Human rights defenders are people who work towards the realisation of the rights and freedoms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, through peaceful means. Their work results in positive social change. It plays a major role in preventing and resolving conflicts, in the fight against impunity and corruption and in the establishment of the Rule of Law. They stand up for people whose rights and fundamental freedoms are violated.

In many contexts, human rights defenders themselves become victims of intimidation and attacks. Attacks are often deliberate and well-planned responses to defenders’ work, and are driven by political or military agendas. Protection International works with human rights defenders facing risks as a result of their legitimate work. We focus on the most vulnerable and marginalised defenders.
Over the years, Protection International has received requests for immediate and long-term support from defenders in over forty countries.

Human rights defenders and victims and witnesses

Impunity is a major obstacle for the enjoyment of Human Rights. It fuels the impression that the use of violence is an affordable option. Human Rights Defenders stand up for victims and witnesses of Human Rights violations. They document the victim’s testimony, help to provide it  to authorities, courts or other forums, seeking to eradicate impunity and bring perpetrators to justice. The justice system often leans on Human Rights Defenders [...]

Women Human Rights Defenders

Every man and woman who defends human rights should be able to do so without fear of being at risk.   At Protection International, we build the capacities of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) to analyse the specificity of the risks they face and to develop their own security and protection strategies. We also participate in regional networks’ initiatives contributing to the protection of WHRDs, such as the Mesoamerican WHRD network. [...]

Criminalized Defenders

States increasingly push back on people defending rights and freedoms by wrongfully labelling and prosecuting them as criminals or terrorists. The risk dimension doubles when such criminalisation makes other potential aggressors sense that the political cost of attacking the so-called criminal is low. Stigmatisation of HRDs (often compared to terrorists or criminals) also aims at reducing the support they enjoy. Protection International researches the trend of criminalisation of human rights [...]


Journalists often reveals human rights violations that would otherwise remain undiscovered. This exposure makes them more vulnerable to end up in the firing line of perpetrators of those violations. Media also tends to be subject of regulation by the state. More often than not, this dependency turns the law into a source of risk rather than a source of protection. Protection International gives them the capacity to develop a security [...]

Defenders for the rights of LGBTI people

In most societies, people defending the rights of lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, are deemed to challenge traditional cultural norms and social structures.   LGBTI defenders are often marginalized and exposed to stigmatization, repression, discrimination and consequent human rights violations because of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and because they are defenders of the rights to equality and non-discrimination.   Protection International’s Manual for LGBTI Defenders focuses on [...]

Environmental Defenders

Exploitation of natural resources often arises in ways that violate the human rights and fundamental freedom of local communities. When communities start organising themselves to defend their rights, they find themselves opposing powerful private and public interests. Community leaders and members may become the targets of harassment, threats and even aggression. The involvement of national and transnational corporations adds a layer of complexity. As well as the fact that many [...]

Remote communities

Defenders living and working in remote and rural areas are particularly at risk because of their isolation. They lack access to key actors in protection such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, National Human Rights Commissions, major national human rights organisations, national authorities or embassies. Moreover, they often have little or no access to communication means, transport and information. Thus, defenders in remote areas must solely [...]