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Michel Forst, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders

Human Rights Defenders: the UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst has published the World Report

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs), Michel Frost, has published “The World Report on the situation of Human Rights Defenders” with the purpose to identify the main areas of progress and the remaining challenges that need to be addressed in relation to the implementation of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Michel Forst affirms the Declaration on human rights defenders continues to be incompletely implemented by almost all States, only few of them have systematically and adequately implemented the Declaration.
Beyond the incomplete implementation of the Declaration, a growing number of States have actively taken steps to frustrate the enjoyment of the rights outlined in the Declaration. The ability of the international community to meet its obligations set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights - and notably in many of its more recent commitments to sustainable development, migration, and climate change - is under threat because of the restrictions imposed on and attacks directed against human rights defenders.

The World Report documents the much discussed closing of civic space and suggests that it has become, in too many locations, a war on human rights defenders.

In relation to current widespread challenges, the World Report reveals three key issues facing human rights defenders globally:

  1. the evolution of the use of the term “human rights defenders”;
  2. the development of mechanisms and practices to support human rights defenders;
  3. the use of legal and administrative frameworks to both protect and persecute defenders.

The World report describes the situation of human rights defenders in each country. As regards Italy, HRDs generally enjoy a safe and enabling environment within the State. Italy has also expressed support for defenders, particularly those at risk, working abroad.
HRDs who face tha main challenges are especially environmental defenders and defenders of people on the move. Journalists and others working on politically and socially sensitive issues such as corruption and organised crime are also at risk, particularly from non-State actors.
Although there are no formal restrictions on forming civil society organisations, the right to freedom of association of defenders of the rights of people on the move and minority rights are often in practice restricted.
The Special Rapporteur applauds the protective measures that the State has taken to provide protection to at-risk journalists though shares the State’s and defender’s concern at the impunity enjoyed by the Mafia that places such defenders at risk. The Special Rapporteur recommends that Italy further strengthen its protective mechanisms for human rights defenders at risk, in consultation with at-risk journalists and at-risk defenders.

The full version of the World Report is available at the link below.