Brussels, 9 December 2011 18424/1/11 REV 1 PRESSE 487 – On Human Rights Day, the European Union pays tribute to human rights defenders who dedicate their lives to promoting and protecting people’s fundamental rights around the world. This year, Human Rights Day focuses on the work of human rights defenders, and on how social media can be used to promote and underpin change.

The Arab spring vividly reminds us that human rights are universal and that people everywhere aspire to live in dignity and freedom. In 2011, thousands of people decided that the time had come to claim their rights. Social media carried their message, and allowed activists and individuals to break free from their isolation, to disseminate ideas and to denounce oppression.

Use of social media to promote human rights should not be restricted by governments. The EU has repeatedly and publicly condemned restrictions on freedom of expression and on access to the internet, as well as the arrest of bloggers, witnessed in many countries around the world.


GENEVA (24 November 2011) – Three United Nations independent experts warned that the new legislative amendments recently adopted by the National Assembly of Belarus may severely and arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, and breach international law.

“These amendments could constitute a direct affront to the exercise of fundamental civil and political rights which are at the core of any democratic society, such as the rights to assembly and to associate freely,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Maina Kiai.

Mr. Kiai recalled that the National Assembly of Belarus introduced changes to the Laws on Public Associations, Political Parties, Public Gatherings and Administrative Violations, as well as the Criminal and the Election Codes, “in a legislative process that lacked proper consultation with civil society.”

According to the new legislation, organizing assemblies without the prior and explicit consent of the incumbent authorities is now considered a criminal offense, and new reporting liabilities are imposed on organisers concerning the financial resources used for such assemblies. Disseminating information, including through the social media, without any permission for assembly is also strictly prohibited, as well as any public call for initiating assemblies. (more…)


NEW YORK (24 October 2011) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya today presented to the UN General Assembly her fourth report and her essential guide to the right to defend human rights*, a key document aimed at supporting those who stand for our rights by increasing understanding of the 1998 UN Declaration on human rights defenders and awareness on the dangers they face.

“Implementing the Declaration is an essential precondition for creating an environment that allows human rights defenders to carry out their work,” Ms. Sekaggya said recalling that it sets out the rights and responsibilities crucial to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. “However, more than 12 years after its adoption by the General Assembly, the Declaration is not sufficiently known either by Governments or by human rights defenders themselves.”

“The aim of the report is twofold: to increase the awareness of States of the rights provided for in the Declaration and to serve as a practical tool to defenders working to ensure respect for the rights to which they are entitled under this instrument,” she said.