IACHR Publishes Practical Guidelines and Recommendations for the Development of Risk Mitigation Plans for Human Rights Defenders

April 29, 2021

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced the publication of Practical Guidelines and Recommendations for the Development of Risk Mitigation Plans for Human Rights Defenders (link in Spanish). The main objective of the document is to provide civil society and States in the region with a tool that covers the basic contents needed in plans to mitigate the risks faced by human rights defenders in the Americas. It also makes a series of recommendations to this end.

The IACHR has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the work of human rights defenders in consolidating democracy and the rule of law in the region. Despite this, it has noted with concern in recent years that there has been a steady increase in attacks against these individuals, which have ranged from stigmatizing speech to unfounded criminal proceedings and attacks on their lives and personal integrity.

Given the situation, these practical guidelines analyze States' obligations around guaranteeing the right to defend human rights. Each section of the document reviews international standards on the matter, discusses core concepts, and identifies key guidelines that should be taken into consideration when designing and implementing risk mitigation plans. It also identifies persistent challenges to complying with the obligations mentioned and analyzes good practices implemented by some States. These experiences may help guide other countries in the region seeking to implement similar practices.

The approach taken in these guidelines is based on an understanding that respect and guarantees for the right to defend human rights are indispensable and that people should be able to exercise this right in an environment that is conducive to doing so, free of intimidation of any kind. On this point, the IACHR once again noted that the work of human rights defenders can only be carried out freely when the groups or individuals in question are not subjected to threats, any type of physical or psychological aggression, or other forms of harassment. Given the persistence of such violence, States in the region need to prioritize ensuring full compliance with their obligations to protect human rights defenders so as to guarantee a free, safe environment for defending human rights.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 106/21