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Human Rights Defenders

Amnesty International via edX

This course may be unavailable.


Human rights defenders are people who have the courage to stand up against injustice.

In this online course, you will follow their stories, learn how they mitigate risks and explore the creative ways they use to speak up. You will find out what drives them to take action, witness what defenders can achieve and discover how you can use your voice to defend your rights and those of others.

Together we'll explore:

  • The diverse situations of human rights defenders
  • Threats human rights defenders, their friends and families, are facing
  • Strategies to mitigate risks and ways to take action

You will be challenged to take part in discussions with other course participants, reflect on human rights issues you care about, and create a practical toolkit that serves as a personal guide to defending human rights.

This is Amnesty International's third Massive Open Online Course. Be prepared for active learning, connecting with course participants from across the world and to become part of a global community dedicated to taking action to defend human rights everywhere.

This course is also available in Spanish, French, and Arabic.


Module 1: Human Rights Defenders

Introduction to the human rights defender; this module covers their abilities, the diverse situations they are involved in, the risks they face, and why they are important in society today.

At the end of the module you will be able to:

  • Argue for the importance of defending human rights
  • Outline how and why someone becomes a human rights defender
  • Differentiate between the threats that human rights defenders, their families and friends are facing
  • Assess your own context when defending human rights
  • Describe how you can take action to defend your rights and those of others.

Module 2: The Importance of Speaking Up for Human Rights

This module looks into how human rights defenders use their voices to speak out against injustice despite the many risks. Delve into cases from around the world where defenders have spoken out, and obtain practical ideas on how you can take action.

At the end of the module you will be able to:

  • Identify ways you can use your voice to speak out for human rights
  • Take practical steps to increase your online and digital security
  • Describe to your friends or family how you would like to defend the rights of others.

Module 3: When Human Rights Defenders Work Together

Explore what happens when defenders use their strengths to work together. In this section you'll develop an understanding of how defenders organize, mitigate the risks associated with peaceful assembly, and move the needle on injustices in their countries.

At the end of the module you will be able to:

  • Identify and categorize unjust state actions against the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and movement
  • Think creatively to brainstorm ways to take collective action
  • Outline the mental health risks associated with defending human rights.

Module 4: The Right to Defend Human Rights

Introduction to the international, regional, and national mechanisms that are in place to protect human rights defenders. See how nations have responded to human rights issues, and create a plan to effectively voice your concerns to local officials.

At the end of the module you will be able to:

  • Outline the obligations of states for protecting human rights defenders
  • Recognize the negative impact when states do not take responsibility to protect human rights defenders
  • Outline the positive impact when states defend human rights defenders
  • Identify ways you can advocate for governments to increase their protection of human rights defenders.

Taught by

Emilie White , Rachael Mayo , Guadalupe Marengo , Sherif Elsayed-Ali , Robert Fellner , Nathaniel Baverstock and Daniel Joloy


5.0 rating, based on 2 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Human Rights Defenders

  • Profile image for Lawyer BaSeL Alfa (Lawyer BaSeL Alfa)
    Lawyer BaSeL Alfa (Lawyer BaSeL Alfa)
    Thank you very much for this useful session, which puts before everyone human rights and its instructions, which makes all peoples widely aware of them.
  • Aneta Heyrovska
    Good course, you create your own toolkit for action, you discuss a lot with others and share experience, it leads you to take an action and really be active not just have this information, the course try to also inspire you. I enjoy that

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