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Carter Center Calls on Democracy Summit Participants to Protect Human Rights Defenders

ATLANTA — The Carter Center calls on participants in the Summit for Democracy to prioritize the protection of human rights defenders and voices of dissent as they face increased attacks throughout the world.

Under the guise of protecting national security, governments are abusing counterterrorism laws and measures to silence these actors, who are vital to the advancement of democracy. Robust human rights monitoring and reporting helps prevent democratic backsliding, raising the alarm when governments abuse power and alerting society to the source of the problem. To protect this essential role and confront the rise of authoritarianism throughout the world, governments participating in the summit should be required to commit to addressing this pressing issue.

Many countries participating in the summit have either targeted human rights defenders or failed to take steps to protect them. For example, the United States has prosecuted whistleblowers at an alarming rate in recent years, and legislation aimed at punishing nonviolent speech and protest has advanced at the state level. Colombia has seen the highest number of killings of human rights and environmental activists of any country in the world, and the government has not taken measures to protect those in the firing line. The government of India has escalated attacks against activists and journalists, some of whom have been arrested and charged for their peaceful attempts to hold their leaders accountable. Brazil’s government has escalated attacks against trade unionists, indigenous communities, and environmental activists, and the government of the Philippines continues its assault against human rights activists and journalists. 

We are particularly alarmed that Israel, a long-time recipient of U.S. military and political support, designated six highly effective and respected Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organizations, placing at risk their staff members and the funding they need to operate. No credible evidence has been put forth to support this designation. If it is left in place, it sets a damaging precedent for all democracies.

“These are only a few examples, and there are signs that this trend will worsen if changes aren’t made now,” said Paige Alexander, CEO of The Carter Center. “The Carter Center calls on all Summit for Democracy participants to work together over the next year to strengthen democratic practices and institutions and to secure greater freedoms for those holding up mirrors to society to help us see the truth about our democracies.”

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Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison, soyia.ellison@cartercenter.org

The Carter Center
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.