Human Rights Defenders

Examples of Good Practices

  • Law of the Republic of Tajikistan on Public Associations (2007)

    Article 24. Rights of a public association

    1. For the implementation of its statutory goals, a public association, which has a status of a legal entity, shall have the following rights:
    - freely disseminate information on its activity;
    - participate in the drafting of decisions by government and regulatory authorities in the manner and within the scope established by this Law and other laws;
    - hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, processions and other public events in compliance with the procedure established by the legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan;
    - establish mass media and undertake publishing activities in compliance with the legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan;
    - represent and protect its rights and legal interests of its members and participants or other citizens before government and regulatory authorities and public associations; (...)
    - put forward initiatives on various aspects of community life and submit proposals to government and regulatory authorities;
    - obtain information from government and regulatory authorities as may be necessary for the implementation of statutory goals, except for the cases established by the legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan; (...)
    - in compliance with the legislation, carry out scientific projects, research and development, public assessments of projects and programs important for the society and participate in joint review boards for such projects and programs, provided that such activity is anticipated in their charters;

  • Law On Public Organisations and Associations Thereof (15 December 1992, as amended) [Latvia]

    IV. Activities of Public Organisations and Associations Thereof
    Section 16. Public Activities

    In order to reach the goals provided for in the articles of association, public organisations and associations thereof have the right to carry out public activities that are not in conflict with regulatory enactments.

    For such purpose, such organisations and associations may:
      1) freely distribute information regarding the activities thereof;
      2) establish their own press publications and other mass media;
      3) organise mass rallies, demonstrations, street processions and meetings in public places;
      4) maintain contacts with the public organisations of other states;
      5) shape public opinion; and/or
      6) carry out other public activities.

    In matters related to the goals and tasks of the activities of the relevant public organisation or association of public organisations, such organisation or association may turn to the State and local government institutions and, if provided for in the articles of association, – also to a court in order to defend the rights of the members thereof or interests protected by law.
    Public organisations and associations thereof, in the cases provided for by laws and Cabinet regulations, may become  public-law bodies and perform individual State functions transferred thereto.

    If a public organisation or association of public organisations performs State functions, it has the following rights:
      1) to receive information from the State and local government institutions that is necessary to perform the State functions transferred to the relevant public organisation or association of public organisations; and
      2) to be present and express the opinion of the organisation or association at the meetings of the State and local government institutions when matters related to the State functions transferred to the relevant public organisation or association of public organisations are examined.

  • Law of the Republic of Armenia on Public Organizations (4 December 2001)

    Article 5. The State and the Organization

    1. The state shall ensure the protection of the legal rights and interests of an organization.

    2. The state shall provide assistance and aid to the organization in cases and manner prescribed by the laws and other legal acts.

    3. Organizations, on their own initiative or on the initiative of the state or the local self-governance bodies, may fully implement or participate in the social, healthcare, educational, teaching, cultural, sport and other socially significant programs and actions of the state or the local self-governance bodies by concluding written contracts or other agreements of mutual understanding.

    4. Interference of state bodies and local self-governance bodies and their officials in the activities of an organization is prohibited, except for cases stipulated by law.

  • Human Rights Defenders in the OSCE Region Challenges and Good Practices April 2007-April 2008

    Granting travel visas to human rights defenders to pursue their activities throughout the OSCE region

    (...) Defenders within the OSCE region and beyond require free movement to work on issues not only in their own countries. They need to attend events and activities elsewhere to raise awareness for issues, provide insights and expertise, and increase their international network and visibility. It is through such exchanges of views, ideas, and expertise that they learn about new issues, and can create common cause with other actors. This means defenders must be allowed to travel as freely as possible, both within their own countries and abroad.
    A number of participating States indicated they had policies to make it easier for those who wish to attend human rights conferences to receive a temporary visa.

    Granting emergency visas to human rights defenders in trouble

    Because of the nature of their activities, human rights defenders can be the target of threats or attacks. They can be persecuted for promoting certain human rights or for the violations they expose. In some cases, they may not receive sufficient protection against parties seeking to silence them. In cases of real danger, it is especially important that they be allowed to enter other states that can offer them refuge and protection. Some countries, such as Portugal and Spain, grant emergency visas to defenders in such situations.

    Granting residence permits to human rights defenders

    (...) A new law entered into force on 1 July 2008 that creates the legal basis for granting a residence permit in Denmark to authors, journalists, and other writers who participate in the public debate and in the cultural life of their country and who have been offered residence by the Municipal Council through international co-operation or a network of so-called international cities of refuge that have been approved by the culture minister.
    The law will apply to those writers who have been the victim of reprisals or censorship because of their literary activities and are therefore unable to express their views in their country of origin or residence. Thus, the law might provide for a temporary right of residence in Denmark to a human rights defender who has written or otherwise expressed his views on certain topics, resulting in, for example, persecution, ill-treatment, or imminent danger necessitating foreign protection.

    Using criminal law against those using violence against human rights defenders

    (...) Threatening to commit a serious criminal offence (e.g., to cause serious bodily harm or to commit murder) is itself a criminal offence in Germany, and law-enforcement authorities investigate such threats. Germany vigorously prosecutes criminal offences against human rights defenders, and those accused of committing a crime must answer charges in a criminal court. In Germany, the victims of violent offences have special rights in criminal proceedings. Where the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) identifies activities by foreign intelligence services in Germany that indicate a specific threat to defenders of human rights who have sought refuge in Germany, that information is passed on to the relevant police.

    Granting direct government assistance to human rights defenders

    (...) A variety of organizations [in Portugal] can be granted the status of social partners and thus receive state support, tax exemptions, and other benefits. This recognition implies a second registration with concerned public departments (which often automatically gives the association the status of “public utility legal person”), although registration is never a pre-requisite for operation of non-governmental groups.
    Migrant associations are entitled to state support pursuant to co-operation protocols established with the Office of the High Commissioner for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue. These protocols are concluded upon request and involve the funding of activities developed by the requesting association (up to 70 per cent of the total amount). Support is also granted through activities aimed at improving the skills of members of such associations, including decision-makers, workers, and volunteers (namely training courses and follow-up to project implementation). Furthermore, associations can be given technical support, namely legal or other advice and the provision of documentation and other materials.
    Similar support is given to women’s associations (by the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality), youth associations (by the Portuguese Youth Institute), and associations of disabled people (by the National Institute for Rehabilitation). (...)
    A civil-society endowment was created [in Estonia] in January 2008 that will be funded from the state budget on an annual basis. The endowment will focus on:
    funding the operational costs of non-governmental organizations that have a public benefit;
    supporting projects that create a more favourable environment for non-governmental organizations; and supporting local projects that promote civic participation and co-operation between non-governmental organizations.

    Assisting human rights defenders in obtaining funding

    (...) A team assembled by the deputy prime minister and tasked with the implementation of Serbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, in co-operation with the Finance Ministry and partners at home and abroad, has published several editions of a guide for potential domestic and foreign sources of funding NGO projects, including from local government and medium-sized and small-scale enterprises in Serbia. This guide provides useful information about the funds of domestic and foreign donors and government institutions that are earmarked for different activities, including funds available to NGOs. (...)
    As part of its efforts to raise awareness about the importance of the work of human rights defenders and the role they play in society, the Polish government grants tax exemptions to certain organizations and allows individual citizens to donate 1 per cent of their income tax to NGOs of their choice. (...)
    Although NGOs cannot seek profit, it is clear that they are free to receive funding and other resources, including from abroad, in order to be able to carry out their activities. This is one of the basic requirements of Art. 46 (2) of the Portuguese Constitution, which states that: “Associations may pursue their objectives freely and without interference from any public authority, and they may not be dissolved by the State, nor their activities suspended, unless by judicial decision in the circumstances prescribed by law.” Clearly, restrictions on funding would represent interference in an NGO’s activity. (...)
    Switzerland provides financial support to local NGOs operating in foreign countries and international NGOs working in particular in the following capacities: alerting the international community to cases of repression where human rights defenders are among the victims; facilitating access to protection mechanisms for defenders at the global and regional levels; strengthening defenders’ capacities and building up networks; and providing international visibility to defenders under threat in their own countries. (...)

    Setting up standing mechanisms for dialogue with human rights defenders

    (...) In Finland, there is a regular formal forum for dialogue between the government and human rights defenders. Within the Foreign Ministry, there is an advisory board on human rights, which includes representatives of human rights NGOs. Active since 1988, the board meets regularly and provides a channel for communication between the ministry and NGOs. (...)

    Consultation with human rights defenders in the legislative process

    In Serbia, representatives of NGOs participate in public discussions prior to the adoption of laws, other regulations, and political documents. In some cases, NGOs themselves draft laws that are presented to parliament by government representatives.

    Involving human rights defenders in the drafting of rules affecting them

    One example is the Polish system for involving NGOs in the regulation of their own sector, whereby NGOs and other entities are consulted on draft legislation in areas relating to their activities. (...)

    Involving human rights defenders in the drafting of periodic reports to international bodies

    In Serbia, for example, defenders and human rights NGOs are included by the State Agency for Human and Minority Rights in the consultation process regarding the drafting of Council of Europe reports and periodic reports to UN treaty-monitoring bodies. Defenders are included as relevant partners based on their recognized field of expertise.
    A noteworthy development in this area is the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process within the UN Human Rights Council. In some cases, countries involve NGOs in the preparation of UPR reports, which contributes to the quality and depth of the reports, and allows the government to present not only its achievements but also a self-critical and balanced report on the human rights situation in the country. (...)
    The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs [in Switzerland] consults NGOs about important international and national decisions, and the position of NGOs can be included in messages for bilateral meetings.
    Switzerland also held a day of discussions with NGOs before submitting its UPR report to the UN Human Rights Council. This procedure will be repeated before submitting the next report within four years

    Involving human rights defenders in the work of NHRIs and ombudsman institutions

    (...) Slovenia’s human rights ombudsman started a project in January 2008 based on the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, whereby two NGOs were chosen to participate in joint monitoring visits to detention facilities. A joint report is written about each visit, and another joint report will be written about the project as a whole at the end of 2008. This sort of co-operation means a variety of views and experiences are taken into account in monitoring activities.

    Joint campaigns with human rights defenders

    (...) France’s Justice Ministry, the NGO International Observatory of Prisons, and the Office of the Mediator of the French Republic sent a confidential questionnaire to prisoners to gather information about their conditions of imprisonment. The purpose of the questionnaire was to break the silence surrounding prison issues. The information received led to improvements in detention conditions, as well as in co-operation between civil society and the French government. Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry has also developed a mechanism for constructive co-operation with civil society, notably with representatives of the NGO Committee Against Torture and the ombudsperson responsible for monitoring detention conditions. This NGO and the Ombudsman are allowed to visit any detention centre without prior notice or permission. (...)

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