The situation for human rights defenders (HRDs) is dire. Rarely a day goes by that we don’t hear about a new piece of legislation restricting the space for civil society or legalizing surveillance. HRDs around the world are threatened, and in some cases, harmed for exercising their rights to expression, association, etc. HRDs are discredited and ostracized for challenging social and cultural norms that violate their or their community’s human rights.
While this wave of repression and aggression against HRDs is consistent in its persistence, it is marked by ever changing adversarial tactics. This, coupled with the fact that HRDs experience these aggressions in very different ways means it is difficult to ensure that the international protection regime stays responsive and relevant for HRDs at risk.
In the recently released Special Issue on Human Rights Defenders Protection in the International Journal of Human Rights, we argue for the importance of critically appraising the construction, function, and evolution of the international protection regime as well as its multi-scalar social and political effects.