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Mandate and functions of the Special Rapporteur


Article 3 (8) of the Aarhus Convention provides that “Each Party shall ensure that persons exercising their rights in conformity with the provisions of this Convention shall not be penalized, persecuted or harassed in any way for their involvement.” 

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders is to take measures to protect any person who is either: 
(a)     Experiencing persecution, penalization or harassment, or 
(b)     At imminent threat of persecution, penalization or harassment in any way, 
for seeking to exercise their rights under the Aarhus Convention. 

The Special Rapporteur’s mandate is not limited in its application to acts or omissions of “public authorities” as defined in article 2 (2) of the Aarhus Convention. Rather, it covers penalization, persecution or harassment by any State body or institution, including those acting in a judicial or legislative capacity. It also covers penalization, persecution or harassment by private natural or legal persons that the Party concerned did not take the necessary measures to prevent.

The Special Rapporteur has various tools for resolving complaints and protecting environmental defenders quickly and effectively, which may include issuing immediate and ongoing protection measures, using diplomatic channels, issuing public statements, or bringing the matter to the attention of other relevant human rights bodies, and of the concerned Governments and Heads of State. Protection measures are tailored to each situation; this could mean that the measure will list several actions that the Party concerned is directed to take to ensure that environmental defenders are not subject to further persecution, penalization and harassment. 

The Special Rapporteur also takes a proactive role in raising awareness of environmental defenders’ rights under the Aarhus Convention and cooperates with other relevant human rights bodies and organizations.

The Special Rapporteur’s mandate and functions are set out in more detail in decision VII/9 of the Meeting of the Parties establishing a rapid response mechanism for the protection of environmental defenders (ENG FRE RUS) which was adopted by the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention at its seventh session in Geneva, on 21 October 2021.