Human Rights Defenders

The work of human rights defenders is essential for the advancement of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Human rights defenders play a central role in making state policies human rights compliant and authorities accountable. Human rights defenders are also instrumental in defending victims of human rights violations and ensuring their access to redress and remedy. Human rights defenders are key partners of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

Civil society human rights activists face numerous obstacles in their work, including: legal and administrative restrictions impeding the registration of NGOs and their access to funding; excessive financial and reporting requirements; judicial harassment; smear campaigns; threats and intimidation; abusive control and surveillance; confiscation and destruction of working materials; unlawful arrest or detention and ill-treatment. In some cases, human rights defenders are kidnapped or even killed. The absence of effective investigations into violations committed by state and non-state actors against human rights defenders targeted because of their human rights work remains a major problem. This results in the impunity of perpetrators and the recurrence of violations, which also facilitate reprisals.

Support for the work of human rights defenders, their protection and the development of an enabling environment for their activities lie at the core of the Commissioner’s mandate. The Commissioner assists member states in fulfilling their obligations in this regard by providing advice and recommendations. She raises issues related to the working environment of human rights defenders and cases of those who are at risk through her dialogue with authorities as well as publicly, including through the media. She has also intervened before the European Court of Human Rights in a number of cases concerning human rights defenders. The Commissioner and her Office are regularly in contact with human rights defenders and organise mutual thematic consultations on an annual basis, and closely co-operate with the UN and regional mechanisms such as the OSCE/ODIHR in supporting human rights defenders.

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Statement on Turkey
Measures taken under the state of emergency in Turkey

Report on Armenia
Armenia should intensify its efforts to ensure gender equality and protect human rights in the justice system

Report on mission to Kyiv, Moscow and Crimea
In Crimea serious human rights violations and attacks on minorities and journalists require urgent action

Visit to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan: Stop reprisals against human rights defenders

Letter to the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office
Commissioner expresses concern over NGOs in Hungary

Observations on Azerbaijan
Freedom of expression, assembly and association deteriorating in Azerbaijan

Report on Ukraine
Ukraine: Fight against impunity and judicial reforms are necessary to improve human rights protection

Report on Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan should ease restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly

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