Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas

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OAS Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Report on the situation of human rights defenders in the
Americas / Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
v. ; cm. (OAS official records; OEA/Ser.L)
ISBN 0-8270-4970-6
1. Human rights–Americas. 2. Civil rights–America I. Title. II Series.
III. Series. OEA documentos oficiales; OEA/Ser.L. OEA/Ser.L/V/II.124 Doc.5 Eng

Approved by the Commission during its 124º regular session








Dr. Evelio Fernández Arévalos

Dr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro

Dr. Florentín Meléndez

Dr. Clare Kamau Roberts

Dr. Freddy Gutiérrez Trejo

Dr. Paolo Carozza

Dr. Víctor Abramov


Assistant Executive Secretary: Dr. Ar

The Commission would like to recognize the work of its Executive Secretariat in the
preparation of this report. In particular, it wi es to acknowledge the contributions of Marisol
Blanchard Vera and Nelson Camilo Sánchez Leó principal drafters, both Human Rights Specialists.
Also contributing to editing this report, Gloria Ha sen, Documents Technician.

ecutive Secretary: Dr. Santiago A. Canton
iel E. Dulitzky


……….. 1
. THE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFE NDERS UNIT …………………………………………. 2
ETY ……………………………………………………….. 3
nders ………………………………………………….. 3
B. International protection of h uman rights defenders …………………… 5

A. Right to life, h umane treat ment, and pers onal liberty ……………… 10
1. Right to life ……………………………………………………… 10
Right to huma ne treatment …………………………………… 12
3. Personal libert y…………………………………………………. 13
……………………… 14
1. Right of asse mbly ………………………………………………. 14
2. Freedoms of association ………………………………………. 19
C. Right to the fr eedom of expr ession ……………………………………. 22
1. Access to pub lic information ………………………………… 23
2. Action of hab eas data … ……………………………………… 24
D. Right to privac y and to the p rotection of h onor an d dig nity………. 26
E. Movement and residence ……………………………………………….. 28
F. Due process and j udicial g uarantees ………………………………….. 30
G. General duty t o gua rantee and pr otect, and
to adopt prov isions of dome stic law ………………………………….. 34
IN THE HEMISPHERE ………………………………………………………………
. 37

2. Threats ………………………………………………………….. 43
3. Surveillance …………………………………………………….. 45
4. Identification of human ri gh ts defenders
as “enemies” and “legitimate targets ”
by parastatal group s…………………………………………… 46




A. Human rig hts defe



B. Right of asse mbly and free dom of association


A. Extrajudicial executions and forced disappe arances ……………….. 39
B. Attacks, threats, and ot her f orms of harassment …………………… 41

1. Assassi nation attempts and assaults ………..



C. Smear campai tions detrimental to
the work of human rights defenders…………………………………… 48

1. Smear campaigns and official statements …………………. 48
entry to the offices of human rights organizations, respondence and phone and
E. Intelligence activities aimed at human rights defenders ……………. 51
G. Arbitrary administrative and financial controls …………………………. 52
on human rights defenders …………………………………………….. 54
C. Indigenous and Afro-descendant leaders …………………………….. 58
E. Women ………………………………………………………………
…….. 59
B. Precautionary measures decreed from January 2002
……………………….. 69
C. Acts that impede or encumber the work of ……………………… 78
. CONCLUSIONS ………………………………………………………………
………. 80
B. Problems human rights defenders face in their work……………….. 81
. ECOM DAT ………………… 82
gns and criminal prosecu

2. Legal actions ……………………………………………………. 48

D. Violation of the home and other arbitrary or abusive

and interference in cor
electronic communication ……………………………………………….. 49

F. Restrictions on access to information in the hands of the state
and habeas data actions …………………………………………………. 51

Imposed on the human rights organizations
H. impunity in investigations into the attacks


A. Trade union leaders ……………………………………………………… 56
B. Campesino and community leaders …………………………………… 57

D. Judicial officers……………………………………………………………. 59

VII. PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES …………………………………………………… 60

A. Precautionary measures in the inter-American system …………….. 61

to December 2005 to protect persons involved in
activities of human rights defense …………………………………….. 64

OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS ………………………………………………… 69

A. Recognition of human rights organizations …
B. Protection from the State ………………………………………………. 73

human rights defenders or their organizations


A. Importance of the work of human rights defenders ……………….. 80

C. Especially vulnerable groups of defenders ……………………………. 81
D. Duty of guarantee and protection …………………………………….. 81

X R MEN IONS …………………………………………….












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1. The human rights instruments enshri ne rights that the S tates mu
respect and guarantee for all persons under th eir jurisdiction. The work of human right
d s am for the universal implementation of those rights, and for the
full existence of democracy and the rule of law. The tireless work of human right
defenders has been essential in the defense of rights under dictatorships, authoritarian
g ent ring internal armed conflicts. Today, in a co
democratic governments, the work of human rights defenders continues to be ess
for the pr of strengthening democracies. For this reason, the d
that human rights defenders face have been a ma tter of particular inte rest in the work
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the “IACHR” or “the Commission”). 1

2. Since it was established, the Commission has followed the w ork o
supported, and expressed its recognition for t hose who, with their work, have helpe
c he c tions for the development of hu man rights. In large measure, thanks
h ig enders today we have guarantees of protection for all inhabitants of th
re inclu the American Declaration of the Rights a
gion, ding nd Duties of Man and the
American Convention on Human Rights.

3. Even today, in democratic societie s, human rights defenders continue
to ctim extrajudicial execut ons and forced disappearances; assaults, threats,
a assm smear campaigns, judicial act ions; restriction of access to informatio
nd har ent;
in the hands of the state; abusive administrative and financial controls; and impunity
re to th who perpetrate these violations. lation ose
4. The Commission considers that when efforts are made to silence an
inhibit the work of human rights defenders, thousands are denied the opportunity to
obtain justice for violations of their human ri ghts. Such efforts place at great risk th
w p ting and promoting human rights, social oversig t of the proper
functioning of public institutions, accompaniment and judicial support for victims of
human rights violations, among other tasks.

5. One of the most important mechanis ms the inter-American system ha
to pr ct human rights defenders is that constituted by urgent acti
measures, and provisional measures. This re port descr
ibes the effectiveness of their
application in protecting the work of thos e persons engaged in the protection of th
h ights s who live in this hemisphere.

6. In order to obtain the information needed for drafting the report, th
Special Human Rights Defenders Unit of the Executive Secret ariat, established in 200
drew up two uestionnaires to be sent to the member states and human right
organizations of the hemisphere. The questions in the questionnaire to the states
parties were divided into three issues: recognition of human rights organization
p n o an rights defenders by the state, and acts that impede or encumber
the work of the defenders and their organizations. In the questionnaire sent to th
human rights ganizations, questions were asked about their work and organization
a viole and attacks on individuals and organizations, relations with the state
a asure f protection granted by the organs of the inter-American system. Th
Commission would like to express its gratitude to the states and the organizations that
1 In this regard, see, for example, IACHR, Annu al Report 1997, Part II, OEA/Ser.L/V/11.43 Doc. 21
corr. 1 of April 20, 1978; Annual Report 1981-1982, Ch. V, Ch ile, para. 7, OAS Part II, OEA/Ser.L/V/11.57 Doc.
6 rev. 1 of September 20, 1982.
2 Thirteen states and 67 human rights organizations answered the questionnaire.

sent their observations. The report also draws on the information obtained through the
cases and precautionary measures that come before the system, the hearings before the
ommiss n, the on-site visits, and regional and country consultations, from the creation the

legitimate, promote, and protect the work of human rights defenders.
e affiliated. In that report the Commission
ecomm d to
Rights in the Americas.” Through
this reso on, t
n “to consider preparing a comprehensive
tudy in this area which, inter alia, describes their work, for study by the pertinent
political horit
sentative of the United Nations
of the Unit to io
writing of this report.

7. The objective of this Report is to iden tify the patterns of violations of
those who work in the defense of human rights in the region, and at the same time to
highlight the special risk faced by some groups of defenders. A second objective is to
reaffirm the legal framework of protection a fforded by the inter-American system, which
should be applied to the work of men and women engaged in the defense of human
rights. The Commission points out that this report provides a preliminary overview of a
variety of topics that will be examined in depth in more detailed thematic reports.
Finally, through this report the Commission proposes to the states measures to


8. In its 1998 Annual Report, the Commission has highlighted the
importance and the ethical dimension of the work carried out by those persons who are
dedicated to promoting, monitoring, and providing legal defense for human rights and by
e organizations with which many of them ar
ende the member stat es that they “take all necessary measures to protect
the physical integrity of human rights defe nders and to ensure they can work under
appropriate conditions.”
3 When these recommendations we re presented to the member
states, the General Assembly adopted resolution 1671, entitled “Human Rights
Defenders in the Americas, Support for the Individuals, Groups, and Organizations of
Civil Society Working to Promote and Protect Human
luti he General Assembly entrusted the Permanent Council, in coordination
with the Inter-American Commission, to continue studying the issues of human rights
defenders in the Americas.”
9. Following up on this resolution, in the context of its thirty-first session,
the General Assembly asked the Commissio
aut ies.” 5 In December 2001, mindful of this request, the Executive
Secretariat decided to establish a Human Rights Defenders Unit 6, entrusted with
coordinating the activities of the Executive S ecretariat in this area, directly under the
Executive Secretary. Special mention should be made of the contribution to the creation
of this unit by Ms. Hina Jilani, the Speci al Repre
ecretary-General on Human Rights Defenders.

10. Since its was established, the Unit has carried out the following tasks:
receive and analyze the communications, complaints, urgent actions, and press
information that human rights organizations send the Executive Secretariat; advise the
Commission on individual petitions and reque sts for precautionary measures related to
human rights defenders; promote hearings on the subject
7; and publicize incidents that
have a detrimental effect on the full enjoyment of their rights by human rights defenders
in the region.
3 IACHR, Annual Report 1998, OEA/Ser.L/V/II. 102, Doc. 6 rev., April 16, 1999, p. 1189.
4 OAS, General Assembly, resolution AG/RES. 1671 (XXIX-O/99), June 7, 1999.
5 OAS, General Assembly, resolution AG/RES. 1818 (XXXI-O/01), June 5, 2001.
uation of freedom to form and join unions Central America and Colombia, and
the situatio
6 IACHR, Press release Nº 32/01, publishe d on the IACHR website on December 7, 2001.
7 The Commission has convened hearings to look into, inter alia, issues such as the situation of judicial
officers in Central America, the sit
n of human rights defenders in Latin America.

working and on-site visits, the Unit has scheduled meetings with human rights defenders
and with the au
ters and in other
countries, with the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on
the Situ n of H cial Rapporteur of the African
9 Additionally, the Unit has participated in numerous meetings called by
human ts or
idually and in association with others, to promote and to
strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at
the natio and
11. The Unit has made several visits to the countries to evaluate specific
situations. As of December 2001, the Unit ha s provided support for the visits by the
Commission to Colombia (December 2001), Argentina (August 2001), and Guatemala
(July 2002, March 2003, and July 2005). In each instance, in the context of both
thorities in charge of prot ecting these persons. As a result of those
visits, the Unit has provided support for the preparation of several country reports in
which a special chapter has been included about the situation of human rights
defenders. This has been done in the r ecent reports on Colombia, Guatemala, and

12. The Unit has engaged in permanent coordination with other
international and regional organizations devote d to the issue of human rights defenders.
On several occasions meetings have been held, both at its headquar
atio uman Rights Defenders, and with the Spe
righ ganizations in which the issue of human rights defenders has been
addressed. 10


A. Human rights defenders

13. The basic framework for analysis for determining who should be
considered a human rights defender is found in the Declaration on the Right and
Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Orga ns of Society to Promote and Protect
Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter “the
United Nations Declaration”). Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration provides:
“Everyone has the right, indiv
nal international levels.” Theref ore, every person who in any way promotes
or seeks the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, nationally or
internationally, must be cons idered a human rights defender.
11 8 See IACHR, Third Report on the Human Rights Situat ion in Colombia, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.102, Doc. 9 rev.
1, February 26, 1999; IACHR, Justicia e inclusión social: los desafíos de la democracia en Guatemala ,
OEA/Ser.L/V/II.118, Doc. 5 rev. 2, December 29, 2003, pp. 81-98; IACHR, Report on the Situation of Human
Rights in Venezuela, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.118, Doc. 4 rev. 2, December 29, 2003, pp. 81-84.
9 In March 2004, the Unit traveled to Gambia to pr ovide advisory services and share experiences on its
work with the African Commission.
10 The cutive Secretary has attended many events convened by human rights organizations where
facing man rights defenders have been addressed. At such events the Executive Secretary has
presented the work of the Unit and has listened to the needs of the organizations of human rights defenders at
conferences such as the Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders (January 2002), the conference “Human
Rights Defenders on the Frontlines of Freedom: Protecting Human Rights in the context of the War on Terror,”
sponsored by the Carter Center and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
(November 2003), and the Second and Third Latin American Consultations on Human Rights Defenders, held in
Guatemala (July 2002) and Brazil (August 2004). In addition, an attorney from the Unit attended the Human
Rights Defenders Seminar held in Oslo, Norway, in May 2005. In August 2005, the Executive Secretary
participated in the First C Exe
the issues hu
entral American Assembly of Human Rights Defenders. t promote n rights
ll as the
def s
of the Council on the EU guidelines on human rights continued…
11 Along the same lines, the European Union has established that:
Human rights defenders are those individuals, groups and organs of society thaand protect universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms. Huma
defenders seek the promotion and protection of civil and political rights as we
promotion, protection and realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. Human right
enders also promote and protect the rights of members of groups such as indigenou
communities. The definition does not include those individuals or groups who commit or
propagate violence.
Council of the European Union, Draft conclusions


15. The United Nations High Commissioner notes that human rights
defende der
In the manual on this topic, the High Commissioner indicates that there
not a closed list of activities that are considered action in the defense of human
rights. These act ort human
ghts violations, lobbying the national and inte rnational authorities to ensure they learn
of those reports actions to ensure the responsibility of state
uthorities and eradicate impunity, actions to support democratic governance and to
eradicat rrup
13 In addition, the
General Assembly has called on the states to promote and enforce the United Nations
invites the member states to apply thi

14. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, interpreting
this provision, has noted certain tools that f acilitate the task of identifying who can be
considered a human rights defender.
12 The High Commissioner has suggested that the
determination as to whether a person is a human rights defender is based on the actions
of that person, and no other considerations, su ch as whether he or she is paid for such
work. To be considered in this category, the person must protect or promote any right
or rights of persons or groups of persons, which includes promoting and protecting any
civil or political right, or economic, social, or cultural right.
rs un take to further the realizat ion of any of the rights, which includes
addressing summary executions, forced disapp earances, torture, arbitrary detentions,
discrimination, labor rights, the right to housing and forced evictions, among others. In
addition, human rights defenders may carry out their work in certain categories of rights
or persons, such as protecting the rights of women, children, indigenous peoples,
refugees and forcibly displaced persons.
ions may entail investigati ng and compiling information to rep
or of a given situation,
e co tion, the contribution to implementing, on a national scale, the
international standards established by human rights treaties, and education and training
in human rights. Whatever the action, the important thing is that it be aimed at
promoting the protection of any component of at least one human right, and that it not
involve violent methods.

17. Accordingly, the General Assembly of the OAS has called on the
member states to protect the individuals, groups, and organizations of civil society
engaged in efforts to protect human rights a nd fundamental freedoms, and to effectively
do away with human rights violations, nationally and/or regionally.
Declaration on Defenders, as well as the provisions of the inter-American system and
the decisions of its organs.

18. The Commission in this report and its subsequent work will use the
broad concept of human rights defender found in the United Nations Declaration, and
s standard in their domestic legislation and
practices, as several states of the hemisphere do at this time.
19. The criterion that determines who should be considered a human rights
defender is the activity itself. In this sense, those individuals working in State
institutions whose functions relate to the promotion and protection of human rights and
who, in the exercise of those duties, are vi ctims of acts that directly or indirectly
prevent or hamper their work, should receiv e the same protection as members of civil
society who are working in the defense of human rights. This is the case insofar as such

100056/1/04 REV 1, Brussels, June 9, 2004. See, European Union Guidelines on Huma
items 2 and 3. …continua
defenders, n Rights
o Defend
Human Rig
12 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Protecting the Right t
hts and Fundamental Freedoms, Fact Sheet No. 29, UN publications, Geneva, 2004.
13 OAS, General Assembly, resolution AG/RES. 1671 (XXIX-O/99), June 7, 1999.

cts affect the enjoyment of human rights by society as a whole. Moreover, the
Commission take
il society, and, in some cases, from state
institutions, make fundamental contributions to the existence and strengthening of
democra ocie
ntees and facilities to enable nongovernmental human rights
organizations to continue contributing to th e promotion and protection of human rights,
and that res
xample, in resolution AG/RES. 1920 of June 10, 2003, it
cknowledged the important work, nationally a nd regionally, of human rights defenders,
and their valuab
titutions and improving
ational human rights systems.” Accordi ngly, the Assembly reiterated its
recomm ion
s into account that, in general, public officials working in entities such
as human rights offices, ombudsperson’s and procurator’s offices [ defensorías,
personerías, procuradurías ], special human rights prosecutors offices, and the like, who
are constantly working to verify the proper functioning of the State and the performance
of the authorities in fulfilling their human rights obligations, are more vulnerable to falling
victim to hostile acts.

B. International protection of human rights defe

20. The Inter-American Democratic Char ter reaffirms that democracy is
essential for the social, political, and ec onomic development of the peoples of the
15, where respect for human rights is essential to their existence. 16 In addition,
the Democratic Charter highlights the im portance of the permanent, ethical, and
responsible participation of the citizenry in a framework of legality in keeping with the
respective constitutional order for the development of democracy.
17 Human rights
defenders, from different sectors of civ
tic s ties. Accordingly, respect for human rights in a democratic state
largely depends on the human rights defe nders enjoying effective and adequate
guarantees for freely carrying out their activities.
21. For more than ten years, the Gene ral Assembly of the OAS has made
several statements about the importance it at tributes to respect for and protection of
human rights defenders, and it has shown the OAS’s profound concern over the
situation of the defenders and their organi zations. On June 8, 1990, by resolution
AG/RES. 1044, approved June 8, 1990, the General Assembly reiterated “the
recommendation made in prior years to the gover nments of the member states that they
grant the necessary guara
they pect the freedom and safety of the members of such organizations.”

22. For more than five years, during its regular sessions the General
Assembly has taken up a specific agenda item on the situation of human rights
defenders, called on the states to provide th em special protection, and has reiterated
that the obligation to promote and protect human rights is first and foremost an
obligation of the states. For e
le contribution to the prot ection and promotion of fundamental rights
and liberties in the hemisphere. Similarly, in its resolution AG/RES 2036 (XXXIV-O/04),
the Assembly emphasized that “the performance by human rights defenders of their
tasks contributes actively to strengthening democratic ins
endat to the governments of the member states “to continue stepping up
their efforts to adopt the necessary meas ures to safeguard the lives, freedom, and
personal safety of human rights defender s, and to conduct thorough and impartial
investigations in all cases of violations ag ainst human rights defenders, ensuring that the
14 The United Nations Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders has applied the same
criterion in her reports and visits, including the situation of government officials such as members of parliaments,
procurators, national human rights commissions, ombudsper sons, judges and prosecutors. Cfr. U.N., Commission
on Human Rights, Report presented by the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights
Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani, Annual Report 2002, Doc. E/CN.4/2002/106; para.51; and Annual Report 2004,
Doc. E/CN.4/2004/94, para. 30.
15 Inter-American Democratic Charter, Article 1.
16 Inter-American Democratic Charter, Article 3.
17 Inter-American Democratic Charter, Article 2.

bly acknowledged, in particular, “in view of their specific role
nd needs, women human rights defenders should be accorded special attention to
ensure that the ut their important

emocratic institutions, among other
activities, means they play an irreplaceable ro le in building a solid and lasting democratic
5. The work of human rights defenders has also been recognized by
several nat
findings thereof are transparent and publicized.” 18. In addition, the Assembly has issued
an appeal to the states to “promote the dissemination and enforcement of the
instruments of the inter-American system a nd the decisions of its bodies on this matter,
as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals,
Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.” In its most recent resolution, adopted June 7,
2005, the General Assem
y are fully protected and effective in carrying o
23. The human rights organs of the inter-American system, for their part,
have repeatedly highlighted the importan ce of the work of those persons who,
individually or collectively, promote and s eek the protection and attainment of human
rights and fundamental, as well as the ov ersight of democratic institutions.
20 The
Commission has stated that human rights defenders play a leading role in the process of
pursuing the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.
The IACHR has indicated that the work of human rights defenders, protecting individuals
and groups of individuals who are victim s of human rights violations, publicly
denouncing the injustices that affect large s ectors of society, and pointing to the need
for citizen oversight of public officials and d

24. The Inter-American Court has also emphasized the importance of the
work of human rights defenders, when it i ndicated, for example, that “respect for
human rights in a democratic state depend la rgely on human rights defenders enjoying
effective and adequate guarantees so as to freely go about their activities, and it is
advisable to pay special attention to those actions that limit or hinder the work of
human rights defenders.”

inter ional organizations. As i ndicated previously, the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights highlighted the importance of human rights defenders in
the United Nations Declaration on Defenders.
23 This document provides: “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
18 OAS, General Assembly, resolution AG/RES. 1920 (XXXIII-O-03), June 10, 2003. In the same
connection, see, e.g.: AG/RES. 1842 (XXXII-O-02), June 4, 2002; AG/RES. 1818 (XXXI-O/O1), June 5, 2001;
Resolution AG/RES. 1671 (XXIX-O/99), June 7, 1999; an d resolution AG/RES 1044 (XX-O/90), June 8, 1990.
19 OAS, General Assembly, resolution AG/RES. 2067 (XXXV-O/05), of June 7 2005, operative
paragraph 2.
20 In its 1998 Annual Report, for example, the Commission highlighted the importance and ethical
dimension of the work done by persons dedicated to th e promotion, monitoring, and legal defense of human
rights and the organizations with which many of them are affiliated. In addition, the Commission recommended to
the member states that they “take all necessary measures to ensure the freedom of expression of those who
work for the respect of fundamental rights and to protect their lives and physical integrity.” See IACHR, Annual
Report 19
June 7, 2003, fifth whereas paragraph; Nieto Palma
Case. Order of
23 Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote
and Protect al Freedoms, approved December 9, 1998.
98, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.102, Doc. 6 rev., April 16, 1999, p. 1237. See also: IACHR, Fifth Report on the
Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, Chapter VI, Section C, para. 23, published April 6, 2001,
21 IACHR, Press Release Nº 23/02 – IACHR conclude s on-site visit to the Bolivarian Republic of
Venezuela. Caracas, Venezuela. May 10, 2002.
22 I/A Court H.R., Lysias Fleury Case . Order of
July 9, 2004, eighth whereas paragraph.
Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Universally Recognized Human Rights a nd Fundament

nsformation in order to increas e the participation of people in the decision-
aking that shapes their lives. Human rights defenders contribute to the improvement of
social, political a
in all parts of the world, and on possible means for enhancing their protection. getting the states to adopt appropriate legislation, and to
back the establishment of national human rights plans and strategies.
28 The guidelines

29. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, during its
international levels.” 24 For the purposes of fostering and protecting human rights, all
persons have the right to peaceful assembly and to form non-governmental organizations
and join them or participate in thei r work, and to communicate with such
25 It also provides that all persons have the right to lodge complaints in
relation to the policies and actions of government officers or organs related to human
26. The Secretary General of the United Nations has said: “Human rights
defenders are at the core of the human rights movement the world over. They work at
democratic tra
nd economical conditions, the reduction of social and political tensions,
the building-up of a peaceful environment, domestically and internationally, and the
nurturing of national and international awaren ess of human rights. They form the base
that regional and international human rights organizations and mechanisms, including
those within the United Nations, build upon in the promotion and protection of human
27. In August 2000, the Secretary Genera l of the United Nations, at the
request of the Economic and Social Council, designated Ms. Hina Jilani, of Pakistani
nationality, as United Nations Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders. The
mandate of the Special Representative is to report on the situation of human rights

28. In 2004, the Council of the European Union established the European
Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders , which recognize that the fundamental
responsibility for promoting a nd protecting human rights corresponds to the states, and
supports the role played by human rights defe nders in supporting the States in that area.
In addition, the EU Council recognizes the fundamental role of defenders in their
contribution to the states, in
practical suggestions for improving the action of the European Union and
support and strengthen respect for the right to defend human rights. They also provide
for action by the EU on behalf of human rights defenders. With a view to promoting
these guidelines, the European Union entrusted Mr. Michael Matthiessen, Personal
Representative on Human Rights of the Secretary General of the Council of the European
Union, to direct actions this area.
urth session in Banjul, Gambia, creat ed a Rapporteurship for the protection of
human rights defenders, under Commissioner Jainaba Johm. 29

24 Declaration, Article 1.
25 See Id., Article 5.
26 See Id., Article 9(3).
27 A/55/292, Augus t 11, 2000. Report of the Secretary- General of the United Nations to the General
aft conclusions of the Council on the EU Guidelines on Human
Rights Def Fifty-fifth session.
28 Council of the European Union, Drenders, 100056/1/04 REV 1, Brussels, June 9, 2004. See, European Union Guidelines on Human
Rights Defenders, p. 5.
29 African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Resolution on the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders in Africa, meeting at its 35th Ordinary, 4th June 2004, Banjul, The Gambia.

tal freedoms of all persons subject to their jurisdiction. Accordingly, the work
of human rights promotion and protection carri ed out by persons under their jurisdiction
at their own ini
s state obligation requires that stat es guarantee that they will not obstruct, in
ny guise, the work carried out by human rights defenders. The state must provide the
utmost ora
32. The Commission finds that the promotion and protection of human
rights in s t
obligation to guarantee the collective dimension of
those rights.

ositive changes in the
ttainment of the rights for society in genera l. The purpose that motivates the work of
human rights defenders involves society in general, and seeks to benefit society;
accordingly, when a person is kept from defe nding human rights, the rest of society is
directly affected.
merican provisions have not established a single right that
guarantees the work of promoting and protect ing human rights. To the contrary, the
inter-American components of many rights whose guarantee
makes possibl human rights defenders. Based on these provisions, society
and internationally. Any person, individually or collectively, has
the righ
ct to geographical

30. International human rights law is based on the principle that the states
have the primary responsibility to promote and protect the human rights and
tiative is a legitimate activ ity that contributes to the fulfillment of an
essential obligation of the states , and, therefore, gives rise to special obligations of the
states to ensure the protection of thos e who are engaged in the promotion and
protection of such rights. In a democratic society human rights activities should not only
be protected, but encouraged.
31. The public authorities are under an obligation to adopt the measures
needed to create the conditions that make it possible for persons who so wish to freely
exercise activities aimed at promoting and protecting internationally recognized human
rights. Thi
collab tion to the initiatives of so ciety to promote and protect human rights,
including those aimed at monitoring the conduc t of public affairs at every level. In
addition, the states bear the responsibility of protecting the defenders from third persons
who seek to impede their work.

volve hree important dimensions th at should be protected by the states. The
first dimension is individual and is developed through the exercise of universally
recognized human rights that are realized in each of the persons who have committed
their lives to the defense of human rights. States must guarantee that human rights
defenders, like all individuals under their jurisd iction, not suffer violations of their rights
nor the unlawful curtailment of their fundamental freedoms.
33. The second dimension is collective. The defense of human rights is a
matter of public interest, and generally includes the participation of various persons
associated with one another. Several of the rights crucial for this defense of rights to be
translated into practice have a collective aspect to them, such as the right to
association, the right to assemble, or some dimensions of the freedom of expression.
Accordingly, the states have the
34. The third dimension is social. This dimension refers to the intention of
human rights protection and protection initiatives to seek p
35. The inter-A
system has established
e the work of
has the right and the duty to seek, by different means, to promote and realize their
rights both domestically
t to pursue peaceful activities that make it possible to attain those objectives,
whether directly geared to the public authoritie s, or to society in general or in groups.

36. The observance of human rights is a matter of universal concern,
accordingly, the right to defend those rights may not be subje

restrictions. The ay
exercise his righ state must guarantee
that persons are able to promote and protect any or all human rights, including both
those whose ac
ers establishes the right of individuals and groups to
know, seek, obtain, receive, hold, study, publ ish, and discuss” any information on the
means b ich
acle or impediment to the promotion and attainment of
ny human rights.

sons have the right to seek
e effective protection of domestic and intern ational provisions to protect human rights
and opp
this principle, persons have the right to publish, make known, and
isseminate publicly to third persons their opinions and knowledge with respect to
human r , an
ion. Similarly, individuals and groups have the right to offer and
rovide professional legal counsel or other ad vice and assistance relevant to the defense
of the human rig
states must guarantee th at the persons under their jurisdictions m
t t domestically and internati onally. In addition, the
ceptance is unquestioned, and new rights or components of rights
whose formulation is still a matter of debate.

37. The Commission has indicated that the defense of human rights and
the strengthening of democracy require, among other things, that the citizens have
broad knowledge of the work of the various organs of the state, such as budgetary
aspects, the extent of attainment of the objectives proposed and the plans and policies
of the state to improve society’s living conditions.
30 Along the same lines, the United
Nations Declaration on Defend

y wh effect is given to human rights in the internal legislative, judicial, and
administrative systems of the states. 31 As a component of these rights, the Declaration
establishes the right to participate in public hearings, procedures, and public trials to
form an opinion regarding the implementation of both domestic legal provisions and
international obligations.
32 The United Nations Declaration on Defenders also highlights
the right to participate in the conduct of dom estic public affairs of the countries to seek
the promotion and attainment of human rights. The defense of human rights involves the
ability to make criticisms and proposals to im prove the functioning of the state and to
seek to call attention to any obst
38. As a corollary, those persons individually or collectively have the right
to protest the rules, policies, and practices of public officials and private actors who
violate human rights. To this end, the st ates must guarantee systems of petition or
other adequate means vis-à-vis the judicial, administrative, or legislative authorities at all
levels of decision-making, capable of adequately processing these petitions in keeping
with minimum due process standards. In addi tion, those per
ose any type of activity or action that causes human rights violations. 34 This
right involves the possibility of going before international organs that protect human
rights and monitor international treaties, wit hout any type of obstacle or reprisal.

39. In addition, individuals and groups have the right to promote the
protection and attainment of human rights th rough actions geared to society. As one
component of
ights d to debate and develop new principles and ideas in this respect, and
promote their acceptance. Accordingly, human rights defenders have the right to verify
by themselves the existence of abuses, to meet with victims, witnesses, and experts
(such as lawyers or forensic physicians), to speak with the authorities, study
documentation, and carry out any type of in vestigation for the purpose of obtaining
objective informat
hts and fundamental freedoms of third persons. 35 In addition, this right
30 IACHR, Annual Report 2001. OEA/Ser.L/V/II.114, doc. 5 rev. 1, April 16, 2002, Vol. II, Chapter III.
31 Article 6.
32 Article 9.
33 Article 8.
34 Articles 9 and 12.
35 See U ted Nations Declaration on Defenders, Article 9. See also, Basic Principles on the Role of
Lawyers, especially principle 16. ni

10tivitie s, human rights defenders have the
ght to seek and obtain economic resources to finance their work. The states must
guarante ex
ghts recognized by the norms of the inter-American system that are
vehicle for developing the activities of human rights defenders, in its various
dimensio ndiv
ssential minimums for the exercise of any activity.

includes the possibility of engaging in activities of representation, accompaniment, self-
management, and search for recognition of communities and individuals who have been
victims of human rights violations and ot her acts of discrimination and exclusion.

40. In order to carry out these ac
e the ercise of this right in the broadest possible manner, and promote it, for
example, through tax exemptions to organiza tions dedicated to protecting human rights.
Fundraising activities to finance the work of human rights defenders, such as the
production and sale of books, reports, and newspapers on human rights, collecting
professional fees, donations, and receiving leg acies from individuals and organizations,
and the contributions of foreign govern mental and non-governmental organizations,
among others, should be considered legitimate.
41. The inter-American norms for the pr otection of human rights constitute
a minimum framework of protection that should be guaranteed by the states for all
persons under their jurisdiction, and whose a ttainment is essential for protecting the
activities described above. Only when human rights defenders have appropriate
protection for their rights can they seek to protect the rights of others.
36 Hence, the
case-law of the Commission and the Court ha s been establishing the parameters for
protection and guarantee necessary for freely developing the promotion and defense of
human rights in a democratic society. Next, the Commission will briefly outline those
components of the ri
ns: i idual, social and collective.

A. Right to life, humane treatment, and personal liberty
1. Right to life
42. The states of the hemisphere have recognized the right to life as a
fundamental and basic right for the exercise of any other right, including the right to
defend human rights. At the same time, the Court and the Commission, in consistent
case-law, have recognized that the rights to life and physical integrity cons
43. The Commission notes that the special impact of attacks on the right
to life of human rights defenders lies in th eir effect beyond the direct victims.
36 In this respect, the United Nations Special Representative has indicated:
Particular attention must be given to ensuring and maintaining the “ contextual space” in
which defenders operate – including rights to assembly and expression and the possibility to
legally register and obtain funding for a human rights organization. With this “space”
assured, defenders are in a better position to conduct their work and to defend their own
UN, Commission on Human Rights, Report submitted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-
General on Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani, Annual Report 2003, Doc. E/CN.4/2003/104; para. 87.
37 The right to life is established in Article I of th e American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of
Man and Arti
merican Court has said in this respect that:
life is not respect, all of the other rights lack meaning. The States have
t to ensure that conditions are creat ed as necessary to ensure that violations of
e right not occur, and, in particular, the duty to impede its agents from
attacking it
I/A Court H.R. en’s Rehabilitation. Judgment of September 2, 2004. Series C No. 112,
para. 156; vember 25, 2003. Series C No. 101, para. 152. cle 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
38 The Inter-A
When the right to
he obligation
this inalienabl .
, Case of Childr The Brothers Gómez Paquiyauri Case. Judgment of July 8, 2004. Series C No. 110, para. 128; Myrna
Mack Chang Case, Judgment of No

ll other human rights defenders, directly dimi nishing their possibilities of exercising their
right to
f association.
41 In addition, the United
ations Special Representative has reaffirmed that assassinations, disappearances, and
attacks n nly
3 That generic obligation translates, in the
ase of human rights defenders, among other obligations, into the need to do away with
environments inc man rights. It is
ssential that the states, pursuant to their obl igations to prevent and protect the right to
life, offe equa human rights defenders, bring about the conditions for
radicating violations by state agents or private persons, and investigate and sanction
the viola of

Accordingly, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has established through its case-
law that violations of the right to life – be they forced disappearances or extrajudicial
executions – directed against human rights de fenders, have a chilling effect that re
defend human rights. 39 As a result, the Court has highlighted the special
obligation of states to ensure that pers ons can freely exercise their activities of
promoting and protecting human rights without fear that they will be subject to any
violence, and has indicated that when that protection is lacking, the ability of groups to
organize to protect their interests is diminished.
44. The Commission has noted that a systematic and reiterated practice of
attacks on the life, physical integrity, and liberty of the members of a human rights
organization entails a violation of the freedom o
ot o constitute a violation of the right to life protected by international human
rights law, but also constitute an attack on the promotion and dissemination of human
rights generally, for they inhibits human rights defenders from exercising their important
role in maintaining peace and security worldwide and restoring them they have been

45. Under the norms of the inter-American system, the general clause of
protecting the individual from the arbitrary depr ivation of life, which entails an absolute
prohibition on arbitrary executions and forced disappearances, interpreted in keeping
with the obligation to respect and ensure hum an rights, gives rise to both negative and
positive obligations incumbent on the states.
ompatible with or dangerous for the protection of hu
r ad te protection to
tions that right. 44 In that regard, the Commission reiterates that an important
aspect of the state’s duty to prevent violat ions of the right to life is investigating
immediately, exhaustively, seriously, and impartially where the threats come from, and

the c
the Court considers that, in the instant case, the legitimate exercise by Mr. Pedro Huilca vity, provoked a rticle 16 of the
ara. 78.
Report No. 29/96, Ca
by the Special Representative of the Secretary-
General on H , Doc. E/CN.4/2005/101. Para. 124.
43 . 69. See
also: Bulac of
June 7, 20
y to investigate extrajudicial executions, see: IACHR, Report No. 10/95, Case 10,580,
Manuel Sta
39 In ase of the extrajudicial execution of a trade union leader in retaliation for his activities
promoting and protecting human rights, the Inter-American Court established that
Tecse of the right to freedom of association, in relation to trade union acti
fatal reprisal, which in turn consummated a vi olation to his detriment of A
American Convention. In addition, the Court considers that the execution of Mr. Pedro
Huilca Tecse had a chilling effect on the works of the Peruvian trade union movement, and
in so doing diminished the freedom of a given group to exercise that right.
I/A Court H.R., Huilca Tecse vs. Peru Case. Judgment of March 3, 2005. Series C No. 121. P
I/A Court H.R., Huila Tecse Case . Judgment of March 3, 2005. Series C No. 121. Para. 70.
41 IACHR, Report Nº 13/96, Case 10,948 (El Salvador), March 1, 1996, para. 25. See also, IACH se 11,303, (Guatemala), October 16, 1996.
42 UN, Commission on Human Rights, Report submitteduman Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani, Annual Report 2004
I/A Court H.R., Huila Tecse Case . Judgment of March 3, 2005. Se ries C No. 121. Para
io Case . Judgment of September 18, 2003. Series C No. 100; Juan Humberto Sánchez. Judgment
03. Series C No. 99.
44 On the dutlin Bolaños, Ecuador, IACHR Annual Report 1995, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.91, Doc. 7, rev. 3, April 3, 1996,
paras. 32 to 34; Report No. 55/97, Case 11,137, Juan Carl os Abella et al., Argentina, paras. 413 to 424; and
Report No. 48/97, Case 11,411, “Ejido Morelia,” Mexico, IACHR Annual Report 1997, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.98, Doc. 7,
rev., April 13, 1996, paras. 109 to 112.

12d mental capacity of the defenders, or
e threats of having such suffering inflicted on them, constitute violations of the right
to perso teg
obligation is not limited to prov iding material measures to protect life and
ersonal integrity, but entails the obligation to act to address the structural causes that
have a detrimen
punishing, as the case may be, those responsib le, with the aim of trying to prevent the
threats from being carried out. 45
2. Right to humane treatment
46. The defense of human rights can be exercised freely only when the
persons engaged in it are not victims of threats or of any type of physical,
psychological, or moral aggression, or other forms of harassment.
47 Carrying out violent
acts for the purpose of diminishing the physical an
nal in rity and could constitute indi rect violations of other rights protected by
inter-American instruments. Depending on th e circumstances in which those attacks or
threats occur, they could be considered as torture
48 or cruel, inhuman, or degrading
treatment. 49

47. In keeping with the obligation to respect and ensure the right to
humane treatment, the states must adopt sp ecial measures of protection for human
rights defenders from the acts of violence that are regularly perpetrated against them.
The state’s
tal impact on the security of the persons threatened. This obligation
45 In considerations related to that aspect, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has noted, for
example, that “as an essential part of its duty to protect , the State must take effective measures to investigate
and, where appropriate, punish those responsible for the acts that gave rise to the adoption of the provisional
measures.” (I/A Court H.R., Giraldo Cardona Case, Provisional Measures, Re solution of June 19, 1998, Operative
paragraph 4. See also that the European Court of Hu man Rights, on considering the positive duty to adopt
measures of protection for the right to life, has considered “whether in the circumstances the authorities failed in
a positive obligation to protect [the victim] from a risk to his life.” When these defects in the state response
“removed the protection which [the victim] should have r eceived by law” the European Court concluded that “in
the circumstances … the authorities failed to take reasonable measures available to them to prevent a real and
immediate risk to the life of [the victim].” (European C ourt of Human Rights, Mahmut Kaya v. Turkey, March 28,
2000, paras. 87, 99, and 101).
46 The right to physical and psychological integrity is noted in generic terms in Article I of the American
Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and in Arti cle 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights. In
addition, the general prohibition on torture is established by the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish
Torture at Articles 1, 2, and 3 of that instrument.
47 The Commission has held that violations of the right to humane treatment as a reprisal may be
committed d that:
ation of being
et of attacks by in several ways. In a case regarding the persecution of a member of the Mexican military forces, as a
result of his involvement in activities to defend human rights, the Commission foun
Having already concluded that the … Army authorities have displayed an attitude of dogged
pursuit and harassment toward General …, we must now determine whether–as a result of
such persecution and harassment–General …’s physical, mental and moral integrity has not
been respected. In this regard, the Commission considers that to subject a person who
occupies a high rank in the Armed Forces to the constant annoyance of having to defend
himself before the Courts (in this case milit ary tribunals), to the degrad
detained on several occasions and to the humiliation of being the targ
military authorities in the … media, in addition to causing serious material damage to his person, also seriously damages his mental and moral integrity, as it affects the normal
development of daily life and causes great tumu lt and perturbation to him and his family.
The severity of the harassment is likewise verified by General …’s constant uncertainty
about his future, after seven years of constant harassment and more than two years in
IACHR, Report Nº 43/96, Case 11,430 (Mexico), October 15 1996, para. 79.
48 In this respect, the Inter-American Court has noted: “the threat or real danger of subjecting a person to
physical harm produces, under determined circumstances, such a degree of moral anguish that it may be considered
‘psychological torture .’” See I/A Court H.R., Maritza Urrutia Case, Judgment of November 27, 2003, para. 92.
49 According to the Inter-American Court: “The violation of the right to physical and psychological
integrity of persons is a category of violation that has several gradations and embraces treatment ranging from
torture to other types of humiliation or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with varying degrees of physical
and psychological effects caused by endogenous and exogenous factors which must be proven in each specific
situation.” I/A Court H.R., Loayza Tamayo Case, Judgment of September 17, 1997, para. 57.

defenders. Th e Commission considers that in contexts
f aggression and systematic acts of harassment an efficient and effective investigation
is essential to en s run is identified and eradicated.
The Commission recalls the case-law of the Inter-American Court,
hich has established that detentions by state agents should meet two kinds of
requirements in o
present, strictly subject to the procedural formalities which, according to law, must be
includes investigating and punishing the persons responsible for harassment, threats,
and attacks against human rights
sure that the risk these person

3. Personal liberty 50
48. The exercise of personal liberty and it s full guarantee that it will not be
restricted by unlawful action is a basic need for the full exercise of human rights
defense. A person whose liberty is unlawfully restricted or who lives in fear of being
subject to imprisonment or being held agains t his will because of his actions to defend
the rights of other persons is directly limited in his ability to do his work.

rder to meet the st andards of the American Convention. 51 First, no one
should be deprived of his or her personal lib erty other than for causes expressly spelled
out in the law (substantive aspect), but al so, strictly subject to the procedures
objectively defined by the law (procedural aspect). Under these principles, a human
rights defender, like any other person, may only be detained when there are well-
founded reasons for considering the grounds described in the domestic laws to be
by the judicial and police authoritie s. Second, the states must guarantee that
no human rights defender will be subjected to detention or imprisonment by causes and
methods which, even if considered legal, may be incompatible with respect for the
fundamental rights of the person for be ing, among other things, unreasonable,
unforeseeable, or lacking proportionality.
52 The Commission consid ers that a detention
based exclusively on the activity of human rights defense does not meet the
requirements of reasonability and proportionality established by international standards.
50 On the same matter , the right to person liberty and security, and the right to freedom from arbitrary
arrest or d
s without respecting the fundamental principles that protect
detained pe
the interna
ring that a detention is
arbitrary: etention are established in Article XXV of the American Declaration and Article 7 of the American on Human Rights.
51 The Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions of the United Nations defines arbitrary detention as such
deprivation of liberty executed by state authoritie
rsons, and/or in open violation of the standards that the state party has undertaken to uphold vis-à-vis
tional community. (UN, Commission on Human Ri ghts, Question of the human rights of all persons
subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment, re port of the working group on arbitrary detention, doc.
E/CN.4/1994/27). In addition, the Workin g Group has defined three categories for conside
First category : The first category refers to persons whose detention is arbitrary because it
lacks any basis in law. For example, the person is detained without a judicial order, without
flagrancy, and without the arrest being publicly required.
Second category
: Regarding those cases in which the detention is the result of a judicial
decision for exercising a freedom or right subject to universal protection. (Right to equality,
to freedom of movement and choice of reside ncy, right of asylum, to freedom of thought
and expression, of assembly and peaceful associ ation, to vote and be elected in democratic
Third category
: Cases in which the nonobservance of international provisions regarding an
impartial trial is so serious that it makes the detention arbitrary. For example, because the
is not allowed to have defense counsel, is not assigned an interpreter in the event d to submit that he or she does not speak the country’s official language, is not alloweevidence to prove his or her innocence or to contradict those who incriminate him or her, if
the trial is drawn out without justification and indefinitely, among others. (UN, Commission
on Human Rights, Question of the human rights of all persons subjected to any form of
detention or imprisonment, report of th e working group on arbitrary detention,
52 See I/A Court H.R., Durand and Ugarte Case , Judgment of August 16, 2000. Series C No. 68,
paras. 52-56, para. 85; Villagrán Morales et al. Case (“The Streetchildren Case”), Judgment of November 19,
1999. Series C No. 63, para. 131; Suárez Rosero Case, Judgment of November 12, 1997. Series C No. 35, para.
43; and Gangaram Panday Case , Judgment of January 21, 1994. Series C No. 16, para. 47.

rotection from the arbitrary in terference of the state when persons decide to associate
with others, and tal for the existence and functioning of a democratic
53 In that regard, the protection of thos e rights entails not only the obligation of
the state to
51. These rights are fundamental for th e defense of human rights, since
they pro the

right to assembly is essential for the exer cise of other rights such as freedom of

B. Right to assembly and freedom of association

50. The Commission has indicated that the right of assembly and freedom
of association have been widely recognize d as substantive civil rights that
that are fundamen
not interfere with the exercise of the right of assembly or association, but
also requires, in certain circumstances, posit ive measures by the state to ensure the
effective exercise of liberty, for exampl e, by protecting the participants in a
demonstration from the physical violence of those who might hold contrary views.

tect means by which the grievances of both human rights defenders are
expressed. Accordingly, restrictions on the exercise of these rights are serious
obstacles to the people’s ability to vindicate their rights, make known their petitions,
and foster the search for changes or soluti ons to the problems that affect them.

1. Right of assembly

52. Through the exercise of freedom of assembly, individuals have the right
to share opinions, express their positions on human rights, and coordinate action plans,
whether at assemblies or public demonstrat ions. The defense of human rights, as a
legitimate issue that concerns all people a nd seeks the participation of society as a
whole and the response of the government authorit ies, finds in the exercise of this right
a fundamental channel for its activities. Similarly, this right is essential for the
expression of political and social criticism of the activities of the authorities. For these
reasons, it is difficult to exercise the defense of human rights in contexts where
restrictions are placed on the right to peacef ul assembly. Moreover, the exercise of the
expression and the right to association.

53. The exercise of this right means that human rights defenders may
freely meet in private locations with the consent of the owners, in public places—in
accordance with the applicable regulations—and in places of business, in the case of
56 Human rights defenders have the right to participate in the preparation and
direction of a meeting or demonstration, as well as in the event itself. 57

53 IACHR, Report on Terrorism an d Human Rights, OEA/Se r.L/V/ll.116 Doc. 5 rev. 1 corr., October 22,
2002, par
tober 22,
2002, para
rticle XXI of the American Declaration and Article 15 of the American Convention.
dom of Association, see for example, Report 211, Case no. 1014 (Dominican
Republic), paragraph 512; Report 233 , Case No. 1217 (Ch ile), paragraphs 109 and 110, and Report 246, Cases
No. 1129, a. 359.
54 IACHR, Report on Terrorism an d Human Rights, OEA/Ser.L/V/ll.116 Do c. 5 rev. 1 corr., Oc
. 359.
55 Established in A
56 On this issue, the Committee on Freedom of Information has stated that:
freedom from government interference in th e holding and proceedings of trade union
meetings constitutes an essential element of trade union rights and that the public
authorities should refrain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede its
exercise, unless public order is disturbed thereby or its maintenance seriously and
imminently endangered.
Committee on Free
1169, 1298, 1344, and 1351, Para. 260.
57 European Commission on Human Rights , Christians against Racism and Fascism v. the United
Kingdom, no. 8440/78, Commission decision of 16 July 1980, DR 21, p. 138, p. 148.

the right to assembly
lude actions that, if not anticipated, impede the work of defending human rights.
Hence, s ha
ssembly without arms, and stipulates th at no restrictions may be placed on the
exercise is r
s and
formation. Both of the rights set fort h in Articles 13 and 15 of the American
proper functioning of a democratic system that
cludes all sectors of society.

iolates freedom of assembly.
62 .

54. The state’s obligations to protect and ensure
tates ve the obligation to ensure that no human rights defender is prevented
from meeting or publicly expressing him or herself, which means that the state
authorities must abstain from preventing the ex ercise of this right and must also take
measures to ensure that others do not prevent it. States also must take the
administrative and law enforcement steps n ecessary to enable defenders to carry out
their activities, which includes positive steps such as detouring traffic and providing
police protection for demonstrati ons and rallies, where necessary.
55. Article 15 of the American Convention protects the right to peace
of th ight other than those impo sed in conformity with the law and necessary
in a democratic society in the interest of na tional security, or to protect public health or
morals or the rights or freedom of others.
59 Inherent to the sharing of ideas and social
demands as a form of expression is the exerci se of related rights, such as the right of
citizens to assemble and demonstrate and the right to the free flow of idea
Convention are vital elements for the
56. In the Commission’s view, states may regulate the use of public space,
for example by establishing requirements of prior notice, but such regulations may not
impose excessive demands that invalidate th e exercise of the right. The Commission
shares the opinion expressed by the Spanish C onstitutional Court in the sense that “in a
democratic society, the urban space is not onl y an area not only for circulation, but also
a space for participation.”
60 Hence, the Commission has found disproportionately
restrictive a law requiring a police permit that must be requested ten days in advance of
any public act, assembly, election, conferen ce, parade, congress, or sports, cultural,
artistic or family event.
61 Moreover, the Commission has stated that the arrest of
participants at peaceful demonstrati ons v

57. The purpose of regulating the right to assembly cannot be to create the
basis for prohibiting the meeting or the de monstration. To the contrary, regulations
establishing, for example, advance notice, exist for the purpose of informing the
authorities so that they can take measures to facilitate the exercise of the right without
significantly disturbing the normal activities of the rest of the community

58 As the European Court has stated, “a demonstration may annoy or give offence to persons opposed
to the ideas or claims that it is seeking to promote. The participants must, however, be able to hold the
pinions on highly controversial issues affecting the community. In a democracy, the right to
an Ct. of HR, Case Plattform “Arzte fur das Leben” c. Austria , Judgment of June 21, 1988,
Ser. A, No
ot synonymous with
“indispensa sary” it is
not enoug gality of
restrictions y a
compelling d to the
accomplish ory
Membershi ibed by Law for Journalists, (Arts. 13 and 29 of the American Convention on
Human Rig
tion without having to fear that they will be s ubjected to physical violence by their opponents; such a
fear would be liable to deter associations or other groups supporting common ideas or interests from openly
expressing their o
monstrate cannot extend to inhibit the exercise of the right to demonstrate.“
. 139, para. 32.
59 The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has stated that “necessary,” while nble,” implied the existence of a “pressing social need” and that for a restriction to be “neces
h to show that it is “useful,” “reasonable,” or “desirable.” It also pointed out that “the le imposed under Article 13(2) will depend upon showing that the restrictions are required b
governmental interest….That is, the restrict ion must be proportionate and closely tailore
ment of the legitimate governmental objective necessitating it.” Inter-Am. Ct. of H.R., Compuls
p in an Association Prescr
hts). Consultative Opinion OC-5/85, November 13, 1985. Series A No. 5, para. 46.
60 Spanish Constitutional Court, Judgment 66/1995, Leaf 3.
IACHR, Annual Report 1979-1980, pp. 128-130.
62 IACHR, Annual Report 1979-1980, pp. 105-107.

16tc). Restrictions on
ublic demonstrations must be intended exclusively to prevent serious and imminent
danger, fut
60. The Commission underscores that political and social participation
through lic
stated that
er ociety.
Another question is whether the imposition of criminal sanctions is the least
harmful way of restricting the freedom of expression and right of assembly
e claim arose.
oints of view or criticism of the authorities as a way of influencing
58. The United Nations Human Rights Comm ittee has stated its opinion in
this regard when it asserted that the requirement to notify the police prior to a
demonstration is not incompatible with Ar ticle 21 of the ICCPR (right of assembly).
Nonetheless, the requirement of previous not ification should not be transformed into a
demand for the prior issuance of a permit by an agent with unlimited discretionary
powers. That is to say that a demonstration may not be prevented because it is
considered likely to jeopardize the peace or pub lic security or order, without taking into
account whether it is possible to prevent the th reat to peace or the risk of disorder by
altering the original conditions of the demons tration (time, place, e
and a ure, generic danger would be insufficient. 64
59. With respect to the right to assembly, the Commission considers that
special mention should be made of familiar forms of social protest in some countries,
such as street closures, pot-banging sessions, vigils, and so forth, in which many people
come together to appeal to government officials and to demand direct state intervention
with respect to a particular social problem. The conditions in which many of these
demonstrations and demands occur are comple x and require appropriate responses from
the authorities in terms of respect ing and ensuring human rights.

pub demonstration is critical to the consolidation of democratic life in
societies. Such participation, as an exerci se of freedom of expression and freedom of
assembly, contains a keen social interest, which leaves the state very narrow margins
for justifying restrictions on this right.
65 Therefore, the purpose of regulating the right to
assembly cannot be to create a basis for prohibiting the meeting or demonstration. The
right to assemble or demonstrate cannot be considered synonymous with public disorder
for the purpose of restricting it per se.

61. In this regard, the Commission reiterates the opinion of its Office of the
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expressi on which, in its 2002 Report,
the p se criminalization of public demonstrations is, in principle, inadmissible,
provided they take place in accordance with the right of free expression and the
right of assembly. In other words, the question is whether the application of
criminal sanctions is justified under the Inter-American Court’s stance whereby
such a restriction (i.e. criminalization) must be shown to satisfy an imperative
public interest that is necessary for the functioning of a democratic s
exercised through a demonstration in the streets or other public space. It should
be recalled that in such cases, criminalization could have an intimidating effect on
this form of participatory expression among those sectors of society that lack
access to other channels of complaint or petition, such as the traditional press or
the right of petition within the state body from with the object of th
Curtailing free speech by imprisoning those who make use of this means of
expression would have a dissuading effect on those sectors of society that
express their p
63 Human Rights Committee, Case Kivenmaa v. Finlandia , Judgment of June 10, 1994, available at . Communication No. 412/1990: Finla nd. 10/06/94. CCPR/C/50/D/412/1990
(jurisprudence), para. 9.2.
64 IACHR, Chapter IV, Annual Report 2002, Vol. III “Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for
Freedom of Expression,” OEA/Ser. L/V/ II. 117, Doc. 5 rev. 1, para. 34.
65 ents may not invoke one of the lawful
restrictions lic order,” as a means to deny a right
guaranteed .” If this occurs, the restriction, as applied, is not
lawful.” Cfr. IACH n the Compatibility of “Desacato” Laws with the
American C c. 9 rev. The Inter-American Commission has stated that “governm
of freedom of expression, such as the main tenance of “pub
by the Convention or to impair it of its true c ontent
R, Chapter V, Annual Report 1994, “Report o
onvention on Human Rights,” OEA/Ser. L/V/II.88, Do

s may impose reasonable ain those who are
iolent, ell
64. The use of force is a last resort that, qualitatively and quantitatively
limited, nd
xercised with moderation and in proportion to the legitimate objective being pursued
while sim ss of
human l ithin
internati state
must no who,
because se of
force is d

the p sses whereby state decisions and policies that directly affect them are
made. 66
62. In this sense, the Commission reiterat es the pressing need that States,
when imposing restrictions on this form of expression, conduct a rigorous analysis of
the interests it intends to protect by way of the restriction, taking into account the high
level of protection merited by the right to assembly and the freedom of expression as
rights that give form to citizen participati on and to the oversight of State actions in
public matters.

63. Finally, in the Commission’s view, agent
straints on demonstrators to ensure that they are peaceful or to cont
as w as to disperse demonstrations that become violent and obstructive. 67
However, the actions of the security forces should protect, rather than discourage, the
right to assembly and therefore, the ration ale for dispersing the demonstration must be
the duty to protect people. The law enforcement officer deployed in such contexts
must contemplate the safest and quickest me thods of dispersal that cause the least
harm to the demonstrators.

is inte ed to prevent a more serious occurrence than that caused by the state’s
reaction. Law enforcement officials may not, under any circumstances, resort to illegal
practices to obtain the objectives entrus ted to them. The Commission has stated
categorically that the means that the state may employ to protect its security or that of
its citizens are not unlimited.
68 As the Inter-American Court has pointed out, […] regardless of the seriousness of certain actions and the culpability of the perpetrators of
certain crimes, the power of the State is no t unlimited, nor may the State resort to any
means to attain its ends.”

65. The legitimate use of public force en tails, among other factors, that it
is both necessary and proportional to the situ ation; that is to say that it must
ultaneously trying to reduce to a minimum personal injury and the lo
ife.70 The degree of force exercised by stat e agents, to be considered w
onal parameters, must not ex ceed what is “absolutely necessary.” 71 The
t use force disproportionately and immoderately against individuals
they are under its control, do not re present a threat; in such cases, the u
66 IACHR, Chapter IV, Annual Report 2002, Vol. III “Report of the Office of the Special Rappor
f Expression,” OEA/Ser. L/V/II. 117, Doc. 5 re v. 1, para. 35. see also IACHR, Chapter IV,
5, Vol. III, “Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression,” OEA/Ser.
5 rev. 1, Chapter V “Public Demonstrations as an exercise of Freedom of Expression and Free p. 99-120. teur for
Freedom o Annual
Report 200 L/V/II.
117, Doc. dom of
ent of
67 See United States Court of Appeals, Washington Mobilization Committee v. Cullinane , Judgm April 12, 1
68 IACHR, Report Nº 57/02, Case 11.382 (Merits), Fi nca La Exacta v. Guatemala, October 21, 2002,
para. 35 on; IACH
Neira Alegría et al. Case. Judgment of January 19, 1995. Series C No. 20,
para. 75.
995, Series A no. 336, para. 38.
ff, para. 171.
977, 566 F.2d 107, 184 U.S.App.D.C. 215, p. 119.
R, Report Nº 32/04, Case 11.556 (Merit s), Corumbiara v, Brazil, March 11, 2004, para. 164
69 I/A Court H.R.,
70 ECHR, Case Ribitsch v. Austria , Judgment of 4 December 1
71 According to the European Court, the use of the phrase “absolutely necessary” must be interpreted
using stricter and more rigorous examination than that normally used to determine whether a State action is
“necessary in a democratic society.” In particular, the force used must be strictly proportional to the interests
being protected and the force or threat that it intends to deter. ECHR, Case Andronicou and Constantinou v.
Cyprus , Judgment of October 9, 1997, Reports 1997-VI, no. 52, p. 2059

concerning the use of force by law enforcement officials in the discharge of their duties,
uch action must be necessary and proportiona l to the needs of the situation and to the
objective sought.
e article 9 of the Basic Principles points out that firearms must not be
sed against people, except when th ere is an imminent danger to life.
74 Basic Principles
12, 13, 14
all necessary provisions to this end, and specifically those for the education and
66. According to the international sta ndards that have been deve
s 72 In this regard, the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms
by Law Enforcement Officials stipulate that “l aw enforcement officials, in carrying out
their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use
of force and firearms.” Li kewise, the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law
Enforcement Officials states explicitly that “the use of firearms is considered an extreme
73 whil
and , refer specifically to the regulation of the use of force in legal
gatherings. 75

67. The Inter-American Court has recommended the implementation of
clear procedures and protocols for prevention and for the conduct of the security forces
with respect to incidents that threaten public order.
76 In this regard, it has recommended
the adoption of

training of all members of its armed forces and its security agencies on
principles and provisions of human rights protection and regarding the limits to
which the use of weapons by law enforcement officials is subject, even in a
state of emergency. The pretext of maintenance of public security cannot be
invoked to violate the right to life. The Stat must also adjust operational plans
regarding public disturbances to the requirements of respect and protection of
those rights, adopting to this end, among other measures those geared toward
72 See the Code of Cond
ssembly, Resolution 34/169, of De uct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General
cember 17, 1979, Article 3 [hereinafter, “Code of Conduct”]; Basic Principles
n the Use of ce an
on the Pre
Policing unlawful assemblies
ith principles 13 and 14. is not practicable, shall restrict such
when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary.
st sonnel
such as polic ittee,
General C A
o For d Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress
vention of Crime and the Treatment of Offend ers, Havana, Cuba, August 27 to September 7, 1990,
Articles 4-5 [hereinafter, “Basic Principles “].
73 Code of Conduct, Article 3.
74 Article 9 of the Basic Principles states:
Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or
defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the
perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person
presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape…”
75 These principles stipulat
12. As everyone is allowed to participate in lawful and peaceful assemblies, in accordance
with the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Governments and law enforcement
agencies and officials shall recognize that force and firearms may be used only in
accordance w
13. In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement
officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that
force to the minimum extent necessary.
14. In the dispersal of violent assemblies, law enforcement officials may use firearms only
Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms in such cases, except under the conditions
ipulated in principle 9.
76 Moreover, the Human Rights Committee has stated that States have the duty to train per
e officers and prison guards to reduce the risk of human rights violations (Human Rights Comm
omment 20/44, April 3, 1992, para. 10). Simila rly, the European Court has pointed out that an
evaluation of the use of force must take into account not only the actions of State agents directly carrying out
such acts, but all the circumstances related to the case, including actions related to the planning and control of
the events being studied (ECHR, Case Andronicou and Constantinou v. Cyprus , Judgment of October 9, 1997,
Reports 1997-VI, no. 52, p. 2059 ff , para. 171).

ol o
t n of mechanisms to prohibit, in an effective manner, the use of lethal
rce as recou
cement operations; e) promotion of opportunities for communication
and dialogue rdinate
with d d law
enforcem ion of
political icularly
in the ca which
potentia at such
officials pliance
with nor t of an
administrative sanctions regime for the law enforcement personnel involving
rder to
promote “form,
join and
79 The
freedom ndamental
tool that makes it possible to fully carry out the work of human rights defenders, who,
acting c a greater impact. Because of this, when a state impedes
this right, it not only restricts the freedom of association, but also obstructs the work of
ight of
human r zation, but also the right to implement their
internal Court

contr f actions by all members of the security forces in every field of action
to avoid excesses […] the State must ensure that, if it is necessary to resort to
physical means to face situations of disturbance of public order, members of its
armed forces and its security bodies will use only those means that are
indispensable to control such situations in a rational and proportional manner,
and respecting the rights to life and to humane treatment.
68. Based on these norms and principles, the Commission deems that
states should establish administrative controls to ensure only exceptional use of force in
public demonstrations, in cases where it is necessary, through measures for planning,
prevention, and for the investigation of cas es in which an abuse of force may have
occurred. In particular, the Commission recomme nds measures such as the following: a)
implementa io
fo a rse in public demonstrat ions; b) implementation of an ammunition
registration and control system; c) implemen tation of a communications records system
to monitor operational orders, those responsible for them, and those carrying them out;
d) promotion of visible means of personal id entification for police agents participating in
public law enfor
prior to demonstrations and of th e activities of liaison officers to coo
emonstrators concerning demonstr ation and protest activities an
ent operations, in order to avoid c onflict situations; f) the identificat
officials responsible for law enfor cement operations during marches, part
se of scheduled marches or prolonged social conflicts or circumstances in
l risks to the rights of the demonstrator s or others are anticipated, so th
are tasked with supervising the field operation and ensuring strict com
ms governing the use of force and police conduct; g) the establishmen
ent investigators and the participation of victims of abuses or acts of violence;
h) the adoption of measures to ensure that police or judicial officials (judges or
prosecutors) directly involved in operations are not responsible for investigating
irregularities or abuses committed dur ing the course of those operations.
2. Freedom of asso

69. The United Nations Declaration on Defe nders reaffirms that in o
human rights and fundame ntal freedoms, all persons have the right to
participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups.”
of association, in the specific case of human rights defenders, is a fu
ollectively, can achieve
g and defending human rights.
70. The right of association should be understood not only as the r
ights defenders to form an organi
structure, programs, and activities. In relation to this, the Inter-American
In labour union matters, freedom of association consists basically of the ability
to constitute labour union organisations, and to set into motion their internal
77 I/A Court H.R., Caraca zo Case. Reparations (Article 63.1 American Convention on Human Rights).
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Article 5. of August 29, 2002. Series C No. 95, para. 127.
78 The freedom of association is recognized in the American Declaration (Article XXII), the American
Convention (Article 16) and the Additional Protocol to th e American Convention in the area of Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights – Protocol of San Salvador (Article 8).
79 UN, Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to
Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human

without pressure or
interference that may alter or denature its objective.
tee that people who associate for trade union
purposes will be protected from retaliatory acti ons is fundamental for the exercise of this
right. T mm
they hold from their trade unions. The
Committee has considered that the guarantee of such protection in the case of
structure, activities and action programme, without any intervention by the
public authorities that could limit or impair the exercise of the respective right.
On the other hand, under such freedom it is possible to assume that each
person may determine, without any pressure, whether or not she or he wishes
to form part of the association. This matter, therefore, is about the basic right
to constitute a group for the pursuit of a lawful goal,

71. The Inter-American Court has estab lished that the right to associate
protected by Article 16 of the American Convention protects two dimensions.
81 The first
dimension encompasses the right and freedom to associate freely with other persons,
without the intervention of the public authoritie s limiting or encumbering the exercise of
this right, which represents, therefore, a ri ght of each individual. The second recognizes
and protects the right and the freedom to seek the common attainment of a lawful
purpose, without pressures or meddling that coul d alter or thwart their aim. Accordingly,
in the view of the Court, “the execution of a trade union leader … restricts not only the
freedom of association of an individual, but also the right and freedom of a certain group
to associate freely, without fear, hence the right protected by Article 16 has a special
scope and nature. Thus the two dimensions of the freedom of association are apparent
in such circumstances.”
82 The same consequence holds for any person who defends any
other type of right or human rights issue.

72. Consequently, the Court established that in its individual dimension,
the freedom of association is not exhausted with the theoretical recognition of the right
to form trade unions or organizations, but th at it also encompasses, inseparably, the
right to use any appropriate means for exer cising that liberty. So when the Convention
proclaims that the freedom of association includes the right to associate freely for “other
purposes,” it underscores that the freedom to associate and the pursuit of certain
collective purposes are indivisible, such that a restriction on the possibilities of
associating represents directly, and to th e same extent, a limitation on the right of
society to attain the purposes proposed.

73. In this sense, the guaran
he Co ittee on Freedom of Associati on has stated in this regard that

[o]ne of the fundamental principles of freedom of association is that workers
should enjoy adequate protection against all acts of anti-union discrimination in
respect of their employment, such as dismissal, demotion, transfer, or other
prejudicial measures. This protection is particularly desirable in the case of
trade union officials because, in order to be able to perform their trade duties in
full independence, they should have a guarantee that they will not be prejudiced
on account of the mandate which
trade union officials is also necessary in order to ensure that effect is given to
the fundamental principle that workers’ organizations shall have the right to
elect their representatives in full freedom.
80 I/A Court H.R., Baena Ricardo et al. Case . Judgment of February 2, 2001. Series C No. 72.
ara. 156.
o. 121.
paras. 69
y arrests, death threats, attempts against the lives of
union leade p
81 I/A Court H.R., Huila Tecse vs. Peru Case . Judgment of March 3, 2005. Series C N
82 I/A Court H.R., Huila Tecse vs. Peru Case . Judgment of March 3, 2005. Series C No. 121.
para. 69.
83 Committee on Freedom of Association, Digest of Decisions and Principles on Freedom of
Association, 1985 para. 724. Among the actions that may be c onsidered violations of freedom of association, the
IACHR has included, for example, matters such as arbitrar
rs and their arbitrary dismissal, as well as docked wages of those who participate in union assemblies,
job discrimination against union members, etc. Cfr. IA CHR, Report on the Human Rights Situation in Guatemala
(1993), Cap. IX. Doc. OEA/Ser.L/V/II.83, Doc. 16 rev., June 1, 1993.

21tect or
safeguar d also
include, cts of
harassm ures in
collusion eedom
of Assoc
t this freedom may only be exercised in a
ituation in which fundamental human right s are fully respected and guaranteed, in
particular the rig
f human rights organizations are prohibited by
ternational law, and could give rise to th e international responsibility of the state. In
addition, the Co
te the
registrat man
rights o erence
requires or limit
the crea onsible
internati lishing
and fu other
organiza inter-

74. On this point, it is important to unde rscore that measures to pro
d union delegates shoul d not be restricted unreasonably. They shoul
for example, leaders of minority unions or those in formation, since a
ent sometimes occur with the consen t of existing trade union struct
with companies or with the state. In this regard, the Committee on Fr
iation stated that
Any asures taken against workers because they attempt to constitute
organizations of workers outside the existing trade union organization are
incompatible with the principles that workers should have the right to establish
and join organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization.
84 It
further stated that no person should be prejudiced in his or her employment by
reason of membership of a trade union, even if that trade union is not
recognized by the employer as representing the majority of workers

75. In addition, in its social dimension, the right of association, according
to the Inter-American Court, enables the memb ers of a group or society to attain certain
purposes together, and to benefit from them. The Inter-American Court, picking up on
standards established by the Committee on Freedom of Association and the European
Court of Human Rights, has indicated tha
hts to life and personal security . Accordingly, this right gives rise to the
state obligation to guarantee that persons can freely exercise their freedom of
association free of any violence; otherwise th e capacity of groups to organize to protect
their interests could be diminished

76. Any act that tends to impede the association of human rights
defenders, or in any way impedes the purposes for which they have formally associated,
is a direct attack on the defense of human rights. Acts of violence that tend to
discourage membership or the activity o
mmission has found that the fact that a defender must go into exile
because of threats to his or her life made in retaliation for his or her work is a direct
violation of the right of association.

77. The Commission finds that the st ates are free to regula
ion and oversight of organizations within their jurisdictions, including hu
rganizations. Nonetheless, the right to associate freely without interf
that the state ensure that those le gal requirements not impede, delay,
tion or functioning of these organizations, lest the state become resp
onally. The formalities prescribed in the national regulations on the estab
nctioning of non-governmental orga nizations, trade unions, and
tions are compatible with the provisions of the instruments of the
84 Committee on Freedom of Association, Case 1594, Ivory Coast. In the same way, the C
[m]easures taken against workers because th ommittee
affirmed that “ ey attempt to constitute organizations or reconstitute
organizatio oFA, 301) and that “[t]he necessary measur es have to be taken so that trade unionists who have
been dismi 2).
, 1985, para. 693.
ns of workers outside the official trade union or ganization would be incompatible with the principle that
workers sh uld have the right to establish and join organizations of their own choosing without previous
authorization. (C
ssed for activities related to the establishment of a union are reinstated in their functions, if they so
wish.” (CLS, 30
85 Committee on Freedom of Association, Digest of Decisions and Principles on Freedom of
86 I/A Court H.R., Huila Tecse vs. Peru Case . Judgment of March 3, 2005. Series C No. 121.
para. 77.
87 IACHR, Report Nº 31/96, Case 10.526, (Guatema la), October 16, 1996, para. 119. Along the same
lines see Report on the Merits No. 49/99, Case 11.610, Loren Laroye Rieb e Star, Jorge Barón Guttlein, and
Rodolfo Izal Elorz (Mexico), April 13, 1999.

American system
. Right to the freedom of expression
not only ght and
the freed s.
89 In
addition, dual

It requires, on the one hand, that no one be arbitrarily limited or impeded in
influence the public. It represents, in short, the
eans t enable the co
t the freedom of expression of human rights
efender usi
, so long as those regulatory provisions are not at odds with the
guarantees prescribed in those conventions. In that regard, while those who wish to
associate and exercise their rights must comply with the formalities provided for in the
legislation, at the same time these forma lities must not impose abusive hindrances to
the right to association and to the free operation of the organizations.


78. The Inter-American Court has determ ined that this right encom
the right and the freedom to express one’s own thinking, but also the ri
om to seek, receive, and dissemina te information and ideas of all sort
the Court has determined that the freedom of expression has an indivi n and a social dimension. Accordingly:
expre g his own thoughts. In that sense, it is a right that belongs to each
individual. Its second aspect, on the other hand, implies a collective right to
receive any information whatsoever and to have access to the thoughts
expressed by others.

79. The freedom of expression is another of the rights essential to the
work of human rights defenders. The Inter- American Court has said that the freedom of
expression “is a cornerstone upon which the very existence of a democratic society
rests. It is indispensable for the formation of public opinion. It is also a conditio sine qua
non for the development of political parties, tr ade union, scientific and cultural societies
and, in general, those who wish to
m hat mmunity, when ex ercising its opinions, to be sufficiently
informed. Consequently, it can be said that a society that is not well informed is not a
society that is truly free.”
91 As indicated below, in the case of human rights defenders,
the exercise of this right is restricted not only in its individual aspect (the possibility of
expressing ideas) but also in its social or collective aspect (the possibility of seeking and
receiving information).
80. The Commission reiterates that the coercive power of the state may be
exercised so as to negatively affec
d s by ng criminal laws to silen ce those who exercise their right to express
themselves critically, accusing them of “inciting rebellion,” “
disseminating false
information,” and “harming the country’s reputation.”
81. Accordingly, one cannot legitimately impose a sanction that impedes or
restricts the critical and necessary work of human rights defenders when they scrutinize
the persons who hold public positions. An ex cessive sanction may have a chilling effect
on such criticism. On restricting the freedom of expression to this extent, democracy is
88 Article IV of the Declaration and Article 13 of th e American Convention protect the right to freedom
of expression. The Inter-American Democratic Charter establishes at its Article 4: “Transparency in government
activities, probity, responsible public administration on the part of governments, respect for social rights, and
freedom of expression and of the press are essent ial components of the exercise of democracy.”
89 I/A Co urt H.R., The Last Temptation of Christ Case . Judgment of February 5, 2001. Series C No.
73, para. 64.
visory Opinion OC-5/85, Compulsory Membership in an Association Prescribed by
Law for the
91 I/A Court H.R., Ivcher Bronstein Case. Judgment of February 6, 2001. Series C No. 74,
para. 149.
ilani, Annual Report 2004, Doc E/CN.4/2005/101. para. 54.
Ricardo Canese Case . Judgment of August 31, 2004. Series C No. 111, para. 77.
90 I/A Court H.R., Ad Practice of Journalism. November 13, 1985. Series A No. 5, para. 30.
92 UN, Commission on Human Rights, Report submitted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-
General on Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina J

[T]he State’s obligation to protect the rights of others is served by providing utory nt on honor and reputation
ugh ci ee the right of reply.
with the oretical
perspect tion in
Article e free
exchang democratic criticism of the public administration.

al characteristics that must be exhibited by any compliant access
information regime, including a principle of maximum disclosure, presumption of
publicity with res
bly recognized the importance
f access to information with the adoption of Resolution AG/Res.1932 (XXXIII-O/03).
In this lutio
obliged to respect and promote everyone’s access to public information and to promote

transformed into a system in which authorit arianism and human rights violations find
fertile ground for imposing themselves on the will of society.
82. For these reasons, the Commission has said:

stat protection against intentional infringeme
ro vil actions and by implementing laws that guarantthIn this sense, the State guarantees protection of all individual’s privacy without
abusing its coercive powers to repress individual freedom to form opinions and
express them.

1. Access to public information

83. Another priority issue for the work of human rights defenders has to d
exercise of the right of access to public information. From a the
ive, it can be said that the interest that is accorded preferential protec
13 of the Convention is the form ation of public opinion through th
e of information and
84. The Inter-American Court has indicated that access to information in
the hands of the state is a fundamental right of individuals, and that the states are under
an obligation to guarantee it.
95 The right of access to information is a priority because it
contributes to fighting corruption and defending human rights. Access to public
information has proven to be a useful tool for contributing to societal knowledge of
human rights violations that occurred in the pa st. The effective exercise of this right can
also help prevent possible new violations.
85. Achieving an access to information regime that complies with the
requirements of the American Convention on Human Rights is more complex than simply
declaring that the public may have access to state-held information. There are specific
legislative and procedur
pect to meetings and key documents, broad definitions of the type of
information that is accessible, reasonable fees and deadlines, independent review of
denials, and sanctions for noncompliance.

86. In June 2003, the OAS General Assem
reso n, the General Assembly reaffirmed Article 13 of the American
Convention which provides that everyone ha s the freedom to seek, receive, access, and
impart information and that access to public information is a requisite for the very
exercise of democracy.
97 Moreover, the General Assembly emphasized that States are
93 IACHR, Annual Report of the Office of the Sp ecial Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, 2000,
Chapter II,
e primary and
basic elem
order inherent
in the Ameri
These concepts are developed in IACHR, Annual Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for
Freedom of Ex
paragraph 45.
94 I/A Court H.R., Advisory Opinion OC-5/85 Series A, No. 5, para. 69: The “concept of public order in
a democratic society requires the guarantee of the widest possible circulation of news, ideas and opinions as well
as the widest access to information by society as a whole. Freedom of expression constitutes th
ent of the public order of a democratic society, which is not conceivable without free debate and the
possibility that dissenting voices be fully heard…. It is also in the interest of the democratic public
can Convention that the right of each individual to express himself freely and that of society as a
whole to receive information be scrupulously respected.”
I/A Court H.R., Advisory Opinion OC -5/85, Series A. No. 5, para. 70.
pression, 2003, Chapter IV, paragraph 32 on.
97 OAS, General Assembly, resolution AG/RES. 1932 (XXXIII-O/03), para. 1.

24 OAS General Assembly
pproved Resolution 2057, entitled, “Access to Public Information: Strengthening
Democra Thi y the previous resolution
n the subject and encourages OAS member states to implement laws or other
provision n both
resolutio ission
on Hum on, to
continue in the

t the right to privacy also
individual to use the action of
abeas as
the adoption of any necessary legislative or other types of provisions to ensure its
recognition and effective application. 98 In June 2004, the
cy.” s resolution broadens the effo rts established b
s to provide the citizenry with broad access to public information. I
ns, the General Assembly resolved to “instruct the Inter-American Comm
an Rights, through the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expressi
including in its annual report a re port on access to public information
2. Action of habeas data
87. The concept of “access to informati on” is often confused with the
concept of “habeas data.” The IACHR has understood that “access to information”
refers to state-held information that shoul d be available to the public. An action of
habeas data refers to the right of any individual to have access to information referring
to him and to modify, remove, or corr ect such information when necessary.

88. The Commission reiterates that indi viduals have the right to know
about the intelligence information which has b een gathered about them, even when they
are not faced with a criminal proceeding based on that information.
100 To be precise,
Article XXIV of the American Declaration guara ntees all individuals the right of petition
and Article 25 of the American Convention guarantees the right to simple and prompt
recourse against acts that violat e his or her fundamental rights.

89. Moreover, the Commission deems tha
guarantees pe le the right to know without delay that the state decided to gather
information about them, even for the purpose of making sure that the information does
not contain errors. In this regard, the IA CHR has established that each person has the
right to know what information exists about him or her, by means of a prompt, simple,
and effective action. The action of “habeas data,” as previously defined, is built upon
three premises:
101 1) the right of any individual to not have his privacy disturbed, 2) the
right of any individual to access information referring to him in public or private
databases, and to modify, remove, or correct information if it is sensitive,
102 , false,
iased, or discriminatory; 103 and 3) and the right of any b
data an oversight mechanism. 104 In recent years, the action of habeas data
remedy has become an essential tool for th e investigation of human rights violations
committed during past military dictatorship s in the Americas. Relatives of the
disappeared have brought actions of habeas data to obtain information about the
government’s behavior, to ascertain the whereabouts of the disappeared, and to
98 Ibid , para. 2.
99 IACHR, Annual Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, 2003,
Chapter 4, footnote 72.
100 IACHR, Report on Colombia 1999, Chapter VII Human Rights Defenders, para. 58.
101 See IACHR Annual Reports of th e Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, years
2000, 2001, and 2003.
102 “Sensitive information” is understood as any information referring to the private life of the
1 Habeas Data: Derecho a la
Intimidad .
, El acceso a la información como derecho , CELS,
2000, p. 7 03 See Alicia Pierini, Valentín Lorences, and María Inés Tornabene. Editorial Universidad, Buenos Aires, 1999, p. 16.
104 See, Víctor Abramovich and Christian Courtis.

In the context of fighting terrorism, governments often attempt to restrict ss t formation related to the investigation of
ected ntelligence and the execution of police
r morals. Derived from
is principle 107 the exceptions must be established by law, and these must have been
carefully ten
determine responsibilities. Such actions ulti mately constitute an important means of
ensuring the “right to truth.” 105
90. In terms of both access to public information and the exercise of the
action of habeas data , the Commission understands that there may be certain specific
cases in which state security forces would not have to reveal information, for example,
when the release of such information could jeopardize national security. But the security
forces cannot decide at their own discretion whether to release the information or not,
in the absence of any external oversight. In this regard, the IACHR has stipulated that:

acce o broad categories of in
susp terrorists, the gathering of i
and ary actions. In some of these cases, the government may have a
legitimate need to keep information secret in order to protect national security or
public order. At the same time, the public’s need for information is greater than
ever as anti-terrorism actions may be subject to abuse and the public and the
press are among the most significant checks on abusive governmental

91. Article 13.2 of the American Convention on Human Rights stipulates
the circumstances in which states may re fuse public access to sensitive information
while still complying with their obligations unde r international law. In this regard, the
Convention provides that the restrictions must be explicitly defined in the law and must
be necessary to ensure: a) respect for the rights or reputations of others, or b) the
protection of national security, public order, or public health o
writ and widely disseminated, and approved through the formal mechanisms
set out in the law. 108 The Inter-American Court stated in 1985 that limitations on the
rights set forth in Article 13 “must meet cer tain requirements of form, which depend
upon the manner in which they are expre ssed…and certain substantive conditions,
which depend upon the legitimacy of the ends that such restrictions are designed to
109 105 See, for example, I/A Court H.R., Barrios Altos (Chumbipuma Aguirre y otros vs. Perú) Case,
Judgment of March 14, 2001, Series C, Nº 75. In the Barrios Altos case, the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights argued before the Inter-American Court that:
The right to truth is founded in Articles 8 and 25 of the Convention, insofar as they are
both “instrumental” in the judicial establis hment of the facts and circumstances that
surrounded the violation of a fundamental right. It also indicated that this right has its roots
in Article 13(1) of the Convention, because that article recognizes the right to seek and
receive information. With regard to that article, the Commission added that the State has
the positive obligation to guarantee essential information to preserve the rights of the
victims, to ensure transparency in public administration, and the protection of human rights
(para. 45).
106 IACHR, Report on Terrorism and Human Rights, para. 327. See also, IACHR, Annual Report of the
Office of th rteur for Freedom of Expression, 2003, Chapter IV, para. 41 on.
uador, August 2003, pp. 438-439.
ork of the protection of human rights, the word “laws” would not make sense without
“laws” acquires all of its logical an d historical meaning if it is regarded as a requirement
of the nec hat tassed by the legislature and promulgated by the Executive Branch, pursuant to the procedure set out
in the dom OC-6/86, May 9, 1986, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (Ser.A)
No. 6 (1986).
9 I/A Court H.R., Advisory Opinion OC-5/85, para. 37.
e Special Rappo
107 José Antonio Guevara, ” El Secreto Oficial,” in Derecho de la Información: Conceptos Básicos ,
Colección Encuentros , Ec
108 Ibid , note 342. Guevara observes that the Inter-Amer ican Court of Human Rights has established
that within the framew
to the concept that such rights cannot be restricted at the sole discretion of governmental authorities.
To affirm otherwise would be to recognize in those who go vern virtually absolute power over their subjects. On
the other hand, the word
essary restriction of governmental interference in the area of individual rights and freedoms. The Court
concludes t he word “laws” used in Article 30, can have no other meaning than that of formal law, that is, a
legal norm p
estic law of each State.” Inter-American Court of Human Rights, The Word “Laws” in Article 30 of the
American Convention on Human Rights Consultative Opinion

n and
promotio ossible
for all p ion on
themselv forces
act wit when
D. Right to privacy and protection of honor and dignity
tizes them, places them at risk, and in
some ca many
cases a . Such
attacks human
rights w
of the
right protected at Article 11 of the Conventi on when the state uses its criminal justice
system the fact that so
many pr ion of innocence; that those suits target
92. Citing the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, the IACHR has
added that:
Most ess to information laws contain exemptions that allow the State to
refuse to release information on the grounds that to do so would damage the
State’s national security or ability to maintain public order. These exemptions
should be applied only to information that clearly affect s national security as
defined by [principle 2] (a restriction sought to be justified on the ground of
national security is not legitimate unless its genuine purpose is to protect a
country’s existence or its territorial integrity against the use of threat of
93. The Commission understands that to ensure the protectio
n of human rights, the State must create a mechanism that makes it p
ersons to have expeditious access to public information and informat es. Such independent oversight is n ecessary to ensure that the security
hin the scope of their authority and follow appropriate procedures
g intelligence.

94. If they are to do their work freely, human rights defenders need
adequate protection from the state authoritie s to guarantee they will not be victims of
arbitrary meddling in their private lives, or of attacks on their honor and dignity. This
right includes state protection from harassme nt and intimidation, assaults, surveillance,
interference with correspondence and telephone and electronic communications, and
illegal intelligence activities. The Commission’s experience indicates that in several
countries of the region persons close to human rights defenders also have their right to
privacy and protection of honor and dignity violated , as part of an effort to interfere with
the activities of their family members. A ccordingly, protection should be guaranteed
from attacks directed at human rights de fenders, and also attacks on their family

95. In this respect, the UN Special Repr esentative has determined: “This
type of harassment of human rights defende rs bears serious repercussions for their
physical and psychological integrity: it stig ma
ses has impelled them to give up their work to go into hiding. While in
ccusations were proven wrong, no public apology was forthcoming
constitute grave attempts to under mine the credibility and integrity of
ork in the public eye.”
96. The Commission has found, for example, that there is a violation
to indict a human rights defender fo r the sole purpose of harassing him and
impeding his work. In an individual case, the Commission found that “
ior investigations and the criminal cas es cited have been opened; that there has
been a series of suits in the wake of a decl arat
110 IACHR, Report on Terrorism and Human Rights, pa ras. 327 and 330. See also, IACHR Report of the
Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, 2003, Chapter IV, paragraphs 41 on.
111 IACHR, Report on Colombia 1999, Chapter VI Human Rights Defenders, para. 59. OEA/Ser.
112 This right is protected by both the American Decl aration (Articles V, IX, and X) and the American
Convention (Article 11), and contains provisions that protec t the rights of persons to the inviolability of both their
home and their correspondence.
113 UN, Commission on Human Rights, Report submitted by the Special Representative of the Secretary
General on 2004, Doc. E/CN.4/2005/101. Para. 55. Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani, Annual Report

the same person also leads to the presumption th at officials of the … Army have engaged in
arassment and hounding.”

aids or
searches ices of
human of the
home in ention.
This righ es due
process s it establishes a lega l limit on the collection of evidence that
criminates an individual accused of a crime. If a home is to be searched in violation of
the appr te c
contentious case that this right had been violated when “a
mear campaign was undertaken by the State against them … they were presented to
public op a nd also because
they “were presented to Mexican and in ternational public opinion as dangerous
criminals net
d that public officials should refrain from making declarations that stigmatize
uman rights defenders or that suggest that human rights organizations act improperly
or unlawfully, me

; and that the individual in question has been absolved in every case
tried to date,
97. Human rights defenders require the same protection from illegal r
at both their residences and thei r workplaces, especially at the off
rights organizations. The Commission has referred to the inviolability
dicating that it is one of the guarantees implicit in Article 8 of the Conv
t, in addition to operating as a guara ntee of the right to privacy, guarante
insofar a
opria onstitutional procedures , that guarantee keeps the evidence obtained
from being considered in a subsequent judici al decision. In this way, in practice it
operates like a rule to exclude illegally obtained evidence.

98. As for human rights defenders’ right to honor and dignity, the
Commission indicated in a
inion s irresponsible infractors and as a threat to peace,” a
”; no heless, based on the steps taken by the authorities on expelling them
summarily, they never had an opportunity to defend themselves from the criminal
charges against them.”

99. In the same vein, the Commission has found that there is a violation of
the right to honor in cases in which the state authorities make statements or issue
communiqués that publicly incriminate a human rights defender, accusing him or her of
acts that have not been judicially verified.
117 In addition, the Commission has reiterated
that no effort on the part of the state author ities to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the
work of human rights defenders and their organizations should be tolerated. The IACHR
has indicate
rely because they work to promote or protect human rights 118 .
100. The Commission likewise recognizes that the government law
enforcement agencies may find it necessary to conduct intelligence operations, in
accordance with the law, to combat crime or protect the constitutional order, and to
facilitate criminal prosecutions and specific, lawful military operations.
119 Nonetheless,
114 IACHR, Report Nº 43/96, Case 11.4 30 (Mexico), October 15, 1996, para. 47.
119 The Inter-American Court has referred to the legiti macy and limits of intelligence activities in the
following te
ecially valid with respect to inte lligence agencies and activities. These agencies
e especially ri gorous because, given the conditions of secrecy
115 IACHR, Report Nº 1/95 (Merits), Case 11.006 (Peru), February 7, 1995.
116 Report on the Merits Nº 49/99, Case 11.610, Lo ren Laroye Riebe Star, Jorge Barón Guttlein, and
Rodolfo Izal Elorz (Mexico), April 13, 1999, para. 95.
117 IACHR, Report Nº 43/96, Case 11.4 30 (Mexico), October 15, 1996, para. 76.
118 IACHR, Annual Report 2005, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.125. Doc. 7, 27 February 2006, Chapter IV, para. 35.
The Court deems that the activities of the military forces and of the police, and of all, o
security agencies, must be strictly subject to the rules of the democratic constitutional
order and to the international human rights trea ties and to International Humanitarian Law.
This is esp
must, inter alia, be: a) respectfu l at all times, of the fundamental rights of persons; and b)
subject to control by civil authorities, includi ng not only those of the executive branch but
also, insofar as pertinent, those of the other public powers. Measures to control
intelligence activities must b
under which these activities take place, they can drift toward committing violations of
human rights and illegal criminal actions, as occurred in the instant case.

120 The Commission emphasizes that, in keeping with
s human rights obligations, the state cannot maintain intelligence files as a means of
control o ene
riate lines of action and
enunciation. When that bond is broken, not onl y does it have a negative impact on the
right of the defe
ment seeking to restrict the movement of defenders through

the Commission reiterates its concern over the fact that state law enforcement
personnel target human rights organizations and their members for intelligence activities
due exclusively to their activiti
ver g ral information related to the citizenry. 121

E. Movement and residence

101. Many of the actions entailed in pr omoting and protecting human rights
require the physical presence of human rights defenders in the places in which they
carry out their activities, such as providing permanent accompaniment of the
communities at risk. The close relationship between human rights defenders and the
victims they represent is necessary for th e defenders to understand the problems that
affect the victims, and to be able to propose approp
nders to freedom of movement or to choose their place of work and
residence without restrictions, it also seriously limits the victims’ possibility of voicing
their grievances and coming forth with their complaints.
102. The violations of these rights may be direct or indirect, understanding
direct violations as the restrictions imposed on human rights defenders from leaving the
country or even going to certain areas within the country, whereas indirect violations
include threats and harass

…continuation I/A Court H.R., Myrna Mack Chang Case . Judgment of November 25, 2003. Series C No. 101.
para. 284.
120 In its Report on Terrorism and Human Rights, the Commission affirmed that:
greater than ever as anti-terrorism actions ma y be subject to abuse and the public and the
ev. 1 corr., October 22,
2002, Para. 327.
illeg that
as data entitles the injured party or his family members to ascertain the purpose for
ober 22,
2002, para
ut freely,
are establi 2 of the
American C
In the c text of fighting terrorism, governments often attempt to restrict access to broad
categories of information related to the investigation of suspected terrorists, the gathering
of intelligence and the execution of police and military actions. In some of these cases, the
government may have a legitimate need to keep information secret in order to protect
national security or public order. At the same time, the public’s need for information is
press are among the most significant checks on abusive governmental behavior.
IACHR, Report on Terrorism and Human Rights, OE A/ser.L/V/II. , Doc. 5 r
121 The Commission has underscored that:
In cases where entities of the state or the private sector obtain data improperly
ally, the petitioner must have access to that information, even when classified, so
individuals have control over data that affects them. The action of habeas data as a mechanism for ensuring the accountability of security and intelligence agencies within this
context provides a means to verify that personal data has been gathered legally. The action
of habe
which the data was collected and, if collected illegally, to determine whether the
responsible parties are punishable. Public disclosure of illegal practices in the collection of
personal data can have the effect of preven ting such practices by these agencies in the
IACHR, Report on Terrorism and Human Rights, OEA/ ser.L/V/II. , Doc. 5 rev. 1 corr., Oct
. 292.
122 The right to choose and establish a place of residence, as well as the right to move abo
shed in the inter-American system at Article VIII of the American Declaration and Article 2 onvention.

. erican standards, human rights defenders
hould enjoy adequate protection that guarant ees they will not be subject to improper
interfere ith
ative has referred to this issue,
tating that some defenders “have been barr ed from traveling abroad, have had their
travel do ts
reedom of Association has stated that “par ticipation as a trade unionist in meetings
rganized by the ILO is a fundamental trade union right. It is therefore incumbent on the
overnment of any member State of the ILO to abstain from any measure which would
revent representatives of a workers’ or em ployers’ organization from exercising their
andate in full freedom and independence.”

105. The Commission has established that in exercising their sovereign
powers, the states may determine their immigr ation policy and legislation, and therefore
he Commission has also said that international human rights law imposes
certain l on the entry or
stay in a iolates
the inte states
have se ntrary,
the effec
the stat its and
conditio eir work in their

fear. 123 The Commission has considered that threats and attacks on human rights
defenders that force them to leave their count ries of residence constitute violations of
the rights protected at Article 22 of the American Convention.
124 Similarly, the
Commission has considered that forced displacem ent is a direct violation of the rights of
residence and movement, among others.
103 According to the inter-Am
nce w the exercise of their free dom of movement and residence, whether in
their work-related activities or in matters concerning their private lives. Among these
guarantees, the authorities should refrain from imposing any restrictions, by any means,
on the movement of human rights defenders to those areas of interest for their work,
where they can collect field information and verify first-hand the situations in which
human rights are alleged to be violated. Moreover, the states are under an obligation to
guarantee that third persons not impede human rights organizations from verifying the
situation of persons on the ground.
104. In addition, the United Nations represen t
cumen seized, been refused access to places and detained at airports in order
to prevent them from reporting about the human rights situation in their country to
international forums and bodies. Others have been refused visas and barred from access
to places of human rights abuses, victims and clients.”
126 Similarly, the Committee on
may decide on the entry, stay, and expulsion of foreigners from their territory.
Nonetheless, t
imitations. 128 The Commission considers that the prohibition
foreign country merely because a person is a human rights defender v
nt to support and strengthen the work of defenders that the American
t forth in repeated resolutions of the OAS General Assembly. To the co
tive implementation of the principles set forth in those resolutions requires that
es grant – in keeping with their domestic law provisions – the perm
ns necessary for human rights defenders to be able to develop th
, independent of a person’s national origin, and facilitate visas for access to the

s Committee of the United Nations has considered that,
pursuant to t on Civil and Political Rights, the freedom of movement is
violated w arantees
necessary f ts comes
from non-s unication
No. 859/1
e of the
Secretary- n Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani, Annual Report 2004, Doc. E/CN.4/2005/101.
para. 59.
Committee on Freedom of Association, see 254th report, ca se no. 1406 (Zambia), para. 470;
and 283rd report,
/V/II.118, Doc. 70 rev. 2, D ecember 29, 2003, Original: Spanish, para. 273. 123 Along the same lines, the Human Right
he provisions of the International Covenant
hen a person must go into exile out of fear of threats, and the state does not provide the gu
or that person to be able to reside freely in his or her country of origin, even when such threa
tate actors. See UN, Human Rights Committee, Case of Jiménez Vaca v. Colombia, Comm
999, Doc. CCPR/C/74/D/859/1999, April 15, 2002.
124 IACHR, Report Nº 29/96, Case 11.303, (Gua temala), October 16, 1996, paras. 97 and 98
125 Report Nº 32/96, Case 10.553 (Guatemala), October 16, 1996, paras. 64 and 65.
126 UN, Commission on Human Rights, Report submitted by the Special Representativ
General o
127 ILO, case no. 1590 (Lesotho), para. 346.
128 IACHR, Fifth Progress Report of the Rapporteurship on Migrant Workers and their Families, Annual
Report 2003, OEA/Ser.L

30 litigating their interests.

107. First, the Commission wishes to reit erate that the rule of law and
democra nn
ng any violations it might suffer. At the
econd Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders,
130 and at the Consultations on
Human D
not only the direct perpetrators of human ri

jurisdiction for those cases in which the human rights defenders must travel to attend
international meetings or similar events. The Commission finds that prohibiting the entry
of some defenders to some countries has kept them from lodging and supporting
complaints before international mechanis ms, seriously prejudicing their work, and
hindering the victims of violations from freely
F. Due process and judicial guarantees 129

106. The right of victims and their family members to appropriate
administration of justice in relation to human rights violations derives from Articles 8 and
25 of the Convention. Articles 8 and 25 grant persons the right of access to a remedy in
the face of a violation of their rights, the ri ght to recourse to and to be heard by a
competent court, and the right to a speedy decision by the competent authorities.
Furthermore, the provisions ensure that pr inciples of due process are respected and

cy ca ot be consolidated if the domestic judiciaries are not effective in
prosecuting the very serious violations of hum an rights committed in many states, and if
impunity continues to prevail in cases in volving attacks on human rights defenders.
When the state investigates and punishes the pe rpetrators of violations of the rights of
human rights defenders, it sends a clear message to society to the effect that there will
be no tolerance of those who violate huma n rights. Also, impunity for human rights
violations corrodes the foundations of a democratic state.
108. The Commission has stated on a number of occasions that impunity
helps hamper the work of human rights defenders and has an impact on society
whereby intimidation prevents it from denounci
Rights efenders held in Mexico, Guatemala, and Brazil, the issue of impunity
was identified as one of the main challe nges facing human rights defenders worldwide.
One of the main violations of the duty to ensure rights is impunity, which the Inter-
American Court has defined as

the failure to investigate, prosecute, take into custody, try and convict those
responsible for violations of rights protected by the American Convention… The
State has the obligation to use all the legal means at its disposal to combat that
situation, since impunity fosters chronic recidivism of human rights violations
and the total defenselessness of victims and their relatives.
109. The Commission reiterates that the obligation to investigate and punish
every act that entails a violation of the ri ghts protected by the Convention requires that
ghts violations be punished, but also the
masterminds. 132 The Commission has found that in several countries of the region, the
violation of the human rights of human rights defenders are among the systematic
attacks organized and perpetrated by different persons at various levels of participation.
The states have the obligation to investigate and punish all those persons who
129 stem at
Article XVI
ccessories of human rights violations.” I/A Court H.R.,
Constitutio The rights to due process and judicial guaranties are established in the inter-American syII of the American Declaration and Ar ticles 8 and 25 of the American Convention.
130 Second Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defend ers (Frontline) held on September 10 – 12, 2003.
131 I/A Court H.R., Loayza Tamayo Case , Reparations Judgment, para. 168 y 170.
132 The Inter-American Court has indicated, for example, that “the American Convention guarantees
everyone access to justice to enforce their rights, and the States Parties have the obligation to prevent,
investigate, identify and punish the masterminds and a
nal Court Case , Judgment of January 31, 2001. Series C No . 71, para. 123. See also I/A Court H.R.,
Blake Case , Reparations, Judgment of January 22, 1999, Series C No. 48, para. 65.

31 organ of control,
guarantee, and protection of human rights, it must not only exist formally, but also must
be indep ent pendence of courts of justice
annot be guaranteed when the human, civil, labor, and association rights of those
respons r
of human rights defenders is the fact that
most of the cases that involve human right s violations by the members of the State
security a
es for the express purpose of
romoting and protecting human rights a nd fundamental freedoms through peaceful
ervance of due process standards. ust be
examine a well-
founded right is
fundame ust be
trictly o nsidering that such
roceed ek
dedicated to legitimate activities such as the defense of human rights. The American
the jurisd
which s addition, the
participate in planning and carrying out violations of the rights of persons who dedicate
their lives to defending human rights. Partia l investigation and punishment increases
impunity, and with it, the risk affecting many human rights defenders in the hemisphere.

110. Moreover, if the judiciary is to serv e as an effective
end and impartial. The impartiality and inde
ible fo imparting justice are not respected. Therefore, the Commission is
concerned that in some states, those respons ible for imparting justice and investigating
human rights violations are harassed through threats against their lives and unfounded
administrative and job-related sanctions , including dismissal from their posts.

111. Another factor that the Commission has found to give rise to impunity
in cases of violations of the human rights

forces re tried by the military criminal courts.” 133 The Commission considers
that the violations allegedly committed by o fficers of the state security forces against
human rights defenders, as well as any accusations against human rights defenders,
should not be investigated or tried by milita ry tribunals, for they are not service-related
112. Second, the United Nations Declaration on Defenders reaffirms the
right of every person “to solicit, receive a nd utilize resourc
p 134 This right includes the possibility of going before the courts and seeking
protection and justice for the victims of human rights violations; demanding the urgent
intervention of the judiciary to protect f undamental rights at imminent risk; bringing
cases against the state arguing the responsib ility of state agents who have allegedly
committed violations; appealing against abuses of power such as unjust confiscations,
unjustified withdrawal of legal recognition of professional associations or trade unions,
or the arbitrary removal of public officials; and participating as observers at trials and
public hearings to verify the obs

113. The complaints and appeals filed by human rights defenders m
d in keeping with the minimum due process standards, which includes
decision within a reasonable time. The Commission finds that this ntal for the exercise of the activiti es of human rights defenders, and m
bserved in both criminal and admini strative proceedings, co
ings se to protect human rights and oversee the authorities. Having judicial
and administrative cases regarding the prot ection of human rights heard and decided on
in timely fashion is essential for the public and complete revelation the truth, for justice
and reparations.
114. Finally, as regards the rights to judicial protection and minimal due
process guarantees, the Commission recalls that the punitive power of the state and its
judicial apparatus should not be manipulated for the purpose of harassing those who are
Convention establishes that given that the criminal law seeks to mete out punishment,
how the law defines crimes must meet certai n requirements that allow for persons u
iction of the state to be informed of what conduct is considered criminal,
hould be established in keeping with democratic standards. In
133 IACHR, Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Peru, Ch. II, para. 209, published June
2, 2000. OEA/Ser.L/V/11.106.
134 Article 13.

resumed to have committed conduct deserving of a criminal sanction are investigated
and sub t
igated and
rosecuted under the law.
136 To apply criminal or administrative penalties for any other
purpose es
sed in strict adherence to funda mental principles such as due process (Supra
61). The Commission also wishes to reiterate that, as established by the Inter-
America t,
Convention, following the same principle of legality, establishes that judicial proceedings
brought by the state authorities should be conducted in such a way that – based on
objective evidence that is legally produced – only those persons who can reasonably be
jected o judicial proceedings. 135 Using criminal or administrative sanctions
pursuing any other aim violates the guaran tees established by the Convention and
triggers the international responsibility of the state.
115. Moreover, the principle of legality set forth in the Convention provides
that judicial processes initiated by the stat e authorities must be conducted in such as
way that, based on objective, legally obtained evidence, only persons reasonably
presumed to have committed acts subject to criminal penalties are invest
violat the guarantees set forth in the Convention and gives rise to
international liability on the part of the state.
116. In this regard, the Commission reiterat es that the punitive power of the
state and its justice organs must not be manipulated to harass those engaged in
legitimate activities. The Commission reiterates that the criminal justice system is the
most severe means that the state has at its di sposal to determine liability and, therefore,
it must be u
n Cour due process guarantees extend beyond criminal proceedings. 137 In the
Commission’s view, states must investigate those who break the law in their territory,
but states also have the obligation to take the necessary steps to ensure that
government’s refrain from using investigations to subject people who demand respect
and protection of their human rights through legitimate means to unfair or unfounded

117. In addition, the Commission stresses th at the right to effective judicial
protection also requires the implementation— in those states where they still do not
exist—and strengthening—in those where they have been constitutionally or legally
135 In particular, the Court has established:
I/A Court H.R., De la Cruz Flores Case , Judgment of November 18, 2004. Series C No. 115, paras. 80
Constitutional Court Case. Judgment of January 31, 2001. Series C No. 71,
para. 70; P et al Case. Judgment of March 8, 1998. Se ries C No. 37, para. 149.
Under t rule of law, the principles of legality and non-retroactivity govern the activity of
all the organs of the State, in their respective areas of authority, particularly as regards the
exercise of its punitive power…. In a democratic system it is necessary to take precautions
to ensure that criminal law punishments are adopted with strict respect for the basic rights
of persons, and only after carefully verifying the actual existence of the unlawful
conduct…. In this regard, it is up to the criminal law judge, when applying the criminal law,
to abide strictly by what its provisions, and observe the greatest possible rigor in fitting the
conduct of the accused to the criminal law definition, to ensure that acts not punishable
under the legal order are not penalized.
I/A Court H.R., De la Cruz Sierra Case , Judgment of November 18, 2004. Series C No. 115,
aras. 80 ff.
136 In pa ular, the Court has established that
Where the rule of law is in effect, the principles of legality and nonretroactivity govern the
actions of all State organs, in their respective jurisdictions, particularly when it comes to
the exercise of punitive power… In a democratic system, it is essential to specifically
identify the precautions to ensure that penal sa nctions are applied with strict respect for the
basic rights of individuals and are contingent upon a painstaking verification of the actual
existence of an illicit behavior… In this sense, it falls to the criminal judge, in the moment
of applying criminal law, to adhere strictly to such provisions, and to observe the greatest
rigor in applying the correct offense to the behavior of the incriminated person, to make
sure that nonpunishable acts are not criminalized in the legal system.
137 Cfr. I/A Court H.R., aniagua Morales

33bligation also derives from the obligations
ndertaken by the states parties upon ratifying the American Convention and from the
fundame in
tablished by the Commission and the Court.
uch characteristics in clude, for example, that the reme dies be simple, urgent, informal,
broad, active legitimacy so that they may be pursued by relatives or by public entities
such as lf of the individuals under threat, without
requiring cessed
on an in otect a
particula d or at
imminen tective
measure cement

proceedings; the idea is that measures be adopted within a
brief tim ple,
while in tion of
the exec t to life
should i of the

established—of legal precautionary measures in the domestic venue, in situations of
imminent threat or risk to the defense of human rights inter alia, life, personal integrity,
the right to assembly, and freedom of expression and association. The Commission
reiterates that precautionary and provisi onal measures fulfill subsidiary protective
functions vis-à-vis the protections that correspond to th e state itself and that one of the
important roles of the IACHR is to pr omote local mechanisms for precautionary

118. On this issue, the Inte r-American Court has stated that “Article 25 of
the American Convention provides that ‘everyone has the right to a simple and prompt
recourse, or any other effective recourse to a competent court or tribunal,’” a provision
that “constitutes one of the basic pillars not only of the American Convention, but of the
very rule of law in a democratic society…”
138 These precautionary measures should be
available for urgent cases in which the immi nence or immediacy of the potential human
rights violation has been demonstrated. This o
ntal pr ciples of the state itself.
119. Therefore, the right to judicial protection creates an obligation for
states to establish and guarantee appropriate and effective judicial remedies for the
precautionary protection of rights, including life a nd physical integrity, at the local level.
Several domestic bodies of law have adopted these remedies through mechanisms such
as habeas corpus , amparo , action of tutela, writ of injunction , mandados de securança
or individual protection measures, etc.
120. Given the special nature of thes e remedies, and the urgency and
necessity in which they must operate, some basic characteristics are required if they are
to be considered suitable in the sense es
le, and processed by independent bodies . It is also necessary that individuals
have the opportunity to approach federal or national legal entities when bias is
suspected in the conduct of state or local bodies. Likewise, these remedies must enjoy
prosecutors or ombudspersons on beha
the signature of the latter. It is also helpful if such remedies can be pro
dividual basis or as collective precauti onary actions, in other words, to pr
r group or one that is identifiable based on certain parameters as affecte
t risk. It is also important to provide for the implementation of pro
s in consultation with the affected parties and with special law enfor
other than those under suspicion, among other provisions.
121. In this sense, because such actions are designed to protect
fundamental rights in urgent cases, the eviden tiary procedures should not be the same
as that required in ordinary
e period for the immediate protecti on of the threatened rights. For exam
criminal law a threat against life only constitutes an offense upon initia
ution of the crime, in a precautionary situation, the protection of the righ
nclude protection against any act that threatens that right, regardless
de or degree of probability of th e threat, so long as it is genuine.
138 I/A Court H.R., Suárez Rosero Case , Judgment of November 12, 1997, Series C No 35, para. 65;
Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. , El Habeas Corpus In Emergency Situations (Articles 27.2, 25.1 and 7.6 American Convention
on Human Rights), Consultative Opinion OC-8/87 of January 30, 1987, Series A No. 8, para. 32.

for all persons subject to their jurisdiction, without discrimination of any
pe. The Commission underscores the importance of the role assumed by state organs
in imple
s aimed at protecting the human rights of
efenders, and at investigating, prosecuting, and punishing those who commit violations
of their m
cases and requests for precautionary measures
ceived suggest that the states should bear in mind that the inter-American system for
the pro
failure of a state
undertake an exhaustive and complete investigation into assassinations and
G. General duty to guarantee and prot ect, and to adopt provisions of
domestic law

122. As with all international commitments, the states are under an
obligation to carry out their internationa l human rights obligations in good faith.
139 This
includes conducting themselves so as to resp ect and ensure the free and full exercise of
human rights
menting international human rights law. In addition, it recognizes that many of
the international provisions are only operative if the states of the Americas set in motion
their domestic legal systems to give them effect. Accordingly, international law
ultimately leaves compliance with its obligations to the domestic organs.

123. The states have the legal duty to adopt all measures necessary to
guarantee the “contextual space” in which human rights defenders and society in
general can freely promote and seek the prot ection of their rights through national and
international mechanisms. Those measure
rights, erit special consideration.

124. The Commission notes that the vast majority of attacks on the right to
life and physical integrity of defenders that come to the attention of the Commission are
characterized by a lack of protection from threats and the subsequent impunity for the
attacks and acts of aggression. The
tection of human rights is based on the dual principle of protection and
guarantee, which requires that the states investigate, prosecute, and punish the
perpetrators, and make reparation to the victims of human rights violations.

125. In this sense, the Commission wi shes to reiterate that any
circumstance in which a public agency, institution, or official damages a right protected
by the American Declaration or the American Convention gives rise to a potential failure
to observe the duty to respect rights enshri ned in Article 1 of the Convention and the
implicit obligation in the American Declarati on to ensure and respect rights, regardless of
whether the agent has overstepped the limits of his authority.
126. The Commission wishes to highlight that impunity in investigations, in
addition to endangering the lives of hundreds of human rights defenders in the region,
also helps foster a climate of intimidation and fear that impedes the full exercise of
human rights defense. In addition, the Commissi on reiterates that the
rances of human rights defenders and the failure to criminally sanction the
direct perpetrators and masterminds is esp ecially grave due to the impact it has on
society. When the state investigates and punishes the perpetrators of human rights
violations, it sends a clear message to society to the effect that it will not tolerate those
who commit human rights violations.

139 See, I/A Court H.R., Cases of Liliana Ortega et al.; Luisiana Ríos et al.; Luis Uzcátegui; Marta
olomina and Liliana Velásquez . Provisional Measures. Order of Ma y 4, 2004, seventh whe C
Ly reas paragraph;
sias Fleury Case. Provisional Measures. Order of December 2, 2003, seventh whereas paragraph; and James
al. Case. Provisional Measures. Order of December 2, 2003, sixth whereas paragraph.
140 See, in this regard, IACHR, Report Nº 24/98 (M erits). Case 11,287. João Canuto de Oliveira v.
Brazil. April 7, 1998.
I/A Court H.R., Velásquez Rodríguez Case , Judgment of July 29, 1988, para. 170.
142 IACHR, Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Annual Report 2002, Chapter
II, Evaluation of the Status of the Freedom of Expression in the Hemisphere, para. 224.


responsible internationally for human rights violations when private groups act as state
agents, or with the approval, acquiescence, or tolerance of state agents. In this vein, if
violations of the
persons are at risk. In addition, ensure
into practice and maintained for
duty to
afeguard rights, the Commission stresses the important role of programs for the
protectio hu
t the work undertaken
y human rights defenders must go beyond th e mere operation of a protection program
against v
127. In this regard, the Commission reca lls once again that the state is
American Declaration or the American Convention result from such
attacks, the state must answer internationall y for the violations of rights protected by
these instruments.
128. In this respect, the Inter-American Court has established that respect
for human rights in a democratic state depends largely on the effective and adequate
guarantees that human rights defenders en joy to carry out their activities freely.
Accordingly, the States should grant effective and adequate guarantees to defenders,
and pay special attention to actions that limit or hinder their work.

129. In view of this obligation, the Commission has recommended the
implementation of protective measures for human rights defenders, such as

Deploy the necessary human, budgetary, and logistical resources to guarantee
the implementation of adequate and effective measures of protection whenever
the personal safety and lives of these
that the security measures are effectively put
as long s the risks continue…. Establish specialized units within the National
Civil Police and the Office of the Attorney General, endowed with the necessary
resources and training to enable them to work in a coordinated manner and
respond with due diligence in investigating these acts. In addition, increase the
resources of the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights with a view to
strengthening its capacity for defending and protecting the activities carried out
by the human rights defenders.”
130. Among the precautionary measures underlying the states’
n of man rights defenders, and of victims and witnesses of human rights
violations. The Commission notes the effo rts made by some states in the
implementation of these much-needed program s and appeals for their mass replication
and strengthening.
131. A comprehensive and efficient system to protec
acts of iolence—although such protection is necessary and a priority—. As the
OAS General Assembly has stated, a protect ion program should be geared toward
eradicating “actions that directly or indirectly prevent or hamper the work of human
rights defenders.”

143 The Inter-American Court has ruled along the same lines, on noting that an illegal act that violates
human rights that initially is not imputable to a state, for example because it is the act of a private person, or
because the perpetrator has not been identified, may give rise to the international responsibility of the state, not
for the act itself, but due to the lack of due dilige quired by the Convention. See I/A Court H.R.,
nce in preventing the violation, or in treating it in the terms
Series C, No. 4, Velásquez Rodríguez Case, Judgment of July 29,
988, para. 172.
Organs of Society to
Promote a
Justica e inclusión social: los desafíos de la democracia en Guatemala , OEA/Ser.L/V/II.118,
Doc. 5 rev re
144 I/A Court H.R., Lysias Fleury Case . Provisional Measures. Order of June 7, 2003, fifth whereas
paragraph, and Order of December 2, 2003, tenth whereas paragraph.
145 OAS, General Assembly, resolution 1842 (XXXII-O/02); resolution 1818 (XXXI-O/01); and the
United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsib ility of Individuals, Groups and
nd Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. AG Res. 53/144.
146 IACHR,. 2, December 29, 2003, para. 208.
147 OAS, General Assembly, resolution AG/RES. 2067 (XXXV-O/05), of June 7, 2005, resolutory
point 2.

133. The Commission is of the opinion that for a protection program to be
effective th
f the central and
ecentralized authorities (state governmen ts and federal government in the case of
federal s , a
guarante ources
needed rity of
defende should
be dete e their
relevanc t their
or the
function existence of stable, respectful, and constructive
hannels for consultation and dialogue with human rights organizations and with the
protecte id
s such as the establishm ent of escort corps trained to properly
erform the exclusive function of protecting at-risk individuals, which should be
attached d
erintelligence divisions of the security forces. These investigators
hould be specifically trained in topics such as state responsibility and international
human rights law. Moreover, the process of selection, enlistment, training, and re-
training of these protection officers shoul
132. In this sense, the Commission deems it advisable that member states
adopt effective and exhaustive prevention st rategies to avert attacks against human
rights defenders. This prevention and protect ion policy should take into account periods
during which defenders are most vulnerable. Th e state authorities should remain vigilant
during those periods and publicly declare their commitment to support and protection.

, in o er words, to produce the desired results, it must be backed up by a
strong political commitment on the part of the state. The program should form part of a
national human rights plan adopted as priority policy by all institutional decision-making
entities at the central and local levels.
148 To this end, norms must be established to
clearly define the spheres of competence and the responsibilities o
tates) nd ensure that there is coherence between the transfer of competence
and of resources from the national to the local level.

134. Similarly, a protection program fo r human rights defenders
e that the state will allocate the human, budgetary, and logistical res
to implement protection measures to protect the life and physical integ
rs. Such measures should be in eff ect for the time period necessary and
rmined in consultation with the defenders themselves so as to ensur e and the ability of human rights defenders to continue to carry ou
135. In this regard, the Commission’s also deems essential f
ing of a protection program the
d indiv uals. Opportunities for negot iation and dialogue allow the authorities to
hear the proposals of the organizations, beco me familiar with their needs, and evaluate
the performance of the protective measures granted.
136. Based on its regional experience, the Commission recommends
operational measure
to an operate hierarchically under a law enforcement agency. In addition, this
corps should operate separately from intellig ence and counterintelligence activities, have
instructors, supervisors and security experts assigned to it exclusively, and operate out
of its own facility. Risk analysis and implementation of measures, including the security
of offices and homes, should be under the pur view of this corps, rather than the
intelligence and count
d be conducted with absolute transparency and
with the participation of representatives of the program’s target population, so as to
forge bonds of trust between the protected individuals and those assigned to protect

148 In this regard, the IACHR has poin ted out that ”a state’s human rights obligations are superior to
the require ghts, OEA/Ser.L/V/ll.116 Doc. 5 re v. 1 corr., October 22, 2002, para. 42. ments of its domestic law and must be perf ormed in good faith.” IACHR: Report on Terrorism and
Human Ri

e rights of persons who live in the hemisphe re. This makes the work of protecting and
f the authorities.

onetheless, there are common ch aracteristics that make it possible to
etermine and classify the patterns through other forms, such as: who commits the
violation n
sage putting it in a defenseless
ituation. These acts are aimed at causing ge neralized fear, and so, at discouraging all
other hu igh

142. This same chilling and deterrent effect is suffered by the victims of
human rights violations, who under the effect of fear refuse to lodge complaints, will not
meet with threatened human rights defende rs, and stay away from the offices of

137. A large number of human rights defenders in the Americas are victims
of reprisals and undue restrictions as a result of their work of promoting and protectin
g human rights difficult, and, in many cases, risky. By exercising its mandate,
the Commission has verified the existence of a variety of practices and acts that hinder
or nullify the exercise of human rights defense.
149 These practices, some of them
violative of internationally protected human ri ghts, are violations of the rights to life,
integrity, liberty and security, due process and a fair trial, freedom of expression,
privacy, and judicial protection. These practices also include other acts that encumber
the protection and promotion of human right s, such as abusive administrative and
financial controls imposed on human rights or ganizations, and the refusal of the state to
reveal public information so as to revi ew the actions o
138. In this chapter, the Commission will analyze the most common and
representative actions entailing both violati ons of the human rights of defenders and
restrictions on the defense of human rights, without claiming to exhaust all of them.

139. The Commission considers it necessary to clarify that patterns have
been established based on disturbing incidents or incidents that constitute violations of
rights. N
s, whe they are committed, and the persons or groups of persons who are the
victims of such conduct.

140. The Commission wishes to emphasize that one of the most serious
consequences of these patterns of violati ons targeting human rights defenders is that
they send society as a whole an intimidating mes
man r ts defenders, and intimidati ng and silencing the denunciations, claims,
and grievances of the victims of human rights violations, spurring on impunity, and
impeding the full realization of the rule of law and democracy.
141. Both the Commission and the Inter-American Court have found that
grave violations of the human rights of huma n rights defenders have a direct intimidating
effect on the processes of vindicating rights or denouncing violations.
151 The attacks on
them may produce an immediate halt to or al most total reduction of their activities, as
defenders must abandon the areas where they work, change their places of residence or
work habits, or, in some cases, leave the count ry. In addition to these direct effects, the
Commission has learned of collateral effects th at have a detrimental impact on all other
defenders, who even though not receiving the attacks directly, are victims of fear on
seeing the situation of their colleagues and the ease with which the same arbitrary acts
could be committed against them.
149 Many of the actions that follow these patterns are gross violations of human rights, and are
considered a crime or an offense, domestically or inte rnationally, while other actions, though not so considered,
encumber or limit the work of human rights defenders.
150 The acts described in this chapter are those directly related to the exercise of the defense of human
rights. In that co
ras. 67 ff. nnection, such acts may be motivated by an interest in discouraging persons dedicated to this
work, or as a reprisal or revenge for the results obtained by those persons.
151 See I/A Court H.R., Huilca Tecse Case, Judgment of March 3, 2005, pa

organizations tha
in more than one case it has been obse rved that the assailants seek to provoke
eneralized fear to avoid public denunciati ons not only of those who lead these
processes, but o
rights defenders
is a common element in all the patterns described. Accordingly, acts or violations that
appear s co

in a judicial proceeding, when violations ar e publicly denounced, especially in the case of
state or ta
work. Many defenders are the victims of violations of their
rights when it is known that they are going to lodge certain complaints before the
46. On other occasions, the risk increas es when grievances are put forth
by defe ad

American Commission and the Inter-American Court. In addition, the Commission has
measures of protection from the oversight or gans of the inter-American system. The
t have been threatened or attacked. Based on the information received,
f any other person who might need to pursue a human rights claim. To
this end, the vulnerability-exacerbating eff ects of such conduct extend perversely to
society as a whole, with a much more seri ous detrimental impact on defenders. This
effect, in addition, re-victimizes those w ho have been targets of violations, whose
search for the truth, justice, and reparation is impeded.
143. In some states violations are syst ematic and interrelated, producing a
general atmosphere of danger for the defens e of human rights. This danger is all the
greater if there is a serious lack of state protection and a failure to investigate the

144. Similarly, the timing of acts carried out against human
ubtle me to appear more seriou s or significant when carried out at moments
crucial for pressing certain claims. The Commission has found, for example, an increase
in acts directed against human rights defenders when official decisions are approaching
paras tal actors, or when there are changes or progress favorable to the
interests of human rights defenders.

145. The Commission has observed that in certain stages of trials
vindicating rights, there is an increased risk of defenders becoming victims of violations
or interference with their
authorities such as the courts, or before international mechanisms for the
protection of human rights. In these cases, one can find a direct link between the
imminence of the complaint and the increased risk to defenders. In such circumstances,
the assailants seek, by any means, includi ng physical elimination, to prevent the
violations from being made known, or to prevent efforts to punish the persons
responsible for them.

nders vocating the adoption of administrative measures or changes in state
policy. This situation also arises at moment s when it is crucial for defenders to give
impetus to such proceedings. In other cases , the violations appear to be acts of
retaliation when a favorable result is obt ained, such as demarcating indigenous
territories, expropriating lands for campesi no communities, awarding compensation to
the victims of violations, or publishing truth commission reports. These acts result in
defenders having a well-founded fear that they will be punished as a result of their work,
and, consequently, the stages of enforcing judicial decisions and other administrative
measures become dangerous, hindering their enforcement as well as the collection of
compensation by the victims of viola
147. The Commission has learned that several human rights defenders have
recently been targeted by public accusations, th e institution of criminal proceedings, and
threats, merely for having participated in sessions and hearings before the Inter-
been informed that several persons have been subject to accusations and speeches
aimed at discrediting their activities, by public authorities, because of having sought

39hts promotion and protection
y society in general. In addition, they cause irreparable harm for the direct victims of
the viola he
9. The Commission has continued to receive complaints related to forced
disappearances of human rights defenders. In the vast majority of cases, despite several
years ha lap
Uldarico Domicó, Argel Domicó, Honorio Domicó,
Adolfo Domicó, Teofan Domicó, Mariano Majo re, Delio Domicó, and Fredy Domicó were
kidnappe ge
150. In addition, the Commission has received, with concern, repeated
reports sa
urred one-half block from his residence at
pproximately 7:30 p.m. The subjects, two in all, on a motorcycle, fired 13 shots; Joe
Castillo om
Commission reminds the states that such conduct, in addition to violating several
provisions of the system 152 , increases exponentially the risk that these persons face.
A. Extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances
148. Human rights defenders are frequent victims of violations of the right
to life such as extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances. Such violations are
one of the most serious obstacles to the work of human rig
tion, t ir family members, the community of human rights defenders, and the
persons for whom they do their work.

ving e sed, the victims’ wherea bouts remain unknown, even though the cases
have been reported to the respective authorities.

According to information brought to the atte ntion of the IACHR, for several years the
traditional authorities, leaders, and members of the different Embera Katío communities
in Colombia have lived in a climate of threats and accusations by guerrilla and
paramilitary groups who seek to control their ances tral territory. In this context, on June
2, 2001, Messrs. Kimy Pernía Domicó,
d alle dly by the AUC from the office of the Cabildos Mayores (indigenous
government) of the Sinú and Verde rivers, in Tierralta, department of Córdoba,
Colombia. Messrs. Uldarico Domicó, Argel Domicó, Honorio Domicó, Adolfo Domicó,
Tegian Domicó, Mariano Majoré, Delio Domi có, and Fredy Domicó were subsequently
released. Nonetheless, the main community and spiritual leader of the people, Kimy
Domicó, continues disappeared. This disapp earance was apparently motivated by the
actions of Kimy Domicó in defense of the terr itory of the Embera people. In response, on
June 2, 2001, the Commission granted precauti onary measures on behalf of Kimy
Domicó and all other members of the Embera Katío people of the Upper Sinú.

of as ssinations of human rights defenders in several countries of the
hemisphere. Some of them had provided in formation to the Commission in recent years;
in other cases, the persons assassinated were beneficiaries of precautionary measures
issued by the Commission, whose lack of eff ective implementation facilitated their being

According to information r eceived by the IACHR, on Wednesday, the 27th of this
month, in the Tinaquillo de Machiques hous ing development in the state of Zulia in
Venezuela, the former Coordinator of the Hu man Rights Office of the Apostolic Vicariate
of Machiques, Joe Castillo González, was assa ssinated when traveling in a vehicle with
his wife and minor son. The incident occ
died fr the impact of nine bullets. Both his wife and his one-year-old child
were wounded, she with a gunshot to the abdomen and arm, and the child in the arm.
According to his wife’s testimony, they also intended to assassinate her and her son.
Joe Castillo had worked with his wife for more than five years in the Human Rights
152 In this respect, Article 61 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure indicates:
The State in question shall grant the necessary guarantees to all the persons who attend a
hearing or who in the course of a hearing provide information, testimony or evidence of any
type to the Commission. That State may not prosecute the witnesses or experts, or carry
out reprisals against them or their family members because of their statements or expert
opinions given before the Commission.

om Colombia
153 .

151. In general, disappearances and extr ajudicial executions are preceded by
the lack eq
l leaders of a community, yet the authorities fail
to take adequate measures of protection.

civilian dress while in the village of
uapá, department of Antioquia, Colombia. These men forced those who were traveling
In killing them, the assailants seek to make an “example” of the victims, bring a halt to
reporting on viol
ed that for more than 13 years the members of this indigenous peoples
ere awaiting the conclusion of the process of demarcating their lands. They reported
after having received several death threat s and having survived one assassination
attempt, gunman whose
identity is unknown to this day. Since th
comes t nd the

Office of the Apostolic Vicariate of Machiques, engaged in the promotion and defense of
human rights, especially providing services to persons seeking refugee status comi
of ad uate protection for human rights defenders who report having been
victims of persecution and threats. The Co mmission notes that the lack of adequate
protection for defenders who report having b een victims of persecution, surveillance,
and threats, entails a lack of protection and total defenselessness that fosters attacks on
their lives. In many cases, homicidal attacks may even take the lives of several persons
who make up an organization, or severa
The Commission was informed that on February 14, 2002, attorney María del Carmen
Flores, a member of the Fundación Jurídica Colombiana (Corpojurídico), was traveling in
a vehicle that was intercepted by six armed me n in
in the vehicle to get out, and then ordered them to get back in, and they ordered that
Mrs. Flores stay with them. Mrs. Flores’s remains were found during the afternoon
hours. The death of Mrs. Flores Jaimes occurred after a meeting with the victim’s
mother, in preparation for the hearing scheduled for the 114th regular session of the
IACHR in which matters were to be discu ssed related to a petition pending before the
IACHR. The Human Rights Defenders Unit of the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR
issued a press release publicly repudiating this assassination. In addition, the petitioners
informed the IACHR that two brothers of the victim in the individual petition, the
attorney for whom was Mrs. Flores, had been assassinated after submitting the petition
to the IACHR. On August 6, 2002, the IACH R issued precautionary measures for the
family members of the victim of the individual petition, and for the members of
152. The victims of homicides and disappearances are generally those who
are most prominent for their work reporting human rights abuses, or for their l
ations, getting the human rights organizations to leave certain zones,
and/or bringing about a drop in the number of complaints presented.

In October 2003, the IACHR received a request for precautionary measures from two
leaders of the Xucuru indigenous people, locat ed in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil. The
request adduc
that during this whole process they have su ffered killings and invasions of their lands.
They alleged that every time it was announced that the demarcation was to take place,
there was an assassination in the community. Following this pattern, in September
1992, José Rodrigues, the son of Paje Zequinha , the spiritual leader of the Xucuru, was
assassinated in an ambush attributed to the invaders. In May 1995, with the news that
the demarcation of lands was to be carried out, the attorney of the Fundação Nacional
do Índio (FUNAI) and an active defender of indigenous rights in the region, Geraldo
Rolim, was assassinated. In May 1998, just after the lands were retaken, the Cacique
Francisco de Assis Araujo – Cacique Xicao Xucuru, indigenous chief of the Xucuru
people known for his struggle for recogniti on and demarcation of his people’s lands,
was assassinated by three gunshot wounds to the back by a
en, every time the process of demarcation
o a standstill, the indigenous on ce again take their invaded lands, a
153 See IACHR, Press release Nº 26/03, “IACHR repudiates murder of human rights defe
August 28, 2003. nder Joe

assassinate them was discovered. In April 2001 the decree for
emarcation of the indigenous the lands was issued by the President of the Republic,
which le nc
n rights defenders. Those assassinations are
irectly related to the defenders’ activities. In general, these assassinations follow the
hand, and some with extra cartridges. When they
ot out they shouted: “don’t run, halt; that ’s the one who assaulted your sister.” The
facilitato e
red another youth
ho had also participated in the activity. On March 17, 2003, the Commission granted

conflict worsens. The petitioners report that in 2001, it was reported that the victims’
names appeared in a list of indigenous persons who were to be assassinated, and, in
effect, a plan to
d to i reased tension in the region, and in August 2001, another indigenous
person was assassinated in an ambush – the lead er of the Pé de Serra do Oiti indigenous
people, Francisco de Assis Santana, Chic o Quelé. Because of these incidents, on
October 29, 2002, the IACHR granted precautiona ry measures on behalf of the leaders
Zenilda Maria de Araujo and Marcos Luidson de Araujo (Cacique Marquinhos).
153. The Commission has also received repor ts of assassinations of family
members or persons closely related to huma
patterns of timing, impunity, and lack of prevention as the direct assassinations of
human rights defenders.

The Commission received information that indicates that since June 2002, members of
the Proyecto de la Alianza para la Prev ención del Delito (APREDE), a coalition of
Guatemalan nongovernmental organizations that work with gang youth to prevent crime,
through training and activities with the residents of marginal neighborhoods, began to
organize recreational activities with the youths of Villa Nueva, and as of November
2002, after they began their activities, th e members of the project began to be
followed, while 19 beneficiaries of the same project were assassinated. As of that
moment, Juan Ixcol López and Gustavo Cifu entes, facilitators of the project, were
followed and repeatedly threatened. Amidst these threats, Juan Ixcol López’s brother
was assassinated, and a daughter of Gustavo Cifuentes was beaten. On February 16,
2003, APREDE organized an activity in the Colonia San Antonio Zona 6 of San Miguel
Petapa, Guatemala. There, at about 1:30 p. m., a corinthian red vehicle was stopped;
four or five men got out with pistols in
r of th program, An tonio Montufar, intervened to try to calm the youths, but
was violently moved away. Edgar Gómez, facilit ator of the program, intervened at that
moment, but one of the assailants shot him di rectly in the head, and then proceeded to
shoot at the group that was participating in the activity. In addition to Edgar Gómez, the
gunshots caused the death of William Estuardo Pa dilla Solares and inju
precautionary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of Emilio Goubaud,
Juan Luis Ixcol, José Antonio Montufar, Gu stavo Cifuentes, and Gabriela Flores, all
members of APREDE.

B. Attacks, threats, and other forms of harassment
154. Attacks, threats, and harassment, used as an instrument to thwart and
hinder the work of human rights defenders, cons titute a pattern that can be discerned in
many countries of the region. The Commissi on states its concern over the magnitude
and systematic nature of the attacks a nd threats against persons engaged in the
defense, promotion, and protection of human rights in the hemisphere. The Commission
notes that a large proportion of precautionary measures of protection granted in recent
years have been motivated by situations of risk, threats, and attacks on human rights
defenders. In addition, the United Nations Special Representative for Human Rights
Defenders has expressed constant concer n over the high number of communications
from countries of the Americas, and has i ndicated that the Americas is the most
dangerous region in the world for human rights defenders.

ual Report 2004, Doc. E/CN.4/2005/101. Paras. 61 and 90. 154 UN, Report submitted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights
Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani, Ann

156. Failed attempts to kill take various forms, varying in the intensity of the
violence M
n February 11, 2004, the Commission received a request for measures of protection
n October 10, 2002, the IACHR received information that indicated that Mr. Lysias
leury, emb eace and Haiti, was
etained by police agents on June 24, 2002, at approximately 7 p.m., and was pistol-
whipped w
of Mr. Fleury. The Court,
by order of June 7, 2003, granted provisional measures in the case.

1. Assassination attempts and assaults

155. The Commission has taken note of the constant attacks on the
personal integrity of human rights defenders in several countries of the hemisphere.
Physical assaults on defenders include both those acts of physical violence aimed at
causing the death of the defender, but whic h due to circumstances beyond the control
of the assailant may not cause death; and those acts of physical violence whose sole
purpose is to inflict physical pain on a defender or a member of his or her family.

used. any such attacks are carried out by paid gunmen. Also common is the
use of explosives, which are set off in the o ffices, residences, or vehicles of defenders.
The intensity, violence, and timing of the attacks show that the intent of the assailants
is to cause death.

indicating that on February 1, 2004, Mr. Leoni das Iza, an Ecuadorian indigenous leader,
president of the Confederación de las Naci onalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE),
returned from Cuba where he had participat ed in the regional meeting against the Free
Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). After being picked up by his wife, his two children,
his brother, and his nephew at the Quito airport, he took a taxi to the CONAIE office.
Two unknown men in a car with polarized glass followed them from the airport, shot at
the president of CONAIE and his family members, and made death threats. The
assailants shouted at Mr. Iza “we’re going to kill you!” and tried to enter the CONAIE
offices. The assailants began to shoot at the moment that three relatives of Leonidas,
from inside the offices, were struggling to close the main door to the building. The 9-
millimeter bullets passed through the door, and hi t the three relatives (Javier Iza, Camilo
Tixe, and Rodrigo Iza). These persons were t aken to the Clínica Cotocollao, in the north
of Quito, where they received medical car e. On February 27, 2004, the Commission
adopted precautionary measures for Mr. Leonidas Iza, his family members, and other
members of CONAIE.

157. In addition, there have been other non-lethal attacks or physical
assaults carried out as a warning, to ensure defenders know the risk to which they’re
exposing themselves, how far their aggressors are willing to go, and the relative ease
with which they or their family members could be harmed. In other cases, non-lethal
attacks are intended to inflict pain, fear, angui sh, and a sense of vulnerability in order to
humiliate and degrade the victims and break their physical and moral resistance.

F a m er of the Bishops’ Commission for Justice and P
as he as being arrested. Subsequent ly, Mr. Fleury was deprived of liberty,
with a guard in sight, for 17 hours at the poli ce station in Bon Repos, Haiti. That same
night he was subjected to several forms of degrading treatment. For example, the
officers forced him to pick up excrement with his hands. In the afternoon the police beat
him, inflicting 15 double (“kalots marasa”) blows, 64 blows to the abdomen, and
several kicks in the clavicle. On October 15, 2002, the Commission adopted
precautionary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of Mr. Lysias Fleury. On
November 12, 2002, February 10, 2003, and March 5, 2003, the Commission
reiterated those precautionary measures and asked the state to report on the measures
adopted. On March 13, 2003, the IACHR as ked the Inter-American Court to issue
provisional measures to protect the life and personal integrity

pushing some to distance themselves from their regular work, or to diminish their public
Bolivian organization that for years has supported the process of
learing up title to lands, which has gone forward in order to regularize the rights of
ommission has received complaints of direct and indirect threats.
Direct threats are received by the human ri ghts defenders themselves, warning them of
possible s
eneficiaries of precautionary measures sin ce 2000, and despite the efforts to monitor
160. Threats are usually sent through telephone calls, physical mail, emails,
anonymous warnings, and other means, which are received at the organizations’ offices,
at the defenders’ homes, and in the genera l milieu in which they work and operate.
2. Threats

158. Threats are generally intimidating notices that an act may be
committed that will produce serious pain, such as torture, kidnapping, rape, or death.
Such acts are aimed at intimidating human right s defenders or their family members, so
as to get the defenders to refrain from purs uing certain investigations or complaints. The
special seriousness of threats is found in the high likelihood that they will be carried out.
Therefore, threats cause psychological and moral injury to human rights defen

On March 8, 2005, the IACHR received a request for precautionary measures that
alleged threats and other acts against the Ce ntro de Estudios Jurídicos e Investigación
Social (CEJIS), a
more than 500 campesino communities engaged in extracting rubber, chestnuts, and
walnuts, and acknowledging their ancestral righ ts to the territories of the Esse Ejja,
Tacana, Cavineño, Chacobo, Pacawuara and Araona indigenous peoples of Bolivia.
According to the communication, on January 5, 2005, approximately 30 armed persons
violently entered the offices of CEJIS, and, amidst death threats, looted and destroyed
office equipment and evidentiary documents regarding the existence of a latifundio
owned by a U.S. citizen in the northern Amazon region, which were incinerated in the
street. As they left these men gave “48 hour s for CEJIS to leave Riberalta,” and they
threatened to burn Cliver Rocha, director of the office, if he returned to Riberalta. In
response, attorneys Cliver Rocha (director of the CEJIS office in Riberalta) and Fredy
Vásquez submitted their irrevocable resi gnations. On March 10, 2005, the Commission
decided to grant precautionary measures for the members of CEJIS. On May 9, 2005,
the Commission reiterated the measures and extended the protection to other members

The C
attack against them or their family members. Indirect threats are aimed at
family members or persons close to them , to send a message to the defender to
abandon the cause.

On May 31, 2005, the Commission was informed that even though the members of the
human rights NGO Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” have
compliance with them, the pattern of att acks, harassment, and threats against the
members of the Colectivo de Abogados cont inues. The information received indicated
that on the night of Friday, May 13, 2005, on arriving at her home, located in Bogotá,
Colombia, the president of the Colectivo de Abogados, Soraya Gutiérrez Arguello,
received from the hands of the watchman fo r the apartment complex where she lives a
strange package left by a courier company, which was opened by members of the
National Police, given the fear that it might be an explosive artifact. Inside the package
was a beheaded and dismembered doll, burnt in some parts of the body, and the whole
body splattered with red nail polish – like blood – with a cross drawn on the torso. Next
to the doll was a hand-written note that said: “You have a very nice family, take care of
it, don’t sacrifice it.” On May 11, 2000, the Commission granted precautionary
measures of protection to the members of the Colectivo de Abogados. The measures
have been extended on several occasions due to the persistence of the risks its
members face.

These a ders are victims of prior surveillance through the
identification of telephone numbers or of the places where they work or spend their free
time. Of es
in the context of threats a nd harassment such as one finds in some
ountries, such ads suggest that the current members of human rights organizations
FM. On September 13, 2004, a new phone call was received threatening to
kill one of the members of CIPO RFM. On Se ptember 15, four more calls were received.
In one o t
ithstanding the granting of those measures, the beneficiary of the
easures informed the Commission that due to the situation of risk, he had to leave the
alia, that on July 25, in central Saravena, an employee of ECAAS was
detained by two persons from outside the region who were part of a group of men who
have set themse
cts show that defen
tentim the person receives a warning that indicates that he or she is being
watched. In general, these warnings are made by an unidentified person. One type of
threat, which has been the subject of some complaints, and which stands out for its
sophistication, is the use of condolence cards or invitations to their own funeral.
Another form of intimidation that has been the subject of complaints lodged with the
IACHR is the payment of anonymous ads in large-circulation newspapers announcing job
openings in a given human rights organization. The organizations have indicated to the
IACHR that
could be the victims of assassination attempts, which would be the reason for the
supposed openings.
161. The Commission has found that in other cases the threats are directed
not against particular individuals, but generically against an organization or community.
According to the information analyzed by the Commission, the purpose of such threats
is to veto an activity and it makes any pers on related to it a target. In some cases, for
example, the threats are aimed at discouraging campaigns to denounce violations or to
accompany communities.

On September 20, 2004, the Commission receive d a request for precautionary measures
signed by the Consejo Indígena Popular Oaxaqueño “Ricardo Flores Magón” (CIPO
RFM), on behalf of Mr. Raul Javier Gatica a nd other members of the organizational board
of the Consejo Indígena Popular of Oaxaca, Mexico. The request noted, among other
facts alleged, that beginning on September 1, 2004, the organization had been receiving
threatening phone calls. On September 1 alone , 13 calls were received threatening to
“romper la madre” (“tear apart”), Raúl Javi er Gatica Bautista and the other members of
the CIPO R
f them hey said “what comes next for you is the death of you all, mainly Raúl
Javier Gatica Bautista.” Due to these inci dents, plus other acts of harassment
denounced by the members of CIPO, on September 27, 2004, the Commission granted
precautionary measures to ensure the life a nd personal integrity of Mr. Raúl Javier
Gatica Bautista. Notw
state of Oaxaca and cease his activity defending the human rights of indigenous
communities in Oaxaca.
162. Another form of threat is that which circulates in public opinion, either
as generic threats, or as lists of person s threatened. These have a chilling effect on
society and especially on victim s and witnesses, who don’t dare report incidents or turn
to those organizations that have been publicly accused through lists.

On September 10, 2003, the Commission receive d a request for precautionary measures
on behalf of the Empresa Comunitaria de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Saravena-
ECCAS, founded more than 20 years ago by leaders of the Juntas de Acción Comunal
(community action boards) of the municipality of Saravena, department of Arauca,
Colombia. This self-managed and community -owned company provides drinking water
and sanitation services to the inhabita nts of Saravena. The ECAAS has been
characterized by offering support and solidarity to cultural, sports, social, and protest
initiatives of the inhabitants of Saravena a nd the department of Arauca. The petition
indicated, inter
lves up near the police stati on in this locality. These men made death
threats to him, and said that all the employees of ECAAS were members of the
guerrillas, and then they asked him to warn his fellow-workers “that they would be

163. The Commission has verified that the lack of an effective policy for the
protectio hre
3. Surveillance
e Commission received a request for precautionary measures
n behalf of Ms. Elma Soraya Novais. The request indicated that her son was
assassin D
assins convicted.
his has entailed various sorts of threat s. In July 2000, the alleged assassins
given all the lead they could swallow.” Subsequently, on August 15, 2003, at
approximately 8:00 p.m., community leader and ECAAS assembly member Edgar
Mantilla was assassinated, near the police station of Saravena. On the morning of
August 31, 2003, the main office of ECAAS, situ ated just seventy (70) meters from one
of the permanent observation, control, and security posts of the police station of
Saravena, had a series of inscriptions and slogans painted on its outside walls,
threatening the workers of that company. The intimidating signs read: “last judgment:
death to ECAAS,” “death to the militia memb ers of ECAAS,” “let’s clean up Saravena,
let’s finish off ECAAS,” and others along th e same lines, which were signed by the
paramilitary group ACC-AUC. In response to the seriousness of these incidents, on
September 22, 2003, the Commission granted precautionary measures for 20 persons,
all of them directors or employees of ECAAS.

n of t atened human rights defenders encourages assailants to carry out their
threats, especially if they feel certain that it is unlikely that they’ll be convicted for these
deeds. In most cases, the late nt threat of being the target of an attack remains for a
long time, even years, condemning the victims and their families to a life of uncertainty
and fear.

164. According to the information received by the Commission, it is also
common for human rights defenders or their family members to be followed constantly
wherever they go, or to be kept under surveillance at their offices, residents, and
elsewhere. There are many methods used to follow these persons. In many cases, these
methods are practically imperceptible; in othe r cases they are detected easily, since that
is the assailant’s intent: for the victim to know that he or she is being watched, and that
his or her movements, as well as all the persons with whom he or she meets, are
165. When persons are followed it is generally by vehicles without license
plates. In other cases such vehicles have b een reported to have official license plates.
The Commission has received information that indicates that in some cases those who
follow human rights defenders intercept and thr eaten them with firearms, or physically
assault them, when they are in desolate places.

On November 6, 2002, th
ated in ecember 1999. Apparently the assassination was committed by four
police officers from the state of Pernambuc o who thought that the assassinated youth
had killed a police officer’s brother. Since th en she has been engaged in a campaign of
judicial actions and dissemination to public opinion to try to get the ass
surrounded her car. In September 2000 she was shot at, but she saved herself by
dropping to the floor. In February 2001, there was an accidental explosion in the yard of
her home that burned 45% of her body. On November 8, 2002, the Commission issued
precautionary measures on her behalf, which were later extended to her children, who
were threatened. In the context of thos e measures, on May 17, 2005, the IACHR was
informed that on March 22, 2005, when Ms. Novais was heading to the local police
station escorted by two police officers, sh e observed that she was being followed by a
car in which there were two men. Further on, the car reached the escorts and tried to
bump Ms. Novais’s vehicle, and then it fled at high speed. The escorts tried to follow it,
but returned so as not to leave her without protection. Once at the police station, Ms.
Novais perceived a car suspiciously driving around the police station at low speed, and
that two men then got out of the car, and kept looking inside the police station. Ms.
Novais asked the Federal Police to clarify the situation, and was informed by them that

n July 24, 2002, the members of the Fu ndación Rigoberta Menchú Tum (FRMT) asked
the IAC gr
n’s offices. The woman was vigilant, informing the man of everything going
on. The couple came on a yellow and gray Sc ramber motorcycle. On July 29 and 31,
the sam n July 31, Mr. Gustavo Meoño perceived a yellow
motorcycle with two people following him one block from the offices of the Fundación.
When he d
pproach them and have an exchange of words, and then that person took up
a position a short distance away. Two more people with binoculars approached that
man. At p.
m left the house, a white dual-cabin
ick-up truck was observed with an old SUV-type vehicle that was outside the house.
she should take a different route to go home while they looked into the situation. The
inquiry of the Federal Police determined that the car belonged to a member of the Civil
Police who was on trial on charges of forming death squads.

166. The Commission has also received many complaints from human rights
defenders regarding suspicious persons who mo ve about or remain at the headquarters
of the organizations or at their residences. In other cases, it has been denounced that
those persons are constantly seen in places where human rights defenders work or that
they frequent, such as, for example, their ch ildren’s schools, or the residences of their
relatives and friends. It is also common to fi nd suspicious vehicles posted in front of the
headquarters of the organizations at di fferent times of the day or night.

HR to ant precautionary measures, adducing that they had been victims of
threats, and another series of acts of intimidation. On July 29, 2002, the IACHR
decided to grant the measures requested in view of the seriousness of the risk the
members of the Fundación were facing. In th e context of monitoring those measures,
the beneficiaries reported that on July 26, a couple was seen posted across from the
e situation was repeated. O
parke he saw how they remained across from the Fundación; the man didn’t
show his face. From the Fundación’s camera one could see that the woman was
attentive to the movements about the Fundación. On August 1, the members of the
FRMT realized that the same couple was pos ted in the same place. On August 6, the
couple returned. That day, the members of th e institution and visitors were able to
observe rotating surveillance. The members of the Fundación took their photos and
observed that every time someone left the Fundación they made calls. Later, they saw
someone a
7:40 m. those staff of the Fundaci ón who were still inside refusing to leave
out of fear of what appeared to be an op eration outside the house asked for help. After
they spoke with the special prosecutor for human rights defenders, the various persons
left. On August 8, surveillance was observe d once again. In addition, in the early
morning hours, when Ms. Rigoberta Menchú Tu
This car followed Ms. Menchú’s car until sh e reached the offices of the Fundación.
167. In many cases, the persons entrus ted with surveillance approach
persons who enjoy the trust of the human rights defenders (such as domestic
employees, private guards, or neighbors) stating that they are friends, to inquire about
their activities or schedules, or to leave them messages.
4. Identifying human rights defenders as “enemies” and “legitimate targets” by parastatal groups

168. In some countries the acts of hara ssment, intimidation, and attacks
against human rights defenders unfold in a context of systematic threats and selective
assassinations by private groups, guerrillas or paramilitary groups, who operate outside
the law, and on some occasions with the ac quiescence or tolerance of the states in
which they act. Notwithstanding the recommendations made by the IACHR and the
United Nations about the duty of the state to dismantle such illegal groups, they persist
in their threats.
169. The Commission observes that in some situations human rights
defenders become a target of those groups, because of their work reporting violations

170. The Commission notes that in several countries of the region high-level
agents s
171. The IACHR has received several complaints describing attacks on life
roups, which seek military and political contro l of certain regions or sectors where they
have inf .
n October 25, 2004, the Commission receive d a request for precautionary measures
that ind th
had been harass ersons/returnees to the northern part of

perpetrated by such groups. On other occasions, the defenders are accused of being
members or sympathizers of these groups.

of the tates have expressed ho stility towards human rights defenders and
international personnel who accompany communiti es at risk. The IACHR must reiterate
once again that such declarations may be considered by armed groups as an accusation
that not only increases the risk to which human rights defenders are exposed, but which
could suggest that the acts of violence aimed at suppressing them in one way or
another enjoy the acquiescence of the governments.

and personal integrity, threats, surveillan ce and intimidation of defenders, as well as
raids of and attacks on the offices of th eir organizations committed by paramilitary
groups, para-police forces, or “extermination” groups that act with the permission or
ineffectiveness of national or local authorities. In general, such attacks are reprisals for
complaints of violations committed by these groups, or for giving impetus to criminal
investigations in which members of these gr oups bear responsibility. In some states,
illegal groups portray human rights work in a negative light, turning all human rights
defenders into targets, on declaring them “military objectives,” deeming them
sympathetic to an opposition political position, or portraying them as enemies of the
state’s interests.

On March 4, 2003, the Commission received a request for precautionary measures on
behalf of Mr. Over Dorado Cardona, a member of the board of the Comité Permanente
por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos “Héctor Abad Gómez.” The information
presented indicated that on February 28, 2003, Mr. Dorado Cardona received a written
threat from the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) stating “your defense with the
teachers and what they call human rights is totally biased and against the government
… you are getting involved where you are not being called on, you are a defender of the
guerrillas … our studies have led us to declare y ou a military target.” In view of the risk
facing the beneficiary, on March 7, 2003, the IACHR asked the Colombian State to
adopt measures to protect the life and physi cal integrity of Over Dorado Cardona and to
report on the actions taken to investigate the facts and put an end to the threats.

172. In addition, the Commission is concerned about the attacks and acts of
harassment directed against local communi ties by the illegal armed groups; such
communities resist displacing from their lands or accepting the influence of t
luence In those cases, the persons who lead and organize and denounce the
attacks on such communities are the target of attacks and threats, assassinations and

icated at since mid-2003 members of the paramilitary group “Paz y Justicia”
ing communities of displaced p
155 In this regard, the UN Special Representative also expressed her repudiation of the State’s inaction
in the face of the mounting activities of such groups:
Human rights defenders are being targeted increasingly by non-State entities, either linked
directly or indirectly to the State or private groups benefiting from the inaction of the State.
The inability or unwillingness of States to call these entities to account for action against
human rights defenders has increased their vulnerability and has strengthened public
that human rights can be violated with impunity.
N, Information drawn from the report submitted by Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the
Secretary- on
UGeneral Human Rights Defenders, at the 56th session of the General Assembly, September 10,
2001, para. 16. A/56/341.

48s acts, the complaint indicated that the
following representatives of the displaced persons – Reynaldo Gómez Martínez, Mariano
Sánchez ejo
e witness’s family.

ext adverse to the defense of rights. The Commission notes that in
ome cases defenders are harassed by the state through criminal proceedings aimed
he Commission considers that the statements by state
presentatives, expressed in the context of political violence, sharp polarization, or high
adverse conditions for the work of human right s defenders are profoundly harmful to the
democracies of the hemisphere.
against at are
pursued he states use criminal laws that
fallen into disuse, such as crimes against the form of government,
the state of Chiapas, Mexico. In the cour se of 2004, there was an increase in such
harassment and threats. Among the variou
Mont , Ricardo Martínez Martínez, and Gilberto Jiménez López – have been
victims of threats and intimidation for having turned to the justice system and seeking
reparation for the acts that caused the displ acement of the community and other forced
disappearances and executions that occurred from 1995 and 1999, acts which they
allege were perpetrated by members of th e paramilitary group. On October 29, 2004,
the Commission granted precautionary measures for several community leaders who
give impetus to investigations, and to one witness and th
173. The Commission has also received reports of armed groups that have
declared leaders of indigenous communities “military targets” or have threatened them
for resisting efforts to get them to leave their territories or refusing to participate in or
collaborate with a given armed group.
C. Smear campaigns and criminal pros ecutions detrimental to the work of
human rights defenders
174. The work of human rights defenders is limited by the statements of
high-level public officials aimed at discrediting their work and bringing about or
aggravating a cont
solely at impeding the free defense of legitimate interests.

1. Smear campaigns and official statements

175. The Commission has learned that in some states of the Americas
human rights defenders have seen their wo rk limited by forms of discourse that
characterize their work in a negative light . In public statements, state agents have
identified the work done by human rights defenders as illegal, or they have been publicly
accused of bring criminals, subversives, or te rrorists merely because of providing legal
defense to persons accused of committing certain crimes, or merely out of a desire to
publicly stigmatize them.
176. The Commission observes that such declarations delegitimize and
discredit the work of these social actors and increase their vulnerability. On several
occasions, such declarations suggest that the non-governmental human rights
organizations collaborate with armed dissid ent groups, plan campaigns against state
security, or seek to besmirch their country’s international reputation.

177. T
levels of social conflict, puts out the message that acts of violence aimed at suppressing
human rights defenders and their organizations enjoy the acquiescence of the
government. For this reason, indiscriminate and unfounded criticisms that help create

2. Legal actions

178. Another particularly worrisome aspect is the use of legal
defenders, including criminal or admini strative investigations or actions th
to harass and discredit them. In some cases, t
or limit the means used by defenders to carry out their activities. The
Commission notes that some countries of the region have enacted laws and revived
criminal laws that had

180. The Commission has received information and continues collecting
more ab tua
, and accompanying communities in high-risk

181. eceived complaints of the persecution and
harassment of defenders through successive judi cial proceedings that months later are
case of a single person, and
e successive opening and dismissal of investig ations into several leaders of the same
rganiza or c
human rights defenders. The Commission has observed, in
carrying out its mandate, that searches of the offices of the organizations and their
member es

On Octo
or crimes of desacato (contempt), a criminal law provision that the Commission has
suggested that states should repeal.

179. In other cases, criminal proceedings are instituted without any
evidence, for the purpose of harassing the members of the organizations, who must
assume the psychological and economic burden of facing a criminal indictment. Some of
these proceedings have gone to advanced stages, including the prolonged provisional
detention of the accused. These proceedings generally involve charges of rebellion,
attacks on public order or state securi ty, and the formation of illegal groups.

out si tions in which it is allege d that the legal apparatus is being used to
harm or suppress those who pursue, among other things, the work of documenting
human rights situations, providing judici al defense for the criminally accused,
representing victims before the courts
The Commission has r
d due to the failure to find the persons tried liable. Notwithstanding such
dismissals, new investigations — mostly in cases with different evidence but similar
accusations — are opened, and, as a result, ne w detentions or judicial restrictions are
ordered. The Commission has received several complaints describing situations in whic
criminal accusations are made and then dism issed, in the
o tion ause.

D. Violation of the home and other arbitrary or abusive entry to the offices
of human rights organizations, and interference in correspondence and
phone and electronic communication

182. The violation of the home and other arbitrary or abusive entry to the
offices of human rights organizations or the homes of their members is another way of
diminishing the actions of
s’ hom constitute a common practice in some states of the region. Generally,
illegal searches are one of several forms of harassment directed against the
157 The IACHR has observed that such pr actices result in the collection of
private information, and at the same time in still fear and have a negative impact on the
institutional operations of human rights organizations.
ber 18, 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked the
Government of Venezuela to adopt precauti onary measures on behalf of Luis Enrique
Uzcátegui Jiménez. The request was based on information received by the Commission
that indicated that after his brother’s homicide, Mr. Uzcátegui investigated the
circumstances of his brother’s death. In addi tion, the local press reported the facts and
156 The UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders has made a similar pronouncement:
Governments tend to use the judicial system as a means of harassing and punishing
pel impressions that they see human
in itself , the trend is to charge human rights defenders
es su ncdefenders for upholding human rights. In order to dis ghts activity as a criminal activity ri
for crim ch as “sedition”, “incitement to revolt”, “attempt to undermine institutions”
and offe es against the security of the Stat e. Prosecution of human rights defenders under
false charges is also a common form of harassm ent. [Report of the Rapporteur submitted to
the General Assembly at the 57th session, July 2, 2002.] 157 The Commission has stated its position in this respect in several of its reports. See, for example,
IACHR, Justicia e inclusión social: los desafíos de la democracia en Guatemala, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.118, December
29, 2003, paras. 183 ff.

ons a llegedly engaged in criminal conduct. The
information indicated, moreover, that in re taliation for these complaints, on March 15,
2001, o o
to the
DIPE group, in plainclothes, once again sear ched the Uzcátegui family’s house without
court or s
so on November 27, 2002, the Cour t issued a order directing the State to
dopt, without delay, as many measures as necessary to protect the life and personal
integrity U
states have been subject to illegal searches despite being
beneficiaries of precautionary measures.

On May 15, 20
Filiberto Celada z, and all other members of the
Colectivo HIJOS of Guatemala. The informati on available indicates that the beneficiaries
were su o
184. Another form of arbitrary meddling is illegally intercepting
In October 2002, the Commission received a request for precautionary measures on
behalf o os
Derecho hat on
October of the
Autodef Cedeño
Galíndez fending
the guer ped not
to see h nd a prosecutor from the support
front of her home. On October 29, 2002, the Commission granted
has publicly accused the highest-level authorit ies of the state of Falcón of responsibility
for the systematic execution of pers
fficials f the Fuerzas Armadas Policia les of the state of Falcón proceeded to
search the home of Mr. Luis Uzcátegui, without court order, to look for him. The officers
knocked down the door and slapped Mr. Uzcát egui’s younger brother, a minor, Carlos
Eduardo Uzcátegui Jiménez, while telling him: “tell your brother to stop speaking against
us, or we will do to him just what we did to your other brother.” On April 13, 2002,
officers of the Fuerzas Armadas Policiales of the state of Falcón who belonged
der, in earch of Mr. Luis Uzcátegui; after insulting and threatening his mother,
Julia Jiménez, they proceeded to destroy so me of the furniture before leaving. In
response to the risk that Mr. Uzcátegui ran and the failure to carry out the precautionary
measures, on November 27, 2002, the Inter-American Commission asked the Inter-
American Court to grant prov isional measures on behalf of Mr. Luis Enrique Uzcátegui
Jiménez. Al
of Mr. zcátegui.

183. The Commission observes that most of the illegal searches are
characterized by the fact that objects of valu e are not necessarily taken from the offices
or homes, and, therefore, it is difficult to consider these cases of common crime. In
general, files, documents, or computer equi pment are taken in order to get information
on the victims of human rights violations w ho report the violations, as well as data on
the human rights defenders. The Commission is concerned that several organizations
from several member
03, the IACHR granted precautionary measures on behalf of Edgar
Alejos, Raúl Eduardo Najera Hernánde
bject t a series of acts of harassm ent, including physical assaults and verbal
threats by state agents. In view of the risk to the beneficiaries, the Commission asked
the Guatemalan State to adopt the measures necessary to protect the life and personal
integrity of the members of the Colectivo HIJO S. In response, the State reported on the
implementation of the perimeter security at the organization’s office
s. Nonetheless, the
Commission has continued receiving information regarding acts directed a
gainst the
Colectivo, including information indicating that the Colectivo has suffered two searches
in the first half of 2005.
correspondence and the telephone and elect ronic communications of human rights
defenders. The illegal collection of such info rmation tends to encumber the defenders’
work, while also increasing the risks faced by these persons and by the victims they
defend or the communities they accompany.

f Ms. Teresa Cedeño Galíndez, pres ident of the Comité Permanente por l
s Humanos (CPDH) of Arauca, Colo mbia. The petitioners alleged t
2, 2002, a man who identified himself as Commander Mario ensas Unidas de Colombia repeatedly called the cell phone of attorney
, to make death threats and to compel her to leave the city and “stop de
rillas.” He also indicated that he w ould post a guard at her house and ho
er. The AUC commander repeated th e calls a
was able to verify that the calls and threats were real. On October 22, 2002,
Ms. Cedeño Galíndez detected she was bei ng followed and that that there were
suspicious persons in

te documents without authorization. The complaints indicate
that the state security forces are wireta pping and secretly taping phone conversations
without l a
ctivities and such
xecutions of human rights defenders give rise to state responsibility for flagrant
. Restrictions on access to informat ion in the hands of the state and
y with respect to state-held information
ontinue to be followed in most countries because of insufficient awareness of the
precautionary measures. As part of the follow-up on those measures, the IACHR was
informed that on February 2, 2005, Ms. Cedeño made a call from her cell phone to the
cell phone assigned to her by the Ministry of Interior’s protection program, and the call
was not answered by her secretary, who had the phone at that time, but instead from a
place where one could hear radio communications and the voice of a man speaking
through radio communications equipment. This situation recurred three times, hindering
the communication she was seeking with her s ecretary. She reported having had similar
incidents involving interception of communications in the past.
E. Intelligence activities aimed at human rights defenders

185. The Commission has received information that indicates that the
security forces of some states of the region aim their intelligence activity at human
rights organizations and their members. In addition, the Commission has received several
complaints related to the manner in which intelligence information is collected on
persons who defend human rights and their organizations. According to these
complaints, one method used by the intelligence services is to obtain financial
documents and other priva
judicia uthorization. The Commissi on has been informed that the intelligence
services in some countries have created f iles or records on human rights defenders.

186. In addition, the Commission continues to be profoundly concerned over
the reports that indicate that in some instan ces military intelligence is used to facilitate
the executions of human rights defenders at the hands of the security forces of the
state or through illegal armed groups that opera te with the approval or acquiescence of
state agents. The Commission has indicated that surveillance a
violations of the rights to privacy and life, among other rights protected by the
Convention. 158

187. The Commission has also found, in some cases, that agents of the
security forces in discriminatory fash ion ask human rights defenders for detailed
personal information which, if revealed, c ould put them in danger. The Commission has
received complaints that indicat e that agents of the state security forces also request
this information through personal visits or phone calls; when those seeking the
information are asked to identify themselves or to make the requests for information in
writing, they usually do not do so.

habeas data actions

188. In its 2001 report, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of
Expression concluded, in light of the info rmation obtained for the hemisphere that
“practices contributing to a cu lture of secrec
specific provisions regulating this exercise or because, given the vague, general
language used in the provision, agents in possession of such information opt in favor of
denying it, out of fear of punishment.“
158 IACHR, Third Report on the Human Rights Situat ion in Colombia (1999), Chapter VII Human Rights
Defenders, para. 55. OEA/Ser.L/V/11.102.
159 See IACHR , Third Report on the Human Rights Situation in Colombia : OEA/Ser.L/V/II.102, Doc. 9
rev. 1, February 26 1999, Original: English, paras. 46 to 52.
160 IACHR, Annual Report 2001, Chapter III, Report on Actions of Habeas Data and Freedom of Access
to Information in the Hemisphere, para. 164.

52 Special Rapporteur for
reedom of Expression, has received informat ion and complaints concerning restrictions
on acces sta he Commission
aware that governmental authorities and th e armed forces in particular refuse to
release ati

sal to release the informat ion based on arguments such as national
ecurity, or that simply include a transc ription of domestic regulations authorizing
security s
r limit the work of these organizations through
busive administrative, tax, and fiscal meas ures. In this respect, the United Nations
Special rese
imposed by Sta eans to curtail freedom of association and the

189. The Commission observes with satisfaction the progress made in
reforming domestic laws that impeded or restricted access to information, and has
included this information in its annual reports. Nonetheless, the Commission has
concluded that “it is important to insist th at Member States need to display greater
political willingness to work toward amending th eir laws and ensuring that their societies
enjoy freedom of expression and information.”
190. The Commission, through its Office of the
s to te-held information in cases of human rights violations. T
inform on, even at the request of the justice system or institutions such as
Truth Commissions. 162
191. It has also received complaints about practices used by the authorities
to refuse to respond to petitions signed by human rights defenders, or to delay the
response in order to prevent defenders from expressing timely criticism of the
authorities’ performance, or, from gathering, for example, the information necessary for
the submission of periodic reports to international entities. The Commission likewise has
received complaints of state’s resorting to vague or imprecise responses that oblige the
defenders to go back to the administration time and again or even turn to domestic le
192. The Commission has received information on restrictions on access of
actions of habeas data concerning abusive, imprecise or damaging information about
human rights defenders held by the state. In particular, the Commission has received
complaints about restrictions on actions of habeas data seeking to establish the
existence and contents of intelligence arch ives against human rights defenders. The
Commission has received complaints of official responses to such actions that merely
excuse the refu
entitie to gather such information. 163

G. Arbitrary administrative and financial controls imposed on the human rights organizations
193. The Commission observes that some states maintain legislation,
policies, or practices that restrict o
Rep ntative has expressed her c oncern over the “increasing restrictions
tes through legal m
161 IACHR, Annual Report 2004, Chapter III, Report on Actions of Habeas Data and Freedom of Access
to Information in the Hemisphere, para. 72.
162 For example, during the visit in loco to Guatemala in March 2003, the Special Rapporteur for
Freedom of Expression, Eduardo Bertoni, received in form ation indicating that sectors of the press and human
rights denounced the posture of the President of the Congress of the Republic, Efraín Ríos Montt, blocking access
to documents related to the approval and execution of the 2000 and 2001 budgets (see Report on the Situation
of Human
urt of Justice to exercise its right of petition in response to
ombudsma t on the human rights situation in Venezuela.
Rights in Guatemala, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.118). The Rapporteur also received information that in Venezuela
the Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA) had presented five actions of
constitutional amparo before the Supreme Co
n’s [defensor del pueblo ] refusal to respond to a request for general information on cases of human
rights violations and statistical data for PROVEA’s annual repor
163 Cfr. IACHR , Third Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia : OEA/Ser.L/V/II.102, Doc. 9
rev. 1, February 26, 1999, para. 48.

growing y S
inistrative difficulties registering and
galizing their organizations, as some states use restrictive and arbitrary conceptions of
entering organizations in state registries, even though the
rganizations have properly and timely subm itted the respective documentation. The
entering organizations in the public registries have broad discretional powers
at even allow them to unilaterally modify the organizations’ articles of incorporation as
be limiting the work of human rights
efenders, in the guise of routine controls to require the organizations to once again go
through the for
issues that these institutions regulate. It has been alleged before the Commission that
ese measures not only tend to encumber th e capacity to act of these organizations,
which h e
tates the international financing of organizations engaged in the promotion and defense f human rights has been arbitrarily restri cted through the control exercised by state
institutions involved in international techni cal cooperation. In addition, information has
been obtained that indicates that several organi zations have had to restrict or orient their
use b tates of the legal system to harass human rights defenders and hinder
their work.” 164

194. The Commission has been informed of certain restrictions on the
freedom to form organizations at different levels dedicated to the protection of human
rights. In many cases defenders have had adm
tions and who can establish them. In other cases, states restrict the
participation of the organizations in public matters, using equally arbitrary criteria.
195. In recent months, there has been an increase in the number of
complaints received at the Commission regarding unjustified delays by domestic
agencies in charge of
sion has also received information recently about unjustified administrative
hindrances put in place by these same institutions to keep them from being registered.
The Commission has received reports of notaria l offices that have refused to prepare
public documents required by law for establishing organizations, or that have incurred
unjustified delays in issuing those documents.
196. The Commission has noted that in several countries the authorities in
charge of
delimiting the purpose of the activitie s that the organizations wish to pursue.
197. The Commission has received information that legislation in several
countries provides broad powers for third persons with no stake in the activities of
human rights organizations to be able to bring administrative challenges to the
registration of organizations based on religious or other criteria.
198. The Commission has also been informed that in some states, the
administrative and police authorities appear to
malities to be established and operate, and to address administrative
ave to armark human and economic resources to meet those requirements, but
moreover, an effort is made to harass, co ntrol, and gain access to these organizations’
private information.
199. The Commission has received information that indicates that in some
in keeping with the priorities defined by the administrative authorities.

200. The Commission notes that of late there has been an increase in the
number of complaints regarding state restricti ons on organizations that limit their ability
to obtain or seek foreign funds for carrying out their activities. The Commission has
been informed that through judicial and ad ministrative decisions, organizations that
receive foreign financing have been hindered from participating in public affairs, and
164 UN, Commission on Human Rights, Report submitted by the Special Representative of th e
Secretary- General on Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani, Annual Report 2004, Doc. E/CN.4/2005/101.
Para. 42.

adly applied to criminalize persons who belong to organizations that
receive foreign financing. Based on the noti on that organizations that receive foreign
financin o
n June 6 2003, Mr. Carlos Nieto Palma, Coordinator General of the non-governmental
organiza na
8, 2004, Mr. Nieto Palma received a
ummons to appear “immediately” at the office of the prosecutorial authorities (Fiscalía)
in Carac ic
ccused him of being a traitor (“traidor a la patria”). Based on these facts, on June 7,
2004, t m
s that international
rganizations, observation missions, and inte rnational news media are having visa
applications turn
02. The Commission wishes to reiterate that the most effective way to
protect ri
from monitoring official activities. 165 In addition, broad criminal law definitions have been
adopted and bro
g supp rt foreign intervention in domes tic political affairs, some states have
enshrined criminal law definitions in their le gislations such as conspiracy to destabilize
the state, and similar crimes. The Commission has received several complaints from
human rights defenders who have been tried on these charges, or harassed because of
their sources of financing.

tion U Ventana a la Libertad, was visited at his home in Caracas (Venezuela)
by agents of the Department of Intelligence Security and Prevention
(DISIP), who
informed him that they had an order to make a home visit, and they indicated to him
that they lacked a judicial order to search his home, but that, as members of the DISIP
they wanted to speak with him. Mr. Nieto Palma was questioned about his work as a
human rights defender, the work he does in the prisons, and whether he knew the
political prisoners from the Plaza Altamira, whether he had defended them, and why. In
addition, they asked him why he received money from a foreign government to finance
his non-governmental organization. On June 1
as, wh h Mr. Nieto did that same da y. The prosecutor informed him that he had
been summonsed as a witness, without indicating in which case. The purpose of the
interrogation to which he was subjected “appeared to suggest that Mr. Nieto Palma was
the one accused of committing some crime.” During that interrogation the prosecut
he Com ission asked the Inter-American Court to grant provisional measures on
behalf of Mr. Nieto and his family. The measures were granted on July 9, 2005. 166

201. The Commission has also received new
ed down when they seek to enter or establish themselves in countries.
In many cases, the restrictions are imposed through procedures in which the executive
authorities have full discretion and the persons impacted do not have access to remedies
to challenge the decision. In some cases the st ates are said to have taken measures that
restrict the right of movement of foreigne rs and nationals in certain areas in which
human rights violations may be taking place.
H. Impunity in investigations into the attacks on human rights defenders

human ghts defenders in the hemisphere is by effectively investigating the acts
of violence against them, and punishing the persons responsible. In the region of the
165 In its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Venezuela (2003), the Commission indicated:
the IACHR has been able to study several Supreme Court decisions ruling that
nongovernmental organizations that receive subsidie s from abroad or that have foreigners or
agents of organized religions on their boards are not part of civil society and are thus
IACHR, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Venezuela, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.118, October 24, 2003,
paras. 223-225.
man Rights of July 9, 2004. ineligible o participate on the Candidacy Committees established by the Constitution for
electing the members of the citizens’ branch , the electoral authorities, and the Supreme
Court of Justice.… The Constitutional Chamber’s judgment disqualifies a good number of
human rights organizations from participating on the Candidacy Committees that elect high-
ranking authorities within the government. This could mean the denying one of the social
movements with the greatest impact, permanence, and professionalism in Venezuela the
right to contribute to the independence and selection of those public authorities.
166 I/A Court H. R. Carlos Nieto et al. Case . Provisional Measures. Resolution of the Inter-American
Court of Hu

on, the violence, the intimidation of judicial officers, the
moval of evidence in the proceedings, and the bogging down of proceedings related to
in the attacks against judicial officers w ho seriously and effectively investigate and
prosecut ck
still exists in several countries of the
mericas and that contributes to impunity is the jurisdiction of military courts for
investigating an y
against civilians, including human rights defenders. The Commission has underscored on
several o n

rights d s than
16 s, who
are espe union,
campesi rations,
indigeno officers,
especial ition, it
should b er, are
exposed to specifically sexual threats or assaults.

Americas, one of the great problems affecting human rights defenders is the failure to
investigate the attacks to which they are subjected, which has accentuated their
vulnerability. This is especially relevant when it comes to protecting the right to life and
personal integrity.

203. The Commission states its profound concern over the high levels of
impunity that persist in the region, due to the judicial practices that surround
determinations of jurisdicti
cases that involve the responsibility of state agents.
204. The Commission notes with concern th at in recent years not only have
there not been any breakthroughs in the inve stigations related to attacks on human
rights defenders, but there have been instances in which furthering the investigation
was discouraged, and in which, by omission or censorship, and even the active
participation of state agents, progress ha s in fact been impeded. Some of these
circumstances include removing public employees who were on the verge of bringing
complaints against state agents.
205. Apart from the structural problems plaguing the judicial systems in the
Americas, which keep them from operating soundly, the Commission observes that
there is – especially in those states from which a larger number of complaints come – a
lack of political will, impartiality, and i ndependence when it comes to investigating
attacks on human rights defenders. The compla ints that have been received suggest
that there are serious problems in the investig ations, for example, they do not relate the
intimidation and threats directed against defenders to the type of work they do,
accordingly, clear lines of investigation are not established. The problem is also refle
e atta s suffered by human rights defenders.

206. In addition, as indicated previously in this report, those who may be
responsible for some of the threats to human rights defenders are precisely members of
the state, many of them linked to different parts of the justice system, further eroding
the independence and impartiality of the investigations.
207. One serious problem that
d sitting in judgment of crimes committed by members of the militar
ccasio s that the essential characteristi c of a serious investigation is that it be
undertaken by an independent and autonomous organ. 167

208. The Commission notes that in recent years certain groups of
efenders have been more exposed to the infringement of their right
8 In this connection, one should note, among others, trade union leader
cially exposed during periods leading up to changes in rights in their
no and community leaders who stage or organize public demonst
us leaders who defend the rights of their peoples, and judicial
ly to the extent they bring cases on human rights violations. In add
e noted that women human rights defenders, considering their gend
167 IAC HR, Report on the Merits Nº 33/04, Case 11,634 Jailton Néri da Fonseca v. Brazil, para. 100,
published M arch 11, 2004.
168 In this regard, see also UN, E/CN.4/2003/104 § 23.

tal role in the defense of the human rights of thousands of workers
throughout the hemisphere who have faced precarious labor conditions in their
workpla a
10. In retaliation for this social and political initiative, many trade union
leaders ee
essional or labor-related reprisals for their work. The
cumulative experience of the Committee on Freedom of Association has shown the
intermin a
12. In addition to the types of labor-related repression within the
workpla ork

ost violations take place in the context of trade union activity, and occur with greater
intensity th
213. The IACHR has found that in many cases, repressive actions combine
physica ence n the workplace, or
mporary transfer of certain leaders from the workplace, as a result of which the leader
loses tou th
A. Trade union leaders

209. Since they first appeared in history, trade union organizations have
played a fundamen
ces. In ddition, these institutions ha ve been key in the political and social
organizing of thousands of persons, as they constitute key examples of organized
political expression for presenting the labor and social demands of many sectors of
have b n victims of all types of acts aimed at thwarting their work, including
serious human rights violations. 169 Accordingly, in many countries of the region, the
exercise of trade union activity is dangerous , due to the extreme risks faced by those
who seek to lead efforts to improve working and social conditions for workers.

211. Due to the natural inequality in the labor relationship, trade union
leaders make easy targets of prof
able w ys in which trade union promotion can be thwarted by anti-union
discrimination in areas such as remuneration, economic, social, and fringe benefits,
workloads, work hours, and opportunities for rest and vacation, among many others. In
other cases, employers have recourse to lay-o ffs or transfers in direct retaliation for the
exercise of the right to form and join trade unions, with a negative impact on the
interests of trade union leaders, organizing, and the workers. Thanks to these practices,
many union organizations have disappeared or have lost their capacity to negotiate and
press grievances, for reprisals against trad e union leaders discourage all other workers
from joining unions, staying in them, or participating in their activities.

ce, w ers who take the initiative in pressing trade-union demands are
frequently victims of threats, assaults, and assassination attempts. The Commission
has found that in some countries, the persecution of trade union leaders and their family
members is increasingly common and systematic. The Commission has learned that
when ere are nationwide work stoppages, when unions are being established,
during collective bargaining, or in the midst of other struggles to improve observance of
social rights, such as the negotiation of trade union demands and internal union
elections. These actions are aimed at limiting the bargaining power of organizations at
those moments that are most crucial to improving labor conditions.

l viol with threats to life, and increased harassment i
ch wi the rest of the unionized workers, and is unable to carry out his or her
organizing activities.
214. The Commission also notes with concern that in some countries of the
region, violent actions against trade union l eaders entail a process of stigmatization that
has turned many unionists into “military ta rgets” of “self-defense” or paramilitary
groups, as well as the contracting of privat e justice groups to direct physical violence
169 According to data from the Committee on Freedom
with it, 1,232, accounting for 52.7% of the worldwide tota l of cas of Association, of all the complaints ever filed
es have been complaints against OAS member
states. Ac
e most common violations committed in the Americas. ILO, Situación de la libertad
sindical en
cording to the Committee, the historical trend in the hemisphere shows that anti-union discrimination,
violations in the realm of collective bargaining, and a ttacks on the life and physical integrity of union members
are, in percentage terms, th
las Américas, Lima, Peru, July 2004, pp. 13 and 15.

against members of trade union organizations engaged in collective bargaining. In
addition, the Commission has received reports of speeches and public statements by
state au s
5. The backsliding in the degree of atta inment of economic, social, and
cultural rights, the increased inequity in the concentration of wealth, and the deepening
of socia sio
many other factors, have le d thousands of human rights defenders, student leaders,
social le an
ses and
olations. 171
and social protest,
whether through direct repression of the demonstrators or through an investigation and
criminal u

thoritie that delegitimize the work of trade unions, adducing that their members
oppose the economic development of nations or productive progress, in an effort to get
society to reject the legitimate work of those persons who vindicate such rights.

B. Campesino and community leaders

l exclu n that have taken place in the last decade have generated protests and
deepening social exclusion in the hemisphere, giving rise to protests and social
mobilizations that have extended to several countries of the Americas. The struggle for
the right to land and the right to a heal thy environment, demonstrations against
economic reforms, and protests against greater “flexibility” in labor contracts,
aders, d rural leaders to organize to struggle for the effective observance of
their rights. The Commission has received ma ny complaints that indicate that many
leaders have been targeted by threats and attacks because of their work to protect
economic and social rights.
170 In this regard, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for
Freedom of Expression of the Inter- American Commission has stated that

Our hemisphere’s most impoverished sectors encounter discriminatory policies
and actions, their access to information about the planning and execution of
measures affecting their daily lives is nascent at best, and, in general the
traditional channels of participation for publicizing their complaints are
frequently blocked off to them. Faced with this, in many countries around the
hemisphere, protests and social mobilizations have become a tool for petitioning
the authorities and a channel for publicly denouncing human rights abu

216. The IACHR observes with concern that in some cases the institutional
responses to the acts mentioned have been tended to criminalize social protest by police
repression and criminal prosecution of the persons involved, distorting the application of
the criminal laws of the state, and violati ng inter-American treaties for the protection of
human rights, which protect the rights to life , physical integrity, freedom of expression,
freedom of assembly, and freedom of association, among others.

217. The Commission wishes to reiterate that the effective exercise of
democracy requires as a precondition the full exercise of the fundamental rights and
freedoms of citizens. Criminalizing legitimate social mobilization
prosec tion, is incompatible with a democratic society in which persons have
the right to express their opinion.

s Release Nº 28/05, “Vice-President and Rapporteur for Guatemala of IACHR ended
a visit to th 170 See IACHR, Prese Republic of Guatemala,” para. 14.
171 IACHR, Chapter IV, Annual Report 2002, Vol. III “Re port of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for
Freedom of Expression,” OEA/Ser. L/V/ II. 117, Doc. 5 rev. 1, Para. 29.
172 In this respect, the UN Special Representative has emphasized:
The governments, in the sphere of their security activities nationally and internationally,
show excessive zeal limiting the right of their populations to peaceful dissent, in particular
through the unwarranted use of violent methods to control peaceful multitudes.
UN, Report submitted by Ms. Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human
Rights Defenders, at the 60th sess ion of the Commission on Human Rights, January 15, 2004, para. 45.

58y are
considered targets who can set an example to dissuade others from participating in the
and natural
sources, defending their rights to autonomy and to cultural identity. The IACHR has
noted w genous
leaders e vast
majority y, the
Commis Afro-
descend e Inter-
21. In recent years a considerable in crease has been observed in the
requests pre
isplacement of their
leaders. In the vast majority of cases, th e persons who stand up for the rights of their
peoples om
ous peoples.

222. In addition, the Commission is concerned about incidents involving
attacks on human rights defenders who represent the rights of indigenous peoples and
emisphere have been accompanied by the scendant communities further
aggravat ous peoples.

218. The conflicts and situations of tension provoked by the inequality in the
distribution of natural resources in the vast majority of countries of the hemisphere has
given rise to confrontations that create the conditions for excesses to be committed in
the repression, and for human rights violations.
173 In many cases, the persons who
promote and lead these initiatives to seek redress are the hardest hit, as the

219. The Commission has received informat ion concerning the increase in
the cases of excessive use of force by st ate agents to control demonstrations and
protests of rural workers, campesino leaders, social leaders, and student leaders. The
Commission has been informed that in many cases, peaceful demonstrations have
become violent confrontations due to the au thorities’ repressive approach and the lack
of comprehensive solutions.
C. Indigenous and Afro-descendant leaders

220. Indigenous and Afro-descendant leaders play a crucial role in their
communities, religious as well as cultural and political. The IACHR has found that the
patterns of violations of their human rights ge nerally have a direct correlation with their
activities laying claim to, defending, and protecting their territories
ith concern the frequency of assassinations of and threats against indi
engaged in the defense of their peoples’ rights, and impunity, in th
of cases, for the perpetrators of these serious violations. Similarl
sion has received and processed complaints of violations of leaders of
ant communities in several countries of the region, and has requested th
n Court to protect threatened Afro-descendant leaders.

for cautionary measures from indigenous leaders, who have found it
necessary to recur to the inter-American hum an rights system to attain protection for
the right to life and the right to personal integrity, and respect for the special
relationships indigenous peoples have with their ancestral territories. The Commission is
extremely concerned over the devastating effect on the indigenous peoples and Afro-
descendant communities of threats, assassin ations, and the forced d
and c munities are those spiritual leaders considered a source of ancestral
knowledge; they are fundamental figures fo r the political, spiritual, and cultural
development of the communities. The unexp ected absence of these leaders seriously
undercuts the identity, integrity, and culture of the peoples and communities to which
they belong. Accordingly, these actions have a direct negative impact on the cultural
integrity and survival of the indigen
Afro-descendant communities in the courts. Historically, discrimination against and
exclusion of ethnic minorities in the h
systematic lack of access to justice. The attacks on persons who provide legal counsel
to the members of indigenous peoples and Afro-de
e the already-precarious judicial protection for indigen

173 See, e.g., IACHR, Report on the Situ ation of Human Rights in Brazil (1997).
174 I/A Court H.R., Case of the communities of Jiguamiandó and Curbaradó , Provisional measures,
Order of March 6, 2003.

and communities throughout the Americas. Judges, prosecutors, public
defenders, and police commissars, as agents of the administration of justice, play a
fundame le
investigating cases of human rights violations has a
detrimental impact on the independence of th eir work, and on their personal security and
that of t fam against the life and physical
integrity of judicial officers have led to a substantial increase in insecurity in the
performa f t
to entail violations
of many human rights.
175 In this regard, the IACHR has referred to the right to be free
from vio n
228. The Commission has learned of special types of threats, based on the
gender e
D. Judicial officers

223. In the region, there are ever more judicial officers committed to the
cause of human rights, justice, and the atta inment of democracy. In this regard, the
Commission wishes to note the valuable work of those individuals and authorities whose
functions include protecting, enforcing, pr omoting, or defending the human rights of
ntal ro as a liaison between the state and the general population. Moreover,
they are the ones who carry out the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of
perpetrators of human rights violations.

224. The Commission is aware that the si tuation of insecurity affecting
judicial officers in charge of
heir ilies. Threats, intimidation, and other acts
nce o heir work.
225. The Commission also observes that the users of the judicial system as
well as all those who answer to the call of just ice to participate in the proceeding, be it
as witnesses or experts, are also victims of this insecurity, which encumbers the search
for justice, and determines that on many occasions citizen opt not to have recourse to
the courts or to refrain from cooperating with the judicial organs.
E. Women

226. The Commission considers violence against women
lence i the public sphere and in the pr ivate sphere, stipulated in Article 3 of the
Convention of Belém do Pará, which includes protection of other basic rights, among
them, the rights to life, to personal integrity, to liberty, to be free of torture, to equal
protection before and of the law, and to eff ective access to justice, stipulated in Article
176 Accordingly, there is an integral conn ection between the guarantees established in
the Convention of Belém do Pará and the funda mental rights and freedoms stipulated in
the American Convention, which applies on ce one treats violence against women as a
human rights violation.
227. The Commission finds that there are two situations that require special
attention: that faced by women human rights de fenders in general, due to the historical
disadvantages women and girls have suffe red, and that of women human rights
defenders who specifically promot e and protect women’s rights.

of th threatened person. Based on information collected recently, the
Commission observes that women human rights defenders and organizations that defend
women’s human rights continue to be subjected to systematic intimidation, persecution,
kidnapping, torture and sexual abuse, among other crimes, in relation to their work,
along with other forms of discrimination and physical, psychological and sexual violence
175 The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Viol
Women (“Convention of Belém do Pará”) defines “violence against women ” in Article 1 in the following ence against terms:
For the purposes of this Convention, violence against women shall be understood as any
act or conduct, based on gender, which causes death or physical, sexual or psychological
n, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.117, Doc. 1 rev. 1, March 7, 2003, para. 120.
harm or suffering to women, whether in the public or the private sphere.
176 IACHR, The Situation of the Rights of Women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico: The Right to be Free from
Violence and Discriminatio

for gender reasons. In this respect, the Co mmission has received multiple petitions
regarding the stigmatization of women’s ri ghts defenders, who are stigmatized due to
the histo a
nother factor of discrimination among the many
forms of discrimination suffered by women.
omen fail to adhere to the codes of behavior imposed on
em by force. In such cases, the armed actor s believe that the leadership exercised by
women’ ni
31. The Commission also finds that the situation of ingenuous and afro-
descend ose women who lead the campaigns demanding rights,
is particularly critical, as they are victims of multiple forms of discrimination because of
their rac ic
own communities. ractice of an invisible
rical p triarchal conception that assi gns an inferior role to women. As such,
these defenders are stigmatized with soci al, degrading stereotypes concerning their
sexual life, or are accused that their work for eradicating discrimination against women
is against the moral values or the soci al institutions such as the family.

229. The Commission also recognizes the vulnerability of women who
specifically work to defend women’s human rights. The IACHR recognizes that by
promoting and protecting the rights of other women, these women defenders increase
their own risk and are exposed to yet a

230. In some countries where armed conflicts persist, combatant groups
frequently impose social controls on women’s living conditions, dictating to them
standards of daily behavior, interfering in family and community disputes, and meting
out punishments as harsh as murder, tortur e, and cruel and degrading treatment, in
situations in which these w
s orga zations represents an obst acle to advancing their own social and
territorial control and, as a result, national and regional women’s organizations operating
in zones of armed conflict are subject to hara ssment and threats that seriously affect the
community work they perform.

ent women, including th
e, ethn group and by the virtue of being women; A situation that is aggravated
in those countries that suffer from social tensions or armed conflict. Indigenous and
afro-descendent women face two layers of discrimination since they are born: for
belonging to their racial and ethnic group a nd because of their sex. Being exposed to
two forms of discrimination historically, they are doubly vulnerable to abuse and
mistreatment. The Commission has had knowle dge that the champions of the rights of
indigenous and afro-descendent women, in a ddition to the other forms of discrimination
already indicated, are habitual victims of act s of racism, stultification and stigmatization
on the part of the majority communities and, in some cases, of public authorities and
people from within their

232. Given this context, the Commission reiterates that gender-based
violence is unacceptable, be it in the form of murder, sexual violence, or domestic
violence. Moreover, impunity for such acts re duces the visibility of these violations of
rights to the point that domestic violence, for example, is the p


233. The mechanism of precautionary m easures granted by the Commission
is one of the most effective instrument s for protecting the work of human rights
defenders and their rights in the inter-Ameri can system. Like the provisional measures
177 Speech by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Beijing +5,
Review Co cause of
the nature uality, in
particular s nference. “We must acknowledge that some human rights defenders are even more at risk be
of the rights that they are seeking to protect, pa rticularly when they relate to issues of sex
exual orientation and reproductive rights.”
178 IACHR, Press Release Nº 27/05, “The Armed Conf lict Aggravates the Discrimination and Violence
Suffered by Colombian Women.”

34. In practice, precautionary and provisional measures have been
recogniz th
e such measures, and monitoring their
implementation. Below, a summary will be pr esented of the importance of precautionary
measure ot

ident or, where appropriate, one of the
ice-President shall take the decision on behalf of the Commission and shall so its
granted by the Inter-American Court 179 , precautionary measures perform a
“precautionary” function, in terms of preserving a legal situation vis-à-vis the exercise of
jurisdiction by the Commission, and “protectiv e” in the sense of preserving the exercise
of the human rights enshrined in the provisions of the inter-American system, preventing
irreparable harm to persons.
ed by e member states of the OA S, the individuals who use the system, and
the human rights community as a whole as an important tool for protecting human
rights in the inter-American system. In recent years the Commission has made an effort
geared to recording and properly analyzing the growing number of requests, defining
criteria for invoking the provisions that regulat
s of pr ection to human rights defenders.

A. Precautionary measures in the inter-American system

235. Precautionary or provisional measur es (“interim measures”) are a
procedural mechanism used by several intern ational tribunals and quasi-judicial organs,
both in the universal United Nations realm, and in the regional systems for the protection
of human rights in Europe and the Ameri cas. In the inter-American system, the
Commission and the Court have the authority to decree precautionary and provisional
measures, respectively.
236. Like other international organs, the Inter-American Commission has
defined the existence and operation of this mechanism in its Rules of Procedure. 180
Article 25 states:

1. In serious and urgent cases, and whenever necessary according to the
information available, the Commission may, on its own initiative or at the
request of a party, request that the State concerned adopt precautionary
measures to prevent irreparable harm to persons.

2. If the Commission is not in session, the President, or, in his or her
absence, one of the Vice-Presidents, shall consult with the other members,
through the Executive Secretariat, on the application of the provision in the
previous paragraph. If it is not possible to consult within a reasonable period of
time under the circumstances, the Pres
Vinform members.
179 The authority of the Inter-American Court to issue provisional measures is provided for in the
American Convention on Human Rights. Article 63(2) provides:
In cases of extreme gravity and urgency, and when necessary to avoid irreparable damage
persons, the Court shall adopt such provisional measures as it deems pertinent in matters und ot yet submitted to the Court, it may
Case of the Communities of Jiguamiandó and Curbaradó (Colombia) , Provisional Measures, Order of March 6,
Rule 94 of its Rules of Procedure. The power of the
Committee n on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. toit has er consideration. With respect to a case n
act at request of the Commission.
As appe s from the text of the provision, the Cour t may invoke this power with regard to both cases
pending before its jurisdiction and case s before the jurisdiction of the Commission. There are also precedents of
provisional measures issued in relation to situatio ns of gravity and urgency that involve the possible
consummation of irreparable harm, without any link to the processing of an individual case. See, I/A Court H.R.,
180 Thus, the power to issue provisional measures is not provided for in the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights or its Optional Protocol, but in the Rules of Procedure of the Committee, at its Rules 86
and 91. The Committee against Torture has also established the power to issue interim measures, at Rule 108 of
its Rules of Procedure. Also, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also established the
authority to issue provisional measures at paragraph 3 of
on the Elimination of Discrimination against Wo men to issue provisional measures was granted by the
Optional Protocol to the Conventio

such measures and their adoption by the State shall
ot constitute a prejudgment on the merits of a case.

that such measures are intended to
prevent should be understood mindful of the nature and content of the right in question.
The requirement
danger or certain imminent threat that c ould result in irreparable harm to the
fundame gh
vent the grave and imminent consummation of an irreparable
arm. When there is a case pending concerning an alleged violation of a right enshrined
in the e
determination of the inte rnational responsibility of States abstract.
The Commission endeavors to avoid situ
measures, w plies a
pronoun t been
. cedure
applies erican

rights of the American peoples, have implicitly undertaken

3. The Commission may request information from the interested parties
on any matter related to the adoption and observance of the precautionary

4. The granting of
237. The text of the provision, which entered into force on May 1, 2001,
with the Commission’s new Rules of Procedure 181 , reflects the elements of gravity,
urgency, and irreparability present in Arti cle 63 of the American Convention. While
these elements are taken into account by the judicial and quasi-judicial organs to whose
practice reference has been made, these term s have not been clearly defined in the
case-law of these organs. In the view of th e Inter-American Court, the appreciation of
the “extreme gravity” and “urgency” of the threat
of extreme gravity and urgency presupposes the existence of a real
ntal ri ts of persons. 182
238. This provision does not require that a case be pending before the
Commission for a request for precautionary measures to be considered, in view of the
circumstances in which the petitioners seeki ng the measure require the protection of the
Commission, in order to pre
instrum nts of the system, the Commission can exercise its precautionary
function in order to preserve circumstances wh ich, if it were otherwise, would make its
intervention in the
ations in which its issuance of precautionary
hether it be autonomous or as an accessory to a pending case, im
cement on the merits of a case about which a decision still has no

239 The mechanism established in Article 25 of the Rules of Pro
to both the member states of th e OAS that have ratified the Am
ion and those that have not yet done so. As the Commission has noted:
OAS member states, by creating the Commission and mandating it through the
OAS Charter and the Commission’s Statute to promote the observance and
protection of human
181 The regulatory provision in force prior to Ma y 1, 2001, established another situation
ary measures could be issued: “The Commission may, at its own initiative, or at the request o
ction it considers necessary for the discharge of its functions.” Regulations of the IACHR, a le 29(1). in which
precaution f a party,
take any a dopted in
1980, Artic
(internal procedural law) is to preserve the ri ghts of the parties to a dispute, ensuring that
182 The IACHR analyzes whether these requirements are met in each case, based on the information
183 In relation to this, the Inter-American Court held:
6. That, in general, the purpose of provisional measures, under national legal systems
the future judgment on merits will not be prejudiced by their actions pendente lite.
7. That the purpose of provisional measures in international human rights law goes further,
because, in addition to their essentially preventive nature, they effectively protect
fundamental rights, since they seek to avoid irreparable damage to persons.
See Inter-American Court on Human Rights, The Case Of Haitians And Dominicans of Haitian Origin in
the Dominican Republic. Provisional Measures. Or der 0f 26 May 2001. Considering paras. 6 and 7.

implement measures of this nature where they are essential to preserving the missi
e foundation underlying the binding nature of what the Inter-
American Court has called the
organs edents
nalyzed e states parties in the following
ests on the ge neral duty of the states to respect and
uarantee human rights, to adopt the legislative or other measures necessary for
2. In practice, for the purposes of facilitating the study of requests for
precautionary measures, the Commission has considered the requirements of gravity,
rritories, and threats to health; the enfo rcement of certain types of judicial or
administ d held
243. Measures to protect life and physical integrity are of vital importance to
human rights defenders, given the current situations of risk these persons face in many
countries of t
situation, taking into account (a) the content of the threats received (oral,
written, nd whether they have been carried out
against one o ssion

toCom on’s mandate. 184

240. Th
the “precautionary” aspect of th e measures issued by
of the system is similar to that of the universal and regional antec
. The Court has highlighted the obligations of th
the States Parties to the Convention should fully comply in good faith ( pacta
sunt servanda ) to all of the provisions of the Convention, including those relative
to the operation of the two supervisory organs; and, that in view of the
Convention’s fundamental objective of guaranteeing the effective protection of
human rights (Articles 1(1), 2, 51 and 63(2)), States Parties must not take any
action that may frustrate the restitutio in integrum of the rights of the alleged
241. The binding nature of the protective aspect of the precautionary
measures decreed by the IACHR r
effective observance of human ri ghts, and to carry out in good faith the
obligations contracted under the American Convention and the Charter of the OAS, as
well as the competence of the IACHR to oversee that the states parties are carrying out
the commitments they assumed, established at Articles 33 and 41 of the American
Convention. In this respect, the Inter- American Court has established that

the ultimate aim of the American Convention is the effective protection of
human rights, and, pursuant to the obligations contracted under it, the States
should ensure the effectiveness of their mechanisms (endow them with effet
utile ), which implies implementing and carrying out the resolutions issued by its
supervisory organs, whether the Commission or the Court.
, and irreparability in relation to categories such as threats to life and the
physical integrity of persons, threats to the environment that may result in harm to the
life or health of the population or the way of life of indigenous peoples in their an
rative orders; and the legal situation of persons who are detained an

he region. Given this situation, the lion’s share of requests are in this
category, and precautionary measures have been decreed to protect the right to life and
personal integrity, whether of one person, several persons, or an entire community.

244. The decision on the request depends on the gravity of the individual or
and symbolic messages, among others ) a
r more members of a group of persons; (b) previous acts of aggre
184 IACHR, Juan Raul Garza v. United States of America, Case 12.243, Report Nº 52/01, April 4,
2001, para
gust 29,
1998, seve . 117.
185 I/A Court H.R., James et al. Case (Trinidad and Tobago), Provisional Measures, Order of Au
nth whereas clause.
186 I/A Court H.R., Case of Penitentiaries in Mendoza , Order of November 22, 2004,
operative para. 16.

against e been
perpetra beneficiary; (d) the increase in threats, showing the
need to take preventive action; (e) and fact ors such as advocacy of or incitement to
violence t
s that the potential beneficiary shoul d leave the region where he or she lives or
ecome the victim of violations. The interests threatened in this category – life and
personal of the
related (phone
threats/written threats/assassination attemp ts/acts of violence/public accusations), the
entity of the origin of the threats (priva te persons, private persons with ties to the
state, st
the existence
f an armed conflict, whether a state of emergency is in force, the degrees of
effective cia of
discrimin ecutive
branch o
y, not only is
eferenc e
remove the risk factors that beset the beneficiary.
of their activity.
received. The following graphs show the re lationship between the number of requests

persons similarly situated; (c) the acts of direct aggression that may hav
ted against the possible
agains a person or group of persons. Second, one must consider the urgency
of the situation reported based on (a) the ex istence of cycles of threats and attacks
showing the need to act immediately; (b) th e continuity and proximity in time of the
threats; (c) whether a credible “ultimatum ” has been stated which, for example,
integrity – no doubt constitute the extreme of irreparability
ences, which the granting of prec autionary measures seeks to avoid.

245. In order to evaluate these aspects, one should consider infor
to the description of the acts th at are the grounds for the request
ate agents, others), the complaints l odged with the authorities, the measures of
protection of which they are already benefici aries and their effectiveness, a description
of the context needed to weigh the seri ousness of the threats, the chronology and
proximity in time of the threats made, the id entification of the persons affected and their
degree of risk; individually identifying persons or groups who belong to a category of
individuals at risk; and a description of the measures of protection or other measures
requested. In addition, on evaluating this info rmation, one takes account of the following
contextual elements in relation to the countr y to which the request refers:
ness and impunity in the functioning of the judicial system, indi
ation against vulnerable groups, a nd the controls imposed by the Ex
n the other branches of government.

246. In the case of protecting life and ph ysical integrit
r e mad to security measures required by the beneficiary, but also, it has been
noted consistently that one must judicially investigate the threats, acts of harassment,
or attacks that have targeted the beneficiary directly or other persons in his or her same
situation (for example, in the case of human rights defenders, other members of the
organization of which he or she is a member, who have been killed or exiled because of
the threats). The Inter-Am erican Court has established in its case-law that an
investigation aimed at clarifying and elim inating the causes for which provisional
measures have been granted is among the measures that the State should adopt for
carrying out its obligation to

247. The Commission is satisfied to note the measures that many states
have adopted to comply with the reques ts for precautionary measures, which have
included, in some cases, implementing system s of protection and risk analysis, and it
calls on all other states to adopt without delay all measures necessary to keep human
rights defenders from continuing to be victim s of actions that impede the free exerc

B. Precautionary measures decreed from January 2002 to December
2005 to protect persons involved in activities of human rights defense
248. Since the Human Rights Defenders Unit was established, the
Commission has granted a total of 217 precautionary measures 187 of 1163 requests
received and the number of measures actually granted in recent years. It should be
187 The pe riod analyzed in this chapter is January 2002 to December 2005.

noted that the number of precautionary measur es grante d does not refl ect the number of
person s prote cted by their adoption, sinc e, as noted below, many of the precauti onary
measures gran ted by the Commission extend protection to more than one person , and in
certain cases to groups of persons such a s communities, indigenous p eoples, and civil
society organi zations.

Precautionar y measur es requested by year

200 1 2002 2003 2004 2005

Precaut ionar y measur es gr ant ed by year
37 33
2001 2202 200 3 2004 200 5

249. The Commiss ion notes wit h concern th at the group that has been
forced to seek precautionary measures in the largest numbers correspond s to those
persons who hav
the hum right
granted duri ng the period an
granted a

e received threats to their own rights because of their efforts to de fend
an s of other persons. Of the total nu mber of precautionary measure s
alyzed (217), 44,8% corres pond to meas ures of protec tion
to hum n rights de fenders, whic h means that 97 measures in all have b een
granted to this grou p of per sons.

Precauti onary measure s granted to hum an ri ghts
def ende rs by year
91 100
37 33 38 29 19 11
2002 2003 2004 2005
Tot al grant ed Hum an ri ght s def enders

Percentage of total pr ecautionary m easures gr anted to
human r igh ts defend ers
Human r ights def end ers Other

250. Of the universe of the meas ures granted to defenders, the Commissio n
notes that the largest num bers of threats come from Colombia (44), Guatemala (18),
Mexico (8), Venezuela (7), and Brazil (6). In addition th e situation is worris ome in Haiti,
with respect to which five measures of pr otection have been granted , and from w hich
one provi siona l measure was sought fr om t he Inter-Ameri can Court.


Prec au tionary me as ures g ran ted 2002-200 5
8 7 6 5 3 2 11 1 1 1
Brazil Haiti
ay Peru

251. Based on the affiliation of the benefi ciari es of the measures grante d,
one finds that in the vast m ajority of thes e cases, they were granted to persons tied to
civil society organization s, such as non-govern mental huma n rights, p eace,
development, and environm ental organizations. Second is a group of persons w ho did
not say they were directly tied to a civil s ociety organization, but who individually carry
out work to d efend human r ights. Thi rd w ere public em ployees such as judicial officers ,
personnel fro m the forensic medicine serv ices, perso nne l from p rosecu torial offices, and
person s who hold popular ly-elected positions such as legislators and local co uncil
members. Shared the same third persons who bene fited from measures said they
belonged to trade union org anizations. Fo urth place were indigenou s leaders. Finall y, in
one case the b eneficiaries belonged to a st udent organiza tion.

Precaut ionar y measur es accor ding t o the benef iciaries
affilia tion
10 9 4 1520253035404550
No affilia
Trade uni
genous leaders Student

252. The Commissi on notes that the defender s who are beneficiaries of
precautionary measures undertake activiti es in different areas related to the promotion
and protection of human rights . A large majority are involved in the ju dicial
investigations of seri ous violations s uch as forced disappearances, extrajudicial
executions, forced displac ement, torture, and other forms of cr uel, inhuman, and
degrading trea tment. Other person s work ov erseeing the power of the state in mat ters

such as denouncing corruption, denouncing police brutality, and denouncing acts of
collusion between authorities and paramilitary or parapolice groups. In addition, persons
dedicated to protecting the rights of childr en, the rights of homosexuals, lesbians, and
transgenders, the right of migrants, and the cultural and territorial rights of indigenous
peoples and Afro-descendant communities have been victims of threats and risks to
their life and integrity related to their wo rk. The Commission also notes the grave risk
that trade union leaders, social leaders, and student leaders in several countries face as
they seek redress for their grievances.

253. In every case of measures granted to defenders, the Commission
concluded that the facts show grave risks to the life and integrity of these persons and,
in some cases, their families. Death threats are reported in almost every case. Many
threats were made through written notes in which the messages are found, and in some
cases strict orders indicating the time the threatened person has to leave a given place
or must stop seeking redress for a given grie vance. Another type of threat has been
found in the form of objects that represent d eath or violence that appear at the offices
or homes of human rights defenders, as in the case of bullet cartridges or bloodied dolls.
In other cases, the threats were made through intimidating or insulting phone calls. In
one case, a defender received phone calls where only funeral music was heard.
54.In addition, in evaluating the risk defenders face, the Commission took
into acc ha
55. In response to these incidents and the grave and imminent risk to life
and physical integrity they pose to human rights defenders and their families, the
Commission has made several requests to the states involved. In general, the
Commission has called on the states to adopt, wi thout delay, all measures necessary to
protect the life and personal integrity of th e beneficiaries. This has been translated,
depending on the circumstances in each case, into the granting of perimeter protection
for headquarters, offices, and residences , police escorts and private bodyguards,
mechanisms of personal protection such as armored vehicles and bulletproof vests,
temporarily leaving town, changes in resi dence, and trips outside the country.

256. The Commission has also requested the states that in carrying out the
measures they pay special attention to the circumstances that produced the risk, so as
to be able to fully deactivate the focal poi nts giving rise to risk, and to keep the
situations reported from recurring. In addition, the Commission finds that for this to be
done, it is vital that the states allow the bene ficiaries of the measures to participate in
planning and implementing them. Finally, to prevent the chronic repetition of situations
of risk, the Commission asks in every case, as part of the measures of protection, that a
igation be undertaken into the facts, so as to identify, prosecute, and
unish the direct perpetrators and masterminds of the acts of intimidation and violence.

257. Even though the Commission is satisfied to receive the response from
the state in most cases in which it has gr anted measures of protection to human rights
defenders, it laments and is concerned about the lack of prompt and adequate action to
provide effective protection in some cases, wh ich has translated into fatal events, such
as the death of defenders who have been beneficiaries of precautionary measures. In

ount t t many of these persons were victims of attacks with firearms and
explosive artifacts, such as “book bombs.” The fact of human rights defenders or their
family members being followed was also consid ered to show the urgent need for special
protection. Commonly, vehicles without license plates or identification numbers follow
the movements of human rights defenders; thes e vehicles park in strategic locations
such as in front of their residences or offi ces, or by the schools attended by the children
of the persons being threatened. Other defenders were arbitrarily deprived of their liberty
and forced to get into vehicles in which th ey were beaten and threatened. In one such
case, a woman human rights defender was knocked out and placed in the trunk of a
vehicle, and released in another town several kilometers away.
serious invest

e who are the beneficiaries of precautionary and
provisional measures.
59. On that basis, and in order to analyze the advances of the states’
protectio e
e states’ responses will
be presented, organized based on the topics addressed in the consultation.
f human
rights in of the countries of the Americas.

Those persons who so desire may form non-pro fit civic associations with legal status,
may do or
addition, the Commission notes its concern over the failure of judicial investigations to
advance in the vast majority of cases studied . The Commission reiterates that the failure
to prosecute and sanction the persons responsib le for such deeds makes it impossible to
structurally dismantle the causes giving rise to risk; accordingly, the failure to undertake
an adequate investigation not only prejudices the daily activities of the defenders, but
also increases the risk that they might beco me victims of even worse acts of violence.
The Commission makes an appeal to the states to take actions necessary to fully protect
human rights defenders, especially thos


258. The Commission underscores the importance of the role of state organs
in implementing international human rights law. Accordingly, in principle the
implementation of human rights in the international system is primarily an internal
matter, and, therefore, the organs of pr otection of the inter-American system are
subsidiary in nature.
n of d fenders in keeping with the obligations they have assumed under the
American Declaration and the American Convention, and reaffirmed in the most recent
sessions of the OAS General Assembly, the Human Rights Defenders Unit prepared a
questionnaire that it sent to the 35 member states of the OAS. The questionnaire had
20 questions, divided into three themes: recognition of the human rights organizations
by the states, protection by the states, and acts that impede or encumber the tasks of
human rights defenders and their organizations.
260. The Commission is grateful for the re sponses received from the states
of Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama,
Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Below a summary of th

A. Recognition of human rights organizations

261. The Commission asked the states four questions to determine the legal
requirements demanded by the au thorities for forming civil society organizations whose
purpose is to promote and protect human ri ghts, and to determine whether the domestic
legislations include measures that differentiate between those organizations that are
legally recognized and those that are not. In addition, the Commission asked about the
possibilities of foreign individuals and organizations exercising the defense o
the territory

262. First, the Commission asked the states specifically how their legislation
provided for developing the freedom of association for the defense of human rights, and
whether the domestic laws or regulations impos ed any restrictions on such activity. In
general, the states answered that the freedoms of assembly and association are
constitutionally recognized rights and that their citizens may make use of them to carry
out activities to protect human rights.
263. Argentina stated that its legislat ion does not establish restrictions.
so inf mally in keeping with the pr ovisions of the Civil Code, or may come
together as fundaciones under the pertinent commercial law provisions. Non-profit civic
associations must meet certain requirements such as having articles of incorporation,
registering with the Office of the Inspect or General of Justice, and keeping books of
their assemblies and accounting books.

les on the subject, c ontained in the Civil Code. Accordingly, the
requirements for organizations dedicated to defending human rights are the same as for
any gro ho
corporations at private law. The Chilean Stat e indicated that to meet this requirement
the organizations must fill out the standard form bylaws drawn up by the Ministry of
Justice, hic
None of these persons can have a criminal record, and they must
have a minimum of economic means to carry out their activities.
n to carry out its activities lawfully, it
must be entered in the Registry of Associations kept by the Ministry of Interior. The
state em ed
s to come
together to defend human rights, Salvadoran legislation offers the possibility of
constituting a no nce the founding members
have the articles of incorporation put in the form of an official public document ( escritura
pública ) ec
l rank. Accordingly, in order to
constitute different types of organizations, one must make a formal request to the
compete ho
e first are governed by the Law on Citizen
Participation, among other laws, while the latte r are regulated by provisions of the Civil
Code. T te
is provision has been developed by an executive
264. Belize noted that its Constitution esta blishes the right of association for
all persons, and, pursuant to that right, those persons so interested may form non-
governmental organizations in keeping with th e provisions of the Companies Act. The
state also noted that such organizations ar e independent of governmental control in both
operations and management.
265. The Government of Chile stated that in its domestic legal order there is
no special legislation for associating to defend human rights, accordingly one should
refer to the general ru
up. T se organizations that form alize their existence as such become
by w h they request of the President of the Republic that he grant them
juridical personality. That authority grants such recognition through a decree that must
be published in the Diario Oficial. The reques t must be submitted by at least six persons
or the number of persons required to serve in the positions and functions described in
the respective bylaws.

266. The Government of Costa Rica indicated that freedom of association is
constitutionally recognized and that form provided for in the law for forming such
organizations is that of civic association ( asociación civil). Nonetheless, human rights
organizations may also organize as fundaciones, or trade unions when the purpose is to
defend workers’ rights. According to Costa Ri can legislation, any association must be
constituted through a basic charter that governs its activities (articles of incorporation,
or bylaws). In addition, in order for an associatio
phasiz that the juridical personalit y obtained with registration is declarative
and not constitutive.
267. El Salvador indicated that if a group of persons wishe
n-profit association that is legally formed o
and el t the members of the boards of directors. According to the Salvadoran
authorities, the only restriction establishe d by law is the bar on foreigners being
members or founders of an association, which is only allowed if the person shows that
he or she resides in the country.
268. The Government of Honduras answered that the freedoms of
association, assembly, and petition enjoy constitutiona
nt aut rity (Ministry of Government a nd Justice or Ministry of Interior) in order
to obtain the juridical personality that allows it to operate legally.
269. The Mexican State reported that its legislation provides for two legal
forms: Private assistance institutions ( instituciones de asistencia privada) and civic
associations ( asociaciones civiles ). Th
he Sta indicated that there was no re striction other than respect for the rights
of all others. Thus, those persons who wish to form a private assistance institution or a
civic association need only file a written request, attaching their draft articles of
270. Panama answered noting that its Constitution recognizes the right to
peaceful assembly. At the same time, th

decree t gu
st file the articles of incorporation and the bylaws. The
members of the board of directors must be of Panamanian nationality, unless they are
staff of si
72. Peru also indicated that under its domestic law the right of association
has con na
Uruguayan Government indicated that its laws contain no
restriction on the freedom of association, which is a right recognized in the Constitution.
The lega s
al treatment afforded the organizations that are legally
registered before the authorities and those that carry out their work informally. In
addition C
With respect to the differences between legally recognized
organizations and those that are not recognize d, Belize indicated that the only distinction
is that t og
hat re lates recognition as a social -interest, non-profit association for those
associations that carry out socially beneficial activities. According to this decree, any
organization that wishes to obtain juridical personality must file a power-of-attorney and
an application through an attorney on official paper containing the legal grounds for the
association. In addition, it mu
embas es or diplomatic personnel. Th e work plan for the first five years must
also be attached to the application.

271. The Paraguayan Government stated that any group of persons has
broad powers to associate for the defense of human rights in Paraguay, since the
Constitution recognizes the freedom of association. The Civil Code has a section on non-
profit associations, so long as they state their specific purposes. The only limitation is
that the purpose involve the pursuit of la wful aims; the formation of secret and
paramilitary organizations is forbidden. The Paraguayan Government also indicated that
the existence of juridical persons begins once they have been authorized by law or by
the Executive branch, and are entered in the registry at the General Bureau of Public

stitutio l rank. According to the le gislation, human rights organizations must
adopt the legal form of a non-profit organizati on, since their activities are not geared to
an economic or entrepreneurial objective; rather they have to rise funding to enable them
to pursue their objectives. In addition, Peru indicated that within its jurisdiction,
organizations can form without prior authorization, i.e. they are not subject to
administrative or any other approval. The juridical personality of these organizations
begins from their entry in the respective regi stry. The State emphasized that the entry is
a merely declaratory requirement by whic h access to the formal sector is sought.

273. The
l form provided for in the domestic legislation that are best-suited to human
rights organizations are civic associations ( asociación civil) and non-profit fundaciones.
The requirements for constituting such associat ions are to present the written by-laws,
approved by the assembly, the articles of incorporation of the association, and the
notarial stamps and other fees established by the regulation.
274. On the same subject, the Commission asked the states what
differences exist, if any, in the leg
, the ommission asked whether th ere is any difference between foreign
individuals and organizations, and nationals. With respect to the first inquiry, the states
in general indicated that the registration of organizations was declarative and enabled
organizations to exercise rights as juridical persons, and, in some cases, to receive tax

275. Argentina indicated that the onl y notable difference between the
informal and registered organizations is that the first are considered mere civic
associations, and the founding members and di rectors assume joint-and-several liability
for the acts of the informal ones. In addition, Argentina indicated that under its
legislation, associations existing in foreign countries under the same conditions as those
required in Argentina are juridical persons.
he rec nized ones may benefit from tax exemptions. The Belizean State also

nizations without juridical personality may exercise
citizen rights as natural persons. Chile indicat ed that there was no special regulation for
foreigne in
law, may operate in Costa Rica wh en they establish a subsidiary or register
the country. If not in compliance with these options, they would be in the same
situation e
also indicated that its legislation does not have any special regulation for a foreign
person t rt
onsidered involvement in
internal politics, and that they may be expelled and repress by that channel.”
er into cooperation agreements with the state, receive tax incentives, receive
donations, make investments, and receive advisory services from the Junta de
Asistenc ad
organizations. The State added that under Pana manian law no organization, registered or
reported that its legislation regulates national and international organizations without

277. Chile noted that in contrast to the unregistered organizations, those
with juridical personality have a full legal ex istence, and may acquire assets, dispose of
their own property, obtain public and private financing, have bank accounts, and
represent interests before the courts of just ice. Similarly, non-profit organizations enjoy
tax benefits. Nonetheless, the orga
rs and ternational organizations wish ing to carry out activities in Chile, just as
there are no special limitations on the Ch ileans who work in those organizations.

278. Costa Rica indicated that the informal organizations could carry out the
same type of activities, but that their members would answer individually for them. In
addition, some economic benefits can be gran ted to legally constituted organizations to
which the informal groupings do not have access. With respect to foreign organizations,
the Costa Rican Government reported that foreign associations, according to the
as th informal organizations. Th e only limitation on foreign persons in Costa
Rica, according to the state, is that the Constitution prohibits them from holding
leadership positions in trade unions.

279. El Salvador stated that both the legally recognized organizations and
the informal ones may engage in any lawful activity, peacefully and without arms.
Nonetheless, the first are subjects of right s and are obligated to pay taxes, though non-
profit associations may be declared to be of public utility by the General Bureau of
Revenue, in which case they are exempted from payment of the income tax. El Sal
o unde ake human rights promotion activities, except that they cannot found an
association if they do not have legal reside nce in the country. Nonetheless, the state
recognized that “unfortunately the legislati on on migration matters gives wide discretion
to the authorities of the Ministry of Interior to consider whether a foreigner is becoming
involved in internal political affairs, which is grounds for expulsion. One runs the risk,
therefore, of the arbi trary use of that power, according to which a foreigner’s activities
in the promotion and protection of human rights may be c

280. Honduras stated that foreign persons have the same rights as nationals
as provided in the Constitution. With respect to the difference between registered and
informal organizations, Honduras indicated that the unrecognized organizations “may
carry out their activities.”

281. Mexico indicated that the legally recognized organizations have the
right to ent
ia Priv a , among other benefits. Foreigners w ho wish to enter the country and
engage in work to monitor the human rights situation may enter as visitors, in which
case they are authorized for one year, which can be extended for up to four years. If the
purpose of entering the country is solely to engage in promotion activities, no special
permission is required to enter the country beyond what is demanded of all foreign

282. The Panamanian State answered that the legally recognized
organizations have access to tax benefits and incentives aimed at bolstering their
operations, and to contract and acquire rights and obligations on behalf of the

tween foreigners and nationals, the State reported that there is no provision
establishing any distinction in the exercise of these rights.
to the special regime regulated in Decree 334/70.
Among the benefits granted by that provision are, inter alia, the recognition of juridical
personali i
dingly, the
Governments of Argentina, Costa Rica, Pa nama, and Venezuela indicated that the
fundame c
ted that the Government provides for a mechanism of dialogue
that includes quarterly meetings with the prime minister. The Government emphasized that
this is th t
n on Human Rights made up of all the vice-ministries of the Executive branch,
entrusted with the essential mission of drawi ng up government reports on human rights to be
submitte e v
unregistered, could serve as legal representative before the courts. With respect to the
distinction be

283. The Government of Paraguay indicated that the differences between legally
constituted organizations and othe rs have to do with actions before the judicial, political, and
administrative authorities of the state, in that the legally constituted associations may
represent persons affected, whereas the informal groups cannot exercise such representation.
As for the distinctions between foreigners and nationals, the State said that any foreign
person must be affiliated with an internationa lly recognized organization to carry out human
rights activities.

284. Peru indicated that the associations duly entered in the public registries
may act before third persons with no limitations other than those established by law. In
contrast, those not so entered do not have sufficient juridical personality to be able to act
with the same facility. In addition, the State alleged that there is no limitation or distinction
for foreign persons other than complying with residency requirements.

285. Uruguay said that the informal organizati ons cannot appear at trial, or enjoy
tax benefits. Nonetheless, access to mechanisms of citizen participation, for example, on the
ground, is not subject to official recognition or having juridical personality. Furthermore, the
Government indicated that the recognition of in ternational organizations whose main office is
outside Uruguayan territory is subject
ty, the nviolability of the organizations’ locales and documents, exemption from
customs duties and other taxes, exemption from labor charges, and visa at no charge for
entering and leaving the country.
B. Protection from the State

286. In the second section of the questionnaire, the Commission inquired into
the means of protection created by the state to keep human rights defenders from being
victims of illegal restrictions or reprisals for their work. First, the Commission asked the states
whether they have forums for dialogue with the organizations dedicated to the promotion and
defense of human rights.

287. Based on the states’ responses, the Commission finds that the state
entities that have the most contact and dial ogue with the human rights organizations are the
Offices of the Human Rights Ombudsperson ( las Defensorías del Pueblo). Accor
ntal me hanism for dialogue was the Office of the Human Right Ombudsperson ( la
Defensoría del Pueblo or Defensoría de los habitantes ).

288. Belize indica
e first ime the Executive branch has recognized the importance of civil society,
including it in the ministerial portfolio.

289. The Government of Bolivia referred to the creation of its “National Strategy
for Human Rights,” which it described as a mechanism for designing and carrying out public
policies to promote the defense of and respect for human rights. This mechanism is entrusted
to an Inter-institutional Council made up the Mi nisters of Foreign Affairs and Worship, the
Presidency, Education, Indigenous Affairs, and Sustainable Development, and representatives
of the human rights community. The National Strategy also has an Inter-Ministerial
d to th arious international agencies and mechanisms.

74 has created units
known as Unidades Orgánica s, and has developed programs to attend to organizations
that rep s
Costa Rica said that in addition to the work done by the Defensoría de
los Habi t
292. The Salvadoran State indicated that “unfortunately one does not find in
El Salva ny
4. dialogue is the
Inter-Min rial to Mexico’s Human Rights Commitments,
created in 1997
itment of child soldiers, visiting the
country’s penitentiaries and police stations to investigate the quality of life of the
prisoner on
the State has a National Human Rights Council
(CNDH), whi h is entru
ation of the organs of the
ter-American system and the decisions of its organs with regard to human rights
290. The Government of Chile indicated th at its ministries serve as liaison
and generally receive requests related to human rights. In addition, the General
Secretariat of Interior, through the Division of Social Organizations,
resent ociety. In July 2001, the Presidential Advisory Commission for the
Protection of Human Rights (known as the Comisión Defensora Ciudadana, Citizen
Defense Commission) was installed; its mission is to see to the defense and protection
of persons in the face of acts or omission s of state organs once a citizen has exhausted
the respective initiatives, without obtaining any response. 91.
tantes , he State institutionalized as forums for dialogue the National Council on
Childhood and Adolescence; the Boards of Pr otection for Children and Adolescents, and
Committees to Protect the Rights of Children and Adolescents; the Permanent Forum on
the Migrant Population; and the Regional Environmental Councils.

dor a mechanism for dialogue between the State and the civil society
organizations or individuals who work in th e defense of human rights. To the contrary,
on many occasions the relationship between them has become very tense.”

293. Honduras indicated that its Government has a mechanism for dialogue
in the National Forum of Convergence (FONAC), which brings together state institutions,
social and political organizations, the church, and others. The State indicated that this
forum establishes and fosters consensus on social issues, including human rights.
29Mexico answered that the mechanism for channeling
ste Commission for Attending
to coordinate the positions of the different offices of the public
administration in order to carry out the count ry’s international commitments. As part of
this Commission, the Mechanism of Dialogue was instituted between the Inter-
Ministerial Commission and the civil society organizations for the purpose of creating
institutional spaces for interaction a nd dialogue with the non-governmental

295. Paraguay, in addition to noting the creation of the Office of Human
Rights Ombudsperson ( Defensoría del Pueblo), indicated that inter-institutional
commissions have been formed with representa tives of the state and civil society. The
State indicated that such commissions have undertaken specific actions, such as visiting
the military barracks in order to investigate th e recru
s, resp ding to the demands of the indigenous communities, and assisting
street children.
296. Peru indicated that
c sted with promoting, coordinating, and disseminating the
protection and observance of human rights, and advising the Executive in this area. The
CNDH is made up of the minister of just ice and several representatives of other
ministries, the Judicial branch, and the Public Ministry.

297. In addition, in order to learn of the states’ actions to prevent violations
by promoting the culture of human rights, the Commission asked the states about the
extent of human rights training for public officials, and about the mechanisms
implemented by states to foster the dissemin ation and applic

75 the Judicial branch and the
Office of the Attorney General.
ights and international
humanitarian law as part of the course s they take in their military training.
law, among
others. Along the same lines, the Salvadoran State indicated that the National Academy
for Publ uri
to attend international seminars such as the inter-disciplinary course given by the Inter-
America ut
aining in human rights that have benefited members of the armed forces
and police, including graduate-level courses, short courses ( diplomados), and other
ea of human rights, human rights studies have been included in the
curricula of the schools and universities.
dition, the State indicated that
the mechanism most commonly used to promote the dissemination and application of
human r s h
. The Government of Peru responded that the Public Ministry, the
udicial branch, and the National Police and Armed Forces include issues related to
298. Argentina indicated that in 2002 the Secretariat of Human Rights of
the Nation began to give permanent training courses in human rights for administrative
agents, including the security forces. Be lize noted that the Ministry of Human
Development has made an effort in this regard geared to the Ministry staff who work
with women’s and children’s rights. Bolivia stated that the Human Rights Ombudsperson
has the mission of designing, implementing, and supervising programs for the defense,
promotion, and dissemination of human ri ghts; as part of that mission, the
Ombudsperson trains public officials, including the National Police and the Armed
Forces. The Council of the Judiciary does th e same for

299. The Chilean Government stated that it offers general courses given by
specialists that include training in internat ional instruments and the incorporation of
international human rights treaties into dome stic law. Chile indicated that as of 2000,
the Armed Forces have been receiving special training in human r

300. Costa Rica reported that judicial o fficers receive a training program at
the Judicial School covering issues such as family violence, children’s rights, refugees’
rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, and international humanitarian
ic Sec ty and the National Council of the Judiciary are the entities entrusted
with giving human rights training to public officials. Honduras reported that the
personnel of the Office of the Attorney General and other judicial officers are providing
training through short courses ( diplomados) and in some cases are given the oppor
n Instit e of Human Rights.

301. Mexico indicated that several courses and programs have been
organized in the area of human rights education. In this vein, human rights and
international humanitarian law were included in the study plans of the Military Education
System, and in the permanent programs for tr aining and instruction of the units, offices,
and installations of the Mexican Army and Air Force. In addition, the State cited several
programs for tr
302. Panama said that public defenders, personnel working in the
administration of justice, and the members of the National Police have been trained in
human rights through seminars, workshops, c onferences, and even specialized studies.
In addition, the Panamanian State noted that to promote the dissemination and
application of the instruments of the inter- American system and the decisions of its
organs in the ar

303. Paraguay indicated that government employees are regular beneficiaries
of programs to train in human rights, some designed by its own institutions, such as the
Judicial branch, the Public Ministry, and others, with the support of international
cooperation and non-governmental organizations. In ad
ights i olding symposia and workshops that include the participation of all the
state institutions involved in human rights, and civil society organizations, as well as
special guests and victims of human rights violations, who participate in the public
debates held as part of t hose activities and events, which are widely disseminated.

fundame um
courses for entry and promotion include human rights
awareness of
members of the armed forces and police and optimize the systems, plans, and
mechani r
rms of the inter-American system in relation to
human rights defenders, and what their functions are.

charged with promoting obse rvance of the rules with respect to the
protection of human rights defenders. In addi tion, the Argentine Constitution provides
for the r o
r, known as the
Ombudsman, which is in charge of investig ating citizen complaints of corruption or
illegal a s
as a
road constitutional mandate that authorizes it to see to it that human rights are
respecte gu
ntal h an rights in the training they give their personnel. These trainings
complement those given by the National Hu man Rights Council. In addition, the State
pointed to Law 25,211, on the dissemination and teaching of the Constitution and
treaties for the defense, promotion, and de velopment of human rights, which mandates
education in this area.
305. The Government of Uruguay said that prosecutors, public defenders, as
well as judicial personnel are law graduate s from the national universities, which
incorporate the teaching of human rights in their programs. The same holds for the
Armed Forces and Police, whose

306. Venezuela indicated that the Office of the Human Rights
Ombudsperson disseminates human rights, and has designed several programs for
human rights training geared to various state agencies. In addition, the State created the
Area of Citizen Security and National Armed Fo rces in order to raise the
sms fo the protection of human rights. A recommendation was also made to
the educational authorities at police training centers to include human rights in the

307. The next group of questions was aimed at inquiring into the
mechanisms adopted by the states to grant measures of protection to defenders when
they are victims of actions that keep them fr om doing their work freely. In this vein, the
Commission asked what provisions and measur es have been adopted domestically to
guarantee the freedom to defend human right s, which organs are entrusted with
promoting the observance of the no
308. Argentina reported that its Consti tution establishes the rights and
freedoms of all persons, including human right s defenders. The State did not indicate an
organ specially dedicated to protecting huma n rights defenders, but it did note that the
national Ombudsperson for Human Rights, the provincial ombudspersons, the
Secretariats of the Nation and the provin cial ones, the National Institute against
Discrimination, Racism, and Xenophobia, and the Indigenous Institute are among the
emedy f amparo to defend human rights.
309. Belize also indicated that its Constitution recognizes fundamental
rights, which include, inter alia, the rights to life, personal liberty, and the freedoms of
assembly, association, and expression. The State indicated that there is no agency
specifically dedicated to protecting human rights defenders. Nonetheless, the State
indicated that it has the Office of the Parliamentarian Commissione
ctivitie of public employees. The powers of this office include requesting
support for its work from the public authorit ies, who are required to take all measures
necessary to assist the Ombudsman.
310. El Salvador stated that the protection of rights established by the
Constitution and by statute for all persons who live in its territory is entrusted to the
Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (Office of the Human Rights
Ombudsperson) and the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. Accordingly, the
State indicated that the Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos h
d and aranteed, to investigate human rights violations on its own initiative or
when a complaint has been lodged, and to produce and publish reports, among others.

ade up the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, and Public
Security, and the Office of the Attorney General, who meet with the possible
beneficia o
12. The governments of Costa Rica, Chile, Uruguay, and Venezuela
indicated gi
nternal mechanism was used to channel precautionary measures granted by
the Commission. The Argentine Government stated that depending on the nature of the
314. El Salvador noted that it does not have a statutorily mandated
mechani r t
valuation Committee to implement
recautionary or protective measures. This Committee is in charge, among other things,
of recei an
Court of Justice and the Office of the Attorney
General ral de la Nación). For its part, the Paraguayan Government
indicated m
The Procuraduría has a staff of 425 persons no more than 60 of whom have knowledge
of the law, the rest being administrative personnel.

311. The Mexican Government answered that it has a group of federal
government offices m
ries t discuss what measures should be taken to protect not only the
defenders, but also the possible victims of human rights violations. The group is made
up of four ministries, which work on the Dra ft Terms of Collaboration, in keeping with
the Organic Law of the Federal Public Administration.
that ven that in their countries no acts occur that might impede the normal
development of the activities of human ri ghts defenders, they do not have specific
mechanisms for protecting these persons. In addition, the governments of Honduras,
Panama, Paraguay, and Peru indicated that they have not taken any specific measure to
protect human rights defenders.

313. In the next section of the questionnaire, the Commission asked the
states what i
ordered, the national or provincial public authority adopts the respective
measures. Bolivia indicated that once the st ate receives the request through the Foreign
Ministry, it forwards it to the Vice-Ministry of Justice, which helps coordinate the other
offices of the state so as to implement the measures ordered. Chile stated that periodic
reports are requested of the institutions that carry out the measures through the Human
Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
sm fo hat purpose. In practice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after being
informed that measures have been adopted, communicates with the pertinent state
office to request information. The State indi cated, moreover, that “the effectiveness of
this mechanism is frankly in doubt, and it wa s made very clear that it was useless for
handling the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR in the case of persons living
with HIV/AIDS, which led to the death of nearly one-third of the victims.”

315. The Mexican Government reported that its Draft Terms of Collaboration
provide for the creation of a Monitoring and E
ving, alyzing, and, as the case may be, turning over to the competent
authority the requests for precautionary meas ures that come before it, as well as
proposing to the competent authorities the precautionary or protective measures that are
necessary and indispensable.
316. The Panamanian State noted that th e measures are sent, through the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the administra tive or judicial authority in charge of the
case or proceeding. If the m easures entail a judicial proceeding, they are processed
through the presidency of the Supreme
( Procuraduría Gene
that easures are implemented th rough different offices that have been
established for the defense and promotion of human rights in the three branches of
government, and for coordinated work in commi ttees to that end. The actions of these
offices are reported to the Commission through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly
with the General Bureau for Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice and Labor.
317. The Peruvian State explained that on receiving the request for
measures, in the case of situations relate d to health, coordination is immediately

78ed. Those actions are reported to
the Commission through the Foreign Ministry. In the case of threats to physical integrity,
the Ministry of
ork of human rights defenders or
their organizations
ctly impede or encumber the work of human rights
defenders. If there were such restrictions , the states were asked to indicate what
measure b
criminal procedure. Nonetheless, the
Argentine State answered that there ar e no known cases in which perpetrators,
accomp r
in the public
administration and in the judicial branch.
ts defenders, Belize answered: “Not many convictions, if
any at all.”
ts are
performed that directly or indirectly impe de or encumber the work of human rights
defende S
established through the Ministry of Justice with the health sector to visit the person and
verify his or her health, and determine the care need
Justice communicates with the Ministry of Interior, which, through a
special committee, makes a visit to the person in question in order to obtain detailed
information on the situation and to be able to adopt measures to protect and patrols to
safeguard the physical integrity of the pers on affected, and his or her family and

C. Acts that impede or encumber th e w

318. The final section of the questionnaire drawn up by the Commission
was aimed at looking into the acts committ ed against human rights defenders, and the
measures of protection, investigation, and punishment of such conduct adopted by the
states. Accordingly, the Commission asked the states whether in their countries there
were acts that directly or indire
s have een taken to prevent such attacks, in how many cases there had been
guilty verdicts, and how the judicial system is organized to respond to such acts. Finally,
the Commission asked the states whether they faced any obstacle to attaining effective
protection for the activity of human rights defenders.

319. The Argentine State indicated that “of late there have been attacks
against persons who work in human rights organizations.” To investigate and punish
such conduct, the Government said that it ha s the same justice system that is involved
in any other crime, through the law on regul ar
lices, o aiders and abettors in attacks on human rights defenders have been
identified, other than those referring to th e participants in the violations committed
during the last military dictatorship. Accordi ng to the Government, the only perpetrators
identified have been those responsible fo r some attacks committed for anti-Semitic
reasons by neo-Nazis, who were prosecuted. Argentina added that the main obstacle
faced by persons who are dedicated to the defense of human rights may be the lack of
specific policies aimed at disseminating and promoting human rights

320. Belize indicated that there have b een some cases of confrontations
between public authorities and human rights organizations. The issues that commonly
give rise to such confrontations refer to police abuse, but according to the State, they
have not kept human rights defenders from doing their work. With respect to the
question of whether there are convictions of the perpetrators of human rights violations
committed against human righ

321. Bolivia indicated that it did not have a record of acts of the state that
might directly or indirectly impede or encu mber the work of those persons, groups, or
organizations who work to protect and prom ote human rights. Nonetheless, the State
noted it had difficulties effectively protecti ng the activity of human rights defenders, due
to the lack of a special law and a specific state mechanism to address the issue. The
Government indicated that for this reas on it began work on a preliminary bill on
322. The Chilean State answered that in its jurisdiction no ac
rs. The tate added that in the last 12 years, it has not learned of any complaint
by members of human rights organizations against the Government or its employees for

24. El Salvador stated that in recent times no cases have been known that
entail a ks o
Nonetheless, some cases have come up in rela tion to the violation of the facilities where
human ri organizations operate. In this re spect, the State’s response indicated that
“there a n
f human rights of human rights
defenders. El Salvador concluded that there are no legal obstacles to attaining effective
protectio he
erate with judicial officers, in some cases for
fear of reprisals, and the lack of inter-institutional coordination.
f civil society nor did they forcefully condemn attacks on and threats
against human rights defenders, which contri buted to the tense environment in which
human e
human rights in general, and the cultural of human rights; and the
organizations have been recognized to have a permanent place in the Inter-Ministerial
Commis H
attacks on life or personal integrity, threats, harassment, violations of the home, or
arbitrary interference with or attacks of any type against these organizations. Nor has it
had any news of wiretapping, bugging, or ot her forms of intercepting communications.

323. Similarly, Costa Rica indicated that in its territory there are no acts
encumbering the work of human rights defenders. To the contrary, the activities of
protecting and promoting human rights are generally very well received.

ttac n life, personal integrity, threats, or harassment of defenders.
re stro g suspicions – yet no evidence – that the state intelligence agency
( Organismo de Inteligencia del Estado ) wiretaps and uses electronic listening devices to
listen to many persons, including human rights defenders, notwithstanding the express
constitutional prohibition” on such conduct. In addition, the State noted “with great
concern” that Salvadoran legislation recognize s that juridical status is granted by entry
in the Registry of Associations and Foundations; and that agency is known for excessive
delays in making the entry, with which efforts to form associations and fundaciones are
held back until the entry is finally ordered. The State indicated that no measures are
known of that are directly fostered by the St ate to prevent these acts, and that no guilty
verdicts are known of in cases of the violation o
n of t activity of human rights defenders, but obstacles arise given the lack
of political will to foster a climate of broad respect for human rights.

325. Honduras noted some acts impede the free defense of human rights,
including attacks on the life and personal inte grity of the defenders. With respect to
these events, the State indicat ed, the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic,
the Ministry of Security, the National Human Rights Ombudsperson ( Comisionado
Nacional de los Derechos Humanos ), and the Judicial branch undertake investigations as
well as the respective corrective measures and penalties to avoid impunity.
Nonetheless, the state response indicated, in very few cases have convictions been
secured. The response also indicated that th e Honduran State faces certain obstacles to
attaining effective protection for the acti vity of human rights defenders, such as
reticence on the part of citizens to coop

326. The Mexican State noted that “the hi storical mutual distrust between
government and civil society, along with the mistaken perception of some sectors of
society that human rights defenders defend cr iminals, has created a hostile environment
for the work of human rights defenders, es pecially in localized areas.” Moreover,
according to the Government, previous ad ministrations never openly recognized the
importance o
rights d fenders perform their work. According to the State, in addition to the
foregoing is the lack of adequate legislation to facilitate the development of these
organizations’ work and fundraising efforts. The State indicated that officials of the
current government, including the President of the Republic, have voiced their respect
for human rights defenders and have emphasi zed just how necessary and useful their
work is for the country in several forums. In addition, campaigns have been carried out
to promote
sion on uman Rights Policy. With respect to guilty verdicts for those who have
committed crimes against defenders, the State answered that it has no information in
this respect. The State indicated that the ma in obstacles human rights defenders face in

27. The Panamanian State answered that none of the acts that the
Commis av
nvestigate such
acts should they arise. In addition, those who live in the Republic of Panama have
procedu ch
broader coverage
and be more effective.
Mexico are the different forms of inertia from the past and the inherited culture of a lack
of respect for human rights.

sion g e as examples of violence against human rights defenders has been
found. Nonetheless, the State indicated that it has institutional mechanisms such as the
Public Ministry and the Office of the Hu man Rights Ombudsperson to i
res su as habeas corpus, amparo or special protection for constitutional
guarantees, and the right of petition to claim their rights.
328. Paraguay answered that in its terri tory there are death threats and
harassment of human rights organizations, but that those threats have not been
consummated. In addition, in only a few cases have acts of vandalism against defenders
been reported. The State indicated that Para guay is taking several measures to prevent
such cases. Nonetheless, the State indicated that even when the justice system has
adequate laws, generally they are not used ad equately by the parties in criminal cases,
who do not provide the solid data and ev idence needed for the measures to be
adequate. Accordingly, convictions for such acts are few and far between, due to the
lack of reliable evidence, “even though approx imately 20 cases are on record” in which
convictions were handed down. The State conc luded that it finds no obstacle to the
political will and mechanisms implemented to protect human rights; to the contrary, with
each passing day it is further developing mechanisms for prevention and protection in
this area. According to the State, the so le obstacle that comes up blindside is the
economic factor, which, if bolstered, would allow the actions to have

329. The Peruvian Government indicat ed that at present no acts are
detected that directly or indirectly impede or encumber the tasks of persons who work
to promote human rights. Accordingly, with the full re-establishment of democracy in
our country, there are no difficulties in the work of human rights defenders, which in
general terms includes all persons engaged in activities to disseminate and promote
human rights, not only from civil society, but also from the perspective of the State
itself. Similarly, the Governments of Urugua y and Venezuela answered that there are no
obstacles to human rights defense in their respective countries.


A. Importance of the work of human rights defenders

330. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expresses its
recognition for the admirable work of thousands of human rights defenders to ensure the
effective observance of the human rights of the inhabitants of all the Americas. The
Commission encourages and supports human ri ghts defenders and recognizes that they
are the liaison between civil society within each country and the system for the
protection of human rights internationally. Th eir role in society is fundamental to
guaranteeing and safeguarding democracy and the rule of law.

331. This irreplaceable role of hum an rights defenders has been
acknowledged by the American States through many General Assembly resolutions and
by the signing and ratification of treaties that protect defenders’ rights, among them,
the Inter-American Democratic Charter, th e American Declaration, and the American
Convention. It has also been recognized by the organs of protection of the inter-
American system of human rights and several international organs, such as the United
Nations and the African Commission.

332. The IACHR is seriously concerned by the grave situation of insecurity
and dan wh

attacks, threats, and other violations against human rights
defenders. The lack of a serious investigation into the complaints that involve defenders
in some a
at the states owe special attention to certain
groups of human rights defenders who are more exposed to the infringement of their
rights th the pecially exposed in
periods leading up to labor conflicts, social leaders who carry out or organize public
demonst ,

B. Problems human rights defenders face in their work

ger in ich human rights defenders mu st pursue their work in the hemisphere.
Assassinations, forced disappearances, assaults , threats, being identified as enemies or
legitimate targets, smear campaigns, legal act ions aimed at intimidating them, violation
of their homes, and illegal activities targeting defenders – all of these mechanisms used
to impede and encumber their work – are part of their day-to-day reality. The
Commission recalls that when a human rights defender is attacked, all those persons for
whom he or she works are left without protection.
333. Additionally, the Commission has found other direct forms of hindering
the work of human rights defenders. These include, among others, the lack of access to
information in the hands of the state, and restrictions on the possibilities of financing
human rights defenders’ organizations, which range from financial restrictions to criminal
sanctions; and the restrictions and delays in legal recognition for these organizations.

334. The Commission laments the fact that statements by state agents put
human rights defenders and their organizations at risk and make them vulnerable. Such
statements contradict the commitments assumed by the countries of the Americas on
ratifying the American Convention and repeated statements of support for the work of
defenders in the meetings of the General Assembly of the OAS.

335. The Commission notes in particular its profound concern over the
alarming impunity in the countries of the hemisphere. Impunity contributes to the
increased number of
cases, s well as the sluggishness of the administration of justice, together with
the failure by the states to acknowledge th at defenders face obstacles in performing
their activities, and that, accordingly, they need special protection, are all factors giving
rise to impunity for human rights violators. Impunity fosters the vulnerability of
defenders since it gives rise to the percepti on that it is possible to violate human rights
without being punished.

C. Especially vulnerable groups of defenders

336. The IACHR notes th
an o rs. 188 These include trade union leaders, who are es
rations indigenous leaders who defe nd their rights as indigenous peoples, afro-
descendent leaders, and judicial officers, esp ecially insofar as they are involved in cases
involving human rights violations. It shoul d also be noted that women human rights
defenders, by reason of their gender, are exposed to specifically sexual threats or
attacks, such as threats of rape or sexual assault.
D. Duty of guarantee and protection

337. The IACHR concludes that despite some already-existing mechanisms
of protection, and the growing support by th e states internationally for the work of
human rights defenders, in recent years the danger and insecurity defenders face have
worsened in many countries of the hemisphere. The Commission understands that this is
due to the fact that, unfortunately, progress in international provisions has not been
accompanied by adequate domestic policies.
8 In this regard, see also UN, E/CN.4/2003/104 § 23. 18

. anisms to protect
threatened defenders, the desired result s have not been obtained. The Commission
observes th
the moment the public authority
arns that they are being th reatened because of their as human rights defenders. The
number s
lives, the Commission
reiterates once again the importance of sp ecial protection for those defenders whose
lives are ,
. dertaken by the Commission
throughout this report, and in order to c ontribute to the protection of human rights
defende en
ry level of the state – local, state or
provincial, and national – and in every branch of government –
thorities and officials at the local level
should be aware of the principles regarding the activities of human the guidelines
se principles.
338 Even in those states that have cr eated special mech
that e lack of results is often due to the lack of political support for such
institutions, the insufficient resources allocated for their operation, and the obstacles
they face stemming from their lack of legitimacy in the eyes of the police, army, or

339. In addition the Commission concludes that one of the first steps for
providing effective protection to human ri ghts defenders is publicly recognizing the
legitimacy of their work, and protecting th em from
of assa sinations of defenders in the region shows that the states should take a
defender’s complaint of threats seriously, and act immediately and effectively. In this
regard, the Commission recalls that in many cases in which defenders have died, their
death was preceded by threats that were properly reported to the authorities, and
ignored by them.

340. The Commission sadly observes that many defenders who enjoyed
special protection, whether at the initiative of the state or granted at the request of the
IACHR or the Inter-American Court, have been assassinated. This situation reveals, if
not the failure of the states to carry out the measures, at least the partial or ineffective
manner in which they were carried out. In order to save their
at risk by granti ng precautionary measures.

341. The Commission underscores its conviction that the states have the
right and the duty to adopt the measures needed to combat those who generate
violence that threatens their populations. Such initiatives should be taken in keeping
with the rule of law and the standards esta blished in the American Declaration and the
American Convention, which are adequate frameworks for obtaining the security to
which the population legitimately aspires.


342Based on the information and analysis un
rs and sure the effective development of their work,

1. Foster a culture of human rights in which the fundamental role played
by human rights defenders in guaranteeing democracy and the rule of
law is recognized publicly and unequivocally. The commitment to this
policy should be reflected at eve
executive, legislative, and judicial.

2. Publicly recognize that the exercise of the protection and promotion of
human rights is a legitimate action and that, on exercising these
actions, human rights defenders are not working against state
institutions, but rather, to the contrary, are contributing to the
strengthening of the rule of law and the expansion of all persons’ rights
and guarantees. All state au
rights defenders and their protection, as well as
applicable to the observance of tho

widely disseminate the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of
Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect
. Implement, as a priority matter, a comprehensive policy of protection
their commitment of support and

s, and judicial officers in the performance of
their activities. In those countries in which the attacks on these actors merous, the states should earmark all the
resources needed and spelled out in this recommendation to prevent
human rights defenders
whenever they are at risk of attack through specific mechanisms
recognition le within the movement to
defend human rights.
ission or Court, and they should be
agreed upon in consultation with the defenders to ensure they are


3. Undertake activities for education and dissemination for all state
agents, society at large, and the press, to raise awareness about the
importance and validity of the work of human rights defenders and
their organizations. The Commission calls on the states to promote and
Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The
Commission also calls on the states to design a program of specific
measures to implement the Declaration.

4. Instruct their authorities to ensure that, from the highest level, forums
for open dialogue are generated with human rights organizations to
learn of both their opinions on public policies and the problems that
beset them.

for human rights defenders. Adopt an effective and exhaustive strategy
of prevention in order to preven t attacks against human rights
defenders. This requires granting appropriate funds and political
support to the institutions and programs. This policy of prevention and
protection should take into account the periods when they are most
vulnerable. The state authorities s hould remain vigilant especially
during those periods and make public
6. Urgently adopt effective measures to protect the life and physical
integrity of human rights defenders who are threatened, and to ensure
that these measures are decided on in consultation with the defenders.
Ensure the security of trade union leaders, community and campesino
leaders, indigenous leader
are more systematic and nu
harm to the life and physical integrity of these leaders.

7. Guarantee in particular the security of women
because of their gender, and to undertake measures to obtai
of the importance of their ro

Allocate human, budgetary, and logistical resources to implement the
adequate measures of protection sought by the Inter-American
Commission or the Inter-American Court to protect the life and physical
integrity of human rights defenders. Such measures should be in force
for the time requested by the Comm
appropriate and allow them to conti nue carrying out their activities.
Illegal armed groups are among the main perpetrators of violence
against human rights defenders. States must implement a serious
policy to investigate, prosecute, a nd punish all of the actors involved,
not only their armed members, but also those who promote, direct,
support, or finance such groups or participate in them.

0. The governments should not tolerate any effort on the part of state
1. The states should ensure that their authorities or third persons will not
to investigate those who violate the law within their
territory, but the states also have the obligation to take the measures

13. Refrain from engaging in any type of arbitrary or abusive meddling in
of a mechanism for periodic, independent review of such archives is

should establish an expedited, independent, and
effective mechanism for this that in cludes review by civilian authorities

registering will be required. Domestic laws should clearly establish the

ise, and broad
definitions of the legitimate motives for restricting their establishment
and operation.
authorities to cast in doubt the legitimacy of the work of human rights
defenders and their organizations. Public officials must refrain from
making statements that stigmatize human rights defenders or that
suggest that human rights organiza tions act improperly or illegally,
merely because of engaging in th eir work to promote and protect
human rights. Governments should give n precise instructions to their
officials in this respect and should impose disciplinary sanctions on
those who do not comply with such instructions.
manipulate the punitive power of the st ate and its organs of justice in
order to harass those who are dedicat ed to legitimate activities, such
as human rights defenders. The Commi ssion reiterates that the states
have the duty
needed to ensure that state investig ations are not used to bring unjust
and unfounded criminal proceedings against persons who legitimately
call for respect and protection of human rights.
Adopt mechanisms to prevent the ex cessive use of force during public
demonstrations, through planning, prevention, and investigation
measures that follow, among othe rs, the guidelines set forth in
paragraph 68 herein.
the home or offices of the organizations of human rights defenders, or
in their correspondence and telephone and electronic communications.
Instruct the authorities affiliated with the state security agencies to
respect these rights, and impose disciplinary and criminal sanctions on
those who engage in such practices.
Revise the premises and procedures governing intelligence-gathering
activities targeting human rights defe nders and their organizations to
ensure due protection of their rights. To this end, the im
Allow and facilitate the access of defenders, and the general public, to
public information held by the state, as well as private information
about them. The state
of decisions taken by the security forces to deny access to information.
Ensure that the procedure for entering human rights organizations in
the public registries will not impede their work and that it will have a
declaratory and not constitutive effect. The states should guarantee
that the registry of the organizations will be processed quickly and that
only the documents needed to obtain the information appropriate f
maximum time frames for state au thorities to answer requests for
Refrain from promoting laws and polic ies regarding the registration of
human rights organizations that use vague, imprec


ilitate human rights
organizations’ access to foreign funds in the context of international

ders. The Commission
calls on the states to undertake exhaustive and independent
2. Strengthen their mechanisms for the administration of justice and

23. Take the necessary steps to ensure adequate and clear coordination
inated fashion and respond with due diligence in
investigating attacks on human rights defenders.
5. Create and strengthen legal mechanisms for effective precautionary

Ensure that the human rights organizations whose registrations are
rejected have available to them a remedy to challenge that decision
before an independent court. The states should also ensure an
impartial remedy for situations in which organizations’ registration is
suspended or they are dissolved.
Refrain from restricting the means of financing of human rights
organizations. The states should allow and fac
cooperation, in transparent conditions.
Guarantee effective administrative and legal measures for the
protection of union delegates, including mainstream and minority
unions and those in formation, against discrimination and harassment
associated with carrying out their functions.
Undertake, as a matter of public policy, the struggle against impunity
for violations of the rights of human rights defen
investigations into the attacks su ffered by human rights defenders, and
to punish their perpetrators, as a fundamental means of preventing
such attacks.
guarantee their independence, which is necessary if they are to
perform their function of investig ating, prosecuting, and punishing
those who carry out attacks on human ri ghts. It is essential, for such
strengthening, that the states gua rantee a sufficient budget and human
resources adequate for ensuring eff ective administration of justice.
within the institutional spheres of jurisdiction for the investigation and
prosecution of crimes against human rights defenders who are
discredited due to their activities. Establish specialized units of the
police and public ministry with the necessary resources and training to
act in a coord
Ensure that the military courts not ha ve jurisdiction to investigate and
prosecute members of the military who commit crimes against human
rights and fundamental freedoms.
remedies in situations of imminent threat or risk for the defense of
human rights that adhere to the characteristics set forth by the
Commission in paragraphs 120 and 121 herein.
Provide as necessary to promptly and effectively comply with the
recommendations of the Inter-American Commission and the judgments
of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.