Brote de COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Personas defensoras de los derechos humanos y las libertades cívicas

Las medidas de salud pública y la expansión de los poderes del gobierno en medio de una pandemia mundial plantean amenazas adicionales a las libertades y los derechos de las personas defensoras de los derechos humanos, incluidas aquellas que se centran en los impactos a los derechos humanos relacionados con las empresas. Algunos gobiernos, y otros actores, están utilizando esta crisis para atacar a las defensoras de nuevas maneras, sofocar las libertades cívicas e impulsar medidas restrictivas. Las personas defensoras se vuelven más fáciles de atacar cuando se aíslan, lo que se ve agravado por la pérdida de acompañamiento protector y la falta de atención de los medios de comunicación a su situación. En varios países, las personas defensoras rurales e indígenas han perdido sus medios de vida y están experimentando bloqueos -incluidas las que se encuentran en zonas de conflicto- y como resultado tienen menos capacidades para expresar preocupaciones sobre proyectos empresariales perjudiciales. También hay informes de fábricas que utilizan la pandemia para justificar el despido de quienes defienden los derechos laborales. Las compañías de tecnología también pueden violar el derecho a la privacidad de las personas defensoras, puesto que cooperan con los gobiernos para ayudar a detener la propagación de COVID-19. Algunas compañías mantienen sus negocios activos; por ejemplo, en Perú y Colombia, a pesar de la oposición local. Incluso, es probable que algunos sectores utilicen la crisis para presionar por regulaciones más bajas, como ya estamos viendo en Indonesia y los Estados Unidos, lo que podría conducir a más tensión y violencia en el futuro.

Esta sección presentará las últimas noticias sobre cómo la pandemia y la respuesta a la misma están afectando a las personas defensoras de derechos humanos que plantean preocupaciones sobre las empresas y sus impactos en los derechos a la alimentación, el acceso al agua, los derechos laborales, el medio ambiente, la vivienda y la salud. También destacaremos los impactos sobre las libertades fundamentales, como las libertades de expresión, asociación y reunión, que las personas defensoras necesitan para poder organizarse y trabajar. Finalmente, estaremos rastreando nuevas formas de protesta y organización por parte de estas personas defensoras y grupos en medio de la pandemia, y las nuevas exigencias en respuesta a ellas.

Preguntas frecuentes

  • + Who are human rights defenders, focusing on business, and why are they particularly vulnerable during the pandemic?

    Human rights defenders, focusing on business, are affected-community leaders and members, and members of human rights and environmental civil society organizations, protecting land, environment, culture and livelihoods, labour rights defenders and union leaders, protecting labour rights, anti-corruption activists that denounce corporate capture and business involvement in bribery and corruption, and other individuals and organizations, raising human rights-related concerns about business projects, promoting sustainable development, and experiencing attacks and abuse of rights for doing so.

    During COVID-19 crisis response, they have been affecting in these ways:

    1. Harassment, killings, death threats, and other attacks and intimidation of HRDs related to COVID-19, while media and governments are paying attention to the pandemic
    2. New types of attack and pressure on HRDs because of COVID-19, for example, alleged violations of the curfews, increased presence of the police and armies on the streets & loss of livelihoods of indigenous and rural land and environmental human rights defenders
    3. Increased violations of the right to privacy & increased mass surveillance
    4. Disproportionate restrictions of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association & suspension of key democratic institutions, in the name of dealing with the pandemic
    5. Violations of union rights & threats of dismissals for labour rights leaders organizing for better protection during the pandemic
    6. Increased likelihood of digital attacks as activism moves increasingly online
    7. Increased risk of attacks on HRDs after the pandemic ends as we may see an increase in rapid investment, neglecting opposition and lacking respect for the rule of law, as states and companies will try to recuperate their losses
    8. Impacts on defenders in detention are particularly severe because their cases are and will be delayed

  • + But aren't some limitations on fundamental freedoms necessary during this pandemic?

    Some limitations on fundamental freedoms may be necessary during public health crises, but this can result in human rights violations if states enact policies and measures that unjustly and disproportionately impact our rights and freedoms, extend emergency measures beyond a reasonable time period, or if they fail to adequately protect people against preventable harms related to the pandemic.

  • + Why is it important to support human rights defenders during the COVID-19 response, including those focusing on business?

    - Protecting and supporting defenders right now is crucial, as some governments and companies are using this crisis moment to further limit freedoms and silence them, paving way for irresponsible investment and business projects in the post-pandemic future;

    - This crisis shows the importance of human rights defenders, as they were the ones to first alert the states to the urgency of COVID-19 – and in many countries got silenced for it: if they were allowed to speak and do their work, this could possibly save companies and governments millions;

    - Particularly at risk – but also largely invisible in their suffering - are indigenous, land and environmental defenders, many of whom are self-sustaining agricultural workers: lockdowns are leaving them in a condition with no income, which immobilizes them and makes it impossible for them to continue their struggles against the projects that pose human rights risks. In many countries, they are denouncing they won't die of COVID-19, but rather of starvation;

    - Irresponsible companies may indirectly benefit from this weakening process of HRDs and their movements, further skewing the level playing field for those companies that are doing business in a rights-respecting manner. Financial institutions that rely on information from these stakeholders to make informed decisions about their investment cannot do so when defenders are unable to organize and speak out.

  • + Are you tracking impacts on all human rights defenders whose rights are affected by COVID-19 response?

    No, there are other great organizations and media outlets doing that, and keeping track of general limitations on civic freedoms, such as ICNL's COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker that monitors government responses that affect civic freedoms, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)'s Tracker-19 that monitors and evaluates the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on journalism, Front Line Defenders' ongoing tracking of attacks on defenders, and CIVICUS tracking civil society's responses to COVID-19 (https://www.civicus.org/index.php/covid-19), among others. We only try to capture abuses of rights, and new ways of organizing, of those defenders and groups that focus on business-related human rights impacts - and those protests and clampdowns that have a clear business dimension or a particularly strong impact on or involvement of the business community.

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