Humanists International urges better protection of Human Rights Defenders globally

  • post Type / Advocacy News
  • Date / 27 March 2024

In its final statement to the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists International has highlighted the importance of human rights defenders and the need to protect them.

The statement, delivered by Humanists International’s Advocacy Officer, Leon Langdon, during a general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, reminded the Council that Human rights defenders (HRDs), “whether it be by supporting victims, securing accountability or disseminating information on human rights abuses,” are at the forefront of ensuring human rights are respected everywhere for all people.

It pointed out that whilst the Vienna Declaration outlines the responsibility of states to respect and promote human rights, “too often we see States themselves undermine these rights.”

Langdon highlighted two cases of concern in this context: Indian human rights defender and anti-superstition campaigner, Narendra Nayak; and Panayote Dimitras, a human rights defender from Greece who has been targeted for his work protecting migrants and combating hate.

Narendra Nayak has campaigned for decades against superstition and so-called “God men,” and advocated for the upholding of secularism as India has seen a sharp rise in Hindu nationalism. As a result of his campaigning, Mr Nayak has been named on hit lists as a target for assassination. These credible threats led to the appointment of a police protection detail in 2016. However, one year ago on March 30th 2023, Mr Nayak had his protection removed, having been told that he must pay for it himself using his modest teacher’s pension. His life is in constant danger without this security. Humanists International has raised the case with the UN special procedures.

Panayote Dimitras has faced smear campaigns, threats of violence, and repeated judicial harassment, with his freedom of movement obstructed, and his assets frozen. Humanists International has raised Dimitras’s case at the UN previously and with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders – who has spoken out in defense of Dimitras and other people seeking to help migrants in Greece.

The statement called on the Indian government to reinstate Nayak’s protection detail, and for Greece to drop the spurious charges against Dimitras.

Featured photo by Miko Guziuk on Unsplash.

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