Press Release

IACHR Completes Working Visit to Colombia to Assess Alarming Issue of Murders of Social Leaders and Human Rights Defenders

January 15, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a working visit to Colombia on November 27-30, 2018, with the aim of assessing and observing on site the situation of human rights defenders. The delegation was led by Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, IACHR Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and also included Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão, the Executive Secretariat’s Chief of Staff Marisol Blanchard, and technical experts from the Executive Secretariat.

The Commission appreciates the Colombian government’s invitation to conduct the visit, following talks on the situation of human rights defenders in the country and following improved coordination of technical cooperation activities with the Colombian State. The IACHR delegation met, among others, with high officials at the Colombian Vice President’s Office, the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Justice and Law Ministry, the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, the Senior Presidential Advisor for the Post-Conflict Setting, and the Senior Presidential Advisor for Human Rights and International Affairs. The delegation also held meetings with members of the Ombudsman’s Office, with the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP-OAS), and with national and municipal authorities of the National Protection Unit. Further, the delegation met with the Governor of Chocó, with officials of the Chocó Regional Public Prosecutor’s Office, with the Governor of Antioquia and his team, and with the Antioquia Protection Unit.

In its activities in Bogotá, Quibdó (Chocó) and Medellín (Antioquia), the IACHR delegation met with scores of human rights defenders, leaders of social, community-based, trade-union, political, indigenous, Afro-Colombian and other groups, organizations for the defense of human rights, and church authorities, who all provided information about the situation of human rights defenders in the country.

The IACHR appreciates the State’s cooperation to organize this visit and the availability of various authorities to engage in constructive dialogue about the human rights situation in Colombia, the challenges and the options for cooperation with the State. The Commission thanks civil society organizations and human rights defenders for the valuable information they provided, and also highlights the work they do in the important context of peacebuilding in Colombia. The IACHR would particularly like to thank the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Colombia for its support for the visit, in a context of cooperation between both organizations.

Violence against human rights defenders

The Commission has repeatedly expressed its concern about the violence faced by human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia, and particularly about the serious challenges involved in ensuring their protection, about the limited security measures available to protect them, and about the impunity of crimes against them. In March 2018, the IACHR alerted in a press release that murders of human rights defenders and social leaders had steadily risen, in the context of the implementation of Colombia’s peace agreements. The Commission also warned that most of those murders involved defenders who were particularly vulnerable, in remote areas where the armed conflict had historically been more intense.

It is worth noting that, in October 2016, the IACHR welcomed the signing of the Final Peace Agreement and highlighted the importance of its implementation, since peacebuilding is essential to effectively protect human rights. The Peace Agreement included sections on risk prevention and on protecting human rights defenders, and it provided for stronger mechanisms to protect the work of such defenders—particularly those who work in rural contexts—by drafting with human rights organizations specific protocols for their comprehensive protection. Further, the Agreement provided for the promotion of comprehensive measures to ensure the safety of human rights defenders and to protect them from stigma, for mechanisms with a wide circulation, for campaigns to promote the legitimacy and recognition of human rights defenders in both rural and urban areas, and for the creation and promotion of community-based and public-interest media to promote human rights and social harmony. The Agreement called for progress to reach such aims.

The IACHR has granted 10 precautionary measures since 2016 to protect social leaders, communities and human rights defenders. In 2017, the Commission published two cases on this subject, where it recommended, among other measures, strengthening the ability of institutions to fight what the IACHR identified as a pattern of impunity in threats and killings of human rights defenders, by drafting investigation protocols that allow for comprehensive investigation and take into account the risks that are inherent in efforts to defend human rights. The Commission further recommended strengthening protection mechanisms for people whose statements significantly impact investigations and who face risks as a result of their involvement in such investigations. The IACHR also recommended developing appropriate, timely institutional-response measures that enable the effective protection of human rights defenders who are at risk.

During the working visit, State authorities, international institutions and civil society organizations agreed that violence against human rights defenders and social and community leaders is a serious problem that has got worse since the Peace Agreement was signed and implemented. According to the information the Commission has obtained, such violence is apparent in the high number of murders, and also in serious threats, stigma and acts to criminalize defenders. Both the State and civil society organizations acknowledged the need for comprehensive measures to protect the safety of those people, to prevent attacks and protect the rights of the attacked persons (as well as efforts to defend human rights and to exercise social and community leadership), and to investigate actions against those people. According to the information that was obtained, there are multiple motives behind that violence, including land control, the increase in illegal crops, and the presence of illegal armed groups (many of them linked to drug trafficking), which exposes social leaders—as symbols of resistance against crime and exposure of criminal activities—to brutal forms of violence.

The Commission congratulates the Colombian government for its commitment to keeping up dialogue with international human rights protection systems and for its stated support for the efforts of human rights defenders. In various meetings held during the visit, the authorities informed the Commission of internal coordination measures taken to structure a public policy to grant comprehensive protection to human rights defenders and social leaders, through the Plan for Timely Action (PAO, by its Spanish acronym) for prevention and for the protection of human rights defenders, social and community leaders and journalists. The plan has three axes for action: institutional articulation, to engage with various platforms and standards that already exist; strategic action on the ground, to focus on certain municipalities around the country with specific criminal environments that lack an adequate institutional response; and a communications and training strategy, to offset the stigma around human rights defenders. The State further noted that the Pact for Life signed in Apartadó includes appropriate action to protect social leaders and is set to be shared with communities. The State also informed the Commission of measures taken to ensure proper investigation in this context.

At the end of the visit, the IACHR remains concerned about the serious violence faced by human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia. The Commission acknowledges the actions of the Colombian State and welcomes any measures taken to counter the problem. Further, considering that the work done by human rights defenders is important to consolidate the rule of law and Colombia’s transition toward peace, the Commission supports Colombian State initiatives to address the issue.

Murders and threats

In recent years, the Commission has warned of the rise in attacks and murders against human rights defenders in Colombia. On November 2, 2016, the IACHR warned of that increase in violence and highlighted a substantial rise in the number of murders, compared to the previous year. The Commission is sorry that the situation has got worse since then and that such figures have continued to rise steadily since the Peace Agreement was implemented. Based on the information the IACHR has obtained, the number of murders and assaults is highly concentrated in specific municipalities and areas of the country, which are linked to risk factors such as competition for domination and control of criminal activities including illegal mining and drug trafficking; disputes over land occupation and ownership; the absence of authority in some areas; and a deficient implementation of the Peace Agreement.

In this context, the Commission observes that, based on the PAO that was recently launched by the Colombian government, there is no unified database system to consolidate figures regarding the number of murdered human rights defenders. The PAO says that 213 murders of human rights defenders and social leaders were reported between January 2016 and October 2018, based on the estimates of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The plan notes that the Ombudsman’s Office recorded 343 murders of social leaders and human rights defenders between January 1, 2016 and August 22, 2018, with Antioquia, Cauca, Norte de Santander, Nariño, Valle del Cauca and Chocó as the worst-affected departments. Civil society organizations, in turn, said they had recorded at least 360 homicides over that same period. As the IACHR said at the hearing on allegations of impunity regarding murders and assaults against human rights defenders in Colombia it held during its 170th Period of Sessions, there are—whatever the exact figure—too many murders and there is specific concern not only about their rise, but also about threats, harassment and other attacks against such defenders.

Indeed, during its visit, the delegation obtained worrying information about many threats aimed at human rights defenders and social leaders. The IACHR was told, for example, about disturbing threats allegedly issued by a group that calls itself Águilas Negras. The IACHR received, among other evidence, a copy of a written threat issued on September 17, 2018, where the central command of that illegal group warned several human rights defenders: “If you don’t want to go and visit the other social leaders who have already been killed, it’s better for you to keep quiet.” The group gave recipients 48 hours to comply, before being declared military targets. In a similar threat, that illegal armed group said that various civil society organizations and human rights defenders were military targets and warned that “there is no protection scheme available that prevents [the Águilas Negras] from acting and killing each and every one of those rebels.” According to the information obtained by the Commission, about nine threatening pamphlets were periodically sent out in May-October 2018, against 39 organizations and 146 of their members.

The Commission also obtained varied information about the new dynamics of violence, especially in regions that are far away from urban centers. In both Quibdó and Medellín, the Commission observed that people fear the threats issued by individuals, given the dynamics of coca crop eradication and illegal mining, as well as the actions of splinter groups that stem from FARC-EP and other armed rebel groups. In this context, the IACHR is particularly concerned about complaints by organizations that many of the leaders who have received threats have opted to refrain from further social work, because they fear for their lives, but also for the high rate of impunity in such investigations.

Acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees they are due as human beings. They also impact the fundamental role those defenders play in society. Such attacks harm the people for whom defenders work, increasing their vulnerability and leaving them defenseless. The work of human rights defenders is essential to build a democratic society and to consolidate the rule of law.

As one of the main issues that need to be addressed to tackle the violence against human rights defenders, the Commission believes the State must record the different types of attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders and social and community leaders. The Commission notes that the Colombian State has said it is working on a computer platform to unify the figures. The IACHR stresses the importance of developing such a tool with civil society participation and of ensuring that such a platform can be cross-checked and includes national records for different forms of attacks. That could be very useful to assess the magnitude of the violence and to develop adequate prevention and protection programs. The Commission highlights the importance of having complete, detailed records of attacks, with a view to establishing their motives, any common patterns and the magnitude of the violence, and to using them as the basis for further prevention, investigation and protection measures regarding human rights defenders and social leaders.


In meetings with civil society organizations, the Commission obtained varied information about the stigma attached to the defense of human rights by high officials of the State.

The Commission was also informed of statements that link human rights defenders to criminal activities. In this context, the IACHR notes recent comments made by departmental and local authorities who told several media outlets that criminal gangs “that are close to or associated with the Gulf Clan (Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia)” and “have had ties with the ELN and with organizations linked to the ELN” are behind the work of activists and human rights defenders. Further, civil society organizations denounced recent stigma attached to student protests in media reports, where students were branded as “vandals,” “rebels” and “terrorists.”

In meetings held in Bogotá and Medellín, civil society organizations told the Commission that such comments discredit the work done by human rights defenders, and they complained that the government launches campaigns against such stigma even as high officials continue to issue stigmatizing statements.

The Commission notes that State authorities must refrain from making stigmatizing comments and from spreading negative views about the work of human rights defenders. In this context, the Commission warns that, in countries with high levels of social conflict, discourse often portrays human rights defenders as “enemies of peace,” “enemies of the State” or “internal enemies.” The delegation constantly heard complaints of such scenarios during its visit to Colombia. Peaceful protests and complaints are legitimate and must be protected in the framework of the right to freedom of expression and the right of assembly. Human rights defenders are essential pillars to strengthen and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, because their work focuses on achieving the full enforcement of the fundamental rights of all people: it extends to society as a whole and seeks to profit everyone.

The IACHR has said that repeated comments to stigmatize defenders may contribute to exacerbating the atmosphere of hostility and intolerance they face among certain social groups, which could affect the lives and personal integrity of those defenders and increase their vulnerability. Public officials and some sectors within society could interpret such comments as instructions, instigations, permission or support for attacks on those defenders’ lives, their personal safety and other rights. In that context, the State must comprehensively fight the spread of hate speech or any other form of expression that incites discrimination, hostility or violence against human rights defenders, in accordance with inter-American and global standards.

Finally, the IACHR believes the State must provide defenders with adequate mechanisms when they are subjected to stigmatizing comments that may affect their reputation, compromise their personal integrity, or encourage or facilitate their criminalization. The Commission will monitor any measures taken against the stigmatization of human rights defenders and social leaders.

Human rights defenders who face particularly high risks

On March 27, 2018, the Commission warned that many of the murdered human rights defenders were working to promote the implementation of sections of the Peace Agreement that are linked to land. During its visit to Colombia, the IACHR obtained consistent information to that effect and identified a pattern of violence against social and community leaders, members or chairpersons of Communal Action Boards, and leaders of ethnic groups in areas where illegal armed groups are active and who support land recovery or policies that stem from the agreement, such as the Integral Program for the Substitution of Illicit Crops (PNIS, by its Spanish acronym). In Antioquia, for example, the IACHR received documented evidence of a high number of attacks against human rights defenders in that department, which particularly affected leaders who worked for peace, crop substitution, environmental rights and land recovery.

The Commission was also informed about attacks against people who signed the Peace Agreement, and about allegations that several former rebels who were seeking reintegration and their relatives had been murdered or suffered attacks. On this issue, the Commission stresses its recommendations about the need for non-repetition mechanisms and for instruments that protect the life and integrity of anyone who has signed peace agreements and ensure their reintegration into political life.

The IACHR has already expressed its concern about the Colombian people’s vulnerability to violence. In its visit to Quibdó, the delegation was informed about the persistent presence of illegal mining and illegal crops, megaprojects and various armed actors. High poverty rates require urgent action in one of Colombia’s most multi-ethnic departments, Chocó. Civil society organizations denounced serious humanitarian issues in the department and a lack of social programs linked to economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. In particular, they described the high homicide rates in some of the department’s urban centers, which are allegedly above the national average, and restrictions on mobility imposed by illegal armed groups that have arrived in the area after FARC and have affected ethnic collective processes. Those organizations further informed the IACHR of threats received by social leaders and of child-recruitment practices, forced displacement and the serious problems faced by Afro-Colombian women, for whom “war was still ongoing” given the violence against them.

The information received by the indigenous authorities the Commission met with in Quibdó showed persistent threats against them, as well as an imposition of rules in their territories by armed groups. Those indigenous authorities further indicated that, in this context, 95% of all indigenous communities in Chocó are confined to their land, and that the recruitment of children and adolescents has increased. They also pointed to a lack of social programs for indigenous peoples and a lack of programs to promote economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, with high levels of malnutrition as a particularly serious concern. The Commission was informed of the creation of a Cross-Sectional Committee for Chocó that seeks to strengthen the department’s institutions, and it heard organizations stress the need for that Committee to promote in Chocó structural measures that support the work of human rights defenders and indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders. The IACHR urges the Colombian government to take measures to implement peace in this area with an approach based on human rights and ethnic diversity, as well as to adopt social policies that address specific needs linked to economic, social, cultural and environmental rights in Chocó.

Women who are leaders and human rights defenders face differentiated risks and disproportionate effects based on their gender, as women. Further, those risks may be made worse by the rights they defend, their sexual orientation and gender identity, their ethnic background and their location. In Colombia’s specific case, the IACHR has repeatedly stressed the conflict’s particular effects on women. During the visit, the IACHR was told that there are increasing and increasingly significant signs that violence against women who are human rights defenders is intended to slight those defenders as women (for example, in the case of violence against female bodies when they suffer rape and sexual abuse before murder and other attacks). The delegation further heard several complaints about specific attacks on women who are human rights defenders and belong to particular ethnic groups. Regarding investigations in such cases, complaints pointed to a failure to deepen investigations for reasons based on gender. Women’s organizations acknowledged some normative progress to take into consideration the disproportionate impact on women, including differentiated measures for their protection which, if implemented, would enable them to exercise leadership freely and safely. Such measures include the creation of a Cross-Sector Guarantees Committee for Women who are Leaders and Human Rights Defenders (Decree 1314 of August 10, 2016) and the adoption of the Comprehensive Guarantees Program for Women who are Leaders and Human Rights Defenders, with its action plan for 2018 and the approval of a participatory approach for the program’s 2019-2022 four-year action plan (Resolution 0845 of June 14, 2018). In particular, those organizations stressed the importance of having State initiatives to adopt coordination and articulation strategies reflect the protection approach that has already been established in those programs regarding women.

Further, in meetings with civil society, the Commission was informed of the particular risk faced by LGBTI human rights defenders, with a significant rise in the number of murders and threats against them. Civil society organizations noted that this is due to the double risk they face, based both on their work as defenders of people who have historically been discriminated against and on prejudice against their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to the lack of differentiated prevention and protection measures and guarantees to defend the rights of those people. The IACHR delegation was also informed about the early alert system of the Ombudsman’s Office, which seeks among others to identify scenarios that entail a significant risk of human rights violations, and to monitor such scenarios and report them to the authorities to enable the adoption of effective prevention measures. The Commission welcomes this mechanism’s efforts to detect threats of attacks against defenders and social leaders, highlights its work in rural areas and urges the State to strengthen such an instrument, as a way to prevent violence against that community.

Public policies regarding human rights defenders and platforms for dialogue

The Commission notes the Colombian government’s willingness to undergo international scrutiny, as well as its stated support for the efforts of human rights defenders. The authorities referred to public policy coordination and to the adoption of new prevention and protection plans, such as the PAO that was mentioned above. The IACHR acknowledges such actions and welcomes all efforts to counter the serious acts violence against LGBTI persons. The Commission further calls on the State to summon civil society organizations, so they may participate in the whole process involved in such initiatives, from their development and implementation to the assessment stage.

In the various meetings, civil society organizations informed the Commission of the existence of platforms for dialogue that had previously been created with the State and where agreements had already been reached, including the National Roundtable for Guarantees and the National Committee for Safety Guarantees. The IACHR asks the Colombian State to call on those two platforms for dialogue and to work with civil society to develop agreements that ensure the implementation of comprehensive prevention policies and protect human rights defenders and social leaders.

Further, the Commission welcomes the fact that, at the public hearing in the IACHR’s 170th Period of Sessions on December 6, 2018 in Washington, D.C., Colombian State authorities accepted civil society’s request to take part in prevention plans and plans to promote defenders. The Commission will monitor such measures jointly with the State.

The National Protection Unit and the importance of cooperation with other institutions

The Commission met with authorities from the National Protection Unit (UNP, by its Spanish acronym), who explained their actions and their risk assessment procedures. They noted that they currently have measures in place to protect 6,200 people, 4,367 of them human rights defenders.

Civil society organizations questioned the effectiveness of the UNP’s protection measures, particularly regarding risk analysis, delays, and the implementation of such protection measures, as well as procedures to end such measures. Concerning risk analysis, civil society organizations stressed the importance of ensuring that preliminary risk assessments are thorough enough and are based on an analysis of the context. Those organizations warned the Commission, for instance, about a deficient implementation of protection measures that makes it difficult—indeed, almost impossible—to provide adequate protection to social leaders and human rights defenders in the country. They also noted that the UNP has so far failed to adjust proceedings and indicators for a periodic reassessment of the risk level, which implies that people who in fact face a higher risk continue to be assessed as facing an “ordinary” risk level. The Commission is particularly concerned about civil society complaints that some protection schemes aimed at beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR had been unilaterally withdrawn.

A recurring theme in meetings with civil society was the lack of a differentiated, preventive and collective approach suitable for specific ethnic groups and traditional forms of self-government. The Commission notes, for example, the petitions filed by the San José de Apartadó Peace Community—protected by temporary measures established by the Inter-American Court—regarding the community’s principles and the controversy about weapons carried by UNP officials deployed to protect it. In that context, the Commission warns that there can be special territorial dynamics and that leaders can have different needs, so the State must consider such specific features to ensure any measures it adopts are appropriate and able to meet their goals. Civil society also told the IACHR that protection plans must involve various State institutions as well as the UNP if they are to protect social leaders effectively. The Commission highlights the importance of articulating the work of various State institutions in order to implement measures that effectively prevent violence against human rights defenders and protect those people. The IACHR notes the role that the PAO and other platforms for dialogue can play to achieve successful coordination.

The Commission also asks the State to deepen context analysis for human rights defenders and strengthen coordination between national and local authorities, so the latter can contribute—along with defenders—valuable information that is useful to reduce the risks once prevention and protection measures have been adopted. To that end, the Commission calls for dialogue with communities and for coordination between the various promotion and protection mechanisms. The IACHR highlights the importance of taking differentiated measures that consider the specific threats against women, LGBTI persons, ethnic groups, indigenous peoples and defenders active in land recovery efforts, among others.

In that context, the Commission was informed of collective self-protection initiatives adopted by indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities through indigenous and Cimarron guards, among other schemes. The IACHR has closely monitored the specific situation of leaders and defenders of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. The Commission warns that violence against such defenders not only impacts those individuals, but also has a collective effect on indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. Consequently, protection measures cannot be based on an individual approach alone. The Commission recommends that the Colombian State seek and deepen the implementation of a differentiated approach for collective measures, one that includes an ethnic and racial perspective and considers, among others, the circumstances of the people who are to be protected and the need for culturally appropriate protection measures.


Concerning the state of investigations into attacks against leaders and human rights defenders, the Commission observes a discrepancy in the figures submitted by the country’s Attorney General’s Office, regarding the percentage of homicides that have been solved. Civil society organizations argue that investigations have not been extended to other acts of violence in sufficient depth.

The Commission notes that, according to the Plan for Timely Action for prevention and for the protection of human rights defenders that was recently launched, the national government recorded 213 homicide cases involving social leaders and human rights defenders between January 2016 and October 2018, while the Attorney General’s Office has made progress in solving 113, which amount to 53.05% of all recorded cases. The plan further highlights that, of the number of homicides reported by the Ombudsman’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office has made progress to solve 34%. Some of those reported cases overlap with the data recorded by the OHCHR.

At the public hearing on allegations of impunity regarding murders and assaults against human rights defenders in Colombia held during the 170th Period of Sessions, civil society organizations said they had recorded at least 360 homicides over the same period. They therefore believe that the records of the Attorney General’s Office are incomplete and that the percentage of cases that have been solved is not even close to 50%. Those organizations noted that, according to their own analysis, only 8.5% of all cases they recorded have led to homicide convictions, while the motives behind the deaths of the defenders in question were yet to be completely established.

The Commission stresses that the State must investigate such events on its own initiative and punish both their perpetrators and masterminds. That must include developing lines of investigation that consider the hypothesis that such murders may have been linked to the victim’s efforts to defend human rights. Further, all attacks against human rights defenders—not just homicides—must be investigated. Such investigations must also be carried out with due diligence, in a thorough, serious and impartial way. The Commission asks the State to increase its efforts to confront impunity regarding to crimes committed against human rights defenders in the country. Further, the IACHR reminds the State that its investigations must consider a differentiated gender-based approach.


The IACHR stresses the essential role that human rights defenders play to consolidate the rule of law and the transition toward peace in Colombia. It is crucial for the Colombian State to take urgent measures to strengthen systems aimed at preventing violence against that group and at protecting its members, as well as to pursue with due diligence all investigations of crimes committed against them.

In light of those observations, the IACHR issues the following recommendations for the Colombian State:

1. Doubling efforts to implement the Peace Agreement, so that conditions are right all around the country for the activities of people who defend communities and human rights;

2. Involving social organizations in any efforts to develop a comprehensive public policy for the prevention and protection of human rights defenders and social leaders, by boosting the work of platforms for dialogue like the National Roundtable for Guarantees and the National Committee for Safety Guarantees, which included previously agreed deals;

3. Creating complete records of all attacks—in their various forms—against people who defend human rights or exercise social or community leadership, with the participation of civil society organizations. This must incorporate previously developed records;

4. Deepening context analysis to assess risk and adopt protection measures, with a differentiated approach that considers the specific circumstances of the people who require protection and where those people work. It is particularly important to include ethnic-based, collective and gender-based approaches regarding any prevention and protection measures;

5. Appropriately implementing any precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission and keeping up protection schemes for beneficiaries for as long as those measures are in place;

6. Implementing the recommendations and decisions of the inter-American and global systems;

7. Improving coordination between national and local authorities, so protection measures are suitable to preserve the rights of human rights defenders and social leaders, and ensuring their effectiveness in distant rural areas;

8. Adopting plans to prevent and combat the stigmatization of human rights defenders and social or community leaders within State institutions and in society as a whole;

9. Taking measures to investigate with due diligence and to confront impunity regarding crimes committed against human rights defenders and social leaders in the country, establishing who are the perpetrators and masterminds of those crimes;

10. Adopting differentiated gender- and ethnic-based approaches and an approach focused on LGBTI persons, both when developing guarantees and when investigating likely crimes against human rights defenders;

11. Improving coordination with international human rights organizations.

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. 008/19