International Women Human Rights Defenders Day commemoration. Karapatan kicks-off campaign on human rights defenders

Philippine human rights umbrella Karapatan kicked off the campaign on human rights defenders with a Benefit Dinner held at the Quezon City Sports Club during the commemoration of the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on November 29, 2008.

Karapatan said there are many reasons to celebrate on this auspicious day: first because 2008 marks the 10th year of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998) and the 60th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which we will commemorate on December 10.  

"On this note, I am happy to formally announce Karapatan's campaign to actively promote the Declaration so that government, military and most especially the defenders and the grassroots communities can be made aware of such a Declaration," said Karapatan Secretary General Marie Hilao-Enriquez in her opening remarks.

Karapatan said they hope that "this awareness will bring an improvement in the understanding of the citizens and the other stakeholders of the work of human rights defenders.  This way, a better understanding of respect and promotion of human rights may ensue."

The auspicious day is also an occasion for the human rights group to also celebrate its 13th founding anniversary that is being dedicated to pay tribute to 34 women and men who were martyred in the course of human rights work.

In the face of threats and attacks on human rights workers, Karapatan asserts to carry out human rights work it set out to do 13 years since its founding in 1995: documenting cases of human rights violations, assisting victims, campaigning for the promotion of and respect for human rights.

Karapatan thought of ways to respond to these attacks.  One thing that came to mind is the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.  Hilao-Enriquez said, "This Declaration is not even mentioned by the Government and has not been popularized in the country; and the ironic thing is, it is already 10 years old!"

Hilao-Enriquez said, "Thus, tonight, as a fitting observance of this Day, let us lay claim to our rights in the Declaration as human rights defenders so that we can continue to defend the people's rights which are also our rights.  By doing so, we also assert our rights to defend such rights." 

It was a night of music and dinner for the benefit of activities in support of human rights.  Proceeds of ticket sales will go to Karapatan programs that aid victims of human rights violations and their families such as legal assistance, psychosocial counseling and welfare.  Funds will also be allocated for the protection of Karapatan workers who are under threat.

Among the artists performing in the event in support of human rights advocacy include Ms. Cynthia Alexander, Chikoy Pura, Dino Concepcion of Brownman Revival, Danny Fabella, Sinagbayan and Tambisan sa Sining. 

Lending support to Karapatan's human rights campaigns is Senator Jamby Madrigal as well as the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). In her two-page message, FIDH Secretary General Ms. Souhayr Belhassen said, "We would like to express our solidarity with this event and to the Women Human Rights Defenders. We would also like to express our solidarity with Karapatan and the campaign it has led to assert the right to defend human rights.  Thank you Karapatan for leading this campaign, and thank you all for coming tonight to support it.###

click here for photos from the Benefit Dinner of Karapatan