Mongolia: New law to protect human rights defenders

A protest in Mongolia © EPA-EFEThe Mongolian Parliament has recently adopted a new law for human rights defenders, making it the first country in Asia to provide a framework of protection for people who speak out on human rights concerns and violations.

The Law on the Legal Status of Human Rights Defenders is the result of a years-long collective effort of the Mongolian government, civil society and UN Human Rights, in cooperation with the UN presence in Mongolia. The new law means defenders in the country are now legally protected and their rights respected, promoted and fulfilled.

“This is a major achievement for Mongolia, signalling its clear commitment to human rights,” says UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. “As the first country in Asia to enact such important legislation, the law will resonate within and beyond Mongolia’s borders.”

Bachelet added that with the eyes of the region watching the next steps, it would be important that the Bill be implemented according to international standards with a genuine, independent and fully resourced mechanism.

For the last several years, UN Human Rights has been supporting Mongolia to implement recommendations that have come out of the Universal Periodic Review process. This process reviews the human rights records of all UN Member States, providing countries the opportunity to declare how they are taking steps to improve their human rights situation and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

As part of this review of human rights, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders also provided a number of recommendations to the Mongolian government.

A move to a "safe and enabling environment"

Historically, human rights defenders in Mongolia – while living in a relatively safe environment – have still faced numerous obstacles such as pressure, stigmatisation, and hate speech on social media.

Human rights defenders in Mongolia speak out on a number of issues: media freedom, climate justice, disability rights, access to housing, and discrimination against LGBTI people, to name a few.

In 2019, a visit report from the former Special Rapporteur highlighted cases of discrimination, harassment and intimidation. Some human rights defenders were reported to have died in circumstances that had not been properly investigated.

“The adoption of this law is a welcome and critical move to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders,” stated Bachelet. "It will serve to acknowledge their crucial work, to bring the perpetrators of attacks against them to account, and to end impunity."

UN Human Rights will continue to provide technical support to Mongolia as it implements the Bill.

"This is a significant and progressive step towards full protection for the vital work of human rights defenders," concluded Bachelet.

The law will enter into force on 1 July 2021.

30 April 2021

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