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The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) regrets that South Africa has chosen to vote against the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The resolution, spearheaded by the Norway and aimed to protect human rights defenders was put to the vote on Wednesday 26 November 2015.

The resolution seeks not only to protect defenders but includes a number of new substantive provisions, including the importance of advocacy on human rights issues and the need to protect defenders who are contributing to sustainable development and who are seeking to ensure that  economic, social and cultural rights are also protected. The resolution also addresses the responsibilities of business enterprises with respect to their engagement with human rights defenders and seeks to ensure that they too are aware of the potential adverse impacts their businesses could have on human rights.

“This is disappointing given that South Africa’s constitution seeks to protect and uphold human rights” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, SALC’s executive director, “South Africa’s foreign policy should reflect a commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, South Africa’s vote in this instance is an affront to this commitment.”

South Africa joined China, Russia, North Korea and Sudan and 10 other nations, in voting against a resolution that reflects the value of human rights advocacy and the need to create space for human rights defenders to function without fear of reprisal from governments.

117 member states voted yes on the resolution and 40 abstained. The South African government has reportedly indicated that its problems with the resolution include the definition of human rights defenders and the supposed impact the resolution could have on domestic laws.

“The protection of human rights should be our government’s primary focus. Their failure to show support for this resolution is an unfortunate indication of misplaced priorities.” said Ramjathan- Keogh.


For more information:

Muluka Miti-Drummond, Regional Advocacy Consultant,  +27796585943.

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