People working peacefully for human rights may be persecuted under the pretext that they constitute a threat against the national security of a country. In many cases, human rights activists are gaoled because they defend or try to help people who have been harassed or detained for their beliefs. In some countries, people working for human rights are taken to clandestine detention centres and tortured. They are sentenced to long prison terms in secret trials. Their effort are officially denounced, their houses are raided, their papers are confiscated and their families intimidated. In a number countries, human rights activists may even be assassinated.
The French foreign intelligence services blew up the Greenpeace boat, Rainbow Warrior, killing a photographer. An attempt to cover up the incident was made by the French military. In 1990, official UN forms which had been completed by relatives or friends of over 500 persons who had been reported missing in Sri Lanka were confiscated by the police as a Member of Parliament was leaving Colombo to travel to Geneva to a meeting of the UN Working Group on Enforced and Voluntary Disappearances.
The Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission, reporting in 1999, found over 200,000 deaths and at least 626 massacres during the 1960-1996 crisis that repressed indigenous Mayan groups, displaced hundreds of thousands, and demolished hundreds of Mayan villages. It found nine-tenths of deaths were the fault of the government and its paramilitary allies.