Know your rights

The Right to Defend

 By: Graciela Zamudio Campos

All of us have, individually or collectively, the right to promote and seek the protection and fulfillment of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels and to strive to do so. [1]


This right allows us to attribute to ourselves the quality of human rights defenders, regardless of whether the chosen work is carried out through membership in an organization. This has been determined by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.[2]


People who defend human rights constitute a counterweight to impunity for human rights violations, so that the States are obliged to ensure that they can carry out their work freely and independently, as well as to effectively investigate any action in their against, as the most powerful means to protect their right to defend.


The acknowledgement of human rights defenders by society is a necessity so that their work is protected against authorities and third parties, especially in preventing the delegitimization that they may suffer when they are branded as “troublemakers” insofar as they constitute a counterweight of the state. [3] And it is that practically any affectation to those who defend the rights of other people contains an intimidating message for the other people who make up a community and who exercise the same right.


The recognition of people who in a community decide to exercise their right to defend human rights also inspires other people to exercise it, which contributes to the common good: a democratic society free from impunity.


The right to defend human rights is closely linked to others such as the right to obtain and disseminate information related to the enjoyment or violation of human rights, the exercise of which is also useful to achieve the purposes of people who defend human rights. These rights are also protected by the aforementioned declaration in its article 6. Even the right to social protest and association for this purpose are rights that are typically exercised as part of the universal language of defense of human rights.


Being a person who defends human rights not only implies the exercise of the right to defend and related rights, but also the responsibility to do so free of violence, that is, in a peaceful way[4]. It is an identity that will ideally be assumed by each person in a conscious way and present to all the rights and obligations that it signifies. However, it is often a situation in which people with noble tendencies of social and community solidarity find themselves, without previous consideration of the conditions and consequences of exercising their right to defend.


Even if they knew the consequences of defending rights, many people might think again about this decision, so it is useful to think about it and make it a conscious decision. 


Aware that it is a decision about the life project, Alma Migrante offers the community a tool to carry out this exercise: the Workshop on Self-identification and Self-care of People Defenders of the Human Rights of Migrants, which can be requested at email and ideally received by all staff of an organization or partner organizations, necessarily in person.


[1] Article 1 of the Declaration on the right and duty of individuals, groups and institutions to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.


[2] Fact Sheet No. 29: Human Rights Defenders: Protection of the Right to Defend Rights, Geneva 2004. Available at: pdf., Cf. IACHR, Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas ”, OEA / Ser.L / V / II., December 31, 2012, paragraph. 12


[3] International Amnesty. AI. Transforming pain into hope human rights defenders in America, pp. 11 and 12.


[4] Article 12.- 1) Everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (…)


Bibliography: DOMÍNGUEZ, M. G. (2016). The right to defend human rights as an autonomous right. IIHR Magazine / Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, San José, Costa Rica, 63.

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