Guatemala: Inter-American Court Order for a Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders

On 28 August 2014, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights pronounced the sentence on the court case Human Rights Defender and others vs. Guatemala. The case concerned the murder of a human rights defender in 2004, for which a group of human rights defenders decided to sue the government of Guatemala for failing their duty to protect this human rights defender.

The Inter-American Court found that the state of Guatemala violated the right of to a fair trial, the right to life, the freedom of movement and residence, the right to humane treatment and the right to participate in government.

More importantly, the Inter-American Court ordered the state of Guatemala to (1) provide reparations for the violations committed, to (2) start a fair and complete judicial investigation, to (3) provide measures for the actions or omissions of state officials and to (4) adopt legislative, institutional and judicial measures aimed at reducing the exposure of human rights defenders to risk. These measures include strengthening the capacity of the state to fight against systematic impunity, strengthen mechanisms to effectively protect persons whose statements have a relevant impact on investigations and to develop adequate and expeditious institutional response measures that allow for the effective protection of human rights defenders in situations of risk.

This sentence is essential as it orders the State of Guatemala to develop an efficient protection mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders. According to Article 68 of the American Convention on Human Rights (signed and ratified by Guatemala), the sentences pronounced by the Inter-American Court are binding. To date, however, the Guatemalan has yet to develop a protection mechanism for human rights defenders.

Find the original content here in Spanish (Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos).