Ref. :  000039388
Date :  2016-02-25
Language :  English
Home Page / The whole website
fr / es / de / po / en

Criminalization of human rights defenders: an alarming phenomenon in Latin America

Author :  FIDH

The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of the extraction of natural resources and megaprojects is becoming a very worrisome phenomenon in Latin America, denounces the Observatory in a report published today in Mexico. Entitled “The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of industrial projects: a regional phenomenon in Latin America”, this document also points to the role of businesses, civil servants, public prosecutors, judges, and the State, among others, in this phenomenon.

The report describes the specific cases of human rights defenders criminalized in eight Latin American countries (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru).

“Criminalizing and harassing those who defend human rights and land rights is becoming a recurring pattern in Latin America. Judges and attorneys often have their share of responsibility with regard to this criminalization. This must end immediately. They can no longer be complicit."

The Observatory

The report especially stresses two core issues common to all the countries studied:

Firstly, it is in the contexts of extraction of natural resources and of megaprojects that criminalization of human rights defenders is most virulent. They are targeted because they promote landrights and defend vulnerable groups, such as indigenous, afro and rural communities. But also because they have a key role in drawing attention to human rights violations related to property, exploitation of land and resources, the environment, water rights and respect for labor rights, among others. All of the cases documented in the report demonstrate how the inappropriate use of criminal law to criminalize community leaders contributed to the collapse of their capacity to act.

Moreover, the report emphasizes the key role of businesses and the judiciary in criminalizing defenders, despite their human rights obligation and the legitimacy of peaceful social protest. Nearly all criminal cases against defenders have been initiated by businesses, who request the application of emergency laws such as, for example, anti-terrorism legislation.

Furthermore, the report denounces the lack of independence and impartiality of justice and its determining impact on the criminalization of defenders. In most of the cases presented, additionally to charging abusively the defenders, the Public Ministry leads criminal action and calls regularly for preventive prison. In many cases defenders are prosecuted once, twice or more. This is extremely serious in that it violates the minimum guarantees of due process and the right to personal liberty. Likewise, although judges do not always convict defenders, they almost systematically assent to requests for cautionary measures such as preventive arrest.

The Observatory urges the judiciary of the above-mentioned countries not to be accomplices to the undue criminalization of human rights defenders and to initiate a period of reflection within the judicial system on the need for practicing justice in a way that respects the equality of all parties without favoring political and economic interests.

Continents : 

Rate this content
Same author:
 flecheCondemned to silence: the situation of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia
 flecheThe United Nations Counter-Terrorism Complex: Bureaucracy, Political Influence, Civil Liberties
 flecheHonduras: Protected Areas and Water Resources Threatened by the Granting of Licences for Hydroelectric Plants
 flecheHuman Rights Coalition Calls on ICC to Investigate Role of Chiquita Executives in Contributing to Crimes against Humanity
 flecheGuide des 100 mesures pour l’éradication des violences à l’encontre des femmes
 flecheReport reveals links between five French banks and insurance companies and the Israeli settlements
 flecheBelarus: last country in Europe to carry out the death penalty
 flecheEU Decision: All citizens with a home larger than 60m2 will have to take in a migrant
 flecheHonduras: Human rights defenders between a rock and a hard place
 fleche[COMIC STRIP] Violence Against Women in Africa
 flecheColombie, The human cost of Oil :
 flecheDeath Penalty: Compilation of FIDH and leagues press releases from 2013 to 2016
 flecheReport slams year-long application of state of emergency in France
 flecheFIDH looks back at 2015 in our traditional comic strip
 flecheBeing born a girl means clearing a lot of hurdles
 flecheThe Amesys Case: the victims anxious to see tangible progress
 flecheMake way for Justice #2: 40 cases to understand universal jurisdiction
 flecheBeing born a girl means clearing a lot of hurdles
 flecheBurundi conflict: A timeline of how the country reached crisis point
 flecheFive years after the revolution : Egypt’s Poorest Human Rights Record in its Modern History
 flecheAsia and human rights: debunking the myths
 flecheOp-Ed: TTIP and UN Treaty – the EU must stand up for Human Rights
 flecheBetween Round-ups and Regularisation: Morocco’s Vacillating Migration Policy
 flecheHuman rights organisations alarmed by bill that will give surveillance agencies dangerous new powers
 flecheBeijing +20: Broken promises, women’s rights under threat across the globe
 fleche“Whether or not you want to, you have to go”
 flecheCambodia : Sentence of 2 former Khmer Rouge leaders to life imprisonment is historic
 flecheIsrael-OPT: A New Cycle of Violence whose Targets are Civilians
 flecheCentral African Republic, "They must all leave or die". Investigative report: Answering war crimes with crimes against humanity
 flecheEgypt: Epidemic of sexual violence continues
 flecheInternational day of the disappeared 2011
 flechePosition paper on the creation of a new UN mechanism on laws that discriminate against women
 flecheSteadfast in protest - 2010 Annual Report
 flecheFirst victims recognised by the International Criminal Court
Other items
where is published this article:
Keywords   go