The Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF), one of the twelve partners of ProtectDefenders.eu, is supporting a set of innovative initiatives launched by the Prometheus Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IPDDH), a local organisation consisting of young defenders working to achieve human rights education and to spread a democratic culture in Morocco.
With the financial collaboration of ProtectDefenders.eu, this NGO - established in June 2013 by a group of young people belonging to the movement of 20 February 2011 -, has been able to rent an office space and to employ a coordinator to develop new programmes aimed at channelling the voices of youths in the drafting of public policies in Morocco.
As a result of this contribution, the Prometheus Institute has set up, among other initiatives, a monitoring programme on respect for human rights in the country to address non-conventional mechanisms of the United Nations and it has published a memorandum on the cultural public policies in Morocco in April 2016, in partnership with a specialised UN agency and an international foundation.
Local organisations of human rights defenders, communities and informal groups working on human rights, also in remote and less connected areas, are eligible for funding and assistance within the ProtectDefenders.eu programme for strengthening organisations.
Through seven of its partners, ProtectDefenders.eu provides up to EUR 60000 for the implementation of projects aimed at advancing a human rights agenda and to counter violations (including emerging local initiatives, protection plans, lifeline funding, advocacy or public campaigns, capacity building and trainings, documentation and printing of materials or development of networks).
Peace Brigades International (PBI), with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, has participated in the monitoring of the CREOMPAZ case, against 14 retired military accused of enforced disappearances and crimes against humanity as the result of their participation in several massacres committed against non-combatant civilians in Guatemala. This key trial shall elucidate the responsibilities for the disappearance of at least 535 people who were taken by the Guatemalan army between 1981 and 1988, then killed and buried in a clandestine cemetery.
PBI has also accompanied the Q'eqch'i Maya Community witnesses involved in this case, both during their journeys to Guatemala City and the trial audiences. In addition, PBI have lent support and accompaniment to the lawyers of the Bufete Jurídico de Derechos Humanos in the reopening of the trial for genocide on March 16.
During this process, as PBI reported, the judge ruled that there is evidence to believe that 8 soldiers, -including the brother of former President Lucas Garcia (1978-1982), who was head of the Presidential junta during that period- were involved in the crimes and sent them to trial.
Through its partners, ProtectDefenders.eu raise its voice to warn about the critical situation of Human Rights Defenders at risk worldwide, especially when affecting vulnerable groups and defenders working in crisis situations, difficult countries or under repressive regimes.
ProtectDefenders.eu dispatches urgent alerts and coordinates immediate responses, including early warnings, field missions to conduct urgent advocacy, documentation of human rights violations and mobilisation of public and media attention on severe situations. It also monitors the individual situation of defenders in critical situations, whether imprisoned or under trial, and advocates for the end of impunity of perpetrators.
Reporters without Borders (RSF), within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, has provided financial support and raised the voice to prevent the extradition of a young Russian opposition journalist arrested at Larnaca airport, Cyprus, at Russia’s behest. This journalist, whose identity remains confidential, was facing a possible 15-year jail sentence if extradited to his home country.
The journalist fled to escape imminent imprisonment for his activities as an independent journalist and an outspoken activist. He was known for his investigative coverage of local government corruption and his involvement in local grass-roots campaigns.
At time of his arrest, RSF denounced his imprisonment in a press release, calling for his liberation. Within sight of his trial, in addition to his Cypriot lawyer, he benefited from the support a Bulgarian lawyer, specialised in requests for extradition to Russia. The emergency grant allocated through ProtectDefenders.eu also covered his legal fees. Thanks to these joint initiatives, the court ruled his liberation and he then went to Lithuania, where he was granted asylum.
ProtectDefenders.eu has allocated 188 emergency grants for human rights defenders at risk, journalists and those fighting for the freedom of expression, since the start of the Project. Emergency grants for individuals can reach up to EUR 10000 and are channeled through the existent mechanism of eight ProtectDefenders.eu partners. Applications details, thematic and geographic criteria and contact forms, as well as a hotline working 24/7, are available at www.protectdefenders.eu.
Since the launch of the Temporary Relocation Programme last February 2016, ProtectDefenders.eu has approved and secured funding for 43 human rights defenders at risk -and their families' members when needed- to temporary relocate them away from danger. Thanks to this programme, more than 90 individuals at risk are now receiving shelter, support and permanent accompaniment .
Relocated defenders and their families -whose identities are preserved during the whole relocation process for security reasons-, faced risks, attacks or constant threats because of their work in defence of human rights, ranging from women's rights, civil rights or freedom of information and journalism to environmental rights and even artist and writers.
Defenders and their families, coming from countries as Thailand, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Libya, Morocco, Egypt, Yemen or Burundi benefit from funding and support granted by ProtectDefenders.eu and the collaboration and accompaniment provided by host organisations throughout the world. All those defenders at risk supported through this programme are safe now, currently or about to be relocated within host structures in The Netherlands, Nepal, Kenya, Guatemala, India, Spain, France, Ireland, Jordan or Uganda.
ProtectDefenders.eu, along with host organisations and the defenders concerned, designs comprehensive and individualised relocation programmes on a case-by- case basis, covering not only the basic needs of the defender but providing empowering tools for them to continue their work or strengthen their capacities. This is done through the assessment of the specific needs of the defenders, as the relocation programme can cover rehabilitation and medical assistance, education, training or capacity-building, as well as initiatives aimed at connecting defenders into networks or enhancing their international visibility.
ProtectDefenders.eu, through its Secretariat, allocates grants for Human Rights Defenders at risk to temporary relocate within their country or abroad, in case of urgent threat and when preventive and protection measures for personal security are not enough. ProtectDefenders.eu also coordinates the EU Human Rights Defenders Relocation Platform (EUTRP), a global platform of national, regional and international organisations involved in programmes for the temporary relocation of Human Rights Defenders.
From April 11 to 15, OMCT, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, carried out a fact-finding mission in Honduras, aimed at analysing the situation of human rights defenders in the Central American country, with a special emphasis on land rights defenders and defenders of the LGBTI community.
The mission held interviews with officials from a number of public institutions, including the Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) in Honduras, embassies of the European Union (EU) and the Kingdom of Spain, as well as human rights defenders and civil society representatives in San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, the Zacate Grande peninsula and the department of Santa Bárbara. A press release was issued by the Observatory shortly after the end of the mission with preliminary conclusions and recommendations. In particular, it highlighted that the murder of Berta Caceres is emblematic of the high levels of violence faced by human rights defenders in Honduras. Moreover, other structural problems such as the misuse of criminal law against human rights defenders, the impunity for attacks against them, the absence of effective protective measures and the increasing militarisation make Honduras one of the most difficult countries in the region for the defence of human rights. The Observatory’s international mission concluded that the Honduran State should urgently take effective and comprehensive measures to tackle this climate of violence and attacks against those who defend human rights.
ProtectDefenders.eu and Urgent Action Fund are supporting a Woman Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) from Armenia, currently facing false charges created to hinder her work on an anti-corruption campaign. An emergency grant has guaranteed her access to legal aid, reinforced the security of her office and helped her prepare an application to the European Court of Human Rights.
ProtectDefenders.eu provides funding for legal aid and judicial assistance within its emergency support programme, channeled by eight partners of the Consortium. Up to 15 defenders worldwide have requested and received emergency support for this purpose in the first months of the project.
ProtectDefenders.eu and UAF have assisted a domestic violence shelter in Montenegro to secure its premises after staff members were violently attacked due to their work. With the funds provided, the shelter has increased its protection measures and installed surveillance cameras to reinforce the security at their facilities. To this day, up to 11 grants have been allocated to reinforce office security.
Office security measures, such as installation of alarms, fences or cameras can benefit from the emergency support programme delivered by ProtectDefenders.eu. Local NGOs, communities or informal groups working on human rights can also apply for a more comprehensive assistance and receive security trainings or assistance in the design of protection strategies under the grant-making programme available for organisations.
The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), within the framework of ProtectDefenders.eu, has denounced the recent smear campaign being waged by the Mexican media against organizations and individuals working to defend human rights in Mexico. In recent months, several Mexican media sources have launched an intense campaign to defame various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights defenders active in Mexico – deriding and devaluing efforts to defend and promote social justice and human rights.
This campaign has also targeted international institutions and mechanisms, including various United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs, the UN Human Rights Council and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
ProtectDefenders.eu carries out extensive advocacy initiatives through its partners, by dispatching urgent and mobilising public and media attention on severe situations.
ProtectDefenders.eu, through several of its partners, as OMCT, FIDH, ESCR-Net, FLD and PBI, has supported a set of initiatives to facilitate the return of the human rights defender Gustavo Castro Soto, to his home country, Mexico.
Castro Soto was retained in Honduras, as the sole witness to the murder of Berta Cáceres, the leader and co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH) who worked to defend the rights of Lenca indigenous communities affected by the 'Agua Zarca' hydroelectric project. After an intense campaign, which included public statements and open letters, Castro Soto was allowed to return to his country.
The Head of Secretariat was invited to present ProtectDefenders.eu at a panel during the Defenders' Days organised by Civil Rights Defenders in Stockholm. The presentation was focused on opportunities for temporary relocation for human rights defenders at risk.
ProtectDefenders.eu was presented at the EU Delegation in Tunis, in a meeting with local human rights defenders, organisations and embassies held in the framework of the 25 th anniversary of EU presence in the country and the campaign #Eu4HumanRights.
At the end of May, ProtectDefenders.eu launched its social media accounts in Facebook and Twitter, aimed at contributing to the dissemination of resources for available for human rights defenders and organisations, as well as information about partners' activities within the Project.