Our Story

Civil Rights Defenders was founded as the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in 1982 with the purpose of monitoring compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act. The Helsinki Movement inspired citizens in Europe and the United States to come together and form non-governmental organisations that held their governments accountable and advocated for respect for human rights. The Helsinki Movement eventually grew to include more than 40 organisations.

Gerald Nagler founded the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, as well as the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. From 1992 to 2004, he was also Chairman of the Board of the Swedish Helsinki Committee.

In 2009, the organisation was renamed Civil Rights Defenders. The mission became to support local human rights defenders in the world’s most repressive regions, and to be Sweden’s local civil rights watchdog group.

From 2000 until 2017, Robert Hårdh led the organisation.

Watch this short film to learn more about us and our work to defend people’s civil and political rights.