Press Release

UN and IACHR Rapporteurs Call on States to Protect Human Rights Defenders

October 31, 2014

Washington, D.C. -  As part of the 153 Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and the IACHR Rapporteur on the rights of human rights defenders, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez held a working meeting in which they reiterated their commitment to continue strengthening cooperation between the universal human rights system and the Inter American system to better protect human rights defenders through joint actions.

In addition, at the working meeting both Rapporteurs expressed concerns over the persistence of killings, threats, harassment and criminalization of human rights defenders in various countries in the region as well as the lack of adoption of effective measures by States for defenders who are at grave risk. They also highlighted the existence of reprisals against defenders who denounce human rights violations before the Inter-American and United Nations systems.

In this regard, both Rapporteurs emphasized that under Article 1 of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.”

In turn, Rapporteur Orozco expressed that “it is urgent that States ensure the exercise of the right to defend human rights of human rights defenders and that they refrain from imposing restrictions that hinder their work. In addition, it is necessary to move forward with national legislation that establishes mechanisms for the protection human rights defenders and to ensure their effectiveness”. Meanwhile, Rapporteur Forst expressed that “much too often, serious violations against human rights defenders are committed with impunity. In particular, I am extremely concerned with the increasing number of acts of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders in connection with their engagement with the United Nations human rights mechanisms or with regional organizations. These reprisals take the form of smear campaigns, travel bans, harassment, intimidation, direct threats, physical attacks and killings.  We therefore urgently need to put an end to all forms of intimidation and reprisals against defenders who cooperate with the United Nations and the IACHR."

Given the situation described above, both Rapporteurs call upon States to take all necessary measures to ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their activities of denouncing, monitoring and protecting human rights free from attacks, violence or reprisals.

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

No. 127/14