There are several laws and regulations aimed at recognising the importance of the work of human rights defenders (HRDs) and protecting them in their struggle for the rights of others.
This page contains relevant international legislation and instruments of a universal nature (United Nations) as well as regional instruments (Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe) regarding HRDs’ protection mechanisms.

United Nations

The Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (or “UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders”) of 9 December 1998 is the document of reference for all international and regional mechanisms in terms of promotion and protection of HRDs. This instrument codifies the international standards regarding the activity of HRDs, recognises their legitimacy, underlines [...]
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Africa

[insert photo of the ACHPR in Banjul or the ACHPR logo] The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of 1981 (entered into force in 1986) is a legally binding instrument adopted by African countries. While the Charter does not specifically mention HRDs (since it pre-dates the UN Declaration on HRDs), it protects fundamental freedoms and fundamental rights in the African continent (Banjul charter.pdf). The African Commission on Human and [...]
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Americas

[insert photo of the IACHR in San José or the IACHR logo] Since the late 1970s, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, the judicial body of the Inter-American system, has tried human rights violations, including crimes perpetrated against HRDs of Panama, Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil. In several cases the Court has pointed that threats and attacks against HRDs and the impunity of perpetrators are all the more serious since the [...]
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Asia

[insert photo of Asian HR Comm. or ASEAN or the logo] Asia is lagging behind other regions in the establishment of specific protection mechanism for HRDs. Despite the existence of the Asian Human Rights Charter, the Asian Human Rights Commission and the recently created Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights of the Association of South-East Asian States (ASEAN), the protection of HRDs is exclusively dependent on governments and on national human [...]
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European Union

[insert photo of the EU institutions in Brussels – perhaps the Justus Lipsus building] EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders: In June 2004, the Council of the European Union adopted the Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, which were revised in 2006 and in late 2008. The guidelines aim at strengthening EU action in terms of support and protection of HRDs. This instrument made the protection of HRDs a priority of [...]
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Council of Europe

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 [...]
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Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

Since early 2007, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) established the Focal Point for Human Rights Defenders and national human rights institutions. Based in Warsaw, Poland, the Focal Point follows the situation of HRDs and aims to promote and protect their interests and to strengthen cooperation with national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the 56 member States [...]
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