Impunity happens in the absence of the rule of law. Under the rule of law, all people, all organisations, and the state itself are equally accountable to laws that are fairly applied and enforced, and there is equal access to justice when rights are violated.

As a result of impunity, those suspected of criminal acts are not prosecuted or punished and victims are left without effective remedy or compensation for their injuries or loss. At the same time, they – and society – are denied access to the truth about the violations suffered.

Many of the human rights defenders (HRDs) PBI accompanies are working within a system where the rule of law is weak. They are particularly vulnerable because their would-be attackers are able to act without fear of punishment.

HRDs who work specifically to counter impunity and promote the rule of law are often subject to aggressive threats and reprisals from those who benefit most from the status quo.