Will The Next UK Government Stand Up For Human Rights Defenders?


The United Kingdom is doing all things possible to ensure that they protect human rights defenders globally. In support of this, the UK has recently published guidelines for the protection and support of rights defenders around the world. The guidelines praise human rights defenders for their courageous work. Human rights defenders face various risks, such as threats, intimidations, harassment, and detention.

The new guidelines identify groups of human rights defenders that are in greater danger. Among the mentioned groups are journalists, women, and LGBT activists. The United Kingdom has expressed its commitment to support these groups wherever they are in the world.

By publishing these guidelines, the UK hopes that defenders will be encouraged knowing that the British government may be in a position to support them. What the UK forgets is that protecting activists requires political will and not just guidelines. The UK government has done very little regarding the credible reports of torture, sexual harassment, and assault suffered by various groups of human rights defenders. These include Saudi women who are currently facing trial for defending human rights in their country.

The United Kingdom government has also failed to hold Hungary to account in its clampdown on human rights groups and the rule of law more generally. The UK should understand that to be champions of human rights defenders globally, they must be willing to speak out publicly even when there are political costs. The UK government should make this a priority and go out of its way to defend human rights activists wherever they are in the world.