Around the world, human rights defenders are winning their struggles for justice and rights - for them, and their communities. We take a quick look at six examples from the year so far.

Human rights defenders play a vital role in exposing and opposing regression, fighting for justice, and initiating positive political and social change. As an organization, we understand the power of storytelling and the importance of highlighting the remarkable achievements of the movements, defenders and communities we support. One of the core principles of PBI's approach is to amplify the voices of those on the front lines of social change. This article showcases some of the recent achievements of the human rights defenders we work with: their stories of victories, progress and hope. The protective accompaniment and multi-level advocacy of PBI helps provide the security these defenders need to do their work, to catalyze meaningful progress, and to contribute to a more just world.


 1. Mexico – CONTEC wins landmark Indigenous land rights case

After a decades long struggle, in February 2024, a Federal Court in Mexico recognized the ancestral rights of the Indigenous Rarámuri forest community of Bosques de San Elías Repechike. This decision not only upheld justice but also annulled forestry permits issued without the community's free, prior, and informed consent. The Indigenous Rarámuri forest community of Bosques de San Elías Repechike is accompanied by the Community Technical Consultancy (CONTEC). PBI’s Mexico team has been providing holistic accompaniment to CONTEC since 2015. Read more here.

2. Honduras - COFADEH wins acquittal in criminalization of social protest case

Having faced criminalization on trumped up charges and detained for over 4 months, Henry Bonilla, a Honduran university student, was acquitted of all charges on February 5, 2024. PBI carried out trial observation in solidarity with Honduran NGO COFADEH, who provided legal representation to Henry. Read more here.

3. Guatemala – Indigenous Journalist Carlos Choc cleared of all charges

On the 31st of January 2024, charges were finally dropped against Maya Q’eqchi’ journalist Carlos Choc. This followed years of criminalization in an attempt to silence Carlos after he took photos of police murdering a protesting fishermen and continued his investigative journalism into environmental damage and corruption related to the Fenix nickel mine. The PBI team in Guatemala have provided protective accompaniment and trial observation to Carlos and his lawyers from the Human Rights Law Firm since 2017. Read more here.


4. Guatemala - Landmark ruling for freedom of the press

On January 31, 2024, three members of the National Civil Police (PNC) were found guilty of the illegal detention of environmental journalist Norma Sancir in 2014 during a protest by Indigenous maya Ch'orti' community members. PBI volunteers observed the arrest and accompanied Norma back in 2014. Since then PBI has supported Norma in a painstakingly slow case where it has taken 10 years for justice to be done. After the ruling, Sancir stated: “…Freedom of expression won, justice was done, and the work of community journalists has been recognized”. Read more here.

5. Guatemala - Election of Arévalo a setback for corruption and a victory for grassroots democracy

Following Bernardo Arévalo’s win in the elections in August 2023, attempts to prevent him from taking power ramped up, as prosecutors reportedly aligned with Guatemala's political and economic ruling class tried to overturn the election results and strip Arévalo of immunity from prosecution. The incoming President also faced assassination attempts. The incredible mobilization of the Indigenous and campesino movement in the weeks running up to the presidential inauguration were key to ensuring that the democratic will of the Guatemalan people was upheld. Many of those groups receive protective accompaniment from PBI’s Guatemala team, and PBI mobilized governments, civil society and the legal community globally in the lead-up to the transfer of power to galvanize action in support of democracy and human rights defenders. Read more here.


6. Colombia - Indigenous Wounaan community finally return to their territory after armed displacement

Thanks to the tireless work of the Commission for Justice and Peace, the Wounaan Community of Santa Rosa de Guayacán returned to its territory after two years of forced displacement. The community was repeatedly displaced due to the armed conflict in 2004, 2010, 2017, and 2021. Since 2010, CIJP has been advising and accompanying the Wounaan Nonam indigenous community. With the support of CIJP, the community returned to its territory in August 2011 and declared it a Humanitarian and Biodiverse Reserve, thus prohibiting the entry of any armed actor. This territory is collective and is shared with Afro-descendant communities. However, between 2014 and 2015, thousands of indigenous people were once again displaced from the region due to the constant presence of paramilitary and guerrilla groups in the area. In 2014, glyphosate fumigations on illegal coca crops in the region caused loss of crops, animals and health problems for the people of the community. PBI-Colombia has provided support and protection to CIJP since 1994. Read more here.

These victories are not PBI’s; they belong to the struggles of the courageous defenders and communities who tirelessly strive for justice, peace and human rights in the face of ever-increasing attacks and threats.

Change is a gradual process, often marked by challenges and setbacks. However, these cases underscore the vital significance of PBI's long-term, local and holistic protective accompaniment in catalyzing victories for human rights and justice globally. PBI stands in solidarity with the communities and human rights defenders we support in their darkest moments, and we stand by their side in their victories, celebrating together the power of international solidarity. 

We can really only do this with your support. Together, we are so much stronger.

With thanks to PBI’s Canada and UK Office for the additional reporting and case compilation.