“We don't die depressed, we die fighting. That is our message, it's a message of hope. If you help the human rights defenders who PBI support, then you're helping humanity. It's not just a case of helping the countries of the South. It's supporting the future, the future of all of us. It's a universal struggle.” - Luis Guillermo Perez, human rights lawyer, Colombia.
Why act now?
Lawyers like Luis risk their lives every day in areas of conflict around the world, simply by doing their job. The name 'Mandela' has become synonymous with the struggle for justice. Just like the South African freedom-fighter, human rights defenders in many countries are putting their lives on the line to support some of the world's most marginalised communities.
Yet, while Nelson Mandela came to receive global recognition for his work, the plight of most human rights defenders remains dangerously invisible. While defenders like Luis are committed to their cause, the harsh reality is that these courageous individuals need international support in order to continue and expand their work in countries where the rule of law is weak and access to justice limited.
- In 2015 alone, at least 156 human rights defenders were killed or died in detention;
- All too often these crimes go unpunished. In Honduras, 102 lawyers have been killed since 2010 but 94% of these cases failed to convict the perpetrators;
- This impunity leads to even more killings. 2015 marked a 59% global increase in the murders of land and environmental rights from the previous year.
How can you make a difference?
PBI supports human rights defenders in remote areas where international scrutiny and spotlights are needed to expose human rights violations and to ensure that universal rights are upheld.
Building the profile, credibility and legitimacy of these ordinary but courageous individuals is an important protection strategy. It helps them to be taken seriously by their governments and increases the cost of committing attacks against them.
The international community has an important role to play in increasing the safety of HRDs by endorsing their work.
“Many defenders… said that without the presence of PBI in their daily life they would not dare to stay in their countries… PBI is one of the most useful organisations to protect defenders.” - Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders
By donating to our campaign you can make a difference by:
Sponsoring a field volunteer – PBI volunteers protect lawyers at risk by physically accompanying them round the clock at times of risk. By attending court hearings and travelling into remote villages PBI volunteers are able to offer moral support and increased safety to lawyers and their families.
Support a lawyer at risk
There are many ways you can strengthen the work of 'Invisible Mandela's' in the countries where PBI provides assistance. As a legal professional, you can make a difference by:
- Raising their profile – hosting events and publicly endorsing their work increases the visibility of human rights defenders (HRDs), raises awareness of the issues they face and strengthens their struggle for human rights and justice
- Building their legitimacy – Amicus briefs and fact-finding missions help HRDs gain respect in the eyes of their governments and help them be taken more seriously in advocacy spaces
- Developing their capacity – providing training, legal advice and sharing resources with HRDs strengthens their ability to uphold rule of law in their countries
- Advocacy - Writing letters of concern and expert briefings gets governments to listen and persuades them to comply with international standards
Leading members of the UK's legal community such as Sir Henry Brooke have already pledged their support for the PBI UK Invisible Mandelas campaign. Watch the full video below or click here for the shorter version.