OSCE Chairman De Gucht marks Human Rights Day by urging participating States to protect human rights defenders

Iran Materials 9 December 2006 11:11 (UTC +04:00)

(osce) - The OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Belgian Foreign Minister, Karel De Gucht, has called for increased awareness of the difficulties many human rights defenders face.

He made his remarks before the International Human Rights Day, celebrated annually across the world on 10 December.

The day was chosen to honour the 1948 United Nations General Assembly's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, reports Trend.

"Protecting those who, in civil society or within their governments, promote human rights on a daily basis must be a duty for us all," said Minister De Gucht. "All too often, human rights defenders face harassment, persecution, and even death as a result of making the very same statements that us more fortunate take for granted. This situation is, sadly, deteriorating."

The OSCE Chairman said that the situation of human rights defenders in a particular country always reflects on the human rights situation and the level of implementation of human rights commitments as a whole in that country. "It is my firm conviction that since all OSCE participating States have voiced their commitments to uphold human rights, they should protect and support those defending and promoting human rights."

"Today, let us also remember those human rights defenders who have paid too high a price for what they believe in, and pledge that we will take up their fight with renewed vigour," added Minister De Gucht.

He welcomed the intention of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institution and Human Rights (ODIHR) to establish a focal point for human rights defenders.

Ambassador Christian Strohal, ODIHR Director, said such a focal point would be in recognition of the link between security and human rights. "Human rights and democracy can only be secured when individuals are able to hold governments to account. To leave those who stand up to protect these values without protection ultimately endangers the security of all States," said Strohal.