About the Observatory

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a unique partnership established between the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) in 1997.

Who Are Human Rights Defenders?

The term “human rights defender” refers to any individual who, individually or in association with others, acts peacefully in the name of individuals or groups, to promote, defend, and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and guaranteed by various international human rights instruments. As a result of their active commitment in the defence of human rights, defenders are prone to acts of reprisals, harassment, and violations of their rights by both state and non-state actors. 

The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, outlines the right of individuals “to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels,” and the responsibility and duty of states to “protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Our Mission

The mission of the Observatory is to ensure effective protection and support to individuals who are exposed to harassment as a result of their peaceful human rights activities wherever they are, regardless of their specific area of work – be they NGO members, women’s rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, trade union leaders, land and environmental rights defenders, LGBTQIA+ activists, migrants’ rights defenders, anti-corruption activists, or ordinary citizens standing up for human rights.

The objective of the Observatory is to ensure that the voices of all human rights defenders are heard, and their isolation and marginalisation broken.

The Observatory’s comprehensive protection strategy includes a wide range of cross-cutting actions to respond to the demands and specific nature of each situation, including prevention and early-warning on dangerous situations, raising awareness among policy makers and the general public, building the capacity of human rights defenders, providing them with direct assistance, and supporting local groups to enable them to continue their action in hostile environments. The Observatory has played an important role in including the protection of defenders on the agenda of the United Nations and of regional intergovernmental organisations in Africa, the Americas and Europe.

In 2015, the OMCT and FIDH, jointly with 10 other international and regional NGOs, launched ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

About FIDH and OMCT

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is an international human rights NGO that unites 188 member organizations from 117 countries. Since its foundation in 1922, FIDH has been defending all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is the largest global NGO group actively standing up to torture and protecting human rights defenders at risk worldwide. It has more than 200 members in 90 countries.


This website and database as well as the daily work of the Observatory are made possible thanks to the key support of the following institutions: 

FIDH : Agence française de développement (AFD), European Union (EU), Fondation Nicolas Puech, Fondation Yo et Anne-Marie Hamoud, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Mairie de Paris

OMCT: the Republic and Canton of Geneva, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, the European Union, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The contents published within that framework are the sole responsibility of FIDH and the OMCT and shall under no circumstances be interpreted as reflecting the views of these supporting organisations.

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