Human Rights Defenders: UN Special Rapporteur to Probe their current situation in Australia

GENEVA / CANBERRA (30 September 2016) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Michel Forst will visit Australia from 4 to 18 October 2016 to assess the overall environment for human rights defenders and civil society in the country.

“Experience has taught us that human rights defenders are critical to sustaining a democratic society and strengthening the rule of law,” the expert said. “The visit is a fertile opportunity for me to consult the vibrant Australian civil society about their situation and to have a focused dialogue with the Government on ways and means to support the important work of rights defenders in the country.”

The independent expert, with the global mandate from the UN Human Rights Council to assess the promotion and protection of defenders, will gather first-hand evidence on potential challenges facing civil society organisations in Australia and explore possible actions that can help enable the environment for human rights defenders.

“I look forward to the dialogue with the Government and civil society organisations to identify concrete ways of empowering human rights defenders and supporting their vital and legitimate work,” Mr. Forst said.

During the two-week visit, at the invitation of the Australian Government, the Special Rapporteur will meet with both federal and state level officials, parliamentarians, various rights commissioners and ombudsman, as well as human rights defenders and a broad range of civil society representatives from various parts of the country.

The rights expert will visit Melbourne (3-4 Oct), Sydney (5-6 Oct), Hobart (7-9 Oct), Brisbane (12-13 Oct), Darwin (14-15 Oct) and Canberra (10-11 Oct and 16-18 Oct).

The Special Rapporteur will share his preliminary findings and recommendations at a press conference on Tuesday, 18 October 2016, at 11.30 am, at the

UN Information Centre, Level 1, 7 National Circuit, Barton, ACT 2600 Australia.

Access to the press conference is limited to journalists. 

The Special Rapporteur’s final report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in a future session.