On Human Rights Day and the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney TD, announced plans for a memorial to Human Rights Defenders, to be developed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Front Line Defenders. The memorial will be situated in the Iveagh House garden, with public access from Iveagh Gardens. The Tánaiste was joined to announce the initiative by founder of Front Line Defenders, Mary Lawlor, and executive director, Andrew Anderson.
Support for Human Rights Defenders is a long established priority in Irish foreign policy, and Ireland is recognised internationally as a leading advocate for the rights of those who promote and protect the rights of others. Ireland is committed to respecting and promoting human rights globally and engages actively on this issue at the United Nations, the EU and other international organisations.
The memorial to Human Rights Defenders will give concrete expression to the Human Rights Defenders Memorial website and database (hrdmemorial.org). HRDMemorial has been developed by Front Line Defenders in conjunction with 25 national and international human rights organisations, to commemorate all the estimated 3,500 human rights defenders, who have been killed because of their peaceful work defending the rights of others since the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders came into effect in 1998.
Speaking of the significance of the memorial, the Tánaiste said: “I am proud of the role that Ireland has played in championing Human Rights Defenders through our work at the EU and UN. This includes our strong support for the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year.
“This memorial is a remembrance of remarkably brave and inspiring individuals, who paid the ultimate price in the cause of others. It is also a testament to our commitment to working with organisations like Front Line Defenders in promoting and protecting human rights throughout the world.”
Mary Lawlor, founder of Front Line Defenders, added: “I am delighted to be working with the Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on this exciting project. And it is fitting that this memorial will be situated in the grounds of Iveagh House, where the Irish government’s international human rights policy is formed. It was also here that the decision to push for EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders was announced prior to Ireland’s EU Presidency in 2004.
“The killing of non-violent human rights defenders for their legitimate work for the rights of others should be a red line for governments, both in their domestic and foreign policy. On this the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, governments around the world should take stock and put in place systems to help prevent their murder by state and non-state actors.”