Approval of the protocol for the protection of human rights defenders
5 May 2019
On 25 April, the Peruvian government approved the ‘Protocol to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders’ with the publication of Ministerial Resolution No 0159-2019-JUS by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. The approval comes approximately three years after the approval of the National Human Rights Plan, which included a commitment to develop a protocol as well as an integral policy for the recognition, promotion and protection of human rights work. The elaboration of the protocol and its end result was the conclusion of a series of consultations with civil society organisations and state entities.
The Protocol’s main objectives are to promote the recognition of human rights defenders, and implement specific protection measures for those at risk, which includes those who are at imminent risk to their physical integrity, those at risk of being unfairly prosecuted, and those whose work has been restricted by obstacles and threats against them. It also includes a commitment to work towards preventive measures, and to guarantee thorough, prompt and effective investigations of threats against HRDs. The Protocol also seeks to increase awareness of the importance of promoting the work of human rights defenders, and educating those who investigate cases of abuse and the police, and suchlike issues.
The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is the organism responsible for the protocol’s implementation and has the mandate to liaise and coordinate with relevant state entities for the delivery of protection measures, which include the elaboration of risk assessments and the issuing of 'alertas tempranas', an early alert system that requires prompt response. This will not only require good coordination amongst a number of state ministries and state agents (including the Ministry of the Interior and the Prosecutor’s Office), but a serious commitment to provide the adequate resources to implement them. The Ministry of Justice is also in charge of developing a Registry of complaints and incidents of attack that would enable the identification of patterns of abuse and identify their causes.
As noted by us in a previous article, the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) has highlighted the increasing levels of risk to human rights defenders, having recorded 121 killings since 2011, and around 900 documented cases of criminalisation. The Coordinadora has also reported the more recent killing on 17 April of Cristian Java, an environmental observer from the Kukuma community, who was reportedly killed over land disputes. According to the organisation, there are 21 documented cases of killings of human rights defenders since the start of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s presidency up to the present, under Vizacarra’s government.
Civil society organisations, including the Coordinadora Nacional and Derechos, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR), have welcomed the adoption of the protocol, stating that, while there is still a lot to do, it represents a significant step towards accepting the severity of the problem and beginning to take the necessary measures to address it. More specifically, the protocol is the first step towards the delivery of a holistic public policy of protection for human rights defenders, a commitment that is also embedded in the National Human Rights Plan and has been echoed before the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights. Civil society organisation will endeavour to continue engaging with the Peruvian government around this process, which is an essential requirement for an effective delivery and monitoring of a meaningful policy.