Protection International

Protection International
Motto Defending human rights defenders[1]
Founded 1998 in Belgium (PBI-BEO), became Protection International in 2007
Type Non-profit
  • Global
    Headquarters in Brussels
Services Reinforcing the security and protection of HRDs
Fields Training, capacity-building, advocacy, video advocacy, (field) research, international community mobilisation

Protection International (PI) is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs). Its stated mission is to enhance the security and the protection of "threatened civil society actors with non-violent means, especially those who fight for their legitimate rights and for the rights of others as they are guaranteed by the international humanitarian law and the human rights conventions".[2]

Protection International began its activities in 1998 as the former European Office of Peace Brigades International (PBI-BEO) and is headquartered in Brussels. Working on the principle that "human rights defenders are one of the main actors fighting against impunity in the name of justice",[3] PI runs field projects in several countries (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Nepal, Thailand, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras) and conflict-stricken zones such as the East and Horn of Africa in collaboration with local partner organisations.

It provides human rights defenders (i.e. trade unionists, journalists, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals defenders, members of anti-corruption organizations, etc.) with training, knowledge and tools, such as the Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders ",[4] to develop protection measures into their work and enable them "to defend all human rights".[2] Protection International also aims at mobilising the national and international community (parliaments, governments, the United Nations, the media and public opinion).


Protection International is the former European Union office of Peace Brigades International (PBI-BEO). In October 2007, PBI-BEO officially became Protection International, after a separation with the PBI organisation carried out by common consent. Nevertheless, current activities run by Protection International are the logical result of defenders protection initiatives which began more than a decade ago.

In 1998, it organised a hearing in the Plenary of the European Parliament where human rights defenders from Colombia and Guatemala witnessed. Since then, PI supports the development and implementation of "new tactics and tools for the protection of HRDs by improving their own security strategies, thus also enabling them to improve their protection of others"[5](victim groups, witnesses, Internally Displaced People communities, women's HRD's, LGBTI, among others).

From 1999 to 2002, PI organised public seminars on International Observation Strategies for INGOs and other stakeholders throughout Europe. At the same time, training activities on security and protection of HRD's were held in more than twenty countries (among others, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Honduras, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ingushetia, Serbia, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand).

From 2004 onwards, the organisation launched short and long-term activities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Notably, it opened in 2006 a first #Protection Desks in Nepal, which is a permanent local structure whose objective is to diagnose human rights related threats, train local human rights defenders organisations and monitor their activities. Since then, #Protection Desks have been opened in Colombia, Guatemala, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While developing its presence in sensitive areas, PI began working in 2003 with members of Parliaments in various European countries on the adoption of resolutions and motions on the protection of defenders. As a result, PI assisted the Belgian Parliament and Senate in designing and adopting in July 2003, a global reach resolution which asked the Belgian Government to "request its diplomatic missions to observe carefully and systematically the situation of human rights defenders in the countries where they're working.""[6][a]. In 2004, the Bundestag adopted a similar resolution [7] and Spain followed in 2007 by voting its own legislation.[8][9]

In the last few years, Protection International developed itself quite rapidly. From August 2008 to December 2009, it delivered trainings about security and protection measures for nearly 1500 HRD in its working countries. Moreover, it provides on a daily basis advice to 600 HRDs and their organisations through its permanent Protection Desks and liaise with international institutions such as the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in order to design and implement new protection mechanisms.

In 2009, PI also issued its first annual report which represents "years of experience in field protection".[10]


Broadly speaking, Protection International's objective is "to contribute to ensuring fulfilment of national and international obligations[b] for the protection of human rights defenders – people who, individually or together with others, take action to promote or protect human rights". Concretely it focuses itself on two goals :

In every activities, Protection Line follows international standards in international human rights law and especially the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders(1998), The EU Guidelines on HRD and the UN Guiding Principles for IDPs (Deng's principles).[11]

While it put the emphasis on the improvement of human rights defenders abilities regarding the handling of security, protection and psychosocial training, both for themselves and the beneficiaries of their work, PI's Global Protection programme also focuses itself on political action and advocacy, in order that the national and international authorities and other key actors involved in protection issues enforce their obligations in terms of human rights defenders protection.

Protection International's Work

According to the Annual Report 2008 foreword, Protection International's role is not "to replace governments"[10] in their responsibilities to protect human right's defenders but well to "advise defenders on improving their security by following tried-and-tested procedures" and to complement the work done by other NGOs and international institutions in this field. Therefore, PI covers a wide range of activities :

Protection Desks

In the last years, Protection International turned its attention to the setting and development of an original and long-term concept : the Protection Desk (PDs). PDs are permanent structures that provide human rights defenders with the know-how and necessary tools to prioritize security and protection issues in their working plans (i.e. : in a newspaper or a trade union) and to develop their own security plan based on the trainings given by PI's trainers on the field. PDs are developed with other human rights organizations active in the targeted country and local partner organizations. The first Protection Desk opened in Nepal in 2006 and worked with "NGO's working in conflict regions with ethnic minorities, victims and community committees and on security-sensitivie topics like human trafficking".[12] Since then, Protection International grew substantially and opened new PD's in Uganda, Colombia, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Moreover, the organization is in the preparation of the setting up of a new Protection Desk in Thaïland which should be active in various countries of the region, from Pakistan to Indonesia.[13]


Democratic Republic of the Congo

In 2004, Protection International led an observatory mission in DRC and organised two seminars on the EU Guidelines on HRDs.[12][14] From 2006 until 2007, it went on with the training of defenders: among the beneficiaries, there were 185 organisations of civil society coming from 13 conflict regions. Along this, Protection International developed regular advocacy activities for an improved protection of HRDs, mainly aimed at European embassies, the MONUC and also national and local stakeholders, especially those involved in the reform of the Congolese Judiciary.

In July 2006, PI organised a conference with 30 Congolese HRDs, Michael Matthiessen, Javier Solana's personal representative for human rights and the ACHPR's Special Rapporteur, Reine Alapini.[15] En 2006, PI produced "Les armes de l'impunité" ("The Weapons of Impunity"), a documentary that recounts the assassination of Pascal Kabungulu, a Congolese human rights defender, who worked for the "Ligue des Droits de l'Homme dans la Région des Grands Lacs" (The Human Rights League of the Great Lakes) and the Protestant NGO "Héritiers de la Justice" (Heirs of Justice), and denounces the systematic intimidation or physic violence against the defenders who documented the abuses committed during the Second Congo War.[15]

In May 2009, Protection International requested a re-trial of the Maheshe Case.[16][17][18] Serge Maheshe was a Congolese journalist working for Radio Okapi, the radio supported by the Monuc, who was assassinated in Bukavu in June 2007. According to Protection International, the trial "which took place in front of the Military Jurisdictions of Bukavu both at first instance and at appeal, respected neither the norms of a fair and equitable trial nor led to the manifestation of truth. In spite of this, three civilians were sentenced to death in May 2008".[19] The organization recounts the whole observation of the appeal trial in a comprehensive report entitled "Rapport d’observation du procès d’appel «Maheshe» devant la cour militaire du Sud-Kivu (R.D. Congo) et suivi des recours". The work and the call for re-examination and re-trial of Protection International was deemed by the Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman, specialist of the DRC, "all the more relevant as Didace Namujimbo, another journalist from Bukavu who also worked for the Monuc -which didn't take any civil action for both of its contributors- was assassinated in similar circumstances in 2008"[17]

In August 2009, after the assassination of Bruno Koko Chirambiza, journalist at the Bukavu private station Radio Star Protection International, along with four other NGO's (Action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture, Fédération de l'action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture, Frontline et Diakonie), asked the Congolese authorities to put an end to impunity, claiming that "the situation of journalists and human rights defenders in the DRC is more and more worrying".

See also

Human rights defenders


a. ^ This resolution considered the creation of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders function (occupied then by Hina Jilani, who was succeeded in 2008 by Margaret Sekaggya) as a "great victory for all the people who fight everyday for the enforcement of human rights" and recognized that human rights defenders "in many countries are more and more victims of intimidations because of their activities, [...] they need a protection from the international community".[6]

b. [b] Among these stakeholders : Government and State officials, parliamentary members, media, citizens, international governmental and non governmental organizations, local organizations of HRDs, IDPs, refugees and other vulnerable groups.


  1. "Protection International Home Page". Protection International. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  2. 1 2 Protection International Mandate. Protection International. 2009. p. 1.
  3. "About Protection International". Protection International. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  4. Marie Caraj, Luis Enrique Eguren "New Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders" (PDF). Protection International. 2009. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  5. Global Protection Programme for Human Rights Defenders. Protection International. 2008. p. 1.
  6. 1 2 "Proposition de résolution concernant la protection des défenseurs des droits humains (déposée par M. Philippe Mahoux)". Parlement de Belgique. 3 July 2003. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  7. "Entschliessung des Deutschen Bundestages : Schutz von bedrohten Menschenrechtsverteidigern" (PDF). Bundestag. December 2003. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  8. "Proposicion no de Ley sobre la Protección de Defensores y Defensoras de los Derechos Humanos" (PDF). Congreso de Los Diputados. 11 May 2007. pp. 14–22. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  9. "Proposicion no de Ley sobre la Protección de Defensores y Defensoras de los Derechos Humanos" (PDF). Congreso de Los Diputados. 28 June 2007. p. 5. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  10. 1 2 "Protection International Annual Report 2008" (PDF). Protection International. 2008. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  11. Deng, Francis. "The guiding principles on internal displacement". E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.l, February 11. New York, NY: United Nations. New York: United Nations. Retrieved 2010-07-23.
  12. 1 2 "Protection International History". Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  13. Interim Narrative Report. Protection International. 2010. p. 1.
  14. "European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders" (PDF). Council of the European Union. 2008. Retrieved 26 July 2010.
  15. 1 2 "TWENTY-FIRST ACTIVITY REPORT OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES' RIGHTS Twenty-first Activity Report of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights" (PDF). African Union. 2007. p. 11. Retrieved 26 July 2010.
  16. Roudil, Sophie (2009). |contribution-url= missing title (help) (PDF). Rapport d’observation du procès d’appel "Maheshe" devant la cour militaire du Sud-Kivu (R.D. Congo) et suivi des recours. New York: Protection International. Retrieved 2010-07-27.
  17. 1 2 Braeckman, Colette (2009-06-24). "Affaire Maheshe : une parodie de justice à Bukavu". Retrieved 27 July 2010. External link in |publisher= (help)
  18. "'RDC:un journaliste d'une radio privée tué à l'arme blanche dans l'est (radio)'". AFP. 23 August 2009.
  19. "Executive Summary : Press Conference on the Maheshe Case in Bukavu". Protection International. 30 July 2009.
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