European Union External Action

What does it take to be a Human Rights Defender? EU marks ten years of UN Human Rights Council

16/06/2016 - 00:00
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On the occasion of the 10 th anniversary of the Human Rights Council, the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva organised on 15 June 2016 an event to honour Human Rights Defenders across the world and to remind that the Council stands and falls with those who defend human rights on the ground, even when facing threats to their own safety.

On the occasion of the 10 th anniversary of the Human Rights Council, the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva organised on 15 June 2016 an event to honour Human Rights Defenders across the world and to remind that the Council stands and falls with those who defend human rights on the ground, even when facing threats to their own safety.

A debate entitled 'What does it take to be a Human Rights Defender?' featured Human Rights Defenders Taslima Nasrin from Bangladesh and Aida Khemiri from Tunisia, as well as Stavros Lambrinidis, EU Special Representative for Human Rights. "Too many people are dying for protecting human rights," Mr. Lambrinidis said and added: "The EU is committed to defending the defenders." The presentations of Taslima Nasrin and Aida Khemiri were testimonies of the difficulties and sacrifices that Human Rights Defenders face when defending their rights, and those of others. "There is a prize on my head," said Taslima Nasrin. "It's been 22 years that I have not allowed to return to my country, not even in times of sickness and death of my closest family." Aidia Khemiri, an LGBTI activist from Tunisia pointed to the psychological weight of having to lie to her friends and family in order to protect them. "As a Human Rights Defender, I have to live a double life. I cannot tell my family all I am doing, I have to protect them."

'Marching for those who are not free to walk'

Following the debate participants and panellists were invited to join a march, expressing their support to Human Rights Defenders who were not able to walk freely. Diplomats, UN staff, students and civil society representatives attended the march along the UN Palais des Nations, sending a strong signal of solidarity and commitment. The event closed with a spectacular show of the Violonissima Duo.

The event was co-organised by the Graduate Institute of International Development Studies and the Geneva Academy. It officially launched the #EU4HumanRights campaign in Geneva, as well as the new EU Human Rights Defenders mechanismprotectdefenders.eu, established to protect defenders at high risk and facing the most difficult situations worldwide.

See more photos from the event here.