A day-long 'National Workshop on Human Rights Defenders' organized by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) concluded in New Delhi by emphasizing that the Governments need to evolve an environment in their functioning to attach importance to the work of Human Rights Defenders.
Apart from taking stock of the implementation of several recommendations given by the Commission to the Governments following its 'National Seminar on Human Rights Defenders' in 2009, the Workshop came out with several other suggestions to strengthen the mechanism wherein the Human Rights Defenders are given protection and their work is valued in right earnest towards good governance.
Earlier, Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson, NHRC, addressing the inaugural session of the Workshop, said that it is our social duty to espouse the cause of human rights. The noble pursuits of Human Rights Defenders help many of us in full enjoyment of social, cultural, political and economic rights.
This contribution of civil society needs to be recognized. He said that the Commission gives importance to disposal of complaints of Human Rights Defenders and has also set up a Focal Point for them. The Governments should also focus on their functioning towards protecting Human Rights Defenders.
Mr. Satyabrata Pal, former Member, NHRC and the Chief Guest on the occasion, felt that the Government was attaching low priority to the UN Resolution on Human Rights Defenders and their concerns. The revised Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) was passed to browbeat Human Rights Defenders.
The National Advisory Council is now defunct, which used to have civil society representatives to have a voice in Government policies. Even the re-constituted Planning Commission, as NITI Aayog, has also abandoned the provision of having Human Rights Defenders/NGO representatives on board. Corporate interests are being confused with national interests and dissent is being portrayed as anti-national. He said that time has come to speak and stand up for Human Rights Defenders, which is needed more now than before.
During the course of discussion, several suggestions were given, which included, among others: i) NHRC should review the constitutionality of the FCRA; ii) funding by Government to NGOs should also be streamlined; iii) NHRC should intervene in court cases against Human Rights Defenders, wherever there is possibility of their victimization; iv) conflict of laws in the way of promotion and protection of human rights should be examined and streamlined; v) define Human Rights Defenders on the basis of their work, including journalists, and have a declaration about them in the country; vi) observe Human Rights Defenders Day every year; vii) create an emergency fund to help Human Rights Defenders in critical need and create a world of solidarity; viii) set up a Focal Point for Human Rights Defenders at State Human Rights Commissions also as it is in the NHRC; ix) organize human rights awareness workshops for Human Rights Defenders as well as journalists at district level.
NHRC Member, Mr. S.C. Sinha, Secretary General, Mr. Rajesh Kishore, Registrar (Law), Mr. A.K. Garg, Joint Secretaries, Mr. J.S. Kochher and Dr. Ranjit Singh and other senior officers, Chairpersons of State Human Rights Commissions, representatives of civil society, including members of the NHRC's Core Group of NGOs and senior functionaries of the Union Home Ministry and State Home Departments participated in the Workshop.