Defend the Brave

Human rights defenders are being attacked, tortured, jailed and even killed – just for daring to stand up for our rights.

Today, people across the world are taking enormous risks to stand up for our rights. They could be teachers, students, political opponents, factory workers, journalists, lawyers or so many others. They could be you, your friend or your relatives.

But they’re being harassed, tortured, jailed and even killed – just for daring to speak out for what’s right. Without their courage, our world would be less fair, less just and less equal. We must stand with human rights defenders worldwide – and do all we can to keep them safe from harm.

Read the global briefing- Human rights defenders under threat: A shrinking space for civil society

© Raúl García Pereira / Amnistía Internacional

We can find the spark of courage in all of us to speak out for what’s right. We can tweet. We can protest. We can write letters. We can be a witness. And together we can act as one alongside human rights defenders, to fight injustice and build a fairer world.

Brave is an ordinary person with a heart. Brave is speaking out for others. Brave is standing up against injustice.

If they don’t kill you, they ruin your life.

Alberto Escorcia, a Mexican human rights defender


People who speak out against injustice are under attack. Governments, companies, armed groups, groups advocating hate and discrimination and others in power are doing all they can to shut them up and close their work down.

They portray those who challenge them as criminals, terrorists, unpatriotic, corrupt or even “foreign agents”. Then the attack goes further – smearing reputations, locking people up and even using violence to silence dissent.

At the same time, unions are disbanded and newspapers are closed down. Social media is banned. Digital activity is unlawfully monitored. And peaceful protestors are met with violence. Speaking out for human rights has become difficult and dangerous.

But that’s why we need human rights defenders more than ever. They’re brave enough to speak up for free speech. Challenge racism and sexism. Condemn torture. And ultimately hold our leaders to account.

© Scott Langley/Amnesty



people killed in 2016 for defending human rights, up from 156 in 2015 (Source: Front Line Defenders)


of killings of human rights defenders in 2016 were in the Americas (Source: Front Line Defenders)


countries saw people killed for peacefully standing up for human rights in 2016

© Amnesty International

I have faced harassment, intimidation, threats of violent beatings, and open hostility.

Sakris, a Finnish human rights defender
© AFP/Getty Images

I am always thinking about being killed or kidnapped. But I refuse to go into exile. I am a human rights fighter and I will not give up this fight.

Berta Cáceres, a human rights defender who was shot dead in Honduras in 2016

Good News

Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam is free.

Dr Mudawi was released, along with five other human rights defenders, late on 29 August after eight months imprisonment. He faced six trumped-up charges, including ‘undermining the constitutional system’ and ‘waging war against the state’, both of which carry either the death penalty or life imprisonment. All charges against him have been dropped.

‘Human rights defenders are messengers of social change, advocates for equality and justice, and support for them is support for a world free of cruelty, human suffering and pain.’ Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam


We want a world where people can speak out for what’s right without being attacked, threatened, jailed and more. Countries need to put laws in place which keep human rights defenders safe from harm, and scrap repressive laws, for example which attack free speech.

They need to release people who have been locked up just for challenging injustice. And they need to stop using spurious charges such as national security as an excuse to silence those who disagree with them.

Law makers, business leaders, government officials and other influential people should also make a public pledge to speak up for the brave, everywhere. By recognising human rights defenders as committed, courageous people creating a fairer society, we can protect them from further attacks.

© Amnesty International

Take action for human rights defenders now

Speak out for women’s rights defender Azza Soliman

Release Tep Vanny and allow her the freedom to stand up for her community


Be Brave: Defend human rights

You can now register for Amnesty’s third massive open online course (MOOC) on human rights. It will help you gain the knowledge to take action to defend human rights by exploring how defenders mitigate risk, take action to defend human rights, and how you can use your voice to join the fight, too.

Learn about the stories, struggles and successes of people defending human rights across the world.