Statement to UN Human Rights Council on Environmental HRDs

During the Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment held on 11th March 2014, Mr John Foley delivered the following statement on behalf of EHAHRDP.

Thank you Mr. President.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project welcomes the Independent Expert’s Mapping report, and appreciates in particular, the attention paid to issues facing environmental human rights defenders, and his commitment to examining models of effective protection for human rights defenders during the course of his mandate.

Human rights defenders working on environmental issues face profound risks and challenges in undertaking their work, both in our sub-region and globally. The Independent Expert echoes the concerns of the Special Rapporteur on HRDs, who noted in 2007 that “those working on land rights and natural resources are the second-largest group of defenders at risk of being killed” and again in 2013 “that their situation appears to have worsened since 2007”.

We remain deeply concerned, in particular, about reports of violations against human rights defenders working in the oil and extractive industry in the East and Horn of Africa. EHAHRDP has previously published research into the risks faced by human rights defenders working on these issues in Uganda and Tanzania, and remain concerned about continuing restrictions and stigmatization of their work in the sub-region.

Human rights defenders working on environmental issues continue to face a range of profound risks from both state and non-state actors. The Independent Expert has noted that, “States have obligations not only to refrain from violating the rights of free expression and association directly, but also to protect the life, liberty and security of individuals exercising those rights”.

The Independent Expert identifies, and expresses his concern, at the many reports of failures to protect environmental human rights defenders. We therefore welcome his plans to “examine good practices in this area in the hope of identifying exemplary models of effective protection” and call on States to take active and urgent measures to fulfill their responsibility to protect and promote the rights of all human rights defenders.

I thank you.

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