Killings of Human Rights Defenders: Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor presents her latest report

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, has presented her latest report on the killings of human rights defenders to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“The killing of human rights defenders should be a red line which states and other non-state actors should not cross” Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

The report, named Final warning: death threats and killings of human rights defenders, focuses on the prevalence of killings of defenders in many parts of the world and the death threats that often precede the killings. Between 1st of January 2019 and 30th of June 2020, the Special Rapporteur sent communication to ten member states on the killing of 100 human rights defenders, among them 17 women human rights defenders. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has observed that human rights defenders have been killed in at least 64 countries between 2015 and 2019.

Official numbers of killings of human rights defenders are often only reported globally and regionally, but not nationally. Many defenders are killed after receiving death threats and other physical threats, an issue often overlooked.

Map showing the killings of human rights defender. Image from the report.
"One in two victims of killings recorded by OHCHR in 2019 had worked on issues of land and environment, impact of business activities, poverty and the rights of indigenous peoples and other minorities". Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Killings of defenders are often met with impunity. According to information from the OHCHR, at least 281 human rights defenders were killed in 2019, and since 2015, 1 323 defenders have been killed. Among those 1 323 killings, 166 of the victims were women, and 22 were young human rights defenders. 45 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex defenders were also reported killed between 2015 and 2019. Latin America is the region most affected by killing of human rights defenders, and environmental defenders are the most targeted.

In the report, the Special Rapporteur partly focuses on death threats and the extent to which they can be seen as predictors of attacks, and what interventions might be efficient to reduce attacks after a death threat has been received. Many governments are failing in protecting human rights defenders from being killed and attacked by both state and none-state actors, and particularly women and journalists have received increased number of threats.

Read the full report here.

Main photo: Monica Orjuela/NHRF.