“In summary, gathering and disseminating information, advocacy and the mobilization of public opinion are often the most common tools used by human rights defenders in their work.
They work at democratic transformation in order to increase the participation of people in the decision-making that shapes their lives and to strengthen good governance.
They also contribute to the improvement of social, political and economic conditions, the reduction of social and political tensions, the building of peace, domestically and internationally, and the nurturing of national and international awareness of human rights.”
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2004
In commemoration of International Human Rights Day, aditus foundation notes the precarious situation of Malta’s human rights defenders and calls for a broader respect for their central role in promoting and contributing towards Malta’s overall well-being.
Malta’s human rights defenders are those individuals and organisations that tirelessly seek to ensure that all persons are able to enjoy their fundamental human rights. They are active in a broad range of sectors, addressing various groups of persons and themes including: survivors of domestic violence, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees, children, survivors of crime, the environment, LGBTIQ+ persons, inmates, women involved in prostitution, good governance and so many others.
They are present where State interventions are either absent or insufficient, where the risk of human rights violations is high.
Without human rights defenders, Malta would probably not be able to boast today’s levels of social wellbeing. As activists dedicated to ensuring human rights enjoyment for all persons, most of us push for stronger legal and policy standards, support the training of public officials, provide public information, support victims of violations and strive to hold the State accountable and responsible for its failures.
In return, many of us are bullied, harassed, insulted, threatened and stigmatised. Many of us are denied access to important dialogue with State entities, or exploited by the State as we provide those public services the State refuses or is unable to provide.
As the community of Malta’s human rights defenders is still mourning the brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, we are uncertain of the security of our working environment and are concerned for the physical and psychological safety of our staff and volunteers.
We are not satisfied that our concerns are being taken seriously by the competent authorities, especially in view of the fact that we are often victims of hatred perpetuated by those entities responsible for our protection.
Understanding the importance of human rights defenders is fundamental for the fostering of a society that is geared towards respecting, protecting and fulfilling everyone’s human rights.
By tolerating this on-going abuse of its human rights defenders, Malta is not only offending the principles human rights embody – equality, non-discrimination, individual and social empowerment – but it is also further marginalising those communities and themes human rights defenders so vehemently stand up for.
On International Human Rights Day, we therefore urge Malta to rethink its relationship with human rights defenders. This means to not merely refrain from activities that instil fear and insecurity, but to take steps towards actively supporting human rights defenders.