Justice and Human Rights Defenders: A Discussion in Geneva

On June 8, 2015, ADC Memorial participated in a discussion about justice and the situation of human rights defenders. This discussion was organized by the ISHR and the British mission at the UN in Geneva. This event was timed to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the renowned English document that limited the power of the king, gave rights to other members of that society, and, for the first time, proclaimed the principles that the actions of officials must follow the law, that punishment must be proportionate to actions, that people can only be found guilty in a court proceeding, that property is inviolable, and that movement should be free.

Legality and effective justice are defining factors for defending human rights. ADC Memorial pointed out the problem of the quality of national law and its correspondence to international law. For example, civil society in the Russian Federation, and human rights organizations in particular, have been virtually wiped out due to recently adopted laws on “foreign agents” and “undesirable foreign organizations.” A direct result of this government policy is not just that it has become impossible for these groups to work to their fullest or defend the rights of vulnerable people, but also that real attacks and pogroms have been carried out that deprive entire regions of independent protection (for example, the destruction of the Grozny office of the Committee Against Torture).