Human rights interact with numerous issues commonly affecting the work of prosecutors. Being a public authority, prosecutors are supposed to set an example to society in the protection of human rights, which means that their actions should respond to international human rights standards[1]. However, it has become common practice in some countries that prosecutors systematically violate basic procedural rights and other rights of suspected or accused persons.

In particular, in many contexts, governments abandoned the rule of law, including the separation of powers and the independence of prosecutors, which allows them to exert significant power over the prosecution service and engage (individual) prosecutors to silence critical voices. 

Targets of their actions are in particular Human Rights Defenders who are retaliated against through politically motivated convictions and charges, with violations ranging from requests of unlawful pre-trial detentions for them, giving them little time to prepare their defense, rejecting their motions and witnesses in court, using insufficient evidence to justify charges against them, keeping them in metal cages during trials to prejudging them through defamatory public statements[2]. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), for instance, ruled that some of these practices, particularly the use of metal cages, amount to an inhuman and degrading treatment[3] and confirmed that the only aim of such practices is to hold human rights defenders to account for their human rights activities[4].

In this context, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders warned that she had seen “the space for civil society and defenders visibly shrink in certain regions of the world”, accompanied by “the consolidation of more sophisticated forms of silencing of their voices and impeding their work, including the application of legal and administrative provisions or the misuse of the judicial system to criminalize and stigmatize their activities”[5]



[1] Egbert Myjer, Barry Hancock and Nicolas Cowdery (eds), International Association of Prosecutors: Human Rights Manual for Prosecutors (2nd edn, WLP 2008) 2

[2] NHC and HFHR, ‘News, accessed 4 September 2016

[3] Svinarenko and Slyadnev v Russia App no 32541/08 and 43441/08 (ECHR, 17 July 2014)

[4] Rasul Jafarov v Azerbaijan App no 69981/14 (ECHR, 17 March 2016)

[5] UN Doc A/HRC/RES/22/6 (2013).