Unser Politikblog | 03.05.2021
Since December 2020, people have repeatedly mistaken me for a lawyer. There seems to be a misunderstanding about what is meant by "human rights defender in the sense of UN resolution 53/144". A glance at the resolution in question immediately clarifies the matter, and it is also no secret that I have a completely different profession, and have been active for about 20 years on a high level voluntary (without payment) as a "human rights defender" in the sense of the resolution in question, which is, besides that, also entirely in the sense of the confession of the German people to the universal human rights (art. 1 par. 2 of the German Basic Law).
The word "human rights defender" is not a professional title, nor is it a lawyer's title, nor does it describe a professional qualification, nor is it an awardable title of honour, and certainly does not say that any human being is more valuable than anyone else.
"Human rights defender" comes from the UN General Assembly resolution of the 09.12.1988 with file number 53/144 and the title "Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms" and means nothing other than "human rights activist". This can be anyone in any situation in life, at work or in leisure.
In paragraph 4 of the preamble to Resolution 53/144 of 09.12.1998, the UN General Assembly provides an activity-based definition of human rights defenders / human rights defenders:
„Acknowledging the important role of international cooperation for, and the valuable work of individuals, groups and associations in contributing to, the effective elimination of all violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of peoples and individuals, including in relation to mass, flagrant or systematic violations such as those resulting from apartheid, all forms of racial discrimination, colonialism, foreign domination or occupation, aggression or threats to national sovereignty, national unity or territorial integrity and from the refusal to recognize the right of peoples to self-determination and the right of every people to
exercise full sovereignty over its wealth and natural resources,“
Fact Sheet No. 29 ("Human Rights Defenders: Protecting the Right to Defend Human Rights") published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights further explains this on p. 6 in the second paragraph of section "B. Who can be a human rights defender?“:
„In accordance with this broad categorization, human rights defenders can be any person or group of persons working to promote human rights, ranging from intergovernemental organizations based in the world's largest cities to individuals working within their local communities. Defenders can be of any gender, of varying ages, from any part of the world and from all sorts of professional or other backgrounds. In particular, it is important to note that human rights defenders are not only found within NGOs and intergovernmental organizations but might also, in some instances, be government officials, civil servants or members of the private sector.“
And why all this? Because the representatives of the governments in the UN General Assembly promised in the aforementioned resolution of 09.12.1988 not to exercise arbitrariness against anyone for standing up for human rights. The purpose of this is to ensure that enough people are committed to the realisation of human rights.
Resolution 53/1444 is officially a non-binding declaration of intent under international law, but it is obviously important to the member states to know from each other whether they are keeping the promise. To this end, the UN Human Rights Council has created the office of a Special Rapporteur on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, to whom one can report cases of arbitrary treatment of human rights defenders.
It can actually have a certain preventive effect if one invokes the resolution as a human rights defender. In doing so, one should, as I do, also cite the file number of the resolution in order to avoid unnecessary confusion at the same time.
I have posted a very similar text at Unser Politikblog in German language already at the
Sarah Luzia Hassel-Reusing, Thorner Str. 7, 42283 Wuppertal