Amnesty calls on Johnson to support human rights defenders as death toll rises

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK

Boris Johnson must put a strategic plan in place to help protect people who are putting their lives at risk to fight human rights abuses around the world, Amnesty International has said as it released new findings about the global dangers faced by activists.

Amnesty’s report, Deadly but Preventable Attacks: Killings and Enforced Disappearances of Those who Defend Human Rights, reveals that at least 3,500 human rights defenders have been killed since 1998 – an average of 180 deaths a year.

These include journalists, lawyers, environmental activists, those standing up for the rights of women, and those fighting for gender equality.

Last year alone, 281 human rights defenders were killed – and the latest research suggests that 2017 is set to be the deadliest year yet.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Amnesty is calling on Boris Johnson to help protect human rights defenders around the world as a matter of absolute urgency.

“The level of danger facing activists has reached crisis point. Every day people are threatened, tortured, imprisoned and killed for what they fight for, believe in or simply for who they are.

“The Foreign Secretary’s vision of a ‘Global Britain’ must be inextricably linked to the protection of human rights defenders – and right now there has never been a better time to take action and set an example to the world.”

Currently the UK government provides an internal ‘toolkit’ for its diplomats to support human rights defenders abroad, but its use “is inconsistent”. Given the current level and scale of attacks being experienced by activists, Amnesty said it wants decisive action resulting in a strategic plan.

Ms Allen added: “We want the Foreign Secretary to provide strong ministerial leadership, push embassies and ambassadors to prioritise the protection of human rights defenders, help secure more funding, and put the plight of women’s human rights defenders firmly in the spotlight.

“Every time a threat or killing is not investigated and punished, a chilling message that human rights defenders can be attacked without consequence is sent out.

“Human rights defenders are the guardians of our future, contributing to a more stable and secure world.

“In the run up to the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this is a chance for Boris Johnson to create a powerful and positive legacy for generations to come.”