Mission and Work Methods

Civil Rights Defenders is a politically and religiously independent international human rights organisation. We partner with and support human rights defenders who work in some of the world’s most repressive regions on four continents. Through advocacy, litigation, and public campaigns, we advance people’s rights globally. We also act as Sweden’s watchdog civil rights group.

Civil Rights Defenders vision

A world of democratic societies in which we all enjoy our civil and political rights.

Civil Rights Defenders mission

Our mission is to defend civil and political rights together with local human rights defenders to increase their security, capacity, and access to justice.

We work as a part of a global movement of human rights defenders and partner with those at risk. Through legal means and public advocacy, we hold states, individuals and non-state actors accountable for human rights violations.

We advocate for the norms and values of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant human rights standards, as we encourage people to use these rights to promote democratic societies.


This is how we put our vision and mission into practice:

Holding Those in Power Accountable

Civil Rights Defenders holds governments and those in power accountable, and demands accountability when people’s civil or political rights are violated. We do this ourselves, or together with local human rights defenders. We evaluate laws and draft-legislation, as well as how authorities implement them, and litigate when human rights are violated by those in power. We litigate in national and international courts, as well as committees or tribunals.


Civil Rights Defenders advocates directly for people’s civil and political rights with governments and decision-makers, and through public campaigns. We often do our advocacy together with local human rights defenders and other international human rights organisations, to increase the pressure for change. We shine a spotlight on important questions in the media, in seminars, and public reports. In repressive countries, we provide independent information through alternative media sources, and encourage discussion and debate.

Support and Expertise

The core idea Civil Rights Defenders believes in, is that strong local civil society is the key to long-term progress. That’s why we focus on partnering and supporting local human rights groups who are fighting for their rights in repressive countries. Starting with our partners’ needs, we provide security training, emergency support, expertise, organisational development, and long-term financial support. We also bring together our partners so they can exchange experiences, and learn from and inspire each other.