In many countries, people who defend human rights can themselves become the victims of human rights abuses. Members of national parliamentary assemblies  –MPs– (i.e. legislators, congresspersons, senators, assembly members, etc.) and members of the European Parliament –MEPscan actively support and protect Human Rights Defenders through various types of initiatives at home and in other countries

In their home country MPs (and also MEPs) can, among other things:

  • Ensure that domestic legislation is in conformity with the UN Declaration on HRDs.
  • Make the Declaration a national legal instrument in order to facilitate its application by national authorities.
  • Ensure that any piece of legislation is not misused so as to hinder or criminalise the actions of HRDs.
  • Promote the implementation of national or regional protection mechanisms.
  • Ensure that there is a solid and independent national human rights institution (NHRI).
  • Participate in –or participate in the creation of– a parliamentary committee charged with supervising the situation of human rights and HRDs at home and abroad.

[Insert photo of a MP engaged in activism – e.g. the photo of Strässer in a manifestation]

In other countries, MPs and MEPs can, among other things:

  • Publicly express their concern regarding dangers faced by HRDs in third countries.
  • Address parliamentary questions to their Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) so as to strengthen the action on the ground of their embassies and to enhance visibility, at the international level, of any critical situation for HRDs. Parliamentary questions may include:
    – Addressing urgent issues for HRDs in trouble (e.g. issuing visas for temporary shelter, support of embassies or consulates, etc.).
    – Requesting the implementation by the executive of the UN Declaration on HRDs.
  • Ensure the mainstreaming of the respect and protection of HRDs in all parliamentary actions. This includes the adoption of foreign and trade policies that take account of the concerns of HRDs working abroad.
  • Make sure substantial funding is available at the MFA and the embassies for projects aimed at protecting HRDs and ensure that such projects include a provision for security measures (e.g. physical security elements, temporary relocation of threatened HRDs, etc.).
  • Invite HRDs to bear witness to the situation human rights in their countries and the conditions in which they undertake their work.
  • Organise visits, support delegations and meetings with HRDs in third countries, in order to have access to first-hand information concerning human rights violations.
  • Engage with their counterparts in third countries to point out any concerns or encourage positive initiatives to protect HRDs (e.g. adopting legislation to protect HRDs).
  • Send letters, visit or invite ambassadors of third countries to indicate concerns regarding threats or attacks against HRDs.
  • In the case of European Member State MPs and MEPs:
    Advocate for an effective implementation of the Local Implementation Strategy (LIS) of the EU Guidelines on HRDs.
    – Put the HRDs situation at the agenda of the EU Council working group on Human Rights COHOM and relevant regional working groups (COLAT, COAFR, COASI, etc.) through questions sent to their MFA.