ATTACKING DEFENDERS: The Criminalization of Human Rights Advocacy | Press Release

More about the book, including free download
Read the Foreword by Michel Forst

NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
Promoting human rights by protecting those who defend them – Tel: +1 604 736 1175

Immediate release
20 May 2020
(update 8 June 2020)

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is proud to announce the release of

ATTACKING DEFENDERS: The Criminalization of Human Rights Advocacy
A guide to international law rights of human rights defenders

Written by Lois Leslie
Foreword by Michel Forst,
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (June 2014-April 2020)

All over the world, human rights defenders are facing unprecedented attacks as the criminalization of human rights advocacy has become “a tool for the powerful to muzzle the powerless and…attack rather than to protect,” writes Michel Forst in the Foreword to a new publication released by Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada entitled Attacking Defenders.

Attacking Defenders identifies the international human rights law and jurisprudence developed by the United Nations (UN), Organization of American States (OAS), African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) to protect human rights advocacy and the diminishing rights of human rights defenders (HRDs).

Production of this unique guide was inspired by the alarming increase around the globe in attacks on HRDs and the use of national laws to criminalize human rights advocacy and the exercise of protected rights. Attacking Defenders explains how such actions, masquerading as ‘legal,’ contravene international human rights law and the binding legal obligations of member states of the UN, OAS, AU and EU.

Attacking Defenders is intended to support the efforts of HRDs to defend themselves and other victims and to provide a defence against the growing trend to replace rights-based governance with systems of control that use laws to suppress rather that support human rights.

Attacking Defenders has been produced for public use. Readers are free to copy, distribute, and display this publication and to make derivative works with appropriate credit to LRWC. Print and ebook versions will be available soon. A free copy can be downloaded here:

Attacking Defenders is one of a number of LRWC publications that provide support to HRDs in jeopardy as a result of their human rights advocacy. It is a companion to The Right to Dissent: A guide to international law obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the right of all persons to participate in public affairs by engaging in criticism, opposition and dissent, also by Lois Leslie with a Foreword by Pearl Eliadis. The Right to Dissent is available free online. Print and ebook versions are available for purchase.

Catherine Morris, LRWC Executive Director
Email:; Tel: +1-604-736 1175

LRWC is a volunteer-run human rights organization that engages in advocacy, education and legal research to promote enforcement of international human rights law, the rule of law and the integrity of legal systems and to protect advocacy rights of lawyers and other human rights defenders. LRWC has Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN.