Illegal Arrest And Detention in India

About this Violation

About this Violation

What is Illegal Arrest & Detention?

Being arrested means to be bodily confined by the police. Arrest and detention have often been used to intimidate and ultimately silence human rights defenders. 

Lawful Arrest & Detention

To be lawful, an arrest should be based on a warrant, issued after investigation of a non-cognizable offence.

Arrest without a warrant from the police or members of the public can be carried out under one of the reasons provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Namely, you can be arrested without a warrant if:

  • A police officer reasonably suspects that you were involved in the commission of a cognizable offence. 
  • You were found in possession of tools or any other implement usually used for housebreaking and you cannot provide a reasonable explanation for why you were carrying such implements. 
  • You were found in possession of anything that might reasonably be considered to be stolen property and you can't account for it. 
  • You obstructed a police officer in the execution of their duty. 
  • You escaped or attempted to do so from lawful custody. 
  • You are reasonably suspected of being a deserter from the armed forces. 
  • You are reasonably suspected of having committed an offence outside of India that would have been an offence if it had been committed outside of the country. 
  • You have been convicted of an offence but you were released by a Court or prison on certain conditions (such as that they notify the police of their change of residence), which you violated. 

Cognizable offences are those where the police can investigate without an order from a Magistrate and arrest a person without needing a warrant of arrest. The list of these offences is found in Schedule II of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This list includes almost all of the most common offences including murder, robbery, rape, theft, rioting and assault. 

Non-cognizable offences are those where (a) the police can only investigate when ordered to do so by a Magistrate (whether it is reported to the police or a Magistrate. And (b) the suspect can only be arrested with a warrant of arrest issued by a Magistrate (although the Code of Criminal Procedure also allows the Magistrate to summon an accused to court in minor cases rather than issuing a warrant of arrest).


From the moment you are arrested, you should be brought before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours. If the police cannot complete the investigation within 24 hours, then you should be produced before a magistrate, who may authorise your detention for a period of no more than 90 days prior to filing charges. If charges are not filed after 90 days, then you should be released on bail. 

However, according to specific laws allowing preventive detention like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), an individual can be detained without charge for up to 180 days, in cases related to insurgency. The detention can be prolonged if an Advisory Board has decided that there are grounds for doing so after the person has been given a hearing.

Protections against illegal arrest and detention

Different Sections of the Indian Constitution protect you against unjustified arrest and detention, as well as violence during arrest and detention. 

  • Article 21 protects your right to life and personal liberty.
  • Article 22 protects you against arrest and detention in certain cases.

To the Constitutional Protections one should add the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure who foresee in detail the process that should be followed in order for an arrest and detention to be lawful.

  • icon image


    As a human rights defender, you might be criminalised for your work. Criminalisation means the use of legal frameworks, strategies and political and legal actions with the intention of treating human rights protection as illegitimate and illegal. 

    If you have been continuously faced with illegal arrests or detention, it might be useful to know that the Indian Constitution includes protections against judicialisation and criminalisation. Section 20 foresees protection from ex post facto laws, and from double jeopardy.

File a Complaint with the Police

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

File a complaint with the police

Rights during arrest and detention

Your rights during your arrest and detention include:

  • Right to inform a family member or friend of your arrest;
  • Right to access a lawyer;
  • Right to be informed about the charges against you;
  • Right to read and examine the arrest memo before signing it;
  • Right to be informed on whether the offence is bailable or non bailable;
  • Right to be produced before a Magistrate within 24 hours of your arrest, if the offence is non bailable;
  • Right to see a doctor if you are injured; 
  • If you are a woman, your arrest can be carried out only by a woman police officer and you cannot be arrested between 6 PM and 6 AM, unless a magistrate has authorised it. Women suspects must be kept in a separate lock-up in the police station. When a woman is arrested for a non-bailable offence, even if the offence is very serious, the court can release her on bail Section 437 of the Code of Criminal Procedure;
  • When you are detained by order under a law allowing preventive detention, you cannot be detained more than three months, unless by decision of an advisory board. You must be informed of the reasons for such decision.
  • Right to privacy and protection against unlawful searches. Your property cannot be searched by the police without a search warrant;
  • Right against self-incrimination, which means that you cannot be compelled to say anything against yourself; and
  • The Right to Humane Treatment in Prison: you continue to be a subject of human rights during your time in detention or in prison, and most importantly to receive humane treatment. Also, you should not be forced to confess by force. 

If any of your rights above are violated during your arrest or detention, you should raise the issue with the authorities and you can also file a habeas corpus petition.

Applying for bail

If you are already arrested and detained, you can ask for bail by the police, namely, to be released on condition that you appear at the Court whenever you are required to. 

Note that not all offences are bailable. Bail can be asked for less serious offences. The Officer in Charge of a police station must grant bail for bailable offences, if you are prepared to furnish a bail bond. In contrast, more serious offences are non-bailable. For those offences, bail cannot be granted if there is evidence that the person could be found guilty of an offence punishable by death or life imprisonment. However, in a few cases, persons charged with non-bailable offences might be granted bail.

Criminal case against an unknown person who was involved in your illegal arrest

Depending on the circumstances of your case, an unknown person might be involved to your illegal arrest and/or detention in the following ways, which are all penalised by the criminal justice system of India:

(a) An unknown person might be responsible for illegally detaining or confining you and depriving you of your liberty. This is a criminal offence pursuant to Section 359 and 362 of the Indian Criminal Code on kidnapping and abduction and you should report it to the nearest police station.

(b) An unknown person might have wrongfully arrested you. In India, it is allowed for private persons to arrest another, if certain conditions are met. Anyone (including ordinary members of the public) may arrest a person who is a proclaimed offender or who commits an offence in their view which is a non bailable and cognizable offence. This means that a member of the public can arrest anyone who commits a serious offence in their presence. However, if that private person wrongfully restrained and confined you, they will be punished under the Penal Code (Sections 339 and 341 of the Penal Code on wrongful restraint and confinement).

(c) In addition, an unknown person might get involved in your illegal arrest if they provided wrong information to the police authorities that led to your arrest and detention.  According to the Penal Code, it is a criminal offence:

*   If an unknown person obstructs justice by wrongfully initiating criminal cases and making false statements against you (Sections 191- 210).

*    If an unknown person institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceeding against you, or falsely charges any person with having committed an offence, knowing that there is no just or lawful ground for such proceeding or charge against that person (Section 211).

Whether the unknown person committed the offence under (a), (b) or (c) above, you should consider reporting the incident to the authorities. This can be done by

  • Filing a police complaint at the nearest police station. If it is a cognizable offence, the police will register a First Information Report. If it is a non-cognizable offence, they will ask authorization from the Magistrate to initiate investigation or direct you to file a complaint with the Magistrate. In both cases, the police should give you a complaint number and a copy of your complaint which should also be signed and stamped.
  • Filing a First Information Report at the nearest police station. The First Information Report is filed for cognizable offences.
  • Filing directly a criminal complaint to the Magistrate. The Magistrate, after relevant inquiry, should order the police station to initiate investigation. If the Magistrate dismisses the complaint and does not order an investigation, then he/she has to record the reasons for that.

Who is responsible for the offence against you? 

The responsibility for the offence against you lies with the person who perpetrated it.

Beyond the specific person, the business entity can also be brought before criminal courts, if the act of a specific businessperson can be imputed to the business entity and provided that the specific circumstances of your case so allow. This is because Section 2 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860 provides that every “person shall be liable to punishment under this Code”. Section 11 defines “person” to include “any Company or Association or body of persons, whether incorporated or not.” Therefore, business entities can be prosecuted for offences under the IPC. However, corporations cannot be prosecuted if the offence can only be committed by a human being (murder, rape) or the only punishment is imprisonment. If an offence under the IPC or any other law is punished with both imprisonment and fine, then, the company can be prosecuted.

Lastly, you should be aware that the manager or director of a company can usually be held liable for the wrongdoings of the company, depending on the specificities stipulated in each respective law.

What if you are not satisfied with the outcome? 

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the trial, you can resort to a higher court for the purpose of obtaining a review and reversal of the lower court’s judgement, by filing an appeal. The appeal should be filed to a higher court, which depending on your case might be the Sessions Court, the High Court or the Supreme Court.

You can also resort to a court superior to the one who decided your case and ask for revision. Revision is usually filed to the High Court, for it to examine whether the lower court acted within its jurisdiction.

Lastly you can file for review of your case to the same court that decided on it, when there is new and important evidence.

How can you get compensation? 

In criminal proceedings, Indian courts may award compensation to victims. Section 357(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure allows courts to award compensation for “any loss or injury caused by the offence” out of the fine imposed. However, if the sentence does not include a fine, the courts may use Section 357(3) to “order the accused person to pay, by way of compensation, such amount as may be specified in the order to the person who has suffered any loss or injury by reason of the act for which the accused person has been so sentenced.” Under Section 357A, victims of crimes and/or their dependents can seek compensation from the government under a newly established compensation scheme.

If you are tortured during detention see the section on [TORTURE].

  • icon image


    As a human rights defender, you might be criminalised for your work. Criminalisation means the use of legal frameworks, strategies and political and legal actions with the intention of treating human rights protection as illegitimate and illegal. 

    If you have been continuously faced with illegal arrests or detention, it might be useful to know that the Indian Constitution includes protections against judicialisation and criminalisation. Section 20 foresees protection from ex post facto laws, and from double jeopardy.

Ask the state to investigate

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

Ask the state to investigate 

Initiating disciplinary action against the state official

The state official, who unlawfully arrested and detained you, should be disciplinarily sanctioned. According to the Service Rules and Standing Orders of the Government, you have the right to initiate this disciplinary process yourself, by lodging a complaint to the competent disciplinary authority.

Specifically for police officials, you can initiate disciplinary proceedings by filing a complaint with the Police Complaints Authority at state or district level. If you deem that the disciplinary actions against the police official were not adequate, you can appeal before the High Court or Supreme Court.

National Commission for Women

As a woman, who has suffered an unlawful arrest and detention, you can consider filing a complaint to the National Commission for Women.

The Commission was set up in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, with a mandate to advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women and facilitate redressal of grievances. For that purpose, it has established a Complaint & Investigation Cell that processes complaints orally, in writing or online. The Commission will ensure that adequate relief and redressal of your complaint, is provided.

Complaints usually concern:

  1. Rape / Attempt to rape;
  2. Acid Attack;
  3. Sexual Assault;
  4. Sexual harassment;
  5. Stalking / Voyeurism;
  6. Trafficking / prostitution of women;
  7. Outraging modesty of women / Molestation; 
  8. Cyber crimes against women;
  9. Police Apathy against women;
  10. Harassment of married women / Dowry Harassment;
  11. Dowry Death;
  12. Bigamy / Polygamy;
  13. Protection of women against Domestic Violence;
  14. Women’s right of custody of children / Divorce;
  15. Right to exercise choice in marriage / Honour Crimes;
  16. Right to live with dignity;
  17. Sexual Harassment of women at workplace;
  18. Denial of maternity benefits to women;
  19. Gender discrimination including equal right to education and work;
  20. Indecent representation of women;
  21. Sex Selective Abortions; Female Feticide / Amniocentesis;
  22. Traditional practices derogatory to women rights like Sati Pratha, Devdasi Pratha and Witch Hunting; and/or
  23. Free legal aid for women.

You can register your complaint here Complaints Registration and Monitoring System: National Commission for Women (

National Commission for Scheduled Castes

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes is an Indian constitutional body established with a view to provide safeguards against the exploitation of Scheduled Castes and protect their social, educational, economic and cultural interests. It has established a complaints mechanism, where you can resort to, if you deem that your rights as a person belonging to a scheduled caste have been violated or restricted by an unknown person.

You can lodge your complaint online here: NCSC | Home (

National and State Human Rights Institutions

If an unknown person has engaged in activity that violates your fundamental rights, such as an unlawful arrest and detention, you can file a complaint with the National or State Human Rights Institutions.

The National Human Rights Commission of India was set up by an Act of Parliament under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 for the protection and promotion of human rights. The mandate of the Commission is to investigate complaints of human rights violations or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant, and to issue appropriate recommendations.

For which cases can you file a complaint? 

You can file a complaint if your rights have been violated by an unknown person. Indicatively, the violation might concern:

  • Unlawful detention, false implication, illegal arrest, custodial violence and other police excesses.
  • Death in police and prison custody.
  • Harassment of prisoners.
  • Atrocities against castes and tribes.
  • Denial of benefit.
  • Sexual harassment and indignity to women.
  • Abduction, rape and murder.
  • Environment related issues.
  • Inaction on complaints for preventive action to check unlawful activities, communal violence public unrest.

What can you expect? 

The National Human Rights Commission can recommend the government to pay compensation to the victim or to prosecute the offender. However, it does not have power to enforce compliance.

The National Human Rights Commission has specific focal points for:

  • Human Rights Defenders
  • Castes and Tribes
  • Trafficking
  • Women

Who can file a complaint and where? 

A victim or any other person on his behalf, free of cost

By post at:

National Human Rights Commission

Manav Adhikar Bhawan, Block-C, GPO Complex, INA

New Delhi – 110023

Online: or through the Common Service Centre.

Complementary Strategies

Complementary Strategies

Achieving justice and remedy for the abuses that you suffered as a human rights defender working on business-related human rights abuses can be a lengthy and difficult process. It may require a combination of patience and strategy, and you may have to call on different resources to achieve your goal. A comprehensive approach may include using legal remedies together with other kinds of complementary strategies such as strategic campaigning, shareholder accountability strategies, grassroots mobilisation, coalition building or gaining media attention. 

It can be overwhelming to think about these considerations right after an abuse has taken place. Before thinking about the strategies, you want to use, try to make sure you are both physically and mentally safe and strong. 

Remember that you are not alone in this situation and that there are a range of organisations that can help you and provide you with immediate support in case of an emergency or financial, legal and psychological difficulties. See Resource Hub.

Building a Strategic Campaign

The first thing you may want to consider is building a strategic campaign. A strategic campaign aims to exert pressure on the different strategic relationships of a business or state actor. To develop a strategic campaign, you should carefully analyse your situation and decide which actions will have the most positive impact for your case. 

For example, you will have to decide whether you want to deal with your case publicly or privately, loudly or quietly, in a manner that takes into account the political and other sensitivities that exist in your country. The purpose of the strategic campaign is for you to get a clear picture of the situation, the direction you want to take your case and the concrete actions you can attempt to take to achieve this result. 

This whole process will be demanding on your resources and your mental and physical health so do not hesitate to reach out and ask for help from organisations that are used to dealing with similar cases! There is no shame in doing so and they can provide you with valuable expertise. See Resource Hub.

To build a strategic campaign you and your collaborators can follow these five steps:

1- Identify your objectives and overall goal: You can do this by asking yourself questions such as What do I want to happen? What do I hope to achieve?

Your overall goal will be the long term and general outcome that you want to achieve. To reach this goal you will need to identify smaller steps and specific milestones that need to take place, these will be your objectives. 

! When deciding on your objectives, make sure that they are SMART:

  • Specific - well detailed, well defined and action oriented;
  • Measurable- meaning that you can quantify and have an indicator of progress;
  • Achievable- meaning that they can be realistically accomplished in the proposed time-frame and with the resources you possess;
  • Relevant- meaning that they are relevant to your overall goal and work;
  • Time-Bound- meaning that you have set a clear deadline. 

2- Take the time to do a policy analysis and identify your audience: You can identify the policies and regulations that need to change, the key actions and stakeholders who can influence decisions and understand the overall political context that will influence your overall goal. You will further need to identify the stakeholders that can help you achieve your objectives. For example, who are the decision makers involved in the issue? What are the power dynamics at play? You should understand why and how each audience you approach can play a role in reaching your goal or can hinder it. Do not forget, when considering actors that could hinder your goal, to be as specific as possible and write down all details you can find on them including their names and functions. 

! Note that if some corporate actors can hinder your goal, other business representatives might help you achieve it! Businesses do not all have the same policies and attitudes when it comes to the respect of human rights and the environment. By interacting with business representatives and industry groups you might find valuable allies that can provide you with support in a variety of ways including testifying on your behalf, paying for bail and fines, or speaking up on your behalf. 

3- Identify your strengths, weaknesses and your message: It will be helpful for you to reflect on your internal strengths - skills, knowledge, resources, past experience - and weaknesses - missing networks, capacity for lobbying, contacts in the media or funding. Once you have identified these, you can search for opportunities that exist around you and will enable you to tackle your weaknesses and achieve your objectives. You should further consider the threats that could prevent you from achieving your objectives by asking yourself who are your opponents? Is there a negative political climate around your objective? Identifying them early will enable you to minimise the damage and safety risks they can present.

Once you have reflected on your strengths and weaknesses, you will need to identify what your audience needs to hear and present your message in a persuasive and appealing way. At their core, your messages should be the same, however, depending on the audience you will target, you will need to adapt the way they are framed. Most of the time, advocacy messages have two major components: (1) a calling for what is right and (2) a calling for the audience’s self-interest. You can find different methods to develop advocacy messages by using the key words “advocacy message” and “effective” on google.

4- Identify your tactics and activities: Depending on your situation and objectives, you will have to use different strategies and tactics to reach your goal. To choose the appropriate tactics for you to use, you can develop a ‘results chain’. The chain will start with your overall goal and outline the small steps you will need to take to get there. In your chain you can describe the assumptions you are making about the impact of the activities you plan on doing. This will help you reflect on your logic and might show you missing activities. It will further help you understand the kind of resources, be it financial or volunteers, that you will need to put your campaign into action. There are various organisations that you can reach out to for financial support. See Resource Hub. 

A few examples of activities include one-to-one meetings with high level representatives, the organisation of workshops and conferences, the drafting of a letter to international civil servants, a mass participation event engaging members of the community, social media posts or petitions. 

5- Monitor and Evaluate: Finally, you want to make sure that you are keeping track of the efforts you are putting into your campaign to ensure that they are working. You will also want to organise meetings to monitor the campaign and make sure it is going in the direction you want. 

Grassroots Mobilisation

Grassroots mobilisation is about bringing together individuals - in your district, region, or community - to influence a specific outcome. It is one of the key elements in successful campaign strategies. Grassroots mobilisation can be highly effective, as we have seen with the #SaveAru movement, because it uses collective action at a local level to influence outcomes at the national level. When every member of the community is participating in ways that they can, and are equally responsible and invested in the cause, the movement is truly powered by collective leadership. The costs of the movement are further distributed between all members of the community and thereby become more affordable. 

To build grassroots mobilisation, you and your collaborators can follow five simple steps: 

1- Identify the cause you want to address and make a plan of action;

2- Find supporters and volunteers to join your campaign; 

3- Reach out and partner with local organisations and community leaders;

4- Implement your plan of action; and

5- Regularly evaluate your progress. 

! Do not forget that, when it comes to mobilising members of a community, listening and understanding is more important than influencing and persuading. Having several short conversations will be more efficient than a one-off long speech to a general audience! 

To get started, you should identify the cause you want to address 

(1). The problem that you want to tackle most probably has a root cause. For example, it can be the lack of respect for human rights and the environment by a company which operates in proximity to your village and has threatened you; the absence of legislation by the government to protect people defending the environment; or the inefficiency of local government officials to implement a law, among other potential root causes. You need to identify the root cause you want to tackle so that you can clearly define the actions and steps you want to take to resolve the issue. Defining the outcome, you are looking to achieve will also be crucial to give your movement a clear direction. 

Once you have identified the cause you want to address, you can start creating awareness about your campaign and get interest from individuals in the community 

(2). Communication will play a key role here and you can use different approaches such as door-to-door canvassing, face-to-face conversations, emails, phone calls or social media to reach as many community members as possible. Having a campaign website or a Facebook page can be a useful tool to speed up this process and will make you gain important visibility online! It will further constitute a good opportunity to start building the next step by building a list of potential partner organisations. 

Using your website and the networks of members from the community you can approach like-minded local organisations and community leaders. See Resource Hub.

(3). To reach out to them you could offer to give a short presentation about your campaign during their events or simply provide your help during their rallies to get to know like-minded people and talk about your campaign. Usually, civil society organisations have dealt with or assisted defenders in similar contexts in the past. They can share their valuable experience with you, guide you on what to do, explain the law and your rights, guide you on where to find support and identify pro bono lawyers that can help you plead your case or provide support in building an advocacy campaign. 

! You should not ignore community leaders! Community leaders can be valuable allies that you can collaborate with to convey important messages of your campaign. If a community leader endorses the changes and propositions you raise, they will be more likely to be accepted and followed by the community and your movement will gain traction. Examples of community leaders that can help you are religious leaders, local political office holders or village figureheads. 

Once you have built a solid basis of supporters you can start implementing your plan of action 

(4). You can take a variety of actions as part of your plan including rallies, outdoor events, in-house groups, training sessions, organising for a group of volunteers to exchange with the local representative or staging a demonstration. No matter the activity that you choose to conduct, the key to success will be having successful communication. You can keep your supporters up to date on actions conducted through SMS, WhatsApp, and encrypted apps such as Telegram and/or post your announcements for events on your campaign website and Facebook page. Do not forget to communicate with your organisers and volunteer team to make sure everyone has the same information including the date, time, and place of the events. 

During your campaign, you can organise regular meetings with your supporters to evaluate the success of your actions 

(5). This will enable you to reflect on what went well and what did not and give you avenues for improving your upcoming events. At the end of the campaign, it will also enable you to see if you have reached your objectives. 

Coalition Building

Reaching out to other organisations and talking about your case will give you the opportunity to build coalitions. A coalition is a temporary alliance of individuals, groups or organisations that want to achieve a common goal. Forming a coalition with other organisations that have similar values, interests, and goals as your own will allow you to combine your resources and thereby have more impact than if you acted alone. It can be of great help to shift the balance of power and increase the impact of each of your organisation's efforts. Actions taken by the coalition can be focused towards bringing attention to your and other human rights defender cases in the media, requesting for a motion filed by lawyers to be considered or request the international community to act. 

To successfully build a coalition you need to take a series of steps.

  1. Before anything else, you should define what your main goal is. Your main goal will be at the centre of the initiative and organisations that you are going to approach are going to ask about it regularly. Ideally, you want to be able to present your goal in a manner that is easy to understand and appears attainable. To do so, you can present it through bullet points illustrating the key ideas and goals and condense it to one sentence. 
  2. Then you should identify your key stakeholders, leaders, and players. You should be strategic when choosing the organisations to enrol in your coalitions, recognising compatible interests between you, your organisation and other groups or organisations. Stakeholders may include local civil society organisations, international non-governmental organisations and national or international trade unions. 
  3. Once you have identified who you want to be a part of your coalition, you can start approaching and trying to mobilise them. You may need to demonstrate to the organisations that your goals are similar and compatible. You can also show them how working together will have a positive impact on everyone’s ability to reach their objectives and that the benefits from building a coalition will outweigh the costs. 
  4. While attempting to mobilise partner organisations, you must keep in mind that building a coalition can be a long process and that your short-term goals might transform into longer-term battles. Keep committed to your objectives, with a little flexibility, so you can take advantage of new and innovative opportunities to reach your goals. Also take into account that the level of commitment of your partner organisations will differ, and although it is perfectly normal, you should hold tight to the organisations that are in it for the long haul. To do so you can see them as a steering committee for your coalition and regularly require their inputs. 
  5. Once you have gathered all members of your coalition, you can host an event to bring all of them together and connect with one another, collaboratively discuss your goals, and show them the actions you had in mind. Adding value to your event can help attract participants. For example, you could invite a guest speaker, provide training, or build the event around a known human rights celebration. 
  6. As you will move forward with your coalition, keep in mind to follow up with your members. Regularly thanking them for their input and recognising their efforts will keep everyone motivated and encourage initiatives. You can achieve that by using email newsletters, posts on social media or SMS channels and face-to-face meetings.

Bring media attention to your case

Another complementary strategy for your case may be to gain visibility and attention by getting media coverage. Before deciding if you want to use this strategy, you should ask yourself whether you want your case to be publicly known and talked about or if you would rather go about, it quietly. Gaining media coverage can play a pivotal role in presenting your case, promoting it in public debate and positively shaping public opinion in your favour. However, this may expose you to further retaliation, as companies may use strategic lawsuits against public participation to try to silence you. For example, the company could bring a defamation suit against you, the journalist who interviewed you and/or the organisation that published the article. Importantly, you must be careful that the journalist does not reveal your current location so as not to compromise your safety.

To attract media coverage, your story should be prepared in such a way as to catch the attention of readers. You can do this by highlighting why your organisation exists, how important your work is to society and by providing details about the abuse that you have suffered. If you can, try to link your story to an issue that is currently talked about in the public space as this will be more likely to interest the media. Finally, if you can show how your story affects other people and has an impact on wider society, this will increase the interest of newspapers. 

Once your story is ready, you can use social media to promote it by publishing blog posts, Instagram stories, Facebook posts and/or tweets. This will enable you to gain public attention and establish your cause before getting traditional media interested in what you have to say. 

If you want the attention of mainstream media, you can collaborate with other national and international organisations to contact reporters. You can reach journalists by email, through their social networks (such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter) or through partner organisations. You will have a better chance of getting your interview request accepted if you choose journalists who are used to covering the same kind of story as yours. 

! Be aware that journalists can receive a lot of requests so keep your emails short and to the point! 

If you don't get a response to your first contact request, you can follow up by tweeting the reporter or trying to contact them by phone. Don't get discouraged as getting media attention can be a long process during which you may end up sending your story to twenty journalists before one responds. 

When a journalist becomes interested in your story, they will most likely want to talk to you in person. To make sure you are well prepared for the interview, keep in mind three key points you want to make and practice answering questions with a colleague. 

Once the interview is over, do not forget to thank the journalist for his or her time. Following the publication of the article, you can forward it to regional or national newspapers thereby gaining exposure and/or circulate it among your partner organisations.

Bring attention to your case to other businesses and industry groups

Although business-related human rights abuses find corporate actors at the heart of the human rights abuses, you should not forget that businesses and industry groups do not all have the same policies, attitudes, and views when it comes to the respect for human rights and the environment. 

You might want to look for allies in the private sector by reaching out to business representatives and industry groups and explain the issues you are facing. Private actors might become valuable allies who can provide you with support in a variety of ways including by testifying on your behalf, paying for bail and fines, or speaking up on your behalf.

Bring attention to your case at the international level

Equally important is to make your case known at international level. 

National and international non-governmental organisations are allies in your strategic campaign and have a fundamental role to play in channelling information to relevant institutions abroad. One of their main tasks is to submit the so-called shadow reports to international bodies or during the Universal Periodic Review Process. Those reports analyse how and if the government is realising human rights at the national level and provide the necessary background information to international organisations. In turn, if the shadow reports reveal information on serious and systematic violations of the rights protected by the conventions in the country concerned, international institutions can initiate inquiries or visits to the territory of a State Party. By making your case known to NGOs and INGOs, it can be included in their shadow report. Although this will not give you a tangible remedy, you will have added your brick to the wall of human rights in your country. 

You can also bring international attention to your case through the various organisations worldwide that work to protect human rights defenders - including Frontline DefendersProtect Defenders and Peace Brigades International. You can register your case with one of them, and they will identify the best ways to support you internationally. Be aware that they may publish something on their website or link you with other victims or experts worldwide. If your case is widely known, the offenders might hesitate to retaliate against you in the future. There are also many organisations that work on business and human rights issues that can share legal resources with you, both domestically and internationally. Most importantly, both kinds of organisations can direct you on where to find funding and donors to continue your legal case and to propose other resources necessary for your work as a human rights defender.

Bring attention to your case in political spheres

You can also contact political figures to draw attention to your case. For example, you can ask a foreign diplomat - by contacting the foreign ministry of the country in question or the embassy - to listen to your story, to come to your trial or simply to have a photo taken with you. This will show your abuser that your case is being taken seriously at the international level and may make them think carefully about retaliatory actions in the future. 

If you are uncomfortable with contacting diplomats of foreign countries, you can contact international civil servants instead. International civil servants are not linked to a specific country but rather to an organisation. To contact them, you can look up the offices of OHCHR, UNDP or the ILO in your country. These organisations often organise informal events such as consultations and webinars during which you can have the opportunity to raise your concerns and build a support network. 

Use shareholders accountability strategies 

Another strategy you may consider if a business or a business actor has attacked you for your work as a human rights defender is to inform the shareholders or the investors of that company. 

Given the different structure of each company, this can be a difficult process. By carrying out the steps listed in the “mapping the corporate chain” of the Documentation section of this website, you may be able to identify the major shareholders of that company. Once you have identified the shareholders, you can send them a letter explaining your situation. It is important to note that shareholders are increasingly vigilant about the actions of the companies in which they invest with regard to human rights and can use their power and influence to make  companies’ change their practices. 

In addition, various investors have set up the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). If the investors of the company targeting you have signed those principles, then you can also inform the PRI Executive. You can check whether the investors at issue are signatories here Signatory directory | PRI ( and draft your letter according to the criteria listed in the website