Human Rights Defenders’ Summit : Honouring the Defenders

The FIDH, Amnesty International, France-Libertes
Foundation and ATD Quart-monde organised the first
Human Rights Defenders Summit in Paris from 8th-
11th of last December to celebrate the 50th
Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights.More than 300 Human Rights Defenders from all
regions of the world gathered at the Palais de
Chaillot to reemphasize their support for this
Declaration which is the basis of their day to day
action to promote and defend human rights, and
whose provisions constitute their common objective.

Human rights defenders, non-governmental
representatives of the peoples of the United Nations,
spokespersons of voiceless people, victims, outcasts,
men and women of all national, ethnic, religious,
linguistic, social or cultural origins,
Gathered as a summit for the fiftieth anniversary of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the
"Palais de Chaillot", the symbolic place where this
Declaration was adopted on December 10th, 1948 by
the Member States of the United Nations,
Inspired by the desire to contribute to the
implementation, for all and everywhere, of all the
rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights,

Considering that human rights are universal; that such
universality is based on the primacy of the respect for
human dignity, and transcends ideologies and religions,
Considering also that human rights include, by
reference to the inalienable principles of equality and
liberty, the right to be different and the right to
preserve one’ s culture and identity,
Considering that human rights are indivisible, that their
complete realisation depends on the joint realisation of
all rights,
Considering that the Universal Declaration still
represents " a common standard of achievement for
all peoples and all nations", but also establishes, for yesterday, today and tomorrow, principles essential for
life in society in the respect of human dignity; and that,
as such, the Universal Declaration constitutes an
indisputable moral and legal reference in the
international law of human rights,
Considering that, fifty years after the adoption of the
Declaration, "the disregard and contempt for human
rights" are still resulting in barbarous acts which
outrage the conscience of mankind; and that human
rights violations take on the most varied and complex
forms, involving an increasing number of factors,
particularly economic factors, in a context of
globalisation of exchanges to the detriment of social
Denouncing the attempts of certain States to justify or
excuse human rights violations in the name of cultural
or cultual specificity; of idiosyncratic or national
security alibis; and by opposing deceptively civil and
political rights to economic, social and cultural rights
and the right to development; or, on the contrary, by
denying the worth of the latter,
Denouncing moreover the increasing discrepancy
between the reality, often dramatic, of human rights
violations in many States and the enervating speeches
given by those same States to support their
international image,
Considering that women, children, outcasts, ethnic and
religious minorities, native peoples, civil populations
are always the main victims of human rights violations,
particularly when they happen in a context of impunity
for the authors of the violations, or in the context of
armed conflicts,
Pleased that, for fifty years and particularly since the
end of the cold war, the unequalled number of local
organisations for the defence of human rights has
opened new perspectives of actions and considerably
reinforced the influence of human rights defenders
nationally as well as in international and economic
Deeply concerned, however, that the increasing number
and influence of human rights defenders in the world
has been accompanied by a development and
systematisation of repressive measures and practices
against them,
Denouncing in particular the fact that the defenders of
the rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration
are now the main targets of those whose regimes and
practices they condemn; and that they represent,
because of their engagement, the first victims of
summary executions, forced disappearances, torture,
arbitrary detention, violations of the right to a fair trial,
the freedom of opinion, expression, association,
assembly, demonstration, movement, the right to
privacy, the right to employment and employment
rights, and that they are more and more compelled to
exile or to forced displacement,
Denouncing moreover the extent and the sophistication
of the measures and practices used by many States to
silence human rights defenders or to hinder their
action, and especially censorship and seizure of
publications, defamation, administrative and police
harassment, intimidation measures, implication in
criminal cases, their classification as ’terrorist’ groups,
the restrictions imposed for the creation or registration
of associations, the supervision and monitoring of
access to funding and the use made of such funds,
creation by the authorities of so-called nongovernmental
organisations, reliance on a state of
crisis or public order necessities, impunity for the
authors of such acts against human rights
Proclaiming that " the advent of a world in which
human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and
belief and freedom from fear and want" remains the
highest aspiration of men, women and peoples,

1. Denounce the multiplication and
systematisation of measures and practices used by
the States to prevent or hinder human rights
defenders’ activities in favour of the respect and
implementation of the rights guaranteed under the
Universal Declaration and other international and
regional instruments,

2. Solemnly affirm the right of every individual,
individually or as a group, to contribute to the
implementation of the rights guaranteed under the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other
international and regional instruments,

3. Affirm moreover that this right includes any
action, especially to protect victims or to promote their
rights, without any limitation or restriction except for
the conformity of such action with the Universal
Declaration; that this right includes, in particular, in all
circumstances and places:
- the right to defend one’s own rights as well as
other people’s, as well as the liberty to choose to
protect or promote one or several rights over others;
- the right to inquire into violations of such
rights, and to oppose them;
- the right to create or to participate in national
or international groups and associations for the
defence of human rights;
- the right to information, freedom of assembly,
of expression and communication of defenders and
between them;
- and, in particular, the right of defenders to
communicate freely and by means they deem
appropriate with national, international,
intergovernmental or private organisations or
- the right of defenders to implement or
participate in any peaceful activity intended to promote
human rights;
- the right to use national law and State
institutions as well as international law and institutions
to defend human rights and to act before them,
particularly in representation of the victims;
- the right to defend the human rights already
recognised as well as to act in favour of the
recognition of new rights, nationally and internationally,
and beyond any political, religious or philosophical
- the right to seek and to use human, economic,
technical or any other means necessary to guarantee the effective exercise of the right to defend
human rights;
- the right to be protected nationally, regionally
and internationally against measures or practices
intended to prevent, directly or indirectly, the enjoyment
or the exercise of such rights;

4. Solemnly call upon the States to respect and ensure
the respect of the right to freedom of action for human
rights defenders, and, in this respect:
- to assume their obligation, in accordance with
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other
international or regional instruments, not to hinder the
free and effective exercise of the right to protect and
promote human rights;
- to adopt the measures necessary to guarantee
this right and protect those exercising it;
- and to ensure such protection against acts or
omissions of the State, as well as against acts of
violence perpetrated by private groups or individuals;

5. Moreover call upon the intergovernmental,
international and regional organisations to protect their
partners and sources of information which human
rights defenders represent; in this respect, to set up
the instruments and mechanisms necessary to
effectively guarantee the freedom of action of human
rights defenders, and to protect them against all forms
of repression; and, in this respect:
- congratulate the United Nations General
Assembly on its adoption on this day, December 10th,
1998, of the Declaration for the Protection of Human
Rights Defenders [1] after thirteen years of elaboration;
- insistently call upon all United Nations organs
and mechanisms to take action to contribute to the
protection of human rights defenders within their
respective mandates;
- demand that the United Nations Human Rights
Committee set up in its 55th session (March- April
1999) a special Rapporteur for the protection of
human rights defenders or any other special
mechanism to ensure an equivalent protection, with
the purpose, in particular, of coordinating the actions
undertaken in this respect by the various competent
UN organs and mechanisms and to act for the
protection of the individual cases presented; demand
moreover that the High Commissioner for Human
Rights create, in her cabinet, a special Unit to support
the action of the special Rapporteur and complete it, if
need be; demand that all necessary means be made
available to the special Rapporteur and to the High
Commissioner for Human Rights in this respect;
- demand that regional organisations, and in
particular the Council of Europe, the European Union,
the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in
Europe, the Organisation of American States and the
Organisation for African Unity, set up equivalent
instruments and mechanisms as soon as possible;

6. Demand moreover that all organs and authorities of
economic, bilateral or multilateral, intergovernmental or
private co-operation include in their program the
protection of human rights defenders;

7. Demand finally that multinational companies ensure
that their strategies and projects are not harmful to the
freedom of action of human rights defenders;

8. Proclaim our faith in the dignity of all persons
regardless of where they are or of their origins, our
engagement in ensuring that universal and
fundamental rights prevail and are protected, and our
determination to work together so that all human
beings may live free and equal;

9. Call upon men and women throughout the world, the
international public opinion and the essential
independent media, to join us in this struggle which
must be the struggle of everyone for the respect of all
rights for all.

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