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Human Rights Defenders Policy Forums Archive

Below are summaries of previous forums. 

May 23-24, 2006
Beyond Elections: Defending Human Rights in the Age of Democratization
Human rights, and the people trying to protect them, are being threatened in more countries around the world than at any other time in recent history, according to the Carter Center's third annual Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum. Despite recent numerous elections that have raised the hopes of millions of people for freedom and justice, democracies - both fledgling and established - are falling short in their support of fundamental human rights. 

Pressure is mounting on activists who, in their daily work, help to realize the promise of democracy by advancing respect for human rights. This is jeopardizing the weak foundations of many new democracies. 

Leading human rights defenders from throughout the world, at a May 23-24, 2006, forum jointly organized by Human Rights First and The Carter Center in Atlanta, have concluded that the promise of democracy rings hollow without real human rights progress. Only a deep-rooted democracy based on human rights principles and the protection of those who defend them will be sustainable.

Read full statement by forum participants
Read press release

June 6-7, 2005 
Human Rights Defenders on the Frontlines of Freedom: Advancing Security and the Rule of Law
The Carter Center and Human Rights First hosted the second human rights defenders forum with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour as co-chairs, U.N. Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders Hina Jilani, human rights defenders from 14 nations, and representatives from major U.S. human rights organizations.

With several dozen innocents killed every week, either in Afghanistan or Iraq, horrible acts of terrorism cry out for concerted international action to control these threats to peace. There was unanimous agreement, however, that the necessary war against terrorism is being used as a pretext for restricting freedoms in many countries, including the United States, and for silencing and targeting human rights defenders. This state of emergency condones despotic acts by governments around the world if the perpetrators claim to be partners in the U.S. fight against terrorism. All too often, government leaders claim the right to investigate allegations of their own abuses, leading to impunity. 

It is obvious there is a global need to ensure a proper balancing act, knowing that human rights abuses in the name of counterterrorism often help to conceal or generate more terrorism. In fact, combating terrorism, defending human rights, and ensuring our collective security go hand in hand. 

Read full press release.

Nov. 11-12, 2003
Human Rights Defenders on the Frontlines of Freedom: Protecting Human Rights in the Context of the War on Terror

Human rights activists called on governments not to abandon civil liberties and the rule of law as security efforts are increased in the wake of the war on terrorism. Activists from 41 countries joined former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, U.N. Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan, and U.N. Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders Hina Jilani.

The activists said that hard-won human rights gains are being reversed as many countries expand their police powers and erode judicial review of executive orders. Many countries have used the war on terrorism as an excuse to silence dissent by cracking down on opposition parties, minority groups, and civil society organizations. Some of the activists said they or their colleagues have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism because of their human rights work. 

"There was a general consensus that the unconscionable terrorist attacks of September 2001 have precipitated policy changes in the United States and other nations because of pre-occupation with the use of force as the sole means to combat terrorism," President Carter said. "This is leading to an alarming erosion of the rule of law in established and emerging democracies and giving comfort to undemocratic governments that previously were the subject of intense pressure on their human rights policies."

Read full press release

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