Civicus celebrates adoption of UN resolution on protecting human rights defenders

Johannesburg — Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS welcomes the landmark adoption of UN Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/22/L.13, “Protecting Human Rights Defenders”, as a vital step in creating a safe and enabling environment in which human rights defenders and civil society organizations (CSOs) can operate free from unwarranted restrictions.

The resolution, spearheaded by the government of Norway, was adopted at the 22nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on 21 March 2013 with broad cross-regional support from 70 UN Member States. CIVICUS highlights the following provisions of the resolution codifying a number of essential protections for human rights defenders:

The resolution comes in the wake of growing criminalisation of the activities of human rights defenders across the globe through the adoption and discriminatory invocation of restrictive legislation.

In Ethiopia, CIVICUS has documented the devastating impact of the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation which prevents human rights groups from receiving more than 10% of their funding from international sources.

In Russia, the government has introduced a spate of restrictive regulations, including amendments to the Law on Public Rallies which drastically increases fines for participating in unsanctioned demonstrations, aimed at preventing human rights defenders from carrying out their legitimate work. In Turkey, thousands of human rights defenders, journalists, students and civil society activists remain in prison under vague and overly broad provisions of the country’s anti-terrorism laws.

While the adoption of the Resolution A/HRC/22/L.13 represents a necessary step in protecting the rights of human rights defenders, it is imperative that the resolution is met with adequate support and engagement at the national level. Accordingly, CIVICUS calls on all UN Member States to engage with national civil society to give immediate effect to recommendations made in the resolution to bring national legislation impacting the work of human rights defenders in line with international human rights law.

Renate Bloem, CIVICUS’ Head Representative to the United Nations in Geneva said: “By adopting specific recommendations aimed at creating an enabling environment for human rights defenders, the Council has shown laudable leadership in addressing the escalating campaign to delegitimise and suppress the work of human rights defenders. The resolution marks a tremendous victory for global civil society.”

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global alliance of civil society. Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Johannesburg, CIVICUS is dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world, especially in areas where participatory democracy and citizens’ freedom of association are challenged. For more information, go to


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