In the Latin American region, many human rights defenders face daily persecution, threats, harassment and the constant danger of violence because of their work. Those dedicated to the defense of civil rights, women’s rights, environmental rights, LGBTIQ+ communities, the fight against corruption, or the promotion of free expression and information, among other issues, are particularly vulnerable to this situation.

In recent years, the region has witnessed worrying events that underscore the urgency of addressing the protection of human rights defenders. Incidents such as physical attacks, targeted assassinations, and the criminalization of their work have increased significantly in several countries. Moreover, political, social and economic changes have influenced the dynamics of the defense of human rights. These changes have created new challenges and obstacles for those who fight for justice and equity, accentuating the need for more effective strategies to protect human rights defenders.

In this regional framework, the Institute for Communication and Development (ICD), with the support of, has carried out feasibility study to analyze the viability of implementing a Temporary Relocation Program (TRP) in Uruguay to address the needs of human rights defenders from eight South American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela).

The study has paid special attention to listening the voices of national and relevant regional actors, in doing so consulting civil society organizations in the eight South American countries that were previously mentioned, international organizations, as well as various social organizations in Uruguay, state and international agencies both based in Uruguay and in other countries that have direct influence on issues related to the protection of human rights, human mobility, among others. From the information collected from more than 50 people, consulted organizations and interviews, the study and analysis created a comprehensive bibliography containing background documents and relevant databases.

The context analysis looked to recognize, principally, the need and relevance of establishing a center for the protection and relocation of defenders at risk in South America. Although national contexts differ, there are common challenges in terms of threats, intimidation and violence against defenders, as well as persistent impunity. In this context, environmental defenders, indigenous leaders, those leading LGBTIQ+ movements, and journalists and media workers are the main groups identified, although other situations of risk that may be identified among people involved in the defense of fundamental human rights are not ruled out.

The study has demonstrated that Uruguay complies with the necessary conditions to support the Temporary Relocation Program. Additionally, with political, social and economic stability, Uruguay has a civil society with a long history, with the capacity and possibility of establishing alliances and collaborations at a national and regional level, with civil society organizations as well as with government, international organizations and cooperation agencies. Uruguay also stands out for its high level of protection of political and civil rights and has a very high level of formal adherence to the international human rights protection system, having ratified practically all international human rights instruments.

On the other hand, based on the contacts made during the study, the foundations have been laid for establishing possible partnerships and collaborations for the implementation of this initiative. As an example, civil society organizations that could be the focal points for a regional support network of the program have been identified. In Uruguay, central government agencies, the government of the city of Montevideo, civil society organizations and international cooperation agencies have shown openness to collaborate, facilitating processes or supporting with different resources.

The study concludes that the installation in Uruguay, specifically in the city of Montevideo, of a Temporary Relocation Program of regional scope to protect human rights defenders at risk is a necessary and feasible project. Overall, the conditions of the host country, the capacities of civil society, and the possible allies of the initiative, confirm this conclusion.

Instituto de Comunicación y Desarrollo (ICD), Uruguay. April 2024.

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