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Since the late 1970s, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, the judicial body of the Inter-American system, has tried human rights violations, including crimes perpetrated against HRDs of Panama, Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil. In several cases the Court has pointed that threats and attacks against HRDs and the impunity of perpetrators are all the more serious since the impact is felt by society as a whole. Therefore, it is the duty of the State to protect HRDs, investigate violations of their rights and fight against impunity.
In its 1998 annual report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) highlighted the importance of the work carried out by HRDs while recommending Member States to adopt the necessary measures for their protection.

On 7 December 2001, the IACHR established the Human Rights Defenders Functional Unit within the Office of the Executive Secretary. The decision addressed the concerns and recommendations contained in the Organisation of American States (OAS) General Assembly annual Resolutions AG/RES. 1671 (XXIX-O/99) of 1999, AG/RES. 1711 (XXX-O/00) of 2000 and AG/RES. 1818 (XXXI-O/01) of 2001, on “Human Rights Defenders in the Americas: Support for the Individuals, Groups, and Organizations of Civil Society Working to Promote and Protect Human Rights in the Americas”.

In 2006, the Unit published a comprehensive report on the situation of HRDs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report analysed the main problems faced by HRDs in the Americas, identified the groups of defenders at particular risk and requested the precautionary measures, as one of the protection mechanisms the inter‐American system offers for HRDs.

In March 2011, the unit was transformed into the Office of the Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. The decision took into account the increasing interest of giving greater visibility to the role HRDs play in building a more democratic society. The Office of the Rapporteur, which is held by Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, is charged with following closely the situation of all HRDs in the Americas, including the situation of justice operators.
In 2012, the Office of the Rapporteur presented the Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas.

Human Rights defenders: support for individuals groups and organizations of civil society working to promote and protect Human Rights in the Americas


Rapporteurship on Human Rights Defenders