Front Line Defenders
Protecting human rights defenders at risk around the world
Human rights defenders are active in every part of the world, standing up to injustice, brutality and oppression and challenging dictators, destructive multi-national corporations, religious conservatives and oppressive regimes. Defenders work in many different ways to protect rights, including documenting and publicly exposing human rights abuses, supporting survivors of abuse and campaigning to champion the rights of others.
What many human rights defenders have in common however, is that because they are speaking out or working against powerful people, corporations or institutions, they are threatened or targeted with defamation, criminalisation and violence. Many are in serious danger because of their work. In 2017 alone, 312 human rights defenders were killed. Thousands more were detained, presented with fabricated charges, subjected to lengthy, expensive and unfair legal processes and, in some cases, sentenced to long prison terms.
Environmental rights defenders Movimiento Rios Vivos in Colombia
Front Line Defenders works to protect human rights defenders at risk, people who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The organization addresses the protection needs identified by HRDs themselves, providing rapid and practical support to at-risk defenders including: grants to pay for the practical security needs; provision of training and resource materials on physical and digital security and protection; international advocacy on behalf of defenders at immediate risk; campaigning and visibility work and capacity-building; rest and respite; temporary relocation for emergency situations and an emergency 24 hour phone line.
On 18 May, Kurdish journalist and human rights defender Nurcan Baysal received the 2018 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk in Europe & Central Asia. Baysal is a Kurdish human rights defender and journalist from Diyarbakir, in the Kurdish region of Turkey. As a direct result of her work documenting human rights violations in the region, Baysal has attracted the enmity of nationalists and pro-government groups and individuals. She receives death threats and abusive messages via email, social media and telephone messages on a daily basis.
In January 2018, she was detained and charged because she tweeted messages calling for peace and condemning the Turkish government’s military incursion in Afrin and in February 2018; in a separate case, she was found guilty of demeaning the Turkish security forces in an article that she wrote in 2016 that documented criminal actions of the military. Sentenced to a 10 month jail term, she was released on the condition that she not repeat the offence within five years.
Front Line Defenders recognises the importance of international visibility as protection for human rights defenders. “As governments and corporations work to delegitimise and defame human rights defenders’ peaceful work, activists around the world tell us that international visibility and recognition is a critical protection tool,” said Executive Director Andrew Anderson. “The Award demonstrates that these defenders have the support of the international community, that their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed, and that we stand in solidarity with their unrelenting bravery.”