1st Edition

Protecting Human Rights Defenders at Risk

Edited By Alice Nah Copyright 2020
    212 Pages
    by Routledge

    212 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book assesses the construction, operation and effects of the international protection regime for human rights defenders, which has evolved significantly over the last twenty years in response to the risks people face as they promote and protect human rights.

    Drawing upon the experiences of human rights defenders who continue to persevere in their activism in Indonesia, Egypt, Kenya, Mexico and Colombia, this edited collection examines the ways in which formal protection mechanisms by state and civil society actors intersect with self-protection measures and informal protection initiatives by families and friends. It highlights that protection practices are most effective when they are designed to address the specific risks that human rights defenders face (which are gendered and intersectional); reflect how defenders understand ‘risk’, ‘security’ and ‘protection’; and are appropriate for the dynamic sociopolitical and legal contexts in which defenders operate. This book proposes ways in which the protection of human rights defenders at risk should be reimagined and practised.

    This book will be a thought-provoking guide for students and scholars of politics, international relations, law and human rights, as well as to practitioners engaged in the protection of human rights defenders at risk.


    1. Introduction: Protecting Human Rights Defenders at Risk
    2. Alice M. Nah

    3. Dilemmas in the Ethics of Tanpa Pamrih (Selflessness): Risk and Human Rights Activism in Indonesia
    4. Budi Hernawan and Alice M. Nah

    5. Fallen Heroes, Terrorists, Spies, or Unrealistic Dreamers? Repression and the Defense of human rights in Egypt
    6. Alice M. Nah and Ellen Husseiny

    7. Intersections between Formal Protection Mechanisms and Informal Protection Practices for Defenders at Risk in Kenya
    8. Irina Ichim and Patrick Mutahi

    9. Resisting a Hostile and Insecure Environment for Defending Rights in Mexico
    10. Patricia Bartley, Erick Monterrosas and Paola Pacheco Ruiz

    11. Territory, Community and the Efficacy of the State: Reconceiving the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia
    12. Peter Cousins and Emily Schmitz

    13. Protection into the Future

              Alice M. Nah



    Alice M. Nah is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Politics and the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, UK.

    "Using an intersectional, contextually rooted approach, this important new book unites academic rigor with critical insights from the practice of extending ‘protection’ to human rights defenders. The chapters use a variety of data-gathering and analytical methods to excavate the dynamics surrounding individual and collective protection in five countries. Tackling the hardest – and most important – protection issues, the book’s diverse contributors interrogate ideas of security, risk, and wellbeing. The result is a book that will make major contributions to the efficacy and strength of movements for justice." -- Margaret L. Satterthwaite, Professor of Clinical Law, NYU School of Law, USA

    "There are extraordinary women and men around the world, from all sorts of occupations, willing to speak out against injustice, environmental depredation, and discrimination. They stand up for others in frightening circumstances. If not attacked directly by security forces, armed groups or organised crime, they may be stigmatised and smeared to turn others against them. This welcome and timely volume by an interdisciplinary team of academics and activists draws valuable lessons from the experiences of hundreds of human rights defenders in Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya and Mexico about how defenders survive at the local level and what help might be had from the international community." -- Neil Mitchell, Professor of International Relations, Department of Political Science, University College London, United Kingdom

    "Alice Nah’s book offers a socio-political analysis of the risks that human rights defenders face while conducting their activities. Discussing Indonesian, Egyptian, Kenyan, Mexican and Colombian experiences it fills a gap in the literature regarding the lives of those who risk much in their activism against injustice and for the rights of others. This is a critical contribution for those interested in the realities of human rights struggles around the world." -- Ulisses Terto Neto, Professor of Human Rights Law, State University of Goiás,

    "Alice Nah and her team offer readers a highly relevant and timely book, Protecting Human Rights Defenders at Risk. This is a must read for those who want to know more about how human rights defenders around the globe navigate risks and how they should be better protected." -- Sriprapha Petcharamesree, Director of the PhD Programme, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Thailand

    "In this well-written book, Alice Nah and her team of researchers provide insightful, nuanced observations about how human rights defenders navigate risk, manage security, and receive protection support. Based on rigorous research, their thought-provoking proposals on protection should be shared, discussed, and debated by all involved in the protection of defenders at risk." -- Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Ireland

    "Protecting Human Rights Defenders at Risk is an important and timely contribution to learning and practice on this critical issue. The combination of academic rigour and engagement with practitioners, most importantly human rights defenders themselves, is a hallmark of the great work of Alice Nah and her team." -- Andrew Anderson, Executive Director Front Line Defenders, Ireland

    "Human rights defenders around the world can welcome this volume composed by an incredible team who have spent years in the trenches of our field, looking past simple explanations, and never losing sight of the practical application of their work." -- Hassan Shire, Executive Director DefendDefenders, Uganda

    "Based on the experience of risk of over 400 defenders across three continents, Protecting Human Rights Defenders at Risk prompts us to re-think security and protection as we know it. We are grateful to Alice Nah, Chair of our Board of Directors, for taking us and the fortunate reader on this thoughtful journey." -- Liliana De Marco Coenen, Executive Director, Protection International, Belgium

    Excerpt from Human Rights First blog

    "…As this excellent book shows, our knowledge of what defenders need is growing, but the challenge of putting these practices into practice remains. Nah persuasively argues that it's time to reimagine protection, to protect the families of defenders and their loved ones, to protect collectives along with individuals, and to support defenders’ emotional wellbeing. When it comes to expanding freedom and relieving suffering, nothing could be more important." -- Brian Dooley, Senior Advisor to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

    Exerpt from Security Dialogue blog

    "This volume, which explores the risks faced and protection strategies employed by human rights defenders in Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, and Mexico, jarringly exposes the paradox of a world made insecure by ‘security’ and its apparatuses… Each of the studies provides a clearly scoped and structured, deeply disturbing, and thoroughly necessary account of the egregious attacks to which human rights defenders, their families, and communities are subjected.…The book adds significant literary weight to a growing movement…within the protection niche of the human rights field over recent years, and will be a welcome and hopefully influential milestone in this regard." -- Daniel O' Clunaigh, Consultant, Human Rights, Security, and Conflict Management

    Excerpt from Animal Politico, Mexico

    "The situation for those who choose or are forced to defend human rights is complex and risky, as those of us who "got into this" continue to learn. Through the analysis of various contexts, this reading invites us to dignify the daily struggles of human rights defenders in different latitudes, learn from their strategies to face risk and ultimately rethink protection in an ethical and effective way." -- Erick Monterrosas, consultant and researcher in human rights issues