Human Rights Defenders’ Assembly

16th February, 2024,

Bhrikutimandap Hall, Kathmandu


The World Social Forum (WSF) is an international space for discussions related to human and environmental crises. With the pledge that ‘Another world is possible,’ the World Social Forum emerges as a beacon of hope, more essential than ever before. The event was successfully conducted from 15-19 February in Bhrikutimandap, Kathmandu. During the five-day event, over 50,000 participants from more than 1400 organizations spanning 98 countries marked their attendance virtually and in person at various concurrent events.

National Alliance for Human Rights and Social Justice (Human Rights Alliance) facilitated a session titled “World Human Rights Defenders’ Assembly ” on 16th of February.

Highlights of the Session:


The session was moderated by Mr. Min Bahadur Shahi, Chairperson, National Alliance for Human Rights and Social Justice (Human Rights Alliance).  The following were the speakers along with their topics:

  • Mr. Sushil Pyakurel, Human Rights Advocate : The Power of Grassroot: Organizing: Building a Human Rights Movement
  • Mr. Bhanwar Meghwanshi, Journalist and Social Activist (India) : From Local Advocacy to Global Solidarity: Building Alliances for Minority Rights
  • Ms. Tala Nasir, Human Rights Laywer (Palestine) : Human rights under settler colonial regime
  • Mr. JERALD JOSEPH Human Rights Consultant, Former Commissioner (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia -SUHAKAM)
  • Ms. Maria Maranan is a member of SPARK, a progressive youth organization in the Philippines. She is the local head of the SPARK chapter in her university, Ateneo de Manila. (Philippines)
  • Mr. Naji Moulay Lahsen-Executive Director of the Network of the Independent Commission of Human rights in North Africa (North Africa)


  • The speaker addressed the issues concerning Palestinian prisoners in Israeli cells, noting that there are approximately 400 children, 200 women, and 40 journalists among them who face inhumane torture. She mentioned that within a span of 4 months, 8 Palestinian prisoners lost their lives, with autopsy reports revealing extensive bruising and signs of brutal beatings. It was emphasized that despite complaints submitted by human rights defenders regarding these violations, investigations into the cases were either nonexistent or abruptly closed due to purported lack of evidence, leading to a loss of trust in the system. Additionally, concerns were raised about the thousands of Palestinians who are missing, with no information available about the number of detainees. The speaker highlighted the establishment of two military camps by Israeli forces in Gaza to detain individuals, where detainees are reportedly undressed and handcuffed, with such practices being filmed and disseminated by Israeli soldiers. It was further noted the imposition of military orders on civilians, who are tried before military courts.
  • The speaker expressed concerns regarding the escalating religious fundamentalism in India, highlighting India’s historical stance as a secular state that granted equal rights to its people as fundamental rights. He noted the special rights afforded to religious, linguistic, and geographical minorities, which had been upheld in practice for a significant duration. However, they lamented that the current trajectory suggests a departure from these principles, with India, often touted as the largest democracy globally, undergoing significant changes. Drawing a parallel with Nepal’s transition from a Hindu nation to a secular one, the speaker cautioned against India’s apparent shift toward becoming a Hindu nation and questioned the potential consequences of such a transformation, particularly for minority communities who often face victimization over minor issues. They decried the demolition of minority religious infrastructures and the suppression of their beliefs, citing instances of violence targeting symbols like the hijab. Additionally, he criticized the portrayal of human rights defenders as threats to society and highlighted the risks and threats they face for advocating minority rights, including arbitrary detention without bail for prolonged periods. Despite these challenges, the speaker noted the resilience of defenders who continue to raise their voices. They also raised skepticism about the outcome of Nepal’s previous status as a Hindu nation and questioned the wisdom of India’s current trajectory in light of this.
  • The speaker questioned the presence and efficacy of international humanitarian laws amidst the various restrictions and blockades imposed by different nations in Africa. He expressed deep concern about the overall situation, particularly highlighting the impediments faced by defenders, journalists, and bloggers in expressing their viewpoints. Additionally, it was noted the restrictions faced by minorities across Africa. In addressing these challenges, the speaker proposed two potential means of action. Firstly, they emphasized the importance of networking, suggesting the formation of coalitions among attendees at the event. Secondly, they advocated for engaging with regional and international mechanisms to address and alleviate the situation.
  • The speaker discussed the education issues prevalent in the Philippines, noting that many youth in the country lack adequate opportunities for accessible education due to its highly privatized nature. They highlighted the diminishing quality and accessibility of education, particularly in a nation grappling with pervasive poverty. In response to these challenges, the speaker mentioned ongoing efforts to organize students, aiming to foster collective action and solidarity to address the issues within the education system.
  • The speaker addressed the escalating cases of human rights defenders’ rights violations across various countries, citing specific numbers of cases in Vietnam(161), India(153), Indonesia(147), China(144), and Thailand(134). They outlined the common forms of abuse faced by defenders, including arbitrary arrests, detentions, physical violence, and torture, with a notable increase in targeted attacks over the past two years. Highlighting that women defenders represent the largest group affected, with 437 reported cases, the speaker emphasized the need for solidarity and empathy among activists. They lamented the tendency for individuals to prioritize their own issues over those of others, leading to competition for resources and attention. The speaker urged for a shift away from such identity politics, emphasizing that all issues are important and interconnected. They emphasized the importance of recognizing and empathizing with the struggles of others, asserting that without this solidarity, the collective struggle for human rights is undermined.


From the above discussions, it’s evident that it is deeply concerning about a range of human rights violations and challenges across different regions, including issues concerning Palestinian prisoners in Israeli cells, escalating religious fundamentalism in India, restrictions and blockades in Africa, education issues in the Philippines, and violations against human rights defenders worldwide.

The common thread throughout these discussions is a call for action, solidarity, and empathy. The need for international attention and intervention to address these pressing issues. They highlight the importance of networking, forming coalitions, and engaging with regional and international mechanisms to advocate for human rights and alleviate the suffering of affected individuals and communities. Additionally, the significance of recognizing the interconnectedness of human rights struggles and the importance of solidarity among activists. We must caution against prioritizing one issue over another and stress the collective effort required to uphold and defend human rights universally.