PBI-USA calls on the Biden Administration to prioritize the protection of human rights defenders
On February 12, PBI-USA issued this statement commenting on the Biden Administration’s recent executive orders on immigration as well as statements by US officials with respect to the protection of human rights defenders.
PBI-USA comments: “We encourage the US government to prioritize ensuring protection for human rights defenders.”
Their statement highlights: “PBI is encouraged by the [the US State Department’s statement on January 20 that] the work of human rights defenders ‘is an integral part of a vibrant civil society’ and ‘investment in and support of them is likewise an investment in and support of the rule of law and democracy.’”
It also notes: “We welcome the US Embassy’s call for an expedited investigation of all the murders of human rights defenders in Honduras 2020 and encourage the US government to follow these cases closely and ensure justice is done.”
And PBI-USA recommends: “The US should encourage the Guatemalan government to abide by and implement the terms of the Peace Accords, supporting Guatemalan civil society organizations as they look for opportunities to dialogue with the Guatemalan government and find a way forward.”
PBI-USA also signed this recent civil society letter on human rights defenders sent to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
That letter expresses the concern: “We have seen situations where embassies are reluctant to support defenders in politically sensitive countries where the U.S. government has significant national security, economic, or geopolitical interests.”
It also calls on Secretary Blinken to: “[Elevate] the need for protection of environmental and land defenders, and ensuring justice for attacks against them, as a core part of the Biden Administration’s overall climate strategy, including in its engagement at the UN Climate Change Conference [this November in Glasgow].”
The first foreign leader that President Biden called after his inauguration was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They spoke on January 22 and the readout from that call indicated that they would speak again this month (February).
Trudeau also spoke with US Vice President Kamala Harris on February 1 and US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry on January 26.
Foreign Minister Marc Garneau also met with Secretary Blinken on January 26. PBI-Canada has called on Minister Garneau to read the letter on human rights defenders sent by civil society to Secretary Blinken and furthermore to take action to strengthen the Voices at Risk guidelines for Canadian embassies.