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Bachelet Alarmed By Attempts To Undermine National Human Rights Institutions In Latin America And The Caribbean

GENEVA (6 May 2021) – UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday sounded the alarm over
the rising number of threats, attacks and attempts to
undermine and delegitimise independent national human rights
institutions (NHRIs) in Latin America and the Caribbean by
Governments and others in positions of power.

Over the
last two years, the UN Human Rights Office has received
increasing complaints from NHRIs (Defensorías del Pueblo,
Procuradurías para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos,
Ombudsperson Offices) in the region, who have been harassed
and threatened by Governments, parliamentarians, officials,
vigilante groups and others simply for doing their work and
fulfilling their mandate.

Reported incidents include
threats or harassment against the institutions or their
staff in Bolivia, Chile and El Salvador; attacks against the
premises and staff of the NHRI in Haiti; attempts to remove
the head of the organization in Guatemala and Mexico at the
state level. Also of concern are public statements
discrediting the institutions’ work in Ecuador and
Uruguay; budget cuts and the lifting of the immunity of the
NHRI head in Peru.

The High Commissioner also voiced
concern at the failure for a decade to appoint an
Ombudsperson in Argentina.

“The fact that we have
received complaints from institutions in almost a dozen
countries in the region is striking testimony to the
expanding trend and magnitude of the problem,” Bachelet

“The work of independent national human rights
institutions is crucial for any society. However, they can
only fulfil their mandate of protecting and promoting human
rights if they are able to operate without undue
interference by governments and others, and are able to keep
their independence. Otherwise, they will lose their
credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the people they
are meant to serve,” she said.

“Let me be very
clear: these institutions, who work closely with my Office
and the UN human rights mechanisms, must not face any form
of abuse or interference, especially political pressure. I
urge governments across the region to abide by their
responsibilities and respect and protect the independence of
the national human rights institutions,” the UN Human
Rights Chief said.

These responsibilities are
enshrined in the Paris Principles, a set of minimum
international standards for effective and credible NHRIs
adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993. The Paris
Principles state that NHRIs should uphold international
human rights standards in an impartial and independent

The High Commissioner acknowledged that NHRIs
could pose challenges for governments because, according to
their mandates, they have the duty to highlight gaps in the
protection of human rights. However, she stressed that
Governments can benefit from their independent assessments
to help resolve human rights problems -a role that any
democratic society should welcome.

Bachelet called on
the respective authorities to establish prompt, thorough,
independent and effective investigations into each and every
alleged attack, act of reprisal, threat or intimidation
against these key institutions.

She also stressed that
in the current context of the pandemic, NHRIs play an even
more essential role, as they have the additional duty of
ensuring a human rights-based approach to the COVID-19

To see the High Commissioner’s video,
please click here:

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