The Guidelines rest upon and repeatedly stress the importance of the Special Procedures of the UN Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR), including the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and commit to use outputs and reporting from these Special Procedures to guide their own actions on protection for HRDs. The current Special Rapporteur, Mary Lawlor, in her first report in 2020, outlines migrants rights defenders (MRDs) as an area of priority for the duration of her mandate due to the high level of exposure to violent attacks and human rights violations that they have been faced with. In concordance with this, the first communication she issued in her position was to the Government of Greece regarding the detention of a MRD and the intimidation and criminalisation of NGOs working to provide humanitarian aid on the Greek islands. Mary Lawlor’s most recent report, ‘Refusing to turn away: human rights defenders working on the rights of refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers’, again brings into focus the situation of MRDs particularly in EU Member States (MS).
In spite of the repeated prioritisation of MRDs in EU MS under Mary Lawlor’s mandate, including in her recent country visit to Greece6, the Guidelines at the EU level retain a focus on HRDs outside of the bloc. All the provisions laid out in the Guidelines refer to actions that can be taken in third countries by EU Missions, Delegations and MS representatives. There is still no protection mechanism for HRDs working on the territories of EU MS, except for those outlined with reference to transnational attacks against Third Country National (TCN) HRDs who are residing on EU territory but still subject to reprisals by their home States.
BVMN puts forward the position that HRDs acting on the territory of EU MS must also be granted protection at an EU level and have access to the protection mechanisms presented in the Guidelines for HRDs from third countries. This should be done with a particular emphasis on MRDs working within EU MS.