Item 5: JST HRDs

Item 5: Joint Statement on Human Rights Defenders.

As delivered by France

Check against delivery.

Thank you, Mr. President,

This year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. I would like to recall how far we have come since then. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders has been established: it plays an essential role in drawing attention to the most serious situations. We also welcome the designation of the Assistant Secretary-General for human rights, Andrew Gilmour, to lead UN efforts to put an end to intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with the UN on human rights. We support their mandate and commend their work as well as the essential role played by the President of the Council in following up on and alerting ASG of any particular cases of his knowledge.

Human rights defenders advocate for the full exercise of individuals' freedoms hence playing a preventive role. They monitor the respect of human rights by States and document violations and abuses. We reaffirm the essential contribution of HRDs to the work of HRC mechanisms and treaty bodies. This is precisely why it is crucial to address situations where governments seek to stifle the voices of individuals who defend human rights. In his opening speech, the High Commissioner for Human Rights spelled out the worrying trends against Human rights. Many human rights defenders pay the price for the shrinking of the civil society space. They are subjected to violence, threats and reprisals, sometimes even torture or other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial executions, simply for defending the human rights we all work to promote and protect. We condemn these persecutions.

Women human rights defenders play a particularly important role in upholding universal human rights norms and principles in the increasingly contested environment for women’s rights around the globe. The backlash they can face as a result of such a development requires that States and the UN human rights system consider protection measures and remedies to tackle specific challenges faced by women human rights defenders.

Yet many States do recognize that the participation of civil society and the role of Human rights defenders contribute essentially to the establishment of open, prosperous and peaceful societies that abide by the rule of law.

We hope that the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Declaration, the high-level meeting at the General Assembly and the summit of defenders in Paris will be an opportunity for States to reaffirm their commitment to protect human rights defenders and to ensure an environment conducive to their activities, freely and without interference, intimidation, abuse, threat, violence, retaliation or undue restriction.

Thank you very much.