On 7 September 2021, the International Service for Human Rights facilitated a multi-stakeholder dialogue with United Nations experts, the International Chamber of Commerce and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to discuss about Business, Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders.
ISHR recently endorsed an amicus curiae produced by human rights defenders in Guatemala to be submitted at the upcoming appeal in the case of Bernardo Caal. Caal is a member of the Mayan Q’eqchi community and an indigenous human rights defender in Guatemala. Caal was one of the leaders of a peaceful opposition against the construction of two hydroelectric projects that endangered the Cahabón River, which is sacred to the Mayan Q’eqchi.
The peaceful opposition denounced irregularities in the project, including the lack of prior and informed consultation with indigenous peoples who inhabit the area. In retaliation, Caal was first subjected to smear campaigns and stigmatization in the press, television, through flyers, and on social media. In 2015, there was a criminal investigation accusing Caal of leading a group of approximately 100 people to attack and rob workers of the construction company. In November 2018, Caal was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison, despite what Amnesty International describes as a complete lack of evidence to support the accusations against him.
Partners in Guatemala submitted an amicus curiae to Guatemala’s Supreme Court of Justice to be considered in Caal’s appeal, which took place on June 21. The court’s decision is expected to be released within two weeks. The amicus, which ISHR endorsed, calls out irregularities in the criminal proceedings against Caal, including the violation of his right to effective judicial investigation and due diligence, disregard of the presumption of innocence, failure to begin the trial within a reasonable time, and violation of the principle of equality and non-discrimination.
Human rights defenders face severe persecution by the Guatemalan State. This is especially true for indigenous defenders. ISHR expresses support for Bernardo Caal and for all other land and territory defenders facing persecution in Guatemala.
This week in an online event, 10 candidate States publicly spoke to an audience of around 200 people on their pledges as incoming Human Rights Council members for 2022 – 2024. They also faced questions on pressing human rights issues from both States and civil society organisations.
ISHR welcomes the Council’s historic consensus decision, led by the Africa Group, to adopt a resolution mandating an independent international expert mechanism to address systemic racism and to promote racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent. The adoption of this resolution is testament to the resilience, bravery and commitment of victims, their families, their representatives and anti-racism defenders globally.
At the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR along with the Informal Sector Service Center presented a joint statement in Nepal’s Universal Periodic Review expressing concern about the situation of human rights defenders in the country.
Faced with the appropriation of their name, Peruvian NGO Madres en Acción is pushing back, filing a legal action to recover it. In an amicus brief in support of the action, ISHR argues that trademark law is being used to attack defenders and this must stop.
Should businesses advocate for human rights defenders? What is the relationship between companies’ economic activities and civil society? The United Nations, through the Working Group on Business and Human Rights, has shed further light on the role of businesses by recently releasing a guidance for companies on ensuring respect for human rights defenders.
A new ISHR report maps China’s presence and influence in the UN economic and social affairs system, highlighting potential risks for civil society participation and the promotion and protection of human rights.
With three more human rights defenders detained arbitrarily in recent days, once again the Human Rights Council was asked to do more to put pressure on Venezuela to allow dissenting voices in the country to be heard. Independent civil society makes a critical contribution to the construction of societies built on the respect of human rights.
In the first case on violence against trans people heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Court held Honduras responsible for the transfemicide of human rights defender Vicky Hernández.
Public servants, journalists, and indigenous defenders have suffered targeting and reprisals from an increasingly brazen government, confirming the urgent need to adopt legal mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders.
In a statement at the Human Rights Council, ISHR welcomed the UN Working Group’s recently released Guidance document for using the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for engaging with, safeguarding and ensuring respect for the rights of Human Rights Defenders. Human rights defenders are at the forefront of protecting their communities, the environment and key natural resources that maintain the balance in our planet.
ISHR joins human rights organisations from across the globe in calling for the unconditional and immediate release of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja, who turned 60 on 5 April.