The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights reaffirms
its support for the work of human rights defenders. Nearly 20 years
ago, the United Nations adopted a Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
and more than 10 years ago, the Committee of Ministers adopted a
Declaration on Council of Europe action to improve their protection.
However, the number of reprisals against human rights defenders
has recently been on the rise. Many of them have been subject to
judicial or administrative harassment, smear campaigns and criminal
investigations launched on dubious charges, often related to alleged
terrorist activities or purportedly concerning national security.
Some of them have been threatened, physically attacked or arbitrarily
arrested. Others have even been assassinated.
Member States should refrain from any acts of reprisal against
human rights defenders and protect them against attacks by non-State
stakeholders. They should also uphold their fundamental rights.
The Committee of Ministers could take a number of measures to strengthen
the protection of human rights defenders, in particular by establishing
a platform similar to the one put in place for journalists and by
setting up a mechanism for reporting cases of intimidation of human
rights defenders who co-operate with the Council of Europe.