States in the Americas must address the closure of civic space in the region, end repressive policies and respond to the social demands of the population of the region, said Amnesty International today in an open letter to heads of state attending the 53rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).
“The region cannot continue down the path of repressing protests, militarizing borders and public security, environmental destruction and failing to protect historically marginalized communities, such as Indigenous peoples and human rights defenders,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. “The heads of state in the Americas must change course and seek solutions to create a freer and safer continent, with full respect for the human rights of all.”
Amnesty International’s concerns include the excessive use of force to suppress social protests, seen in several countries in the region and most recently in Peru. States in the Americas must ensure that individuals can exercise their right to peaceful protest and that any use of force by the security forces when policing demonstrations is necessary, legitimate and strictly proportionate. The organization also calls on states to end arbitrary detentions, unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment, which are frequently committed in much of the region.
Another issue that must be urgently addressed by states in the region is that of human mobility and the need for international protection, specifically in the case of people fleeing human rights crises in countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. It is alarming how restrictive and even inhumane migration policies, such as those of the USA, Mexico, Peru and Chile, have endangered people in need of international protection, rather than seeking cooperation to address the humanitarian crisis at various borders across the continent.
The region cannot continue down the path of repressing protests, militarizing borders and public security, environmental destruction and failing to protect historically marginalized communities, such as Indigenous peoples and human rights defendersErika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International
Amnesty International also believes that states must find alternatives to address public security crises other than militarization, which has become the norm in several countries in the region. The use of the armed forces for public security tasks has been intensified in countries such as Mexico and Ecuador, which has created contexts that facilitate grave human rights violations without addressing the root causes of criminal violence.
States must take urgent action to protect human rights defenders; the Americas remains the most dangerous region for human rights defenders. According to Front Line Defenders, Colombia was the world’s deadliest country for defenders in 2022, with at least 186 killings, followed by Mexico (45), Brazil (26) and Honduras (17).
The climate crisis is another danger that threatens the region. Although the impacts of climate change on rural and historically marginalized communities are becoming increasingly clear, states’ efforts have been insufficient and have failed to address dependence on fossil fuels, the main factor behind the crisis.
Similarly, states have not done enough to guarantee the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Americas. Over the past year, Amnesty International has documented cases of killings of Indigenous leaders in countries including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico in the context of land-related conflicts. Meanwhile, several states have proceeded with or granted concessions to national and multinational companies to implement extractive, agricultural and infrastructure projects without the free, prior and informed consent of the affected Indigenous peoples.
Violence and discrimination against women, girls and LGBTI people is another historical problem that urgently needs a concerted response. States in the region continue to fail to adequately address the very high levels of gender-based violence, including feminicides, and several states have taken measures that endanger people’s sexual and reproductive rights.
Finally, the General Assembly is due to elect four people to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Faced with the withdrawal of nominations from four countries, Amnesty International urges states in the Americas to elect people with the highest credentials, in line with the principles of suitability, impartiality, independence and recognized competence in the field of human rights, and to ensure that nominations and the withdrawal of nominations is firmly based on the inter-American legal framework.