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Protecting Defenders Against Violence

Individuals working to defend fundamental rights, including journalists, lawyers, union organizers, and indigenous leaders, are facing increasing acts of intimidation and persecution for the legitimate work that they do.  Such threats include office or house raids, violent threats, physical violence and in the most serious of circumstances, abductions and murder.  Both state actors and non-state actors are involved in the violent threats against such activists.

The Program supports these defenders by petitioning international bodies to obtain protective measures (such as court-ordered bodyguards), referring them to organizations that provide funds for physical security and psychosocial support, raising their public profile where appropriate, and engaging local authorities to investigate threats and hold officials accountable when they fail to investigate credible threats or are complicit in such threats.

See below for examples of the Program's public work through which we have aimed to protect human rights defenders against acts of violence.


Colombia: Preliminary Report on the Plan of Action for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders at Risk

The Program is conducting a study to examine the policies and practices of the Ministry of Interior to better ensure the protection of community leaders and other human rights defenders. This preliminary report addresses the initial findings of this study. In particular, it recommends publicly reporting on the progress of investigations, improving coordination between the Ministry and the Attorney General, and enhancing the independence of the Ministry of Interior's human rights directorate.


How can social media companies identify and respond to threats against human rights defenders?

Ginna Anderson, deputy director of the Justice Defenders Program, explains how social media companies can identify, monitor and be prepared to deplatform key accounts that are consistently putting out denigrating language and targeting human rights defenders. 


Invisible Threats: Online Hate Speech against Human Rights Defenders

The ABA Center for Human Rights asked the International Human Rights and International Law Clinic at the University of Connecticut School of Law to examine whether the content moderation policies of SMCs are sufficient to mitigate the risk of violence from online hate speech against human rights defenders in Guatemala. This study focused on the situation in Guatemala to illustrate the need for more targeted content moderation policies and practices.

Tilted Scales: Social Conflict and Criminal Justice in Guatemala

This joint report by the ABA Center for Human Rights, RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights, and Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute documents the misuse of pre-trial detention, hate speech, frivolous criminal proceedings and violent threats against human rights advocates working to ensure community participation in decisions regarding large-scale industrial projects in traditionally indigenous territory.


How can social media companies identify and respond to threats against human rights defenders?


How can social media companies identify and respond to threats against human rights defenders?