Mary Lawlor: heavy price

Human rights organisation Front Line has launched a new Book of Testimonies featuring the personal stories of 50 human rights defenders who attended a major conference in Dublin last February.

Everyone featured in the book was in significant danger because of their work.

One of those who attended the conference – Bety Cariño – has since been killed during an attack by paramilitary groups on an aid convoy in Oaxaca, Mexico.

According to Mary Lawlor, executive director of Front Line in Dublin, the workers are paying a heavy price for their activities.

"Human rights defenders could take the easy option, ignore the needs of those around them and focus on making a better life for themselves. Instead they give all their passion, energy and commitment to the struggle for human rights, and for that they pay a heavy price."

She also says human rights workers are the victims of political and media stigma.

"They are stigmatised by politicians and in the media. They are labelled as enemies of the state and subjected to threats of imprisonment or assassination. Their families may be at risk and they face being isolated within their communities. But human rights defenders rise above the pressure and the pain to maintain their vision of a better society and to offer hope to others."

The Front Line Book of Testimonies is available from Front Line in either hard copy or PDF formats.