Posts Tagged ‘Americas’

World Environment Day: seven stories of human rights defenders

June 9, 2019

Amnesty International marked 5 June – World Environment Day – by focusing on environmental human rights defenders, who often face the gravest risks to protect their homes and communities. Being an environmental human rights defender has deadly consequences, making it among the deadliest types of activism. According to the NGO Global Witness, in 2017 almost four environmental defenders were killed each week for protecting their land, wildlife and natural resources. In 2017, 207 environmental activists were killed. The vast majority of them hailed from South America, making it the most dangerous region in the world. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/global-witness-report-2018-on-environmental-defenders-bad-but-2017-was-worse/]

Amnesty highlights the stories of seven environmental activists from the Americas who remind us of why we need to stand up for Earth’s defenders.

BERTA CÁCERES, COPINH (HONDURAS)

Berta Cáceres cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH) in 1993 to address the growing threats posed to the territorial rights of the Lenca communities and improve their livelihoods. For more on her case see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/berta-caceres/

JULIÁN CARRILLO AND THE COLORADAS DE LA VIRGEN COMMUNITY (MÉXICO)

Julián Carrillo was a leader of the Coloradas de la Virgen community. His job was to take care of the territory, the water, the forest and the wildlife. He had publicly denounced logging and mining by landlords in their ancestral land, as well as violence by criminal armed groups against his community. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/07/reprehensible-says-un-about-mexican-killing-of-human-rights-defender/%5D

PARAGUAY: AMADA MARTÍNEZ, INDIGENOUS DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TERRITORY

Amada is an Avá Guaraní Indigenous environment defender from the Tekoha Sauce community.

In the 1970s, the construction of the Itaipú Binational hydroelectric plant, in the border between Paraguay and Brazil, forcibly displaced her community from its ancestral territory, putting their survival at risk. Since then, she has defended the right of her community to have a territory in which they can thrive in harmony with nature and has denounced the serious impacts of hydroelectric projects on nature and Indigenous Peoples’ lives. On 8 August 2018, a group of armed men threatened to kill her. Amada was leaving the community in a taxi along with his seven-year-old son, his sister and two young nephews, when the vehicle in which they were traveling was intercepted by a pickup truck with the logo of the hydroelectric plant. Amada Martínez believes that the threat against her was due to her work defending Indigenous Peoples rights and the environment.

PATRICIA GUALINGA, INDIGENOUS DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TERRITORY

“We are united and we will continue our struggle to defend Mother Earth.”

Patricia is an Indigenous leader of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku community. She defends her people’s rights to their territory and to live in a healthy environment in the face of damaging oil activities there. Patricia is also protecting the Amazonian environment and promoting sustainable development. In 2012, the Indigenous Sarayaku community achieved a historic victory for Indigenous Peoples against the Ecuador government after reporting an oil concession that had installed explosives on their territory without consulting them. In the early hours of 5 January 2018, an unknown man made death threats to Patricia and attacked her at her home in Puyo, in the east of Ecuador., The man shouted, “Next time we’ll kill you, bitch!” before fleeing. Patricia and her family had to leave their home after the attack because the property owner “was terrified that something would happen to her.”

NEMA GREFA, INDIGENOUS DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TERRITORY

 

Nema is defending the Amazon environment and her people’s right to protect their territory from the possible negative effects of oil activity. After being legally recognized as President of the Sápara nationality of Ecuador in January 2018, her appointment was challenged by a group of people who Nema says are supportive of oil activities on the Sápara territory. Nema’s appointment was revoked in April 2018 as a result. Later that month a video was shared on social media featuring a man armed with a spear, identified by Nema as belonging to the group who had challenged her appointment, issuing her with a death threat: “Those present here are united in rejecting her and are thus going to kill Nema Grefa; she has no territory.” One year on, the Attorney’s Office has yet to open in investigation into the death threat. On 19 October 2018 Nema was finally recognized as president but still faces serious threats to her life. In April this year, despite the Ecuadorian authorities’ promises to protect her and her family, unknown individuals forcibly broke into her home to steal two computers containing sensitive information on her human rights work.

SALOMÉ ARANDA, INDIGENOUS ENVIRONMENTAL AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS DEFENDER

Salomé is an Indigenous leader from the Kichwa people who is defending the Amazonian environment and the right of women in her community to live in a healthy environment, free from sexual violence. Salomé is the Women and Family Leader in Moretecocha commune, Pastaza province. Salomé has publicly denounced the possible environmental impacts of oil operations in the Villano River basin, Pastaza province, and the sexual abuse of Indigenous women that have occurred in this context. In the early hours of 13 May 2018, a number of unidentified individuals attacked and threatened her and her family at home. Despite making a formal complaint, the Pastaza Provincial Attorney’s Office has yet to make any significant progress in this investigation. The authorities have not even offered her protection measures to address the risk facing her and her family.

MARGOTH ESCOBAR, ENVIRONMENTAL AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ RIGHTS DEFENDER

Margoth has devoted her life to defending the environment and Indigenous Peoples’ rights. In August 2015, Margoth was physically attacked by police officers at a protest and national strike called by the social and Indigenous movements in Puyo, Pastaza province. She was held on pre-trial detention for more than a week despite poor health caused by her injuries. She was charged with “attack and resistance”, which she was eventually acquitted of. In September last year Margoth’s house was set on fire, destroying all her belongings. On 1 October 2018, the Puyo Fire Brigade Commander stated that the fire at Margoth’s house had been intentional. Margoth lodged a criminal complaint with the Pastaza Provincial Attorney’s Office to investigate the attack, yet no progress has been made in her case. Margoth refused to join the country’s witness protection program because of her previous experience at the hands of the police: “I didn’t want to join the victim and witness protection system because I have no faith in the current government, I have no faith in the independence of the legal system in Ecuador, nor in the military or police forces.”

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/06/why-we-need-to-stand-up-for-earth-defenders-this-world-environment-day/

 

 

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights launches major report on Human Rights Defenders

March 2, 2018

While all eyes are on the ongoing session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) – on 28 February – presented its report “Toward a Comprehensive Policy to Protect Human Rights Defenders,” in the context of the 167th session of the IACHR taking place in Colombia. The purpose of this report is to provide the States in the region with guidance in developing their domestic policies, programs, and protection mechanisms for human rights defenders, in keeping with inter-American human rights standards.

The work of defending human rights in the countries of the Americas has become extremely dangerous,” said the President of the IACHR, Commissioner Margarette Macaulay. “The levels of violence against people who defend human rights in our region are alarming, and the rates of impunity for these types of crimes are very high. The focus of the IACHR’s concern is on the violent deaths of rights defenders, the impunity that tends to surround these types of crimes, and the remaining vulnerability of all persons and groups on whose behalf the defender had worked. This makes it essential and urgent for the States to adopt effective measures to put an end to this situation,” she added.

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/22/amnestys-annual-report-2017-is-out-depressing-but-rays-of-hope/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/15/documenting-the-killings-of-environmental-defenders-guardian-and-global-witness/

…….

“We are aware of and welcome the efforts made by some States to implement different mechanisms, laws, and policies to protect rights defenders, but unfortunately these have not been effective enough,” said the IACHR Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren. “That is why the IACHR in this report has laid out the main components of a comprehensive protection policy, so that such a policy can be effective and so that we can manage to stop the killings and other attacks that are putting an end to the lives of rights defenders or preventing them from doing their work. The aim of the IACHR is to provide the States with a guide on developing domestic policies, programs, mechanisms, and practices for the effective protection of human rights defenders, in accordance with Inter-American human rights standards,” he indicated.

A comprehensive protection policy is based on a recognition of the State’s interrelated and interdependent obligations to enable rights defenders to freely and safely carry out their work of defending human rights. In this sense, a comprehensive protection policy refers to a broad, all-encompassing approach that requires extending protection beyond physical protection mechanisms or systems when defenders experience situations of risk. It requires implementing public policies and measures designed to respect the rights of defenders; prevent violations of their rights; diligently investigate acts of violence against them; and punish the perpetrators and masterminds of any attack on human rights defenders.

The report also analyzes the main steps forward and challenges in terms of the efforts underway in some States, such as the national protection mechanisms, legislation, and policies and programs that exist in some countries. It also makes recommendations to the States on how to ensure better implementation of prevention, protection, and investigation measures to achieve a comprehensive protection policy.

..Human rights defenders are an essential pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of democracies in the hemisphere. Acts of violence against human rights defenders not only infringe on the defenders’ own rights as human beings but also undermine the critical role they play in society and in upholding democratic standards.

Contact info María Isabel RiveroIACHR Press and Communication Office mrivero@oas.org

http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2018/039.asp

Amnesty’s Annual report 2017 is out: depressing but rays of hope

February 22, 2018

Amnesty International´s annual report, The State of the World’s Human Rights 2017, assesses the human rights situation in 159 countries and delivers a most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today. Here follow some summaries form the media:

AI itself highlights in the launch on 22 February 2018, the deepening human rights crisis in the Americas.  “People across the Americas faced a deepening human rights crisis fuelled by growing government intolerance of dissent and increasing demonization in political rhetoric that cemented its status as one of the most violent and unequal regions in the world“, Amnesty International warned. Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing resistance movement of both first-time and seasoned activists provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression and fear.

The report highlights alarming trends for the state of human rights in the Americas, including:

  • High levels of violence that continued to ravage the region, with waves of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions. In Mexico, more than 34,000 people remained missing, and extrajudicial executions were rife. A year on from Colombia’s historic peace agreement, violence was still a daily part of life, and an estimated 60,000 people were forcibly displaced due to armed conflict in 2017 alone, according to official numbers.
  • Venezuela continues to face a serious human rights crisis, fuelled by the escalation of government-sponsored violence to respond to the increasing social discontent created by rising inflation and a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of people were arbitrarily detained and there were many reports of torture and other ill-treatment.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean remained as the most violent regions in the world for women and girls, despite strict laws aimed at addressing the crisis. The region has the world’s highest rate of non-intimate partner violence against women, and the second highest rate of intimate partner violence.
  • Ongoing intimidation and attacks against community leaders, journalists and activists who stood up for human rights. Environmental defenders were among the most at risk. Of the 188 environmental defenders killed in 2017, 110 took place in the Americas, according to the NGO Front Line Defenders.
  • Deepening discrimination and neglect of the rights of rural communities and Indigenous Peoples, including their rights to their ancestral territory and to free, prior and informed consent on projects affecting them. From Peru to Nicaragua, national and transnational corporations sought to take control of land away from Indigenous Peoples and peasant farmers, affecting their livelihoods and contaminating their basic resources.
  • A rapidly out of control yet largely invisible refugee crisis as hundreds of thousands of people from some of the world’s most violent countries, including El Salvador and Honduras, were denied urgent asylum.

Yet these injustices have also inspired many more people to join long-standing struggles, and the report details many important achievements that human rights activists helped to secure. These include lifting the total ban on abortion in Chile and the approval of a law to help victims of enforced disappearances in Mexico find their missing loved ones. [see also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/31/2017-a-year-to-forget-for-human-rights-defenders-but-dont-forget-the-human-rights-defenders/]

Last year proved that however disenfranchised people were, they refused to resign themselves to a future without human rights. Emerging social discontent inspired people to take to the streets, stand up for their rights and demand an end to repression, marginalization and injustice,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International The Americas was at the hub of this new wave of activism. The “Ni Una Menos” (“Not one woman less”) movement denounced violence against women and girls across the region, while survivors of gender-based and sexual violence in Argentina, Mexico, Jamaica, Peru, and many other countries took to the streets to protest against impunity for such crimes.

Protesters and refugees bear the brunt of ‘normalized’ violence: Hundreds of activists were killed last year as authorities sought to repress civil society and muzzle the media, the report says. Human rights defenders faced threats, harassment and attacks in most countries in the region, while states failed to protect them and acknowledge the importance of their work.

The injustice of President Trump’s cruel pledge to build a wall along the USA-Mexico border was emphasized by Central America’s ongoing refugee crisis. More than 50,000 people from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador sought asylum in other countries, thousands of whom were then apprehended at the US border. Mexico received a record number of asylum applications but repeatedly failed to provide protection to those who needed it – instead pushing people back to highly dangerous situations.

The numbers of people fleeing Venezuela rocketed as it faced one of the worst human rights crises in its recent history, fuelled by an escalation of government-sponsored violence. When the country’s crippling shortage of food and medical supplies sparked protests, the security forces’ heavy-handed response lead to more than 120 deaths.

Instead of trying to suppress people when they speak out, governments should address their concerns, said Amnesty International.

We are witnessing history in the making as people rise up and demand justice in greater numbers. If leaders fail to discern what is driving their people to protest, then this ultimately will be their own undoing. People have made it abundantly clear that they want human rights: the onus now is on governments to show that they are listening,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

[for last year see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-human-rights-movement/]

Interesting to note the different emphasis placed on the report such as in the Al-Jazeera article: “World leaders abandoning human rights: Amnesty

World leaders are undermining human rights for millions of people with regressive policies and hate-filled rhetoric, but their actions have ignited global protest movements in response, a rights group said. US President Donald Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and China’s President Xi Jinping were among a number of politicians who rolled out regressive policies in 2017, according to Amnesty International’s annual human rights report published on Thursday. The human rights body also mentioned the leaders of Egypt, the Philippines and Venezuela. “The spectres of hatred and fear now loom large in world affairs, and we have few governments standing up for human rights in these disturbing times,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary-general, said. “Instead, leaders such as el-Sisi, Duterte, Maduro, Putin, Trump and Xi are callously undermining the rights of millions.”  [see also my https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/19/ai-welcomes-resistance-to-trumps-human-rights-policies/]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty also focuses on the US angle: Amnesty International has taken aim at U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders the global watchdog says are abandoning human rights, accusing them of setting a “dangerous precedent” for other governments to follow. And then gives a useful summaries of countries in its region:

Central Asia

Afghanistan

Armenia

Azerbaijan

Belarus

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Georgia

Moldova

Russia

Ukraine

Adding  Iran and Pakistan.

 

Euronews obviously also focus on Europe:  Between eastern Europe’s “hostile discourse to human rights” and the rights of freedom of association and assembly put at risk in the entire continent, this year’s Amnesty International World Report warned that “space for civil society continued to shrink in Europe” and gives then a thematic overview of the key takeaways for Europe from the report.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/02/deepening-human-rights-crisis-spurs-new-era-of-activism-in-the-americas/
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/02/world-leaders-abandoning-human-rights-amnesty-180221174518140.html
https://www.rferl.org/a/amnesty-international-trump-other-leaders-setting-dangerous-precedent-abandoning-human-rights/29055935.html
http://www.euronews.com/2018/02/21/-space-for-civil-society-continued-to-shrink-across-europe-report-says

Front Line Annual Report: over 130 human rights defenders killed in 2014

January 15, 2015

 

On Wednesday 14 January, Front Line Defenders launched its 2015 Annual Report, “Human Rights Defenders, Lives in the Balance” which examines in detail the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders (HRDs) around the world in the period January – December 2014.

The report was launched at a press conference in Dublin with as keynote speaker Mary Akrami, Co-founder and Director of the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre which was the first safe house for women and children in Afghanistan.

Mary Akrami, Andrea Rocca , and Mary Lawlor from Front Line Defenders launch the report.
Mary Akrami, Andrea Rocca, and Mary Lawlor from Front Line Defenders launch the report.

Over the last two years Front Line Defenders has documented a growing global backlash against human rights defenders (HRDs) which has now reached crisis point. Against this backdrop, international human rights institutions as well as governments traditionally supportive of human rights defenders appear to be incapable of forcefully and effectively opposing the shutting down of civil society space.

This is a crucial political moment. If we are to challenge the systematic erosion of human rights standards there needs to be a more consistent and credible political response, which must give the same priority and resources to creating a safe space for HRDs as authoritarian governments give to closing it down” said Front Line Defenders Executive Director, Mary Lawlor. “There can be no human rights progress if those at the forefront of human rights work are not allowed to work”.

The report highlights:

• that over 130 HRDs were killed or died in detention in the first ten months of 2014 as reported to Front Line Defenders
Colombia accounted for 46 of those 130 HRDs killed in 2014
• The Americas overall claimed 101 of the 130 HRDs killed in 2014
• Globally, deprivation of liberty and court proceedings were the most widely used strategies to silence and intimidate HRDs
Repressive laws continued their viral spread across the world with the growth of cut and paste repression as governments replicate legislation
HRDs are exposed to digital attacks.

For more see: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/27916 

HURIDOCS: bursting with new ideas for documenting human rights: case law in Africa and the Americas

February 25, 2013

The HURIDOCS network publishes a Newsletter with many items that are of importance to Human Rights Defenders. The latest issue carries e.g. interesting news on access to human rights case law from the Asian and American scene. In the future it should be possible to have on-line access to the case load of these regional systems which until now are very difficult to find. Connecting these two databases in the future will be possible, but only if they are built on common standards. Developing these is a core function of HURIDOCS as illustrated by an interview with Judith Dueck who has been involved in standard formats for almost 25 years (Judith Dueck looks back upon how it was done). One reason to refer to this article of course the youth picture of me (from 1988) they added!

To get the HURIDOCS newsletter free every 15 days subscribe via the homepage: http://www.huridocs.org/

HURIDOCS 2011

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights creates Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

April 13, 2011

In my post of 5 april I referred to the report of a large group of NGOs denouncing thousands of violations of rights of Human Rights Defenders. On 7 April the  Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), reported the establishment of an Office of the Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. The first Rapporteur will be Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez. The Office of the Rapporteur has to foster greater support and visibility to the contribution of human rights defenders and justice operators – who are also included in the mandate – in constructing a democratic society. The Observatory welcomed the IACHR decision and expressed the hope that it will contribute to encourage states to take action for guaranteeing the safety of human rights defenders according to international law and through effective measures of prevention, protection, and investigation, in order to improve the conditions in which human rights defenders in Latin America have to carry out their work. For further information, you could contact: in OMCT: Eric Sottas, Andrea Meraz: + 41 22 809 49 39, or in FIDH: Karine Appy, Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18

23 NGOs denounce over 2000 violations re Human Rights Defenders in the Americas

April 5, 2011

Most of us think that the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas has at least slightly improved over the last years. NGO reports seem to debunk this. The 2010 report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur points out that between 2004 and 2009, over 146 complaints of threats against human rights defenders were filed in the Americas (mostly Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, and Peru). Now, on 29 March 2011, a group of 23 NGOs from 11 countries has concluded that the situation is even worse with over 2000 cases since 2002. According to their research, in Colombia more than 1000 human rights defenders were victims of aggression including murder, threats, arbitrary detention, and torture; in Guatemala, 1072 acts of aggression were recorded, and at least 50 human rights defenders have been murdered in Honduras since the coup d’état. At the meeting of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR), where this information was made public, NGOs placed special emphasis on the increase in illegitimate state intelligence activities against human rights defenders.

The organizations called on the IACHR to create a specific office or rapporteurship for the protection of human rights defenders.  They also asked the IACHR to demand that states adopt effective protection measures and improve public policies that guarantee the work of defenders. States were also urged to investigate the acts of violence and threats carried out against people who put their lives at risk to denounce situations of social injustice.

For further information contact: Milli Legrain of CEJIL, Tel +1.202 319 3000, mlegrain@cejil.org