publicly acknowledge the importance of their legitimate work.
Attacks, intimidation, harassment, and other forms of reprisal do not belong in Europe in the XXI century and must stop immediately. Instead, member states should take all the necessary political, legal, and practical measures to ensure that human rights defenders effectively enjoy their rights and freedoms not only in theory, but, more importantly, in their daily lives and work.
It is essential to foster an enabling environment for human rights activists, including their effective participation in public affairs and unhindered access to funding.
Human rights defenders' safety and freedoms are democratic imperatives. They need more support."