Shelter City at the City Hall with Arsène and Mohan
As the International City of Peace and Justice, The Hague became the first Shelter City in the Netherlands in 2012. Ever since the start of the programme, Justice and Peace and the municipality have welcomed a great number of human rights defenders in The Hague. On the 21st of November, Justice and Peace Netherlands and the municipality of The Hague organized a Shelter City lunch meeting in the The Hague City Hall to reflect and inform guests about the Shelter City programme in The Hague.
During the meeting, council members, members of political fractions, municipal officials and other guests listened to the reflections of Pauline Krikke (Mayor of The Hague), Arjen Kapteijns (Groenlinks Chairman in the City Council), Sebastiaan van der Zwaan (Director of Justice and Peace) and human rights defenders Arsène and Mohan.
During the lunch meeting it was discussed why the Shelter City programme plays an important role in the protection of human rights defenders worldwide. Pauline Krikke expressed that she was proud that the city of The Hague took the lead and established the first Shelter City in the Netherlands in 2012. The fact that in total 11 other Dutch cities in the Netherlands became a Shelter City in the previous years symbolizes the increasing need for relocation support for human rights defenders and the growing solidarity with work of human rights defenders that exists in the Netherlands.
Human rights defenders often see the International City of Peace and Justice as their home away from home. The city offers the Shelter City candidates a large network that can strengthen their position in their own country with the presence of many international institutions working on peace, law, and human rights.
The lunch meeting was closed by two presentations of the Shelter City candidates who are currently staying in The Hague. Arsène from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mohan from Nepal both work as human rights lawyers in their respective countries. During the meeting they talked about their important human rights work, shared their thoughts about their stay in The Hague and expressed how their work is being strengthened due to the support that have received within their programme.
For Arsène, who works as a human rights lawyer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the meeting in the City Hall was very encouraging. He felt the support from the members of the audience and said that he could read the compassion on people’s faces. While some countries have policies in place that violate human rights, Arsène noted that it is very important for him to experience a programme that protects the human rights defenders. For Arsène, this support means that there is still hope in the world and a future for humanity.
Mohan has indicated that the meeting could further strengthen initiatives like Shelter City for the relocation, security, and wellbeing of human rights defenders working in very difficult situations and circumstances.
The fact that The Hague continues to support the relocation of programme of human rights defenders means that Justice and Peace is able to welcome multiple human rights defenders like Arsène and Mohan in The Hague every year.