Now more than ever, we must all defend human rights

Published by Brent Patterson on

The following is a statement by Peace Brigades International, a global organization comprised of 8 field projects (Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nepal, Indonesia and Kenya) and 13 country groups (including PBI-Canada):

In this extraordinary time of uncertainty, fear and instability, Peace Brigades International (PBI) extends our solidarity to all of you who are struggling to remain optimistic in the face of such unique and global challenges.

PBI remains convinced that solidarity, empathy and connection can help us overcome this historic moment and perhaps remind us of the importance of these fundamental human characteristics in the construction of fairer societies based on respect, tolerance and inclusion of all voices.

Protecting defenders

We are all human rights defenders and must take this responsibility seriously in the face of the major challenges we are being confronted with.  We rely on States to guarantee our rights, and when they fail to do so, we must raise our voices and advocate for those more vulnerable than ourselves.

Human rights defenders are playing fundamental roles in ensuring that vulnerable communities have access to healthcare and information about the virus and its impacts in the absence of adequate State protections.  They are holding States to account, pushing for better access to information, organising water and sanitation campaigns amongst other fundamental activities.  Protecting these people will ensure a faster and more effective response to the health crisis. 

Those defending their territories are still at huge risk in contexts of political violence where threats, attacks and killings of defenders continue to be reported on daily, despite the crisis.  Women defenders are experiencing particularly high levels of risk. Imprisoned political activists and those awaiting trials are particularly at risk, due to the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions of prisons, and are at higher risk of contracting the virus, being moved arbitrarily and their cases being postponed due to the crisis.

In PBI we are constantly evaluating the context and taking measures to guarantee the safety and health of those collaborating with the organisation and the human rights defenders we support.  These actions include ensuring volunteers have access to healthcare wherever they find themselves and increasing phone calls and virtual monitoring with the individuals and organisations we support.  We will continue to provide protection for those at the frontline throughout these challenging times. 

Responses must respect fundamental rights

The current crisis requires States to implement measures that restrict certain freedoms in order to curb the transmission of the virus.  It is essential that the measures taken guarantee the rights of those most vulnerable, and do not produce disproportionate impacts that exacerbate humanitarian crises and fuel militarisation, persecution and repression. 

Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, we all have the right to “the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”, including in times of crisis and emergency.  PBI expresses the urgency of protecting these rights in this situation of pandemic, particularly for the population historically excluded from the enjoyment of such fundamental rights.

PBI echoes the important statements of our colleagues at Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, CEJIL, IM-Defensoras, The United Nations and so many others who have expressed support and solidarity with those struggling in the current circumstances.

Moving forward together

At times of crisis, we must unite as a global community of human rights defenders to ensure that marginalised groups and the most vulnerable members of society are not disproportionally affected.  PBI will continue to support defenders as best we can despite the context, generating networks of solidarity that strengthen our voices and combat the isolation and helplessness that people are feeling. 

You´re not alone, your voice counts, and your support is needed now more than ever to ensure human rights are upheld as we overcome this crisis together.

This statement can also be read on the Peace Brigades International global website here.

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