Audiencia con Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos en América Latina

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Hearing with Human Rights Defenders in Latin America

Earlier this week, I participated in an online hearing with 12 human rights defenders from six Latin American countries: Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The hearings, which can be watched in full below, were an opportunity for the defenders to tell me about their work and the challenges they face. Equally, they provided me a chance to present the tools of my mandate to those who could join, and for us to discuss together the kind of support the defenders might need from States and other actors. I was delighted to hear from all the participants about their work and the successes they have had. At the same time, I was harrowed by the details the defenders shared about the multiple, intersecting forms of harassment, intimidation and threats they have to overcome in the course of their struggle to see human rights respected and realised.

In the first of the two meetings, I heard from human rights defenders in Colombia and Peru. Those participating from Colombia were Misael Socarras Ipuna, from La Guajira, Rosabela Velasco, from the Norte del Cauca, and Robinson Arley Mejia Alonso, from Cajamarca, in the Tolima Department. Speaking from Peru were Oscar Avelino Mollohuanca Cruz, from Espinar in the Cusco Region, and Juan Miguel Meza Igme, from the Valle de Tombo.

In the second of the two meetings, human rights defenders from Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Bolivia participated. From Honduras, I heard from Juana Esperanza Esquival, in the Tocoa municipality, Colón Department. Two speakers were present from Nicaragua, Olman Onel Salazar Umanzor, from Santa Cruz de la India, and Domingo Gutiérrez Machado, from the municipality of El Jicaro, Nueva Segovia. From Guatemala, the journalist Oswaldo Ical Jom, from the Quiché Department, was able to join. And from Bolivia, I heard from the brother and sister Marcela Quisbert and Fernando Pérez, from the Nación Jacha Suyu Pacajaque, in the Murillo Province of the Zongo valley, as well as Marcelino Chairique, from the Mosetén Indigenous Peoples Territory,  in Palos Altos, Department of La Paz.

Across all the participants’ testimonies ran common concerns about tackling root causes of insecurity for human rights defenders, with the focus often falling on a lack of respect for the rights of local communities in the context of large-scale development projects, in particular mining. Several of the defenders told me of their organisation and advocacy work in defence of the environment or to compel States to respect the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of such projects, and provided ample information about the intimidation, harassment, threats they have faced in response. In several of the cases, the defenders told me, this had escalated to the level of physical attacks, with colleagues of the defenders’ arrested, forced to leave their homes for fear of their lives, and others very sadly killed. Several of those who spoke had themselves been directly threatened.

Unfortunately, these are not isolated cases. The heightened risks faced by human rights defenders opposing the negative human rights impacts of business activities are well documented, and it is a priority area for me during my time on the mandate. I intend to follow-up on the issues raised by the defenders, in particular their calls for accountability for the instances where they or their colleagues have come under attack for their human rights work.

The full hearings can be seen below.

Audiencia #1, con personas defensoras de Colombia y Perú:

Audiencia #2, con personas defensoras de Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala y Bolivia:


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