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This report by the foreign law research staff of the Law Library of Congress’s Global Legal Research Directorate includes surveys of laws guaranteeing the safety of environmental defenders in Latin America, especially in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

A United Nations Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, which was adopted on March 4, 2018, in Escazú, Costa Rica, for the specific purpose of promoting, protecting, and defending human rights in environmental matters was signed by Brazil, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.  However, Colombia and Honduras are the only countries that have enacted specific legislation for the protection of environmental defenders.

Brazil and Honduras have laws that may be used for the transfer or temporary relocation of environmental defenders.  In Brazil, if a temporary relocation is needed, a federal law that offers special programs for the protection of threatened victims and witnesses may be used to the benefit of environmental defenders and their family members.  The protective measure must be provided by the Union, the states, and the Federal District, within their respective competencies.  In addition, if the protected person is unable to work or has no other source of income, the law also states that monthly financial support to cover necessary expenses must be offered to the protected person and his or her family.

In Honduras, the Regulation of the Protection Law for Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators provides for temporary relocation of persons in need of protection as well as their family members. This protective measure must be provided by specialized bodies or individuals.  The funds to fulfill the law must be assigned by the Secretariat of Finances, and a special fund for the protection of human rights defenders was created by the Protection Law.

Although Colombian law does not have a specific provision regarding temporary relocation, its legislation determines that local entities in charge of the execution of security and protection programs for communities and territorial organizations may appropriate funds to cover comprehensive protective measures.

In regard to emergency applications and rapid responses to such applications, Honduran law determines that in cases of imminent risk of threat or aggression that could put a person in danger, protective measures must be put in place by the appropriate agency within a short period of time to protect such person.  All other surveyed countries do not have such a provision.

Brazilian law does not directly address maintenance of secrecy for cases involving applications submitted by environmental defenders.  However, secrecy may be imposed during criminal or civil procedures to preserve a person’s exposure to the media where required by public or social interests.  The Protection Law of Honduras requires that information regarding the protection of beneficiaries of the law and their family members be kept confidential. 

No legislation was located in the surveyed jurisdictions providing for spaces for dialogue between mining companies, investors, public officials, and affected communities.

Summary prepared by Eduardo Soares
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
November 2019

Jursidictions prepared:

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020