Human Rights Defenders Imprisoned Worldwide #FacesofHope

Defending the right to housing for vulnerable communities, exposing corruption and torture, speaking up against injustice, raising their voices for the rights of indigenous peoples or of minorities, upholding miners’ rights, peacefully demonstrating against discrimination or for access to clean water. All are legitimate ways to affirm our common rights. And yet, such activities have led many human rights defenders around the world to prison.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, detention may come with serious risks. Like other inmates, defenders face overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, with basic protective measures a distant dream. Worse, they may be denied access to health care as a form of punishment. These brave people are among the most exposed to contracting the virus, and among the least likely to receive proper treatment.

Following UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s call to governments to “release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views” to prevent catastrophic rates of COVID-19 infection, we launch today a global campaign calling for the release of all human rights defenders detained worldwide, including those in pre-trial detention.

We need human rights defenders more than ever. Their unfair incarceration is not only a violation of their rights. It’s also a direct threat to our capacity to protect ourselves and our communities against abuses at this time of crisis. With states of emergency in place, we’ve seen governments use the pandemic as a pretext to impose limitations on our rights that are disproportionate and go well beyond what international law allows for in times of crisis. It is precisely the work of human rights defenders to ensure States respect international standards.

Defenders work to ensure journalists are free to keep us informed about how our governments are responding to the pandemic and about the effects of quarantine measures; they denounce the abuse of power and police violence that can result from the state of emergency; they champion the needs of discriminated communities; they call on States to protect our housing and labour rights as jobs disappear; they demand that women’s sexual and reproductive rights not be neglected as healthcare systems focus on the virus. In short, human rights defenders make sure no one is left behind.

We have witnessed an endless stream of solidarity between relatives, friends and neighbours in front of the threat from the virus. Let’s now bring this solidarity to all the arbitrarily detained human rights defenders whose lives are at risk. Join our campaign and ask for their release using #FacesOfHope. They need us. And we need them too.

Meet our #FacesOfHope:

UKRAINE / RUSSIA: Iryna Danylovych

INDIA: Gokarakonda Naga "G. N." Saibaba (Released on March 7, 2024)

WESTERN SAHARA: Mohamed Lamin Haddi

SAUDI ARABIA: Israa al-Ghomgham

UKRAINE / RUSSIA: Nariman Dzhelyal

EGYPT: Mohamed El-Baqer (Released on July 20, 2023 after receiving the presidential pardon)

VIETNAM: Trinh Ba Phuong

CHINA: Zhang Zhan

BELARUS: Marfa Rabkova

MEXICO: Cristóbal Sántiz Jiménez

AZERBAIJAN: Elchin Mammad (Released on May 9, 2023, following presidential pardon)

TURKEY: Selçuk Kozağaçlı

PERU: Walter Aduviri Calisaya (Released on December 9, 2020, following the suspension of his prison sentence)

CAMEROON: Mancho Bibixy Tse

INDIA: Safoora Zargar (Granted bail on June 23, 2020 and effectively released on June 24 2020)

GUATEMALA: Jorge Coc Coc and Marcelino Xol Cucul

EGYPT: Ibrahim Ezz El-Din (Released on April 26, 2022)

PHILIPPINES: Teresita Naul (Released on October 28, 2021 after the court dismissed the charges against her).

Our #FacesOfHope campaign has been supported internationally by public institutions. Find out more here:

#FacesOfHope: European parliamentarians join OMCT's call for the release of imprisoned human rights defenders worldwide

Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs supports OMCT's #FacesOfHope Campaign