What is “inter-mechanisms”?
Since the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998, several mechanisms of protection were created within many of the existing inter-governmental organisations: the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the African Commission Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa, the Functional Unit on Human Rights Defenders of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Commissioner on Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union.
All the inter-governmental organisations mentioned have different mandates, and diffent working methods.
In 2008 in Brussels, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), therefore took the initiative to gather for the first time all the human rights defenders’ institutional mandate-holders. The purpose was to draw a state of play of the existing means and techniques of protection, but also to find ways to enhance coordination and complementarities. Some of the main conclusions of this meeting were that information-sharing on both structural issues and individual cases had to be enhanced, working practices and limitations had to be further discussed, visilility of the mechanisms’ actions had to be strengthened.
At the second meeting in 2009 in Washington, which the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie attended, participants drew up strategies of increased cooperation on several issues such as:
- the visibility and effectiveness of their actions,
- modalities of interaction between themselves, in particular in terms of:
- communications on individual cases ,
- country visits,
- early-warning and protection measures,
- the issue of judicial harassment against defenders.
The Observatory will be holding further follow-up “inter-mechanisms meetings” on a regular basis, fostering constructive initiatives for enhanced actions of protection.
Why an “inter-mechanisms” website?
Public information on the mandates and activities of the human rights defenders’ mechanisms is not always visible. It is sometimes split on different webpages, web sections or websites, sometimes merely not available online.
The creation of a single website gathering all relevant public information on the activities of the different human rights defenders’ protection mandate-holders was actually one of the conclusions of the Washington meeting. It aims at increasing the visibility of the documentation produced by the mechanisms – press releases, studies, reports, statements, etc., as well as of their actions (country visits, institutional events, trials observed).
How can you find the information you need?
The website is designed for both mechanisms themselves, and human rights defenders and NGOs. It is made up of different sections corresponding to each mechanism. Each section is composed of sub-sections, outlining a general presentation of the mandate in question, a page gathering all the reports produced, a page on public reactions, and a fourth one about missions.
Individual cases of human rights defenders addressed by the mechanisms can be found:
- in the 2007 and 2008 reports of the ODIHR Focal Point
- in the reports and press releases sections of the IACHR Functional Unit
- in the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur, in particular those dealing with individual communications to States
- in some of the reports of the Commissioner on Human Rights of the Council of Europe
Structural issues concerning the situation of human rights defenders are outlined:
- in the 2007 and 2008 reports of the ODIHR Focal Point,
- in the reports section of the IACHR Functional Unit
- in the thematic annual reports of the UN Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council and General Assembly
- in some of the reports of the Commissioner on Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
Mechanisms taking part in the inter-mechanisms meetings:
- United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
- African Commission Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa,
- Functional Unit on Human Rights Defenders of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,
- Office of the Commissioner on Human Rights of the Council of Europe,
- Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe,
- European Union
- International Organisation of the Francophonie
Organisers of the inter-mechanisms meetings:
Non-governmental organisations taking part in the inter-mechanisms meetings:
- International Federation for Human Rights and World Organisation Against Torture, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
- Amnesty International
- Front Line
- Human Rights First