Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Best Practices and lessons learnt

In recent years several governments have developed specific national mechanisms to protect defenders, all of them in countries seriously lacking in protection for human rights defenders. These mechanisms (laws, action policies, offices) have been established under pressure from (and with the cooperation of) national and international human rights organisations, with essential legal support from the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

At Protection International, this development has led us to set up a study group focused on these national initiatives: what are they and what do they consist of? How did they come about, how do they work and what is their impact on the protection of defenders? In our view there is a need to better understand all the initiatives that have been taken in the world to this end and to show what the defenders think constitutes good practice and what we can learn.

Given the vast and complex nature of the results of the survey we decided to compile them in one volume under the general title, “Protection of human rights defenders: best practices and lessons learnt” (also available in Spanish and in French) which is divided in two parts.

The first part is subtitled “Legislation, national policies and defenders’ units”, and in it we analyse the legislative and structural aspects of these protection initiatives.

The second part, “Protection Programmes for Defenders”, analyses the practical aspects of protection programmes: the measures they include, how they are structured, and their results. This second part focuses on the three countries whose protection programmes were examined, namely Brazil, Guatemala and Colombia.

The background to this debate needs to be addressed first. That is whether it is necessary for the state to create mechanisms (laws, policies, offices) specifically for the protection of defenders or if it is better to ensure the institutions (the legal system and security forces) fulfil their obligation to guarantee protection for this group.

 Research and text by Enrique Eguren Fernández and María Martín Quintana. 


You can download the contents from the links below:


Part I: Legislation, national policies and defenders’ units

Chapter 1: Description and analysis of legislation and institutions for the protection of defenders at international and regional level

Chapter 2: Description of national legislation and institutions for the protection of human rights defenders

Chapter 3: Analysis of national laws and authorities protecting human rights defenders

Chapter 4: State structures and mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders


Part II: Operational aspects of defenders’ protection 

Chapter 1: Overview of the Protection Response

Chapter 2: Inclusion in Protection Programmes

Chapter 3: Risk Analysis in Programmes for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Chapter 4: Protection Measures provided by the Programmes: Characteristics and Duration

Chapter 5: Catalogue of Available Protection Measures and Analysis

Chapter 6: The Overall Protection Response



Appendix 1: Table of supra-national protection systems

Appendix 2: National protection systems in Latin America and the Caribbean

Appendix 3: Example of a table of protection measures for defenders (extract from the Colombian Protection Programme)



Annex 1: Assessing risk: threats, vulnerabilities and capacities

Annex 2: Brazil – Bill on protection of defenders (2009)

Annex 3: Brazil: Procedural Manual for Programmes for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (extract)

Annex 4: Colombia: Decree 4065 (2011), Creation of the National Protection Unit – objective and structure established

Annex 5: Colombia: Decree 2788 (2003), Committee for regulation and risk assessment of the protection programmes

Annex 6: Guatemala: National prevention and protection policy for human rights defenders and other vulnerable groups (2009)

Annex 7: Guatemala: Agreement on creating the analysis body (2008)

Annex 8: Guatemala: Catalogue of measures for the prevention of human rights abuses and protection of human rights defenders and other particularly vulnerable groups (Guatemala, February 2008)

Annex 9: Nepal: Draft bill 2066 on human rights defenders (2009)

Annex 10: Democratic Republic of Congo: Draft bill on protection of defenders (2008)

Annex 11: United Nations: Declaration on the rights and obligations of individuals, groups and institutions to protect universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms (1998)

Annex 12: United Nations: Complementary resolution to the declaration on defenders – see previous annex – (2009)





You can download the document by clicking in the image.





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