In 2016, people in at least 22 countries were killed for peacefully standing up for human rights. That’s more than 10 per cent of the world’s countries. That number increases to 94 countries if you take into account all those threatened or attacked. That’s almost half the countries in the world.
That's a set of figures I find truly worrying. It’s the basis of Amnesty’s latest campaign, Brave – raising awareness of the individuals standing up for human rights across the world. Brave is a chance for us to recognise the courage and intrepidity of those who risk their lives in the name of human rights every day to make this world a better and safer place.
These people are defined by the international community as Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), “someone who, individually or in association with others, acts to defend and/or promote human rights at the local, national, regional or international levels, without resorting to or advocating hatred, discrimination or violence”.
The causes they continue to fight for – from protecting the environment to ensuring equal rights for women – are ones extremely close to my heart. What is most frustrating is the increasing rate at which these brave people are killed: from 156 in 2015 to 281 in 2016.
Earlier this year, I blogged about the state of the world’s human rights. In particular, I focused on the disheartening trend of political leaders using fear-mongering tactics and hateful language to instigate violent acts of widespread discrimination and marginalisation. it is a worrying trend that is no doubt linked to the growing death rate among human rights defenders.
In recent weeks, I was particularly saddened to read of the death of journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas in Mexico. His formidable, award-winning journalism had been instrumental in raising awareness of the brutal impact of the country’s war on drugs on the lives of innocent people.
Bravery is something I’ve mentioned many times before, mostly in the context of business. It’s a trait that means you’re willing to stand up and say you’re not happy with the status quo. The Human Rights Defenders honoured by Amnesty’s campaign exhibit this quality to the highest degree, willing risk everything for what they believe in.
I have enormous respect for the individuals, locally and internationally, who have stood up against unjust regimes. Most are never known, and many are currently languishing in prison simply for raising their voice in support of the principles and values we should all hold dear. Where in the world would we be without this bravery?
Amnesty’s latest report highlights where these violations against people’s right to protest peacefully are most harsh. In many countries across the world, people are oppressed through both direct intervention into their lives and through attacks on their ability to communicate. In countries like Turkey, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe to mention a few, enforced disappearances and unlawful prosecution are just two of the most serious ways in which the right to speak out peacefully without discrimination is being violated.
Yesterday, I wrote about the shocking mass abductions and torture of gay men in Chechnya. The arrest and reported disappearance of LGBTQ activists publically dissenting against the oppression is yet another indicator that this fight to protect human rights across the world is far from finished.
As a proud member of Amnesty’s Global Council, I hope this campaign not only raises awareness of these issues, but inspires real, tangible action. We must come together to support people on the frontline fighting to make this a safer world where human rights are protected. It’s time for us to be brave.