Freedom Now applauds U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) for introducing Senate Resolution 407 entitled “Recognizing the critical work of human rights defenders in promoting human rights, the rule of law, democracy, and good governance.”

The resolution, introduced yesterday, addresses the crucial role of human rights defenders in protecting the rights of vulnerable individuals. It takes note of the perilous situation human rights defenders face, including imprisonment and death, as authoritarian governments around the world continue to place restrictions on fundamental human rights. It also calls on all countries to recognize their duties under the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and for President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson to maintain American leadership in the promotion of human rights.

“We are grateful that Sen. Coons and Sen. Tillis recognize the invaluable contribution human rights defenders make to the world,” said Freedom Now DC Director Melina Milazzo. “Their bipartisan resolution is a forceful statement in support of safeguarding human rights defenders from the numerous threats they face as they labor selflessly to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We hope this initiative brings greater awareness of individuals like Buzurgmehr Yorov, a prominent human rights lawyer who was arrested in Tajikistan in September 2015 and sentenced to 25 years in prison for his representation of political opposition leaders”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Adopted on December 9, 1998, the Declaration declares that “everyone has the right to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.” It also outlines every state’s “prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

However, since the adoption of the Declaration human rights defenders continue to remain at threat. According to Front Line Defenders, in 2017 thousands of activists were detained on fabricated charges or sentenced to long prison terms. In a number of countries, authorities accused human rights defenders of “waging war against the state” and “secession,” charges which carry the death penalty. Front Line Defenders also documented the murder of 312 human rights defenders in 27 countries in 2017. Of the cases tracked, only 12% of all murder cases resulted in the arrest of suspects.