Let’s Talk about Human Rights Defenders Exactly what are human rights defenders? Or, more correctly, who are they? Basically speaking, a human rights defender is a person who seeks to promote and protect human rights. A defender of human rights can be working individually or along with others, forming a team of sort. They can take on many different forms. Housing campaigners, teachers, lawyers, trade unionists, whistle blowers, environmentalists, and journalists can be human rights defenders. Providing defense for human rights can be part of their jobs or they can do it all voluntarily. Their activities can be thought as being of high-risk as they often go against the violators, for which they could receive reprisals or be attacked. Risks that a defender of human rights vary but the all revolve around things such as physical attacks, restrictions on the right to freedom of association, arbitrary detention, false charges, harassment, surveillance, and smears—although it would be limited to these only. The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders was signed on December 9, 1998 by the UN. Also known in its complete title as the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups, and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, it is a historic achievement in the effort to provide protection for people who are at risk for trying to uphold human rights. The declaration was also the first that acknowledges the work of human rights defenders. The Declaration includes basic and the broadest definition of a human rights defender. It also contains statement that defines how similar human rights (such as right of free assembly, association, and expression) can also be applied to defenders. The defenders’ rights as outlined by the Declaration include: 1. The right to discuss and develop new ideas regarding human rights and advocate the acceptance of said ideas, 2. The right to criticize both bodies or agencies of the government and propose ideas on how to better improve their functions, 3. The right to provide legal assistance or advice as well as to assist in defending human rights, 4. The right to observe fair trials, 5. The right to unobstructed communication with and access to organizations of both nongovernmental and intergovernmental structure, and 6. The right to gain access to resources in the name of defending human rights. Everything on the Declaration must be respected and implemented by all countries. The government must at all cost protect human rights defenders from intimidation, retaliation, and violence.
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