March 6, 2012 – Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) publishes today the Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, which presents updated information on the situation of defenders in the region and on the applicable standards of international law. Moreover, it provides a follow-up to the first report, published by the IACHR on March 7, 2006.
The report was presented today in Geneva, in the context of the sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco, and the IACHR Executive Secretary, Santiago A. Canton, were in charge of the presentation in a seminar with the participation of the UN Rapporteur on this issue, Margaret Sekaggya. The seminar was organized by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR). The report will also be presented in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 2012, in the context of the 144th Period of Sessions of the IACHR.
The report has four chapters: (1) problems faced by human rights defenders in the region; (2) human rights defenders at particular risk; (3) independence and impartiality of justice operators as a guarantee of access to justice; and (4) protection mechanisms for human rights defenders.
The Commission recognizes that some Member States have made significant efforts in order to comply with the recommendations established in the 2006 report. Notwithstanding these efforts, the obstacles pointed-out in the 2006 report persist, and in some cases, they have intensified. There is a continuance of murders, assaults, forced disappearances, threats, illegal searches, as well as in the statements by high-level authorities discrediting and stigmatizing the work of defending human rights. Moreover, the Commission has noted a growing sophistication of the mechanisms designed to hamper, block, or discourage the work of defending and promoting human rights, which is reflected in criminal charges being filed, financing sources for organizations being restricted, and in the absence of adequate and effective mechanisms for their protection.
In the report, the Commission analyses with attention the situation of special risk of the leaders of organized labor, women human rights defenders, peasant and community leaders, indigenous and afro-descendant leaders, and defenders of the right to a health environment, of lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex persons (LGTBI), and migrant workers and their families.
The IACHR recognizes the positive value of the creation of specialized national mechanisms for protecting human rights defenders in some countries; however, deficiencies persist in their design and operation. Also, five years after the recommendations of the first report, many States have not yet created mechanisms for the implementation of protection measures. These problems are related to the situation of defenselessness in which many human rights defenders find themselves in some parts of the hemisphere and that has led to several of them to lose their lives.
This report was published thanks to the financial support of the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and Finland.
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.