Human rights defenders
OSCE participating States have recognized the right of every individual to know and act upon his [her] rights and duties and to seek and receive assistance or assist others in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms (Copenhagen Summit Document, 1990). They also emphasized the need for protection of human rights defenders (Budapest Summit Declaration “Towards a Genuine Partnership in a New Era”, 1994).
The free exercise of the rights of men and women human rights defenders reduces the risk that conflicts escalate into violence and creates opportunities for dialogue and partnerships. Regrettably, however, human rights defenders, including those belonging to or working with vulnerable groups such as women or minorities, often become targets of serious abuses as a result of their human rights work. They face different types of attacks, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, ill-treatment in detention, stigmatization and violations of a number of rights such as freedom of assembly or movement. ODIHR follows the situation of men and women human rights defenders in detention, regularly raising their cases with the national authorities, and making visits to their detention facilities.
ODIHR closely works with local civil society and relevant international partners, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Council of Europe, the European Union and the Organization of American States.
In January 2016, ODIHR launched a new project in order to support the effective work of men and women human rights defenders in all OSCE participating States.
The Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders were published by ODIHR in June 2014. Since then ODIHR has worked to make the Guidelines known to the general public and to more specific audiences, such as the defenders themselves, government officials, media and OSCE structures.