The insecurity facing human rights defenders in the Americas has reached alarming levels. This is due to the persistence of attacks carried out by state actors, or by groups backed or tolerated by the State such as paramilitaries. It can also be attributed to new forms of harassment by organized crime groups and extractive companies with economic interests in the region. The situation was denounced today by 23 NGOs from 11 countries meeting in Washington, D.C. for the 141stperiod of sessions of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR).
A 2010 report from the United Nations points out that between 2004 and 2009, over 146 complaints of threats against human rights defenders were filed in the Americas. According to the organization, the countries that produce the most complaints are Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, and Peru (in that order).
Yet, human rights organizations depicted an even graver situation. According to their research, in Colombia more than 1000 human rights defenders were victims of aggression including murder, threats, arbitrary detention, and torture between 2002 and 2009. In 2010 alone, at least 32 murders of defenders were registered. Particularly troubling are the violations against those who work for the rights of displaced persons and land restitution, leaders of women’s groups, and union members. 46 leaders of displaced persons active in land restitution were murdered between 2002 and 2011.
In Guatemala, 1072 acts of aggression were recorded between 2007 and 2010, of which 45 were murders and 98% have gone unpunished. In the meantime, at least 50 human rights defenders have been murdered in Honduras since the coup d’état.
Representatives of civil society meeting in Washington, D.C. placed special emphasis on the increase in illegitimate state intelligence activities against human rights defenders.
The organizations called on the IACHR to create a specific office or rapporteurship for the protection of human rights defenders. They also asked the IACHR to demand that states adopt effective protection measures and improved public policies that guarantee the work of defenders. States were also urged to investigate the acts of violence and threats carried out against people who put their lives at risk to denounce situations of social injustice.
List of organizations: Amazon Watch/ Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (Aprodeh) / Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres de Chihuahua / Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh) / Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña “Tlachinollan”, México/ Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, México/ Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)/ Corporación de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos del Pueblo (CODEPU) /Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, A.C. (CMDPDH) / Comité de Defensa integral de Derechos Humanos “Gobixha”, AC. / Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) / Comité de Familiares de Víctimas (COFAVIC)/Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES) / Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CCAJAR)/ / Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH) / Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas (IDHUCA) / Global Rights Partners for Justice/ Observatorio Ciudadano, Chile/ Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA) / Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos “Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos” (Red TDT) / Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos (UDEFEGUA) / Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) /
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