Human Rights Defenders
The Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms establishes in its article 18(2) that:
- "Individuals, groups, institutions and non-governmental organizations have an important role to play and a responsibility in safeguarding democracy, promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms and contributing to the promotion and advancement of democratic societies, institutions and processes."
The situation of human rights defenders around the world has raised concerns within both regional and universal human rights protection systems. The United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU) as well as the European Court of Human Rights, among others, have expressed concerns on several occasions now.
In 2002, the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the UN submitted a Report that describes the different situations that adversely affect human rights defenders. Among those "Attacks; threats; harassment; public campaigns to discredit them; surveillance by intelligence and security forces; break-ins into the offices of non-governmental organizations and confiscation or theft of documents and records; and prosecution under false charges are some of the methods used to silence human rights defenders."
Given the increasing tension within the hemisphere, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created the Human Rights Defender's Unit within its Executive Secretariat to monitor the situation of human rights defenders in the region. In 2006, the Commission is releasing its first Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas.
The Impact Litigation Project has been previously involved in cases related to human rights defenders and considers the issue to be of the utmost importance.