Friday 19th June 2009,

Paris-Geneva, 19th June 2009. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), which supports, monitors and protects human rights defenders throughout the year, is publishing today its 2009 Annual Report. The report, of which foreword was written by Roberto Saviano, focuses on the year-round fight for human rights throughout the world.

Repression of demonstrations, trade union members arrested, NGOs under surveillance: for years these facts have been related to situations of economic and social imbalance and inequity. The rise in social discontent linked to the world economic crisis has increased the repression recorded in recent years. The Annual Report 2009 of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders shows that in inverse proportion to the fall of the stock exchanges, the inflation of freedom-killing practices and laws relating to the control of the social body was one of the significant characteristics of the problems encountered by human rights defenders in 2008.

Roberto Saviano, author of the foreword, warns: « “crises” in 2008 have already resulted in an increase in social protest movements. In Cambodia, Cameroon, South Korea, Tunisia, Colombia, Zimbabwe and elsewhere, women and men have poured onto the streets to demand respect for their social and economic rights, and the peaceful leaders of these demonstrations are too often the targets of repression. Is this a taste of what is in store for us in the framework of the current crisis and the social movements to which it will legitimately lead? ».

For Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President, « the social tension that has spread to all continents has had, all over the world, consequences in terms of freedoms of assembly, association and expression, which largely go beyond the mere framework of the defence of labour or social rights ».

This report celebrates the steadfast protest of all human rights defenders: « More than ever, in these times of crises, human rights defenders, through their rigorous investigations, their uncompromised actions and their unselfish commitment constitute the last rampart against arbitrariness. Repressive States have understood it well, and increasingly target those defenders of freedom », concludes Eric Sottas, OMCT Secretary General.

This report is published in French, English and Spanish in its entirety. A translation in Russian will be available for the section on Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States and a translation in Arabic will be available for the section on the North African and Middle East region.

In addition, an annex containing all cases dealt with by the Observatory in 2008 will be available on a CD-Rom later on.

A press conference is being held on 19 June in Switzerland and several others will be organised throughout July, notably in Italy, Egypt, Jordan, Georgia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, India and Cambodia, thanks to the support from OMCT and FIDH member and partner organisations.

This report is now available on OMCT and FIDH websites at:


For more information please contact: •FIDH : Karine Appy / Gaël Grilhot : 01 43 55 25 18 / 06 48 05 91 57 / 06 72 284 294 •OMCT : Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39 / 52 42