The basic idea of the “twinning” initiative is that parliamentarians (MPs and MEPs) who can exercise their mandate in safety can do a lot to help protect human rights defenders (HRDs) who are at risk in other countries.
The objective of twinning MPs/MEPs and HRDs is to provide visibility to the defenders and their struggle for human rights in other parts of the world. The twinning can also enhance the security of HRDs in the field through regular contact with MPs/MEPs, who can provide moral and political support in the HRDs’ struggle for change in their societies through peaceful means.

[Insert photo of DvdMaelen et Pacifique – See with Eric if other photos available]

The twinning of MPs/MEPs with HRDs proposes various courses of action:

  • By establishing regular contact with the “twinned” HRD, the MP/MEP gets acquainted with the defender’s work and the risks and threats she/he faces.
  • Paying tribute to the commitment of HRDs when abroad by meeting with them wherever possible.
  • Encouraging discussions on HRDs’ situation at their Parliaments and expressing their support for the work, and their concern for the security, of their twinned HRD. If requested by the twinned HRD, this could be done either via public statements or communicating in a non-public manner with relevant local and national authorities.
  • Drawing attention at home and abroad to threatened HRDs during talks with political decision-makers and in petition letters and urging that they be protected.
  • Coordinating and sharing information on the situation of HRDs with other MPs/MEPs interested or involved in the country of origin of the twinned HRD.
  • If the twinned HRD is unfairly criminalised for her/his pacific struggle for human rights, the MP/MEP may visit the HRD in prison, call for her/him to be given a fair trial or observe the court proceedings.
  • Undertaking the Actions that MPs/MEPs can engage for HRDs in other countries

Twinning of Burundian HRDs and Belgian MPs

Since the killing of human rights defender Ernest Manirumva in Bujumbura, on 9 April 2009, Burundian HRDs and journalists have felt increasingly vulnerable because the authorities have so far failed to deliver justice. HRDs and journalists work in difficult conditions in Burundi and are regularly harassed and intimidated because of their work. In June 2010, in the violent run-up to the presidential and legislative elections, several NGOs, including Amnesty International [...]
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Twinning of Congolese HRDs and Dutch MPs

The volatile political context and the precarious security and humanitarian situation in many regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) contribute to ongoing human rights violations. PI finds that HRDs and journalists who investigate human rights violations and abuses, denounce them, assist victims and witnesses and demand justice, are often one of the primary targets of threats and physical violence. Since late 2011, Protection International and its partner organisations [...]
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