Human rights defenders are people who promote or protect human rights. Whether they work solo or with others, their goals include seeking protection of civil and political rights as well as the promotion, protection and realization of economic, social and cultural rights; helping victims of human rights violations; and supporting better governance and government policy.
This leads us to one of the most important obstacles that human rights defenders face in their line of work – lack of protection while carrying out their tasks. They take the risk of standing against human rights violations and being responsible for whatever they face.
Governments worldwide are not fair in applying democracy on their people. This means the human rights defenders’ campaigns are not welcomed everywhere. In fact, some countries use their power to stop these defenders despite what the latter are fighting for in a bid to maintain the same system. Instead of getting support for championing a humanitarian cause; they are being stopped, arrested and accused of breaching the State system.
Moreover, the work history of human rights defenders shows a large number of arbitrary arrests due to the campaigns or protests they carry out. This is a source of disappointment. Such noble work should be welcomed and supported rather than being quashed. There is no law stating that human rights defenders should be protected and supported. Actually, there is no law regulating their work.
Meanwhile, the Criminal Law is activated indefinitely in a bid to stop the human rights message if it disturbs the State system. This raises the question: What action is considered as disturbance to the system? Unfortunately, no law answers such question which leads to abuse of the law and violation of human rights. Laws that regulate the work of human rights defenders and stipulate their job descriptions are necessary in order to protect their work and maintain peace in the country.
By Atyab Alshatti, Esq.