[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

FWD: Defend your Human Rights

******* FORWARDED ***************
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 97 09:20:46 CST
Errors-To: @uga.cc.uga.edu:o-imap@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network
## author     : tmkiss@xxxxxxxxxxx
## date       : 12.01.97


Dear Friends

We have an urgent matter to bring to your attention that requires
immediate action.  Below is background information on the UN
Draft Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which is under
negotiation in Geneva.  Please consider whether you and/or your
organization can sign the attached joint NGO statement on the
Declaration and send your responses as soon as possible.

Thank you for your attention!


Did you know...

   * that governments are drafting a Declaration to Protect the
     Rights of Human Rights Defenders at the United Nations?

   * that negotiations are being held hostage by some
     governments' proposals to erode existing standards which
     recognize rights to free speech, assembly, access to
     information, etc. that are necessary to promote and protect
     human rights?

   * that the Human Rights Defenders Declaration UN Working Group
     will be meeting February 24-28 in Geneva?

   * that there is a danger of the Working Group being abandoned
     due to lack of progress, or worse, that the Declaration will
     approve unacceptable restrictions on human rights advocacy?

   * that there is urgent need to for you to speak up now by
     contacting us, your government and other UN delegates?



     In 1985, the UN Commission on Human Rights established a
committee, called a "working group", to draft a UN Declaration on
the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups, and Organs
of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  The Working Group, composed of
government representatives, is also open to participation by all
interested NGOs. So far, it has almost agreed on the text of a
declaration.  Yet several of the most critical rights for human
rights defenders remain unresolved.  It seemed that the
Declaration would be completed in 1992, but a few governments
obstructed its completion by proposing measures that would
restrict the rights of human rights defenders rather than protect
them. The Working Group normally operates by consensus rather
than voting; one country or a handful can block the whole
process.  At present, the Working Group has not yet reached final
agreement on the following issues:

   * Some governments are insisting on including language that
     would require human rights defenders to carry out their work
     in conformity with national laws and regulations.  In
     countries where national laws and regulations do not protect
     rights to free speech, association, movement, etc., such an
     agreement in a UN text would be very dangerous.  In many
     countries, national laws fall short of international
     standards. Language affirming that international law is the
     framework is essential.

   * Many delegations have challenged language guaranteeing the
     right of defenders "individually and in association with
     others, to solicit, receive and utilize voluntary financial
     or other contributions, for the purpose of promoting and
     protecting, through peaceful means, human rights and
     fundamental freedoms".  At issue is whether the Declaration
     should spell this out specifically or not.  For many NGOs,
     this is a critical issue.  To do a professional job, NGOs
     need the freedom to organize and fund their activities.  For
     certain governments, this is one of the most controversial
     issues and it will be difficult for it to emerge as part of
     the final draft.

   * Other unresolved issues include whether groups have the
     right to defend the rights of others as well as one's own
     (troubling proposals state that one should only be allowed
     to advocate on behalf of one's own rights), the right to
     defend those who cannot appoint a representative (such as
     the "disappeared" or minor children), and the right to
     advocate outside of one's own country.


     Because of a stalemate at the week-long 1996 meeting of the
working group, a recommendation was adopted by consensus for the
Chairman-Rapporteur, Jan Helgesen of Norway, to develop an
entirely new, consolidated text.  Many delegates to the Working
Group supported this because opposing countries were inserting
ever-increasing and redundant restrictions into the text.

     Some of the governments which have been most supportive of a
strong Declaration are considering abandoning it at this point
due to lack of progress.  Small participation by NGOs in the
effort gives them the impression that the Declaration is not
important to NGOs, the groups it would protect.  For this reason,
we believe that it is essential for NGOs throughout the world to
make their voices heard on this matter before it is too late.


   * Send a message to governments, including your own, stating:
     (1) that they should work for the strongest possible draft
     that would protect all human rights defenders and groups;
     (2) that they should make sure there are no restrictions on
     human rights advocacy; and
     (3) that they should not abandon this effort.
          (Send them a message by e-mail, letter or fax,
          preferably to their UN mission in Geneva).

   * Sign on to a joint NGO statement sponsored by the
     International Human Rights Council at The Carter Center,
     Human Rights Internet and the Jacob Blaustein Institute for
     the Advancement of Human Rights.  (The text of the statement
     is below.)

   * Send a message to Jan Helgesen, Chairman-Rapporteur of the
     Defenders Declaration Working Group concerning you views on
     the Declaration at:

                         Faculty of Law
                         University of Oslo
                         Karl Johans Street 47
                         N-0162  OSLO
                         Fax. (47-22) 859-620
                         Tel. (47-22) 859-737


                       JOINT NGO STATEMENT

We, the undersigned, appeal to member states of the United
Nations engaged in negotiations on the Draft Declaration on the
Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups, and Organs of
Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms to work toward completing a
strong declaration, as soon as possible.

Given the importance and precarious nature of the work conducted
by human rights defenders at all levels, it is essential that
this Declaration affirm the vital role of human rights advocates
and their right to promote and protect human rights at home and

We believe that stronger efforts must be made to reach an
acceptable text and that this effort must not be abandoned.
Governments should insist on the inclusion in the Declaration of
the following rights of human rights defenders that are still
under discussion.  These are core rights which already exist in
other international agreements in other forms and they must be

   * the right to advocate human rights ideas freely and openly
     and to communicate them to others;

   * the right to participate in non-violent activities aimed at
     promoting observance of human rights;

   * the right to use the law and state institutions in the
     defense of human rights, and to appeal to them when the
     victims cannot do so for themselves;

   * the right to form, join or affiliate with national or
     international human rights organizations;

   * the right to receive and publish information at home and

   * the right to obtain and utilize the resources necessary for
     human rights defense;

   * the right to communicate with national and international
     NGOs on human rights issues and to have access to
     intergovernmental organizations;

   * the right to defend human rights in a manner consistent with
     international standards, without being constrained national
     laws and regulations that fall short if international

   * the right to defend the rights of others as well as oneself

     It is our view that compromise on any of these principles
would erode rights that are already guaranteed to defenders by
existing international human rights instruments. We cannot accept
such an outcome.  We are counting on the commitment of
justice-minded governments to support the above as a minimal
negotiating position.








Send above to:  Human Rights Internet at: <advocacy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>


FURTHER background information on the Human Rights Defenders
Declaration is being posted on HRI's Web Site:


Should you have any questions or wish to discuss aspects of
this initiative, feel free to contact:

Laurie S. Wiseberg
Executive Director
Human Rights Internet
8 York St, Suite 302
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 0W1
Tel (1-613) 789-7407
Fax (1-613) 789-7414
E-mail: <hri@xxxxxx> or <laurie@xxxxxx>