Workshop on effective strategies to counter criminalization of corporate accountability human rights defenders

Publish Date: 
Monday, June 13, 2016

On May 15, 2016, ESCR-Net coordinated a workshop for participants in the Latin America Regional Consultation on the treaty on human rights and business, as well as several ESCR-Net member organizations based in Mexico City. 

The workshop, which was facilitated in collaboration with Protection International, began with an exchange of experiences amongst the twenty two participants, all human rights defenders, many of whom have experienced, personally or via fellow leaders, the criminalization of their organizations and leaders in response to their work to promote and defend human rights. Via this exchange, a matrix classifying the various ways in which the law is used to silence or curtail the work of human rights defenders – primarily, those working to confront corporate abuses –  was developed.  

Participants were also able to learn from each other regarding some of the strategies that have proven to be effective, or helpful, in preventing the criminalization of human rights defenders, or of minimizing the impact when this does occur.  In a case study particularly close to many of the participants in the training, Gustavo Castro Soto shared a testimony about his experience as the sole witness to the murder of Berta Caceres – a close friend and social movement leader from Honduras - in April, and subsequent efforts to frame him as criminally responsible for the action by actions in the Honduran media and by members of the judiciary. The case served to prompt some initial reflections about the role of international solidarity in preventing the criminalization of human rights defenders like Castro who challenge powerful corporate (and governmental) interests in the demand for social and economic justice, often at great risk to themselves.

The workshop was made possible thanks to support from, the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism which is led by a Consortium of 12 organizations active in the field of Human Rights.