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UN Human Rights Office, Inter-American Commission launch joint action plan on protection of human rights defenders in the Americas

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GENEVA (26 October 2017) – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the UN Human Rights Office have launched a new and deeper cooperation plan to address one of the most pressing problems in the Americas: the protection of human rights defenders.

IACHR President Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli, IACHR Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders José de Jesús Orozco and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Wednesday launched their organisations’ Joint Action Mechanism to Contribute to the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas at a public event in Montevideo, where the Commission is holding its 165th ordinary period of sessions.

“Human rights defenders are vital for the healthy functioning of societies, and yet in recent years they have been increasingly targeted in the Americas. They are subjected to threats, smear campaigns, arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment, and even torture.  Many run the risk of violent, even fatal attacks, including by private individuals linked to business interests or powerful criminal gangs,” said High Commissioner Zeid.

In 2016, three out of every four recorded murders of human rights defenders worldwide took place in the Americas, and 41% of these killings were of people standing up against extractive or development projects, or defending the right to land and natural resources of indigenous peoples.

“Amid continuing impunity for perpetrators, we are seeing a worrying trend of the law being misused to criminalize the activities of human rights defender to silence them or punish them,” said Orozco. “This is one of the reasons why the launch of our joint action mechanism is so important and timely as, by acting together and systematically, we can have a greater impact.”

The IACHR and the UN Human Rights Office already cooperate extensively on emblematic human rights cases and situations of particular concern. The joint action mechanism intensifies this work for human rights defenders, building on their national, regional and international capacities, drawing on their complementary strengths and creating stronger connections between their staff.

Among the specific actions that are planned, the IACHR and the UN Human Rights Office will study the measures countries in the region have in place to protect human rights defenders, and produce a manual of best practices to protect human rights defenders.

ENDS

High Commissioner’s speech at the launch of the Joint Action Mechanism to Contribute to the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org or Liz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9466 / ethrossell@ohchr.org
Travelling with the High Commissioner: Maria Jeanette Moya (+56979997907 / mmoya@ohchr.org)