The European Convention on Human Rights is an international treaty under which the 47 member States of the Council of Europe (CoE) are bound to secure fundamental civil and political rights, not only to their own citizens but also to everyone within their jurisdiction. In 1997, the Commissioner for Human Rights’ office was established as an independent institution in Strasburg, France, with a general mandate to promote awareness of, and respect for, human rights.

Since February 2008, the Committee of Minister’s Declaration on Council of Europe action to improve the protection of human rights defenders and promote their activities strengthened the Commissioner’s role in the protection of HRDs and their work, especially in situations of danger.
The Declaration invites the Commissioner for Human Rights to:

  1. continuing to act upon information received from human rights defenders and other relevant sources, including ombudsmen or national human rights institutions;
  2. continuing to meet with a broad range of defenders during his country visits and to report publicly on the situation of human rights defenders;
  3. intervening, in the manner the Commissioner deems appropriate, with the competent authorities, in order to assist them in looking for solutions, in accordance with their obligations, to the problems which human rights defenders may face, especially in serious situations where there is a need for urgent action;
  4. working in close co-operation with other intergovernmental organisations and institutions, in particular the OSCE/ODHIR focal point for human rights defenders, the European Union, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders and other existing mechanisms.

Subsequent reports on the situation of HRDs have been released by the Commissioner for Human Rights:

  • The Report of the participants to the Round Table on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Council of Europe Member States of November 2008.
  • The report on Human rights defenders in South East Europe of December 2010.
  • The Human rights defenders in the Council of Europe area of October 2011.
  • The Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE issued a resolution on 27 June 2007, urging its Members States to create a safe environment for HRDs who play a vital role in building vibrant societies.

Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on Council of Europe action to improve the protection of human rights defenders and promote their activities – 6 February 2008

Declaration HRD CoECommittee Ministers