The use and abuse of national law to impair, restrict and criminalise the work of human rights defenders is a contravention of international law and must end, according to a landmark resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.
The resolution on “protecting human rights defenders” (A/HRC/22/L.13) was adopted at the 22nd Session of the UNHRC in Geneva on 21 March 2013. The resolution, tabled by Norway, received the support of 62 states across 6 continents, and was adopted without a vote. Iran is not a elected member of HRC.
• Strongly calls upon States to end impunity for acts of intimidation or reprisals against HRDs, and to avoid criminalisation and other impediments to their work;
• Recognises the importance of new forms of communication, online and offline, for the work of HRDs in promoting and striving for the protection of human rights;
• Calls upon States to not impose discriminatory restrictions on potential sources of funding aimed at supporting the work of HRDs;
• Recognises access to information as a human right, and calls upon public authorities to proactively disclose information on human rights abuses.
We welcome the resolution as a significant statement reaffirming the positive obligation upon States to facilitate the work of HRDs, and remove obstacles to their work, including legislation that illegitimately criminalises the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and information.
In particular the resolution supports the obligation upon States to:
• Create a safe and enabling environment in which HRDs can operate free from hindrance and insecurity, including the duty to end impunity;
• Ensure laws do not prevent public officials from being held accountable and that penalties for defamation are proportionate;
• Ensure laws to protect national security are not misused to target HRDs and that counter-terrorism measures comply with international human rights standards;
• Ensure HRDs can perform their important role in the context of peaceful protests;
• Ensure that reporting requirements for civil society do not inhibit functional autonomy, and that no law criminalises or places discriminatory restrictions on funding sources;
• Ensure access to information as a human right, and requires public authorities to proactively disclose information, including on grave violations of human rights;
• Protect the expression of dissenting views;
• Protect the right of all people to access and use the Internet.