Shelter City is a nationwide initiative of Justice and Peace Netherlands to protect human rights defenders, in cooperation with a growing number of Dutch cities and local organizations.
Human rights defenders defend the rights of themselves and of others. Through their work they play an important role in the promotion of democratic values, political freedoms, and civil rights. This is a challenging and dangerous fight: they are often silenced, threatened, arrested, tortured and sometimes they disappear.
Justice and Peace established Shelter City in 2012 on the request of their network of international human rights defenders. After the first Shelter City in The Hague, Middelburg joined in 2014, followed by Nijmegen, Maastricht, Utrecht, and Amsterdam in 2015, Tilburg and Groningen in 2016 and Zwolle and Haarlem in 2017. In 2018 Deventer also joined the Shelter City network. Rotterdam followed in 2020. Tbilisi & Batumi (Georgia), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Cotonou (Benin) and San José (Costa Rica) have joined the network as International Shelter City Hubs. The expectation is that other cities (in or outside the Netherlands) will join in the future as well. The growing number of applications from Human Rights Defenders under threat shows that new Shelter Cities are strongly needed.
In every Shelter City the municipality, local organizations, universities, and Justice and Peace provide the shelter and take care of the program for the human rights defender. Together with the human rights defenders they organize meetings and workshops that contribute to the raising of awareness about human rights issues among the inhabitants of the Shelter Cities.
Shelter City is affiliated with the EU Human Rights Defenders Relocation Platform