Guidelines on the Protection for Human Rights Defenders

The Civic Solidarity Platform welcomes the new Guidelines on the Protection for Human Rights Defenders, issued this week by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE.

The creation of the Guidelines was one of the demands in the Dublin Declaration on Security of Human Rights Defenders, issued by the Platform in 2012. The Platform will now actively promote the dissemination and the implementation of the Guidelines. The Platform urges all OSCE participating States to use the Guidelines to review policies and practices on protection of human rights defenders in their country.

The defense of human rights by concerned, committed and critical citizens is an important and necessary contribution to human rights compliance in any country. The Guidelines, if followed by the participating States, will create an enabling environment for this contribution. The Guidelines are based on existing international standards, commitments and best practices, and constitute the most comprehensive document issued up till now by any intergovernmental organisation.

The Guidelines stand in stark contrast to the situation in many OSCE participating States, where civil society human rights defenders are hampered or obstructed by government policies and restrictive legislation in breach of international human rights standards. In some cases, our colleagues have paid with their lives for their commitment to human rights. Others are subjected to long-term imprisonment, such as our colleagues Ales Bialiatski, a leading Belarusian human rights defender, Azimzhan Askarov, a human rights lawyer in Kyrgizstan, Evgeny Vistishko, a Russian environmental activist and Anar Mammadli, an Azerbaijani election monitor.

We urge all OSCE participating States that care about security of human rights defenders to step up efforts on behalf of human rights defenders at risk in other countries, making this a key issue in all bilateral and multilateral fora, providing direct assistance to defenders and, when necessary, temporary shelter and asylum.

The OSCE should follow up the Guidelines by bringing its work for the protection of human rights defenders to a new level. The Guidelines should be translated in languages of OSCE participating States and be distributed to and introduced with relevant agencies and institutions. Summary versions should be made available for a wide audience. OSCE participating States and institutions should systematically speak about the issue rather than attend events organised by civil society. An OSCE High Level Representative for Human Rights Defenders should be appointed. Participating States should make voluntary reports at meetings of the Human Dimension Committee of the Permanent Council about their implementation of the Guidelines. A permanent panel of experts on security of human rights defenders should be established by ODIHR.

In 2016, ODIHR should conduct an assessment of implementation of the Guidelines by participating States. The process of drafting a new, upgraded and extended OSCE commitment on security of human rights defenders could then be launched.

Finally, OSCE should effectively cooperate with other international mechanisms on the situation of human rights defenders, including the UN, the Council of Europe and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.


Netherlands Helsinki Committee

Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan

Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia

Analytical Center for Interethnic Cooperation and Consultations (Georgia)

The Kosova Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims

Albanian Helsinki Committee

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

Human Rights Centre Viasna (Belarus)

Helsinki Citizens' Assembly – Vanadzor (Armenia)

Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)

Helsinki Committee of Armenia