In 2010, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs developed Guidelines for Irish Embassies and Missions on Human Rights Defenders. The document contains operational guidelines for missions, the “potential role of Embassies and Missions” in their protection, as well as opportunities and challenges faced by embassies and missions in supporting human rights defenders.
The guidelines define Ireland’s approach to supporting human rights defenders (HRDs or defenders) on an international level and establish ways in which embassies can support HRDs, such as responses to “Emergency Appeals” submitted by the Irish civil society organization Frontline Defenders. Responses mentioned are delocalization or funding, mainly focused on defenders facing imminent risk as a result of their work. Optional steps are provided to improve support, including volunteering as a key contact point for HRDs in the country of mission or organizing events and meetings with human rights defenders. The action points provided in these guidelines appears limited, however, and are presented as optional, never binding.
Similar legislation has been implemented by other countries, mainly European ones that have developed a separate implementation of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (other examples include Norway, the United Kingdom, Switzerland). Protection International does not consider this kind of legislation as a national policy for the protection of human rights defenders, first of all because guidelines are not binding. Secondly, because such guidelines are not applied to human rights defenders within the country that adopts it. Nevertheless, these measures aim at contributing to an enabling environment for human rights defenders in countries where Ireland works on foreign missions, as they provide a focal point on the ground dedicated to provide assistance to human rights defenders by (amongst other activities) facilitating spaces for discussion or providing ad hoc support to human rights defenders in need.