Human rights defenders, as a result of their commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, are the target of repression by States or by private or parastatal groups. This repression takes the form of restrictive laws and practices regarding freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, smear campaigns, abuse, death threats, arbitrary arrests and detention, forced disappearance, torture and assassination.
In 1997, in partnership with the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), FIDH pioneered safeguarding human rights defenders by creating a unique programme devoted to this issue and entitled the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. FIDH’s mission, through the work of the Observatory, is to take action in support of individuals, whatever their status, title or function, who are exposed to reprisals as a result of their human rights activities. The objective of FIDH is to ensure that the voices of non-profit organisation workers and campaigners, lawyers, journalists, trade unionists, rural and community leaders and ordinary citizens are heard, and that they are no longer left isolated and marginalised.
The Observatory has developed several ways to take action in response to the demands and specific nature of each situation: issuing and distributing urgent alerts in 6 languages, provision of emergency grants (medical, psychological and legal support; help with relocation) and capacity grants, prison visits, judicial observation and defence, national and international advocacy, investigative missions, public campaigns on social media and the internet, urgent advocacy directed at actors of social change, initiating legal and paralegal recourse, analysing repressive trends (Annual Report), consolidating the intergovernmental system for protecting defenders (‘inter-mechanism’ process and advocacy), etc.