Wednesday, 29 April 2009

PACE reminds European governments of their obligation to protect human rights defenders. Caucasus region is of particular concern

Strasbourg, 28.04.2009 - The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) today reminded European governments of their “obligation and responsibility” to protect human rights defenders and their work “by providing an enabling environment” and, if necessary, “protection mechanisms to ensure the physical integrity” of those who face specific threats.

The parliamentarians expressed concern about the situation of human rights defenders who are most exposed to attacks and abuses: those fighting against impunity for serious crimes and against corruption, as well as those working on economic, social and cultural rights, on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, as well as for the rights of migrants, national or ethnic minorities.

“Women defenders also face distinct risks and obstacles. In particular, the situation of human rights defenders in the Caucasus region, where some of them face the most violent repression, including killing, abduction, arbitrary arrests and detention, is critical,” they said.

Following the proposals by the rapporteur Holger Haibach (Germany, EPP/CD), the Assembly urged Council of Europe member states to “publicly and firmly support” the activities of human rights defenders and to “guarantee in all circumstances their physical and psychological integrity”. Governments, they said, should establish “humanitarian visa schemes” for those facing imminent danger. Quoting from a recent speech of German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the Assembly, Mr Haibach said that we have not only a right, but a duty to intervene to protect human rights defenders.

The adopted text welcomes the Declaration recently adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, which mandates the Commissioner for Human Rights to strengthen the role and capacity of his office in order to provide strong and effective protection for human rights defenders and to intervene in threatening situations.

While stressing that the Assembly intends to step up its support for human rights defenders across the continent, the resolution recalls that PACE recently established an annual Human Rights Prize to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe.

*source: Council of Europe; emphasis mine

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