Joint Statement: Protecting and supporting human rights defenders who work on issues of corporate accountability

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(Bangkok) – This joint statement has been endorsed by the organisations listed below, who were participants in the first annual Peoples’ Forum on Human Rights and Business. The Forum was convened jointly by ESCR-Net and Forum-Asia from 5 to 7 November in Bangkok, Thailand.

Highlighting the legitimate and valuable role that human rights defenders have to play in identifying, mitigating, exposing and ensuring accountability for the adverse human rights impacts of business activities and development projects,

Concerned at the incidence of attacks, harassment, restrictions, surveillance, intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders who work on corporate accountability issues, both by State and non-State actors, including arbitrary arrest and detention, disappearances, judicial harassment, torture and ill-treatment, and even killings,

Concerned also at the increasing stigmatisation of the work of human rights defenders and the use and abuse of laws – including those relating to national security, counter-terrorism and sedition – to defame, criminalise and impair their work,

Concerned further at the particular attacks and threats faced by human rights defenders belonging to or working with marginalised or vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples, women human rights defenders and those working on issues of sexual orientation or genre identity, Dalits, and ethnic and religious minorities,

Reaffirming the obligation of States to ensure that human rights defenders operate in a safe, enabling and supportive environment,

Makes the following recommendations:

1. States should ensure the effective national implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including through the enactment, implementation and enforcement of specific laws, policies and institutions to protect and support the work of human rights defenders, including those working on issues of corporate accountability,

2. States should review and amend or repeal those laws and policies which unduly restrict the work of human rights defenders or which are used or misused to criminalise their work,

3. States should investigate, prosecute and ensure accountability and access to effective remedy for violations against human rights defenders working on issues of corporate accountability, whether perpetrated by State or non-State actors,

4. Communities affected by development projects, together with the human rights defenders who work in or with those communities, should be supported by both States and corporations to participate actively, freely and meaningfully in project assessment and analysis, design and planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation,

5. States should ensure the protection and realisation of the rights of indigenous peoples as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169, including their right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) on business activities, development projects and all matters affecting them,

6. States and corporations, together with both public and private security forces, should fully respect and protect those who claim and seek to exercise their right to participate in decision-making processes or who voice their opposition to business activities or development projects, including by respecting and protecting their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and peaceful protest,

7. States should develop and implement National Action Plans on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which include policies and measures to protect and support human rights defenders,

8. Both public and private financiers of business activities and development projects should ensure that they engage and consult effectively with affected communities and human rights defenders as a necessary aspect of due diligence and their responsibility to protect and respect human rights,

9. Both the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights should be translated into a greater number of languages, including indigenous languages, and widely disseminated.

The organisations below support this statement as at 7 November 2013 (sign on closes on 20 November 2013):

  1. International Service for Human Rights
  2. Human Rights Law Centre (Australia)
  3. Conectas
  4. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

Source: International Service for Human Rights