IACHR Grants Precautionary Measures in Favor of Bertha María Deleón Gutiérrez in El Salvador

September 21, 2021

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Washington, D.C. — On September 19, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 76/2021, through which it granted precautionary measures in favor of Bertha María Deleón Gutiérrez in El Salvador, whom it deems to be at serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to her human rights.

According to the request, Ms. Deleón Gutiérrez, a defender of women's rights, has allegedly begun to be followed by third parties in cars and motorcycles without license plates. She has also allegedly been subjected to surveillance by drones and various other forms of harassment, especially online attacks through social media platforms by government supporters, who allegedly included high-level state authorities from the executive branch. The requesting organizations said that this harassment amounted to "cyberstalking" and was sexist in tone.

The IACHR valued the information provided by the State on the actions taken by the corresponding domestic institutions to address this situation. Likewise, it took note of the claim that those who use social media platforms to spread ideas should expect to receive opinions that run counter to these, and that these platforms have policies in place to prevent behavior that is abusive or jeopardizes user safety, which are also available to the beneficiary.

However, in addition to criticisms or expressions that ran counter to Ms. Deleón Gutiérrez's opinions, the IACHR observed that a situation of animosity and hostility has arisen that could translate into a situation of risk to her life and integrity. It also noted that there are currently no material protection measures in place for Ms. Deleón Gutiérrez, despite the fact that measures of this sort were indicated after she initiated domestic proceedings before the special comprehensive court for a life free from violence for women.

Finally, the IACHR noted the existence of a situation of online animosity that is apparently seeking to intimidate Ms. Deleón Gutiérrez in order to limit or altogether halt her work as a defender. Likewise, it took into consideration the fact that over time, the tone of the messages appears to be becoming more serious, which may be an indication that the threats in question will move from online spaces into physical ones, mainly because Ms. Deleón Gutiérrez has continued to go about her work.

Consequently, in accordance with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure, the IACHR requested that El Salvador:

  1. Adopt the measures needed to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of Ms. Bertha María Deleón Gutiérrez from a gender perspective, in such a way as to enable her to continue going about her work as a human rights defender without being subjected to threats, intimidation, harassment, or acts of violence in the process of doing so;
  2. agree on any measures to be adopted with the beneficiary and her representatives; and
  3. report on the actions it implements to investigate the alleged events that led to the adoption of this precautionary measure so as to prevent them from being repeated.

The IACHR's granting of this precautionary measure and its adoption by the State does not entail a prejudgment on any petition that may eventually be filed before the inter-American system to allege that the rights protected by any applicable instruments have been violated.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 248/21

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