The International Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia

The criminalization of human rights defenders in Latin America – An assessment from international organisations and European networks

This paper aims to describe the expressions and trends in criminalization in Latin America, and to make recommendations to the EU and the United Nations on the basis of examples from emblematic cases in Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Colombia.

The use of the Law and the administration of justice for the benefit of groups who hold economic and political power are not new in the history of some States in Latin America. These phenomena have generally occurred within contexts of dysfunctional democracies, high levels of impunity, social and economic inequality, and excessive use of police and military forces and private security companies. In recent years we have observed with great concern a sharp increase in the tendency to persecute, punish and criminalize social protest activities and the legitimate claims of those who promote and defend human rights, especially in cases related to large-scale economic investment.

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