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India: Bolster support for human rights defenders

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The National Human Rights Commission has called for governments to attach greater importance to the work of human rights defenders.


A day-long National Workshop on Human Rights Defenders organised by the National Human Rights Commission has concluded by emphasizing that governments need to evolve an environment in their functioning to attach importance to the work of human rights defenders.

Apart from taking stock of the implementation of several recommendations given by the Commission to governments following a similar summit in 2009, the Workshop came out with several suggestions to strengthen mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders and where their work is valued in the promotion of good governance.

Addressing the inaugural session of the workshop earlier, NHRC Chairperson Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said that "it is our social duty to espouse the cause of human rights".

"The noble pursuits of Human Rights Defenders help many of us in full enjoyment of social, cultural, political and economic rights. This contribution of civil society needs to be recognized," he said.

Justice Balakrishnan noted that the Commission gives importance to disposal of complaints of Human Rights Defenders and has also set up a focal point for them.

"The Governments should also focus on their functioning towards protecting Human Rights Defenders," he added.

Mr. Satyabrata Pal, former Member, NHRC and the Chief Guest on the occasion, felt that the Government was attaching low priority to the UN Resolution on Human Rights Defenders and their concerns.

Corporate interests are being confused with national interests and dissent is being portrayed as anti-national, he said.

"The time has come to speak and stand up for Human Rights Defenders, which is needed more now than before," Pal said.

During the course of discussion, several suggestions were given, which included:

  • NHRC should review the constitutionality of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act;
  • funding by Government to NGOs should also be streamlined;
  • NHRC should intervene in court cases against Human Rights Defenders, wherever there is possibility of their victimization;
  • conflict of laws in the way of promotion and protection of human rights should be examined and streamlined;
  • define Human Rights Defenders on the basis of their work, including journalists, and have a declaration about them in the country;
  • observe Human Rights Defenders Day every year;
  • create an emergency fund to help Human Rights Defenders in critical need and create a world of solidarity;
  • set up a Focal Point for Human Rights Defenders at State Human Rights Commissions also as it is in the NHRC;
  • organize human rights awareness workshops for Human Rights Defenders as well as journalists at district level.

Date: 19 February 2015

Source: National Human Rights Commission of India


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  1. Indian flag - Hi Pandian, Flickr Creative Commons