Read, Debate: Engage.
UN Human Rights Declaration Children 1950
Developing Story
Human Rights Defenders

Who defends the defenders?

Author: Jennifer Gaspar

December 10th marks the International Day of Human Rights. On this day, FairPlanet, in collaboration with Araminta, launches a campaign to support Human Rights Defenders worldwide.


This is a true story.

Text written by Jennifer Gaspar
Founding Partner, Managing Director, Araminta 

Imagine - you live in a country under authoritarian rule.

Every day is a struggle. You work as a human rights lawyer tirelessly defending citizens who have been arrested for exercising their fundamental rights.

Then YOU are arresteD.

Based on trumped-up charges you are thrown into prison where you languished for more than a year.

You became gravely ill in prison and were refused medical care. When you were finally released from prison - punished, broken, and sick - you continued to work.

You accepted an invitation to speak at an international conference for human rights lawyers in Europe. While attending the conference, you received more credible threats from law enforcement in your home town related to your defense of citizens against their attackers in cases of alleged police abuse. You knew that if you returned, you would face physical danger and likely arrest - again. Because of your previous prison record, the EU country where the conference was held only granted you a 3-day visa. There is no time to make a security plan, an no option to extend that visa while in Europe.

Your options are limited.

You can claim asylum immediately, stay in Europe and violate the terms of your visa, or return home in the face of threats and wait for a new visa. You chose to return and apply again. The process took weeks, during which you had to live underground in safe houses to avoid putting your family in danger.

The threats continue. You know that you cannot stay in your home country, but you are determined to continue your human rights work as soon as it is safe to return. What do you do? Where can you live? You are fortunate to receive a visa and a fellowship in Europe for a 3-month  program. The threats haven't subsided. You have run out of options, and you unwillingly apply for asylum, separating you indefinitely from your family, your community, your livelihood, your work. 

What would you do?

Would you claim asylum and risk indefinite separation from your loved ones? Would you face danger and return? Would you violate the terms of your visa and stay illegally in Europe? This is one of countless stories of human rights defenders whose hope to remain safely in Europe until danger subsides is riddled with bureaucratic challenges, and dead ends.


We support Human Rights Defenders

We are Araminta. Our mission is to promote the effective application of international human rights principles in business, government and civil society. The diverse professional backgrounds and lived experiences of our team make us a solutions-oriented, nimble group able to think innovatively and respond flexibly and with deep understanding of the needs and challenges human rights defenders face from around the world. We will publish many of these stories in collaboration with FairPlanet. 

Araminta works alongside our human rights colleagues based in Europe to provide emergency support, shelter, respite, and rehabilitation for our unwaveringly brave colleagues in countries where their defense of human rights work puts them in harm's way. Our work has pointed out the systemic - yet entirely solvable - problems that human rights defenders face when travelling. We are working to lift the bureaucratic roadblocks that thwart the travel of this small, and extremely important group of human rights defenders from around the world.

Human Rights Defender are heroes

They are our allies in democratic security. They want the same protections in their home countries that we enjoy, and they  risk their lives and security everyday to achieve them.

We are sitting comfortably in our homes and offices in Europe - a world apart from where so many of these abuses take place, yet we CAN help by changing the policies and processes that often put human rights defenders at even greater peril. 

Araminta is working towards policy change

  1. Gathering cases of travel challenges and specific travel needs faced by human rights defenders in accessing the EU
  2. Demonstrating the security risks faced by human rights defenders
  3. Educating policy makers on the needs of human rights defenders, particularly their need for swift facilitation for travel to the EU in cases of emergency, for temporary respite, and for professional networking and briefing purposes
  4. Coordinating with EU member states with existing human rights defender visa and travel facilitations to demonstrate best and promising practices and to share these with other member states as a model for work
  5. Promoting existing recommendations for policy and process change that will lead to increased security for our human rights defender colleagues

The NGO community is well equipped to promote policy change

We need to act as a collective to achieve that change – it will be faster and more effective if done through horizontal networks and coalitions that leverage all of our strengths.

Individual citizens are also core to policy change

Engaging with members of European Parliament to promote the needs of human rights defenders is an effective way to have your voice heard.

If you don’t know who your representative is, we provide you with a link below to search Members of European Parliament.

Send them a message to express your commitment to helping those defenders who defend and promote human rights values and keep all of us safer.

protest human rights gayatri-malhotra-2Qo7EEokcFU-unsplash

The Defender's Pledge

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, citizens across the globe call for the protection of Human Rights Defenders. 

The Push for Pledges is a United Nations's campaign to encourage meaningful actions by Member States, with the dedicated aim to show commitment towards improving communities, nations, everyone’s human rights.


Human Rights Stories

It takes Humans to Defend Humans

FairPlanet's editorial work is grounded in our dedication to human rights.

As solution journalists, we track and report on the struggles of human rights defenders, their challenges, their successes, and their approaches to solutions.

 * Each of our stories highlights the paragraphs of the UN Declaration of Human Rights that are addressed in them. Look for the icons below the text.