JBGenève via compfightIn a statement made public on 7th October 2016, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes the legal obligation of states to respect and protect ESC defenders.

It states the importance of the civil society, human rights defenders’ work to protect and promote human rights and of the role they play to monitor and evaluate State parties’ compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

According to the CESCR “ States parties should respect and protect the work of human rights defenders and other members of civil society (…) ” HRDs often face risks and threats as a consequence of their work. In 2015, the current Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders identified those working to defend economic, social and cultural rights as one of the most at-risk groups of defenders

The Committee reminds State parties of their responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders are effectively protected against any and all forms of abuse, violence and reprisal which they might experience while carrying out their work to promote the realization of these rights.

The specific measures that States should adopt to safeguard the work of human rights defenders are dependent on national circumstances. The Committee, however emphasizes that the following measures are of crucial importance:

(i) public recognition, by the highest State authorities, of the importance and legitimacy of the work of defenders, and a commitment that no violence or threats against them will be tolerated

(ii) repeal of any State legislation or elimination of any measures that are intended to penalize or obstruct the work of defenders;

(iii) strengthening of State institutions responsible for safeguarding the work of defenders;

(iv) investigation and punishment of any form of violence or threat against defenders;

(v) adoption and implementation of programmes, in consultation with potential beneficiaries, that are well resourced and have inbuilt coordination mechanisms which ensure that adequate protection measures are provided to defenders at risk whenever necessary.

Read the full statement here