Press Release

IACHR and OHCHR Agree on Joint Actions to Protect Defenders in 2018

March 1, 2018

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Bogotá, Colombia - In the context of the 167th Extraordinary Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which is taking place in Bogotá, Colombia, the IACHR and the branches of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Central America, South America, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico agreed to expand joint actions to implement more effectively their Joint Action Mechanism to Contribute to the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas.

This mechanism emerged from a recognition of the grave situation faced by human rights defenders in the region and the need for coordinated action by both institutions, to help States to effectively comply with their obligations to protect and ensure human rights. Since the Mechanism was launched, on October 25, 2017 in Montevideo, Uruguay, the two institutions have conducted a series of joint actions to reach that goal: they have issued five joint statements about situations they both found concerning, they carried out a public consultation about the joint action mechanism on December 5, 2017 in Washington D.C. (during the Inter-American Human Rights Forum), and they generally increased the exchange of information and analyses on the human rights of defenders in the region.

At this gathering, the IACHR and the relevant branches of the OHCHR made progress in consolidating the joint action mechanism with specific action proposals for 2018, along five priority lines of action: 1) joint studies, 2) monitoring and protection, 3) advocacy, 4) promotion and 5) technical assistance.
In order to accomplish these actions, both bodies agreed to periodically exchange information for joint analysis of issues and situations of special concern, as well as to achieve effective and timely protection of defenders who are at risk. A diagnostic assessment draft was also introduced on the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas (2012-2017), which serves as input for the joint actions to be carried out.

Both institutions acknowledge defenders’ legitimacy and the importance of their actions in the exercise of the right to defend human rights. Work in defense of human rights is essential to build a solid, lasting democratic society, and defenders play a key role in the process to fully enforce the rule of law.

The IACHR and the OHCHR will continue to work together to promote a safe, favorable environment that protects the defense and the exercise of human rights.

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 and to defend 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. 040/18