Posts Tagged ‘Central America’

LWF rolls out Advocacy Handbook in Central America

August 5, 2019

Participants at the LWF advocacy training workshop in San José, Costa Rica, 14-16 July. Photo: LWF/F. Wilches
Participants at the LWF advocacy training workshop in San José, Costa Rica, 14-16 July. Photo: LWF/F. Wilches

The persecution and killing of human rights defenders in Central America, as well as obstacles to the exercise of religious freedom in the region were under the spotlight at an advocacy training workshop in San José, Costa Rica, 14 -16 July.  The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) event was attended by 21 participants from six of the communion’s member churches in Central America and North America and from the World Service regional program.

The training facilitated by the LWF Office for International Affairs and Human Rights was an important opportunity for participants to share experiences of advocacy in their local and national contexts, hear about good practices and learn basic guidelines for effective advocacy work from a rights-based approach including gender analysis. The main tool used was the recently published LWF Advocacy Handbook, which is available in English, French and Spanish.

Participants talked about their concerns for the plight of human rights’ defenders who risk their lives on a daily basis in pursuit of justice and peace in their countries. They also discussed other human rights issues including limitations to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the rights of indigenous peoples, the challenges facing those living with HIV and  the importance of a critical approach to the role of the churches in the public space. “What makes this handbook special is its attempt to equip human rights defenders with a wide range of practical strategies that link local and global advocacy actions for meaningful impact at grass roots level” stated Dr Ojot Miru Ojulu, LWF Assistant General Secretary for International Affairs and Human Rights

The training is expected to be replicated in the other LWF regions over the coming years with the goal of helping the member churches, country programs and communities to strengthen their capacity to work on advocacy and human rights. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/29/three-award-winning-colombian-human-rights-defenders-on-a-european-tour-to-raise-awareness/

LWF Advocacy Handbook

https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/lwf-rolls-out-advocacy-handbook-central-america

The killing of Oscar Romero – El Salvador’s ‘turbulent priest’ – written up after 36 years

January 18, 2017

Tom Sandborn wrote in the Vancouver Sun of 7 January 2017 review  of the book “Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Oscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice“, by Matt Eisenbrandt, published by University of California Press.

Sainthood and civil torts
Book cover: Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Oscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice

It took a single bullet to kill Oscar Romero, but his legacy has outlived many who plotted his murder and he may soon be officially named a saint by the Catholic Church. Assassination of a Saint is an exciting, dramatically paced account of his murder by a right wing death squad and the painstaking and eventually successful efforts to expose some of the men behind the Archbishop’s death.

In El Salvador in 1980, Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, had been elevated to his position in part because the cabal of land owners and politicians that controlled the tortured Central American state saw him as unlikely to pose uncomfortable moral challenges to their power. But Romero was fast becoming a problem for the elites…. he was condemning the war of right wing terror being waged against the Salvadoran people by the army, police and paramilitary death squads, all of whom took orders and funding from the country’s ruling class and inspiration from a particularly bloody minded brand of Cold War anti-Communism….

During the three years he spent as Archbishop, Romero was gradually radicalized by the suffering inflicted on the poor of his country by the official and unofficial death squads. In the end, he condemned the state and ruling class sponsored murders and called on soldiers and policemen to refuse the orders to turn their guns on Salvadorans standing up for their freedom. “No soldier,” he thundered from the altar, “is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God.” That call for conscientious disobedience was the last straw. The decision was made that the “turbulent priest” must die.

On March 24, 1980, a sniper in a van parked outside the church fired a rifle once, striking Romero in the chest as he said mass and killing him. The assassination made the Archbishop a beloved martyr among the poor, and kicked off a new round of civil war and bloodshed. For decades, no one was held to account for the public murder.

The Assassination of a Saint is the compelling story of how a rag-tag band of idealistic lawyers collaborated with Salvadoran exiles to identify one of the killers, Alvaro Saravia. Because the assassin was found to be living in the United States, the legal team, working out of the San Francisco offices of the Center for Justice and Accountability, was able to file a civil suit against him under an obscure American law, the Alien Torts Act, for damages incurred by Romero’s killing. In the course of that effort, they brought to light much of the hidden history of the Romero murder, meeting with witnesses and accomplices in the crime and uncovering much more about the archbishop’s death than had been known before.

Matt Eisenbrandt was a member of the legal team, and he has written a fast paced, informative and dramatic account. …Before they were successful in that effort in 2004, the crusading lawyers experienced a series of dramatic meetings with perpetrators and potential witnesses, tense moments, mysterious phone calls, frightening visits to El Salvador and years of exhaustive research. Their win was a triumph for human rights defenders, and this book is a powerful account of how that victory was won. 

Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He has been involved in human rights activism for over five decades. He welcomes feedback and story tips at tos65@telus.net.

Source: Sainthood and civil torts

IM-Defensoras: women human rights defenders in Central America support each other

February 25, 2014

MDG : Women activists in Latin America  : protest against violence in Mexico

(A woman protesting against violence (c) Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

An excellent piece in the Guardian of 25 February by Jo Tuckman describes the impact of the Mesoamerican Human Rights Defenders’ Initiative [IM-Defensoras] which through solidarity tries to protect woman human rights defenders. The Honduran Berta Cáceres – who has been under threat for years because of her campaign against extractive industries – says that without solidarity from her peers, it could all be over. “The solidarity is why I am alive and why I am here,” she told a recent meeting of the IM-Defensoras in the Mexican capital. “And, of course, we are committed to continue.” (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/berta-caceres/)

IM-Defensoras is a three-year-old effort to provide women rights defenders in the Central American region with protection mechanisms that are gender-sensitive and adapted to different contexts, and that go beyond traditional options. The organisers of IM-Defensoras say activists in Central America are increasingly being targeted and governmental protection is rarely effective and difficult to trust. The initiative documented 414 attacks on women activists between 2010 and 2012, a period in which it says 38 women were killed, with the vast majority of their deaths blamed on the state.

The initiative is built around the creation of national networks of activists. So far, these have been set up in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, with about 360 members. The plan is to expand these networks and set up new ones in Costa Rica and Panama. The importance of the networks stems partly from the recognition that women activists are usually less able to rely on family and organisational support than men. For example, a female leader in danger is much likelier to face pressure from her family, or even from male colleagues, to withdraw from activism. “The gender perspective means recognising that women defenders have already broken the rules“.

The networks are the basis of most of the work of IM-Defensoras. In times of emergency, the networks may draw attention to a credible death threat or organise temporary exile, for example. They devise strategies that take into account complications such as whether an activist also has children.

The Guardian article also draws attention to an often overlooked aspect of support networks: fighting stress. The initiative also encourages activists to pay attention to the stress they accumulate from sustained threats, attacks, sexual harassment and smear campaigns. The risk of burnout is increased further by the fact that most women activists receive no salary and so also undertake paid work, at the same time as spending several hours a day on domestic chores. After getting supportive messages, Lolita Chávez, a Guatemalan K´iche’ (Mayan language) human rights defender is quoted as saying:  “I said to myself: ‘Maybe others think I am a terrorist but there are sisters telling me I am a defender of human rights’,”… “It was a counterbalance.” Chávez also spent three weeks in Mexico at a workshop to help her look after her own mental and physical health, which, like most women activists, she had neglected for years. “The initiative has filled me with life, but there are many sisters out there who are still waiting for this kind of support,” Chávez told the Mexico City meeting. “It is possible to do what we do and not be a martyr.” (see also: http://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/lolita-chavez-about-land-and-life-in-peril-in-guatemala/)

 

Central American women put their lives on the line for human rights | Global development | theguardian.com.

FIDH mission reports on Honduran Elections

December 21, 2013

The mission to Honduras was made up of Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish jurist and human rights defender; Luis Guillermo Pérez Casas, attorney and head of the FIDH mission; Lisa Haugaard of the Latin America Working Group; Annie Bird of Rights Action; Mirna Perla, former magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador; Julieta González from APRODEV-Advocacy Program for Central America in Brussels; Susanna Daag from the Copenhagen Initiative for Central America (CIFCA) in Brussels; Hollman Morris, Colombian journalist and human rights defender; Enrique Santiago of the Foro de Abogados of Spain; Beatriz Gil from the Institute for Political Studies on Latin America and Africa (IEPALA) in Spain; and Pascal Paradis from Lawyers without Borders, Canada. The mission was carried out with the support of CIPRODEH.logo FIDH_seul

The report of 20 December 2013 highlights the following:
  • deep concern over the attacks and threats made against the human rights defenders mentioned in its November 23, 2013 press release, including journalists and those who work to defend women, indigenous and Garifuna territories, natural resources, and the lesbian, gay, transsexual, bisexual, and intersexual community. The mission had access to two blacklists targeting leaders of social and labor organizations, human rights defenders, journalists, and members of the Libertad y Refundación political party and indicating they would be murdered.
  • concern over the recent and apparently arbitrary transfer of public prosecutors who had been working in the Special Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Prosecutors’ Offices and the impact of these transfers on the work necessary to overcome the high level of impunity in the country.
  • number of irregularities in the election process identified through multiple reports from diverse sectors of Honduran civil society.
  • a lack of transparency around the funding of political campaigns and the sources of political party funding.
  • strong presence of the Armed Forces during the course of the elections.
  • reports that during the course of the last few days, four people linked to the Partido Libertad y Refundación have been murdered. These numbers are over and above the 39 murders that have taken place since May of last year, mostly of members of the same party.

for the full text see: International Mission of FIDH with the Support of CIPRODEH on the Honduran Elections – FIDH.

AI and Jody Williams on today’s elections in Honduras: Will Human Rights Defenders fare any better?

November 24, 2013

Bertha Isabel Cáceres Flores, human rights defender from the Honduran NGO COPINH.

(Bertha Isabel Cáceres Flores, human rights defender from the Honduran NGO COPINH. © COPINH)

There’s hardly a moment when Honduran human rights defender Bertha Cáceres is not worrying about what may happen to her for defending the rights of her community, the Lenca Indigenous People. The risk is so high that she’s been forced into hiding. “They want to terrorize us,” she told Amnesty International.  “I cannot live my life like before. I cannot go to the office, take part in our campaign, or leave the country to denounce our situation in international forums. I can’t even go swimming in the Río Blanco, which is very important to me because it is sacred to our people,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »

145 Organizations Urge US and Meso-American Presidents to Change Course on the war on drugs which harms human rights defenders

May 13, 2013

The Heads of State from Mexico, Central America and the United States met for the Summit of the Central American Integration System (SICA) in Costa Rica on May 4 and 5.  The Fellowship of Reconciliation, collaborating with Just Associates, the Americas Program, the Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA and the Latin America Working Group, presented a letter to the meeting signed by more than 145 international, regional and local organizations from ten countries in the Americas. The letter addresses inter alia civil society concerns about security issues, human rights violations, violence against men and women human rights defenders. It is time to refocus regional dialogue and resource investment to address the root causes of violence, understanding that for many citizens and communities, drug trafficking is not the principal cause of insecurity. Harmful “development” policies have similarly caused increased conflict and abuses, while forced migration and criminalization of migrants and human rights activists continues to divide families. Most importantly, the region’s challenges must be addressed without violating fundamental rights and human dignity. The groups said that “the lack of effective gun control in the U.S. has led to the massive and nearly unrestricted transfer of arms to criminal networks throughout the region” and called on the presidents to “take executive action in the United States to stop the flow of assault weapons and other firearms across the U.S.-Mexico border.” The letter also provides analysis and recommendations related to: Militarization in the name of addressing the drug war which has caused unprecedented levels of violence while failing to provide citizen security. The imposition of large-scale extractive projects on marginalized communities do not constitute “development. ”Violations of migrants’ rights and the lack of consideration of root cause of migration in policies. Read the full text of the letter in pdf. on John Lindsay-Polands blog

via 145 Organizations Urge Obama and Mesoamerican Presidents to Change Course | Fellowship of Reconciliation.

German Foreign Office promotes better networks for human rights in Latin America –

April 24, 2013

Rule of law, freedom of the press, women’s rights – these were just a few of the issues recently discussed at a conference which brought together human rights defenders from Central America and the Caribbean. Twenty human rights defenders from 13 countries and representatives from the German embassies attended the event, which took place from 17 to 18 April in Panama and was organized by the Federal Foreign Office. Also participating were the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, Markus Löning, and the Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Thomas Karl Neisinger.

The discussions were dominated by the key issues affecting the region, such as the rule of law and women’s rights. Special attention was given to the subject of coöperation between embassies and human rights defenders as well as building networks and strengthening regional civil society. Despite the different situations in countries such as Honduras, Costa Rica and Jamaica, many states in the region face similar challenges. Consequently it is especially important to improve civil society networks so that human rights defenders can learn from one another’s experiences and coöperate more closely in the future.

This event was the fourth regional human rights seminar organized by the Federal Foreign Office. This format is to be retained for future events, for example in Southern Africa in June 2013.

Auswärtiges Amt – Latin America – Better networks for human rights.