When human rights defenders are afraid to question reports about wrongdoing and deficits they observe, it affects the entire society. Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) have exactly that effect: they can impose sometimes significant fines and criminal sanctions, and thus intimidate human rights defenders and stop them from shedding light on critical issues. It is our shared responsibility to prevent SLAPPs from undermining everyone’s right to know.UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet
Human rights defenders are at the forefront of peacefully promoting and protecting our human rights, natural resources and shared planet, as well as playing a vital role in calling out the harm created by irresponsible business practices. Protecting these defenders’ freedom of expression and association is crucial to our democracies, transparency in markets and protection of workers and communities.
Every day across the globe, defenders who bravely speak out against injustice face a range of attacks for the mere reason of raising concerns about human rights risks and harms associated with business practices. Strategic lawsuits against public participation, criminal or civil lawsuits brought or initiated by business actors to intimidate critics, are one form of attack that defenders face. The tactic can drain the resources of community members, environmental advocates and journalists who speak out in support of human rights and the environment and have a broader chilling effect, deterring others from speaking out against risks or abuse.
The key lesson I have learned in our fight against SLAPPs in Thailand is to continue to speak truth to power, whether to government officers or to the business sector. It is important to continue our legitimate work and use our voice to support marginalised communities to achieve human rights and economic and environmental justice.Sutharee Wannasiri, human rights advocate
Asina Loyiko resource hub
Resource and connection hub for activists confronted by SLAPP suits and other uses of the law to discourage and silence activism and free speech
Protecting activists from abusive litigation: SLAPPs in the Global South and how to respond
ICNL report on protecting activists from abusive litigation
Sued into silence: How the rich and powerful use legal tactics to shut critics up
Greenpeace report examines the use of SLAPPs
The Resource Centre collects data on lawsuits that bear the hallmarks of SLAPPs against defenders that raise concerns about business. Since 2015, the Resource Centre has categorized more than 385 cases brought or initiated by business actors bear the hallmarks of SLAPPs. This database provides examples of these cases worldwide and is not meant to be a comprehensive resource.
We asked human rights defenders, civil society organisations, lawyers and politicians about their experiences of SLAPPs and recommendations for strategies to resist their use.
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Hear more perspectives from human rights defenders, civil society, government and legal professions