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More than 50 participants took part in the Forum of Human Rights Defenders, organized by the Office of the People's Advocate

The Office of the People's Advocate convoked human rights defenders on December 6 in a forum to discuss the conditions in which they operate in the Republic of Moldova, their national and international protection mechanisms. Among the participants were the representatives of non-governmental human rights organizations, including UTAG (Gagauz Autonomous Territorial-Administrative Unit) and the Transnistrian region, of the CNSM (National Confederation of Trade Unions of Moldova), journalists; lawyers, representatives of the OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights), the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the Council of Europe, of diplomatic missions in the Republic of Moldova.

The event was organized in the context of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration and 10th since the adoption of the Council of Europe Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The National Coordinator of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Olesea Perean, talked about the importance of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and UN Protection Mechanisms and the Deputy Head of the Council of Europe Office in Moldova Eva Gutjahr referred to the role of the CoE (Council of Europe) in supporting and promoting human rights defenders.

People's Advocate, Mihail Cotorobai, announced that the promotion and protection of human rights defenders will be included among the priority directions of the Ombudsman Institution's subsequent activity.

The People's Advocate also stressed that the national human rights institution has an important role to play in the promotion and protection of human rights defenders. He noted that the Strategic Development Program of the Office of the People's Advocate for the period 2018-2022 envisages the establishment of an Advisory Board to the OPA (Office of the People's Advocate) of civil society members, with an active role as an opinion leader in the field of human rights. Human rights defenders will obviously enter this council.

The People's Advocate also said he would plead for the drafting and adoption of a law on human rights defenders, which also provides for a mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders, according to international standards. To this end, he will propose to the Deputies of the future Parliament the adoption of such a law.

Mihail Cotorobai emphasized the extremely important role of Human Rights Defenders in promoting the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted 70 years ago and expressed gratitude for their work and collaboration.

The People's Advocate for children rights Maia Banarescu has pointed out that human rights defenders have always faced problems in their work and that it is important to have mechanisms at national and international level to protect them. The ombudsman for children rights also said that the establishment of the Advisory Board under the Office of the People's Advocate in the composition of the most representative non-governmental organizations, will enable the Ombudsmen to adopt fair and impartial positions in their work. Maia Banarescu also said that the organization of the Forum is the proof of the fact that People's Advocates are open to co-operation with the civil society and that they take the leadership role in addressing more sensitive issues or human rights challenges. 

The representatives of the civil society, including the UTAG (Gagauz Autonomous Territorial-Administrative Unit) and the Transnistrian region, welcomed the idea of setting up an advisory board for human rights defenders at the Office of the People's Advocate, but also of adopting a law on human rights defenders. The speakers addressed several of the current topics related to the work of promoting and protecting human rights or children's rights.