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NHRIs pledge action to protect human rights defenders

Graphic: Discussions at the 13th GANHRI International Conference, held in Marrakech

NHRIs have expressed grave concern about the shrinking civic space and threats, risks and reprisals faced by human rights defenders around the world

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions LogoGlobal Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions

National human rights institutions (NHRIs) from across the globe have pledged to bolster their support for human rights defenders amidst a growing climate of threats and reprisals.

Meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, for the 13th International Conference of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, participating NHRIs affirmed the vital contribution made by human rights defenders.

"Human rights defenders have a positive, important and legitimate role in contributing to the realisation of all human rights, at the local, national, regional and international levels," they said in the Marrakech Declaration, adopted at the conclusion of the conference.

NHRIs also noted the additional and gender-based risks that women human rights defenders can face when standing up for justice and equality, often from within their own organisations, communities and families.

"We are deeply concerned about reports on the increasing number of physical attacks against human rights defenders particularly where this includes sexual violence and killings," the Declaration stated.

"We are also concerned about reports on shrinking civic space and on threats, risks and reprisals faced by human rights defenders, worldwide."

Independent and effective NHRIs are also at risk of threats and reprisals and recent reports of attacks against NHRI members and staff are "extremely worrying", the Declaration added.


Senator de Lima surrounded by police, Manila

GANHRI Chairperson Prof. Dr Beate Rudolf paid tribute to Senator Leila de Lima, former Chair of the Philippines' NHRI, for her crucial human rights work.

During her tenure, she investigated many serious human rights violations, including the operation of 'death squads' in Davao City.

More recently, Senator de Lima has been a staunch critic of extra-judicial killings committed as part the government's 'war on drugs'.


All prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions Logo Prof. Dr Beate Rudolf , GANHRI Chairperson

NHRIs set out a practical set of strategies to promote, protect and build cooperative partnerships with human rights defenders, including:

  • Establishing national protection systems, in consultation with human rights defenders, civil society organisations and others
  • Encouraging States to ratify all international human rights instruments, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and advising them on implementation
  • Monitoring and reporting on civic space – online and offline – by collecting and analysing disaggregated data and statistics, related to killings, fabricated legal charges, misuse of laws and other attacks against human rights defenders
  • Establishing efficient and robust early warning mechanisms and focal points within NHRIs
  • Promoting gender equality and developing strategies to combat all forms of discrimination against women human rights defenders
  • Interacting regularly with human rights defenders and civil society and helping to develop and strengthen national and regional defenders' networks
  • Interacting with international and regional human rights systems in support of human rights defenders, and monitoring the follow-up and implementation of recommendations.

The GANHRI conference, held from 10-12 October 2018, brought together more than 260 NHRI representatives. It was co-hosted by the National Human Rights Council of Morocco, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Date: 16 October 2018


Image credits

  1. Discussions at the 13th GANHRI International Conference, held in Marrakech - National Human Rights Council of Morocco
  2. Senator de Lima surrounded by police, Manila - Facebook