Resolution of the FIDH Congress in solidarity with human rights defenders at risk, in particular those in detention

The 40th FIDH Congress, meeting in Taipei (Taiwan) from 23 to 25 October 2019, wishes to express its solidarity and its support with human rights defenders who, across the planet, are subjected to harassment, attacks, repression and criminalisation for promoting human rights1.

Stressing that safety of human rights defenders is especially precarious in conflict, post-conflict and security crisis situations.

Concerned that the civic space for human rights defenders has significantly shrunk at the global and national level, with a multiplication of laws criminalising all forms of peaceful protest and the abuse of the law to silence human rights defenders under the pretext of security or development.

Emphasising that the vulnerability of defenders is often compounded by a lack of visibility, lack of recognition and understanding of the role of human rights defenders, the impunity of perpetrators of violations, the lack of recognition of components of human rights, such as rights related to land and environment and rights related to gender identity and sexual orientation, the limited capacity of protection mechanisms and the collusion of state and non state actors.

Denouncing the recent deaths and assassinations of human rights defenders committed in several countries, such as in Algeria, Brazil, Colombia, DRC, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mexico, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines and Ukraine.

Stressing that many human rights defenders are arbitrarily detained, often in bad conditions, on trumped-up charges and following proceedings marred with violations of the right to a fair trial, in particular those working under authoritarian regimes or in situations of political crises or social protest movements, such as in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Colombia, DRC, Egypt, Guatemala, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Morocco, Mexico, Niger, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Togo, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Vietnam.

Adding that representatives of FIDH members or partners are lingering in prison today to silence or punish them for having defended human rights, in particular:

• in Uzbekistan: Yuldosh Rasulov and Zafar Rakhimov, Members of the Kashkadarya regional branch of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU) are arbitrarily detained since September 2009 and April 2007 respectively

• in Turkey: Özgür Ateş, board member of IHD’s Dersim Branch, is arbitrarily detained since November 2018

• in Kyrgyzstan: Azimjan Askarov, Director of “Vozduh” (Air) human rights organisation, is arbitrarily detained since June 2010

• in Iran: human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been sentenced to a total of 38 years and six months in prison and 148 lashes in two cases. Arbitrarily detained since June 2018, she will have to serve at least 17 years, as required by the law. Narges Mohammadi, Spokesperson and Vice-President of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), arbitrarily detained since May 2015, is serving 16 years in prison. At least five other human rights lawyers are also in detention, many journalists, trade unionists, and women’s rights defenders are awaiting trial or serving prison sentences.

• in Bahrain: Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Nabeel Rajab, President of the BCHR and FIDH Deputy Secretary General both arbitrarily detained since April 2011 and June 2016 respectively; Naji Fateel is arbitrarily detained since May 2013

• in Syria: Razan Zaitouneh, human rights lawyer, who headed the Violations Documentation Centre (VDC) in Duma, together with her husband Wael Hamada, and human rights colleagues Samira Khalil and Nazem Hamadi, abducted since December 2013

• in Mexico: the member of the Unión Cívica y Democrática de Barrios Colonias y Comunidades (UCIDEBACC) in Pinotepa Nacional, Teófilo García López, has been arbitrarily detained since August 2013, Pablo López Alavez, land rights defender, since August 2010

• in Egypt: youth leader Shadi al-Ghazali is arbitrarily detained since May 2018; Haytham Mohamadein from the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) and El-Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, was re-arrested in May 2019; and Mohamed Ramadan, a lawyer, is arbitrarily detained since December 2010

• in Saudi Arabia: a dozen of women human rights defenders were arrested in May 2018, some of them, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Saddah are still arbitrarily detained; many male women’s rights defenders are also behind bars; and Israa al-Ghomgham is arbitrarily detained since December 2015

• in the United Arab Emirates: advisory board member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) Ahmed Mansoor is arbitrarily detained since March 2017

• in Burundi: Germain Rukuki from ACAT-Burundi, and Nestor Nibitanga from APRODH, are arbitrarily detained since July and November 2017 respectively

• in the Philippines: Senator Leila de Lima is arbitrarily detained since February 2017

• in Morocco: journalists Rabie Al Ablak and Hamid El Mahdaoui are arbitrarily detained since May and July 2017 respectively

• in Tajikistan journalists and lawyers have been criminally prosecuted for defending victims, including the 28 years jail sentence for prominent human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov

Therefore, the 40th FIDH Congress urges competent authorities to:

• guarantee the protection, physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders, in particular those most vulnerable to attacks

• tackle the issue of the impunity of crimes targeting human rights defenders and carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into all allegations of attacks against human rights defenders, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law

• release immediately and unconditionally all human rights defenders who are arbitrarily detained, including representatives of FIDH members or partners

• ensure that, until charges are dropped, all the judicial proceedings are carried out in full compliance with human rights defenders’ right to a fair trial, as protected under international law

• publicly and unequivocally recognise the legitimate, positive and necessary role played by human rights defenders in society

• withdraw and amend all laws restricting and criminalising the defense of human rights

• conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the UN General Assembly.

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statement