Security and Protection
This section provides information on:
For funding for individual HRDs or organisations to improve their security and protection - see 'Emergency and Security Grants'.
National and regional
There are a number of organisations that provide tools and strategies to people who defend human rights so they can protect themselves – whether individuals, organisations, networks, or communities. These include organisations with national and regional coverage, such as
In addition, the website of Equipo Nizkor has a list of Latin American human rights organisations by country, many of which will provide security and protecion guidance, as well as other support, to HRDs.
Three of the organisations with greatest experience in this field are Front Line Defenders, Protection International and Peace Brigades International (PBI). Protection International has protection desks based in a number of Latin American countries to give support on the ground to human rights defenders, and has a particular focus on WHRDs, remote communities and HRDs working on environmental issues.
All three organisations provide training and advice on security and protection -
Front Line Defenders - training
Protection International - face-to-face training and longer-term advice and support, as well as e-learning.
The publication 'Empoderadas' ('Empowered'), which contains a report of the course on integral protection provided in this initial training, gathers together the voices and testimonies of the students and other Mexican WHRDs, and includes recommendations on integral protection drawn up by them and presented to the diplomatic corps in Mexico.
In addition, PBI Mexico has published a Facilitator's Guide for Human Rights Defenders Security and Protection Programme (in Spanish only) which is aimed at anyone who would like to share security and protection tools with individuals or organizations that defend human rights. It includes workshops on digital security and advocacy.
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights and Kvinna Till Kvinna has produced Integrated Security: A Manual (by Jane Barry, 2011) which has translated the research for Insiste, Persiste, Resiste, Existe (see under 'Other publications' below) into practical tools to support women human rights defenders in developing and deepening strategies to stay safe and well.
Front Line Defenders and Protection International also provide manuals giving practical guidance to HRDs on how they can improve their security, and thus protect themselves.
Front Line Defenders - see list under 'Training resources'.
Protection International provides a range of protection manuals, including New Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders and manuals for specific groups, in collaboration with UDEFEGUA (in Spanish only):
On women human rights defenders (WHRDs),which includes guidance on dealing with violence, including sexual attacks and domestic violence:
Cuadernos de Protección 4: Protegiendo tu vida, mi vida, nuestra vida (Protection manual 4: Protecting your life, my life, our lives) based on the findings of the UDEFEGUA report Herramientas para la protección de defensoras de derechos humanos (Tools for the protection of women human rights defenders)
Personal and family security:
Cuadernos de Protección 3: Medidas de protección personales y en el hogar para defensoras y defensores de derechos humanos (Protection Manual 3: Personal and home protection measures for human rights defenders)
HRDs in rural areas:
CUIDÁNDONOS: Guía de protección para defensoras y defensores de derechos humanos en áreas rurales (Looking after ourselves and each other: A guide for the protection of human rights defenders in rural areas)
The website of AWID (Association for Women's Rights in Development) has links to a range of publications on the security of WHRDs, many in collaboration with the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD-IC). To access them, on the publications page, under 'Our publications' click on 'Filter'. Under 'Priority areas', tick 'Women Human Rights Defenders' and then click on 'Filter'.
Insiste, Persiste, Resiste, Existe: Women’s Human Rights Defenders’ Security Strategies (Front Line Defenders, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights and Kvinna Till Kvinna, 2008) shares the voices of WHRDs from all over the world. The purpose of the report is to make the threats encountered by women human rights defenders in their work visible as well as the strategies they use to combat and handle the threats.
State protection programmes
States have an obligation to protect human rights defenders. A possible first point of contact if you wish to request security measures from the state is the national human rights institution for your country.
Countries in Latin America with formal state protection programmes for HRDs are:
These programmes have advantages and disadvantages and HRDs have varied experiences of them. You may therefore wish to consult a non-state human rights organisation before you apply for protection measures under such a programme.
While human rights defenders are increasingly using computers and the internet in their work, this electronic information is also increasingly the target of monitoring and surveillance. There are a number of tools available to improve digital security and thus help protect not only HRDs but also the people they communicate with.
Front Line Defenders provides a range of materials on the digital security part of its webpage. Those in both English and Spanish are below:
Security in a Box developed by Front Line Defenders in collaboration with Tactical Technology Collective, this is a package of tools and guide.
Front Line Defenders' Security Grants Programme may be used to improve digital security.
Digital Security First-Aid Kit for Human Rights Defenders produced by APC contains short guides for HRDs who find themselves in emergencies related to communication and digital security. The kit suggests concrete steps, as well as providing further resources and references to support groups to whom activists can turn for further assistance.
Rise Up provides online communication tools for people and groups working towards social change. It particularly focuses on providing the resources and tools for safer communication. It has a lot of information to help improve digital security, including links to security guides.
¡Pongámonos las Pilas! (Let's get our act together!) aims to provide the basis for an information security policy for organisations, particularly in relation to digital security.
Me and my shadow by Tactical Technology Collective outlines many of the ways in which we leave traces of our personal information online. Includes tips and information about staying safe in the digital world, as well as links to online resources.
Electronic Frontier Foundation provides detailed info on dealing with Denial of service (DoS) and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which aim at preventing a website from functioning properly.
A number of organisations provide grants for individual HRDs or organisations to improve their security and protection - see 'Emergency and Security Grants'.
There are a number of organisations which offer international accompaniment of human rights defenders in Latin America, to deter politically motivated violence in areas of civil conflict and repression. International volunteers from these organisations may accompany communities or individual defenders who are at risk, as they go about their work, both in cities and rural areas. As well as deterring potential attackers, accompaniment organisations provide moral support and international solidarity to defenders and communities. They operate primarily in Mesoamerica and Colombia. The way in which they operate and the type of accompaniment they offer can vary – see their websites for more information.
Here is a list of some of the accompaniment organisations active in Latin America:
Peace Brigades International (PBI) – has projects in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras
ACOGUATE (in Spanish) – provides accompaniment in Guatemala. It is composed of a number of organisations, some of which also provide accompaniment in other Latin American countries. If so, they are mentioned separately below.
CAREA (in Spanish) - Cadena para un Retorno Acompañado (Network for an Accompanied Return) – works in Chiapas, Mexico and Guatemala (via ACOGUATE)
Danish Committee for Solidarity with Central America (in Spanish) (CDSC) has projects in Guatemala (via ACOGUATE) El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Peace Watch Switzerland – sends volunteers to Guatemala (via ACOGUATE), Honduras (via PROAH – see below) and in Colombia, where they accompany campesino communities and displaced families reclaiming their land.
La Plataforma de Solidaridad con Chiapas, Oaxaca y Guatemala de Madrid Madrid Platform for Solidarity with Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guatemala (in Spanish)
Witness for Peace – has an office in Colombia, and organises delegations in support of HRDs in Mexico and Honduras
Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFOR) - Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico
PROAH (Honduras Accompaniment Project)
Christian Peacemakers Team – Colombia, primarily the Magdalena Medio region
Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence – Colombia
Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia (Network of Friendship and Solidarity with Colombia) (in Spanish)
International Action for Peace – Colombia
SIPAZ (International Service for Peace) – southern Mexico