“LGBTI human rights defenders are facing an increasingly hostile environment in many European countries. Member states of the Council of Europe must do more to protect them”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, upon releasing the report of an online round-table with LGBTI human rights defenders from across Europe which she hosted in February 2021.
Based on the interventions of the participants in the round-table, the report first outlines the current context in which LGBTI human rights defenders are working, which is characterised by a growing resistance to the recognition and protection of the human rights of LGBTI people in Europe. It was noted that the negative trends present disturbingly strong similarities across numerous countries.
The report gives an overview of the challenges faced by LGBTI human rights defenders in their work. Not only are they confronted with the restrictions which affect all other human rights defenders, but they are also targeted because of the issues they work on and because of their identity. The challenges discussed in the report include physical violence, hate speech and online harassment; leaks of personal data; smear campaigns, including by public officials; violations of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression; police and judicial harassment; lack of access to policymakers and to funding; and burnout and exhaustion.
The report also underscores the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both LGBTI people and LGBTI activism and commends the remarkable flexibility and creativity of LGBTI activists to adapt their work to the needs of LGBTI communities.
“It is unacceptable that defending human rights may expose LGBTI activists to such severe problems, including risks to their personal reputation, mental health and physical security,” concluded the Commissioner. “Member states should urgently take measures to ensure that LGBTI human rights defenders can work in an enabling and safe environment.”