Amnesty just published major report on human rights defenders

December 6, 2017

This report – published on 5 December – is part of Brave, Amnesty International’s campaign launched in May 2017 calling on states to recognize the work of human rights defenders, and to ensure they are able to carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment. States around the world are failing in their duty to effectively protect people who defend human rights, leading to an escalation in preventable killings and enforced disappearances, Amnesty International said.

The organization’s new report, Deadly but Preventable Attacks: Killings and Enforced Disappearances of Those who Defend Human Rights, highlights the growing risks faced by human rights defenders.
The report includes testimonies from friends, relatives and colleagues of human rights defenders, including environmentalists, LGBTIQ and women’s rights activists, journalists and lawyers, who have been killed or disappeared. Many described how victims’ pleas for protection had been repeatedly ignored by the authorities and how the attackers had evaded justice, fuelling a deadly cycle of impunity. “We spoke to families of killed and forcibly disappeared human rights defenders all over the world, and kept hearing the same thing: these people knew their lives were at risk,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Head of Amnesty International’s Global Human Rights Defenders Programme. “Their deaths or disappearances had been preceded by a string of previous attacks, which authorities turned a blind eye to or even encouraged. If states had taken their human rights obligations seriously and acted diligently on reports of threats and other abuses, lives could have been saved.”

Cases include:
Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental and Indigenous activist who was shot dead in 2016 after years of threats and attacks. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/07/exceptional-response-from-ngo-world-on-killing-of-berta-caceres/]
Xulhaz Mannan, an LGBTIQ activist who was hacked to death in Bangladesh, along with his colleague, in 2016. Over 18 months later, justice is yet to take place.
Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, founder of a human rights organization in Burundi, who was shot in the face and neck in 2015. Months later, while he was recovering abroad, his son and son-in-law were killed. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/17/mbonimpa-wins-also-the-2017-civil-courage-prize/]
The “Douma 4”, four Syrian activists who were abducted from their office by armed men in December 2013 and have not been seen since.

When the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998, the international community committed to protecting them and recognizing their crucial work. But Amnesty International’s report shows that championing human rights continues to be highly dangerous work, with thousands of human rights defenders killed or forcibly disappeared by state and non-state actors in the two decades since. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/breaking-news-un-adopts-key-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders/]
Amnesty International’s report reveals the motives behind these attacks are multiple and layered. Some people are attacked because of their occupations (for example, journalists, law professionals, trade unionists), for standing up to powerful actors violating human rights, for sharing information or raising awareness. Others are at heightened risk of attack both for what they do and who they are, facing discrimination and violence. These people include those defending the rights of women; sex workers; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people; Indigenous peoples and other minority groups. Others are attacked in context-specific situations, for example during conflict or where communities are in the grip of organized crime and violent crackdown.

  • Amnesty International is urging all states to prioritize the recognition and protection of human rights defenders.
  • Authorities must publicly support their work, and acknowledge their contribution to the advancement of human rights.
  • They must take all necessary measures to prevent further attacks on them, and bring to justice those responsible for attacks by effectively investigating and prosecuting killings and enforced disappearances.

 

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