United States: Bill on the Protection of HRDs in Foreign Missions

In March 2023, Senator Robert Menendez, who is chair of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee proposed  a bill on the protection of human rights defenders in US foreign diplomatic missions, called the Global Voices of Freedom Act. The bill, if accepted, will guide the US policies in the protection of HRDs in countries where the United States has embassies and/or diplomatic missions.

The bill stipulates measures for embassies to implement regarding the protection of human rights defenders. This includes training of all embassy staff to how and when to respond to reprisals against human rights defenders, but also the appointment of a focal point in every US Embassy and the development of monitoring procedures for violations of the right to defend human rights. It also stipulates that United States officials should use diplomatic pressure to reduce impunity for attacks against human rights defenders, as well as undertake activities to engage with UN mechanisms to improve the protection of human rights defenders.

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 (examples include Finland, the United Kingdom, Switzerland).  Protection International does not consider this kind of legislation as a national policy for the protection of human rights defenders, as it is 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 US 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.

Find the original publication here in English (US Foreign Relations Committee).