Posts Tagged ‘Costa Rica’

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the U.N. independent expert on sexual orientation, speaks out

October 31, 2019

Victor Madrigal-Borloz
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the U.N. independent expert, is now in residence at Harvard Law School. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Costa Rican magistrate Victor Madrigal-Borloz has served for the past 21 months as the U.N. independent experton protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Gazette interviewed Madrigal-Borloz, who is the Eleanor Roosevelt Senior Visiting Researcher with the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, to talk about his work and his hopes for the future:

GAZETTE: Why did you decide to take on this role?

MADRIGAL-BORLOZ: I have been working in the field of human rights for over 20 years and I saw the possibility to bring about substantial change. The topic bears a lot of significance to me, as a gay man myself. I have been working on these issues for over a decade, first at the Inter-American Commission [on Human Rights] and now at the global level. I have seen many people suffer as a result of stigma and discrimination, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something about it and put my skills at the service of a cause.

GAZETTE: What did your report find in terms of the root causes of violence and discrimination against LGBT people?

MADRIGAL-BORLOZ:There are primary and secondary root cases. First, there is the notion that societies are structured around certain power relations, which have been designed in relation to a person’s sex. Your role in society is determined by your genital configuration. That’s a very basic construction, and all forms of violence and discrimination come from a defense of those power relations. The other factors come from mechanisms that aim to protect those power relations, such as the idea that gay, lesbian, or trans people don’t exist, and the stigma around them, which is enabled through the message that gay, trans, bisexual, and lesbian people are sick or mentally ill. The other aspect is criminalization. Same-sex relations are still criminalized in 69 countries, which means that, as of today, over 2 billion people live in countries where being gay or lesbian is illegal. Another factor is demonization expressed in the notion that somehow LGBT lives are sinful, immoral; that gays or lesbians cannot be good citizens. The idea is that at the end of the day, there’s something immoral about our existence, and that’s what all of us need to fight against.

GAZETTE: Of your findings, which ones struck you the most?

MADRIGAL-BORLOZ:What disturbs me is that in 2019 there are countries that are considering bringing back the death penalty for same-sex relations. There was a discussion in Uganda about it, and early this year Brunei Darussalam enacted legislation allowing the stoning of gay men. That, to me, is shocking. What I also find surprising is that there are environments that are actually extremely progressive when it comes to gender identity, but can be very restrictive when it comes to sexual orientation and vice versa. In Pakistan, for example, there is an extremely forward legislation on the recognition of gender identity, but sexual orientation is very much criminalized. Sexual orientation has always been a more challenging notion for societies, which in general have used the notion of a traditional binary, hetero-parental family as the nucleus of society, and this has been recognized in public discourse and in the law. But what we also know is that homosexuals, lesbians, and bisexuals have existed and sought happiness all throughout history.

GAZETTE: What policies or practices have been the most successful in the protection of LGBT rights?

MADRIGAL-BORLOZ: Anti-discrimination legislation with the words sexual orientation and gender identity is very important because it allows for all actors in the system to understand that a red line has been drawn and that shouldn’t be crossed. This creates the belief that lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, or gender-diverse people are entitled to protection. Other good practices are policies aiming at promoting integration of LGBT people in society and campaigns to change hearts and minds.

Let me give you an example. About a year ago, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued an advisory opinion, OC-24, which determined that Costa Rica and other countries in the continent must implement same-sex marriage, and it gave a time frame for that. Despite the fact that this created great polarization in Costa Rica, the Costa Rican state has now put together a campaign called “Yes, I do,” or in Spanish, “Si, Acepto,” which focuses on the parents of gay and lesbian children and their reasons why they support gay marriage and why their children are entitled to happiness.

Another good measure is access to justice, and this means that judges have to actively seek to implement the principle of nondiscrimination when it comes to LGBT rights. That’s what the Supreme Court of India, the Supreme Court in Botswana, and the High Court in Trinidad and Tobago did when they voted to decriminalize gay sex in their respective countries.

GAZETTE:How do you explain the dramatic advances in the protection of LGBT rights in regions such as Latin America, where same-sex marriage is now legal in five countries?

MADRIGAL-BORLOZ:It’s the work of civil society and human-rights defenders and advocates who have fought relentlessly for their rights. I began working on these issues over a decade ago, and at that time the trans movement in South America was strong. An extraordinary trans activist in Argentina, Lohana Berkins, used to say that trans women must expose the audacity of their bodies to the society that fails to understand the fragility of their lives. The average life expectancy of a trans woman in Latin America is 35 years, and that’s what Berkins was talking about. It was her voice and those of other great fighters in the LGBT movement that forced people to see their humanity, and ensured that Argentina, Uruguay, and other countries in the continent have the most advanced legislation on legal recognition of gender identity.

GAZETTE:Which countries are the worst and best performers in terms of LGTB rights?

MADRIGAL-BORLOZ:I have a lot of resistance to ranking countries, because things change very fast. Most of these rights are not necessarily enshrined or written in stone; there are forces in societies that are quite keen on seeing them taken back. We live in times in which rising populism uses certain categories of people, such as LGBT communities, as pawns for their political objectives. But I can say that the most problems arise in the countries where gay sex is criminalized, and they are roughly distributed along the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, some regions of Asia, and the Middle East. It’s not a small part of the world. Criminalization forces people to live underground, and often the situation of those whose existence is considered criminal is devastating. The killing of trans women, for example, has been invisible from public records because they are classified as men. And the levels of violence against lesbian women and gay men all over the world is worrisome.

GAZETTE: Why have there been more gains in protection of sexual orientation than gender identity, and what does it say about the possibility of social change?

MADRIGAL-BORLOZ:There is a certain concentration of power and influence within gay and lesbian, or cisgender, urban populations. They have been able to represent their valid agendas in the political debate. On issues of concern for the gay and lesbian urban upper and middle class, there has been more progress than on those concerning trans women or trans men coming from the countryside. But those gains show that social change is possible within one generation. Those of us who were born in the ’60s have seen the world change from a majority of countries criminalizing and pathologizing LGBT identities to a majority of countries embracing the richness that comes from diversity.

Social change is possible when the prime minister of Luxembourg speaks at the General Assembly last week, and declares “I was never hoping to be the gay prime minister. I just happen to be the gay prime minister.” When political leaders take part in a pride parade, they are changing the views that people have about LGBT people. I’ve had the honor of marching alongside Justin Trudeau in Vancouver, and the first lady of Costa Rica in pride parades. That makes me hopeful, but also the fact that the new generations have changed their paradigm of thinking; they embrace the notion that their existence is not determined by rigid notions of gender. That is a great source of inspiration.

But I worry that for some, the change will not come fast enough. Elderly LGBT people are suffering enormous health disparities, and after living their lives in inclusive environments, they are being forced to go back into the closet as they move to retirement communities that are not prepared to cater for their needs. They deserve happiness now.

GAZETTE: What would you like to see happening before your tenure as the U.N. independent expert ends in 2020?

MADRIGAL-BORLOZ:My dream is to see a world free of criminalization of same-sex relations by 2030. Given the fact that international human rights law considers criminalization of same-sex relations a violation of human rights, I see no reason why states would actually get away with continuing this practice past 2030. That’s what I like to dream about.

U.N. report takes global look at LGBT violence and bias

Another setback for the credibilty of the UN Human Rights Council: Venezuela wins seat

October 18, 2019

There was some hope [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/06/why-costa-rica-should-be-in-the-un-human-rights-council-rather-than-venezuela/] but in the end Venezuela won its UN human rights council seat despite being a serial violator. To make matters worse the other seat for Latin America went to Brazil, whose far-right leader has expressed contempt for the concept of human rights.

Activists have responded with outrage after Venezuela won a fiercely contested vote for a seat on the UN’s human rights council on Thursday, despite its well-documented record of human rights abuses.

Opposition activists, journalists and human rights defenders are often jailed, while security forces loyal to Maduro commit abuses with impunity. “The inclusion of Venezuela and Brazil to the human rights council marks a backwards step in the advancement of human rights in the region,” said Rodolfo Montes de Oca, a lawyer at Provea, a Venezuelan rights group.

Maduro’s regime will probably be emboldened by his country’s new post at the UN. “They can say they were elected to the human rights council and from there have a voice to push back on their critics,” said David Smilde, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a thinktank. “It’s shameful, a travesty,” said Vanessa Neumann, Guaidó’s ambassador to the UK, who added that the vote will do little to silence Maduro’s critics. “Ultimately the march of history’s harsh judgment on Maduro and his regime will not be stopped by this.”

Earlier this year, the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, issued a scathing report on Venezuela, which described widespread cases of torture, extrajudicial killings and withholding food and medicines from civilians.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/17/venezuela-un-human-rights-council-activists-outraged

Why Costa Rica should be in the UN Human Rights Council rather than Venezuela

October 6, 2019

Venezuela’s abusive government is unfit to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council, and UN member states should defeat its candidacy, Human Rights Watch said on 4 October 2019. For years, Venezuela’s authorities have led a vicious crackdown on dissent and failed to address a self-inflicted humanitarian emergency that has sent more than 4.3 million Venezuelans fleeing the country.

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

Misconceptions about indigenous peoples and their defenders explained

May 22, 2019

In a piece of 21 May 2019, called “4 common misconceptions about indigenous peoples and local communities explained”, Lai Sanders of the Rights and Resources Initiative points to common misconceptions re indigenous peoples who have a ‘juggernaut role’ in the global fight against climate change. Why are they conspicuously absent from many national and international agendas, as well as from societal discourse at large? At the recent UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, six indigenous activists and leaders from across the world spoke to the often unrecognized and under-appreciated contributions made by their communities for the betterment of society, and to address some of the most widespread and harmful misconceptions about Indigenous Peoples and local communities. The following interviews (excerpts) come with beautiful portrait pictures.

..

Indigenous Peoples and local communities customarily own over 50 percent of the world’s land, yet only have secure legal rights to 10 percent. “One of the most generalized misconceptions is that society, especially decision-makers, sees us as a people almost without rights,” says Levi Sucre, head of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB) and an indigenous native of Costa Rica

Rayanne Maximo Franca. Photo: Rights and Resources Initiative

Rayanne Maximo Franca left her community at 17 to attend college in Brasilia, where she was one of a handful of indigenous students. Now 27, she is a seasoned organizer with the Indigenous Youth Network of Brazil and a representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus. “Every day, being indigenous in a society that is so prejudiced, so racist, so discriminatory,” she says, “the fact that people affirm themselves as indigenous—in the society we live in today—is already an act of activism. It is already an act of self-defense.”

For Emberá activist Dayana Urzola Domicó, youth coordinator for the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) the erasure of indigenous identities and narratives from mainstream culture is also a major issue. “… we are not those Indigenous Peoples who look beautiful in museums. We are not of the past. All those things that are articulated in the care of Mother Earth, of you as a person, your territory, your thought, your law of origin—those things are still alive. We are still here.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, coordinator of the Indigenous Women and Peoples Association of Chad describes how Mbororo pastoralist communities, who are indigenous to Chad, use their nomadic lifestyles to conserve the natural environment: “We use one place to stay for two days, and another place for three days. That allows the natural resources to get regenerated in the natural way.”

Joan Carling, co-convener of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development, grew up in the mountains of the Philippines’ Cordillera region, where she spent her childhood playing in the forests. An indigenous Kankanaey, she has fought at the forefront of environmental justice for two decades. “Indigenous Peoples have been engaging in the climate change process because we believe we have something to contribute,” she says. “We have the solutions. We have the resilience. We have the knowledge that has been accumulated through time. Our elders know how to read the rivers, the behavior of animals. They use this to predict what’s happening in the environment.”

This traditional knowledge, explains Maximo Franca, is what has kept the world’s remaining forests standing. “It maintains biodiversity, it maintains the fauna, the flora, the animals… everything that the nature has, we are maintaining. And we are countering climate change.

..The struggle to dispel a particularly harmful narrative—that Indigenous Peoples are blindly opposed to development projects, or an impediment to economic progress—is a universal one. “The biggest misconception about Indigenous Peoples is that we are anti-development,” says Carling. “That comes from the western view of development, that mining, dams, agribusiness are good for the people. But look: It has caused a lot of inequality. It is unsustainable. It has severely destroyed nature. It has severely polluted our lands and resources.

…Echoes Sucre on environmentally destructive projects: “In the short term, it looks like a development; but in the medium and long term, it will be the destruction of humanity.”

2017 and 2018 have been among the deadliest years on record for environmental defenders, particularly indigenous and community activists, who are increasingly being targeted, harassed, criminalized, and even murdered for defending their lands from exploitation. “They are not fighting for their ego, or to get economic benefits,” says Ibrahim. “They are fighting for the identity, the survival of the peoples—the protection of the planet.

For Rukka Sombolinggi, the head of AMAN, the largest indigenous organization in Indonesia and the world, learning about the struggles of indigenous communities outside her own was like “baptism by fire,” she recalls. “Twenty years ago, I realized that Indigenous Peoples were facing criminalization. Land grabbings were happening everywhere. The eviction of Indigenous Peoples—from protected areas, from national parks, from protected forests, from wildlife sanctuaries—took place in Indonesia. Today, that is still happening.”

For Carling, the issue of criminalization is deeply personal: less than a year ago, she was falsely labeled a terrorist by the Philippine government alongside hundreds of other human rights activists. Though her name was later struck from the list, the threat remains.

….

Increasingly, governments, multilateral institutions, and other important stakeholders are heeding the urgent call to action to protect those who defend the world’s forests and lands. New campaigns, projects, and funds are underway to support initiatives to strengthen Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ rights to their lands. And the next generation of young indigenous leaders is joining the fight: “In Colombia, there is so much conflict that you have two options,” says Urzola Domicó. “One is that they kill your family and you are left without anything, and you die with your family. And the other option is that you go out and see how to defend your people, your nation.”

Nicaragua moves against women human rights defenders

December 2, 2018

 
Ana Quiros

On Monday 26 November 2018 Ana Quiros, Maria Jesus Ara, Beatriz Huber and Ana Ara were called in to immigration. Quiros was then taken to the El Chipote interrogation prison and subsequently driven to the Costa Rica border. The Havana Times of 27 November carries a long piece on this. “Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s regime has just raised the level of their harassment against feminist movements, in a day of abuses that culminated on Monday with the expulsion from the country of feminist leader Ana Quiros” write Juan Carlos Bow.

Quiros is a Costa Rican and Nicaragua dual citizen who has lived in Nicaragua for more than 40 years – the entirety of her adult life. Along with Quiros, three European women living in the City of Matagalpa for decades, were also cited by immigration without any explanation to appear on Monday at their offices, where they were held for hours and then had their permanent residency revoked. The authorities refused to allow them to be accompanied by lawyers or human rights defenders.

The Ara sisters are Spanish and Huber is Swiss, all had current permanent residency status. Quiros was born in Costa Rica and is a Nicaraguan national since February 1997. All are part of the national feminist movement that has criticized the repression of the Ortega regime and its responsibility for the death of at least 325 Nicaraguans.

Last week the regime blocked activities of the feminist movement to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is held annually on November 25th.

Before presenting herself at Immigration, Quiros offered a press conference in which she stated that “the dictatorship must be clear that we are going to continue raising our voices, saying strongly that we want a free homeland in which to live.” “I chose to be Nicaraguan and I feel I have the right to demand that my rights be protected, to demand that in Nicaragua there be peace, justice and freedom, and to repudiate the abuses and arbitrariness that they have committed: the murders, the prison and the kidnapping of all those Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, who only want and are asking for a better Nicaragua, a Nicaragua where we all fit, where no one feels that they are above anyone else,” said Quiros.

This is the second time that a government tries to silence the critical voice of Quiros, who is a specialist in public health. In 2000, the administration of Arnoldo Alemán tried to strip Quiros of her Nicaraguan nationality, after she publicly pointed out the acts of corruption of the liberal party president.

Vilma Nunez, of the Cenidh, lamented the expulsion of Quiros noting that the Ortega government has exceeded its intolerance against everything that annoys and bothers it. “…Nuñez said that the citation of Quiros and the other three feminists “has no legal value because it did not state why they are being called in.” ….Nunez said that in order to revoke someone’s citizenship, a trial must first be held, which has not occurred in this case.

https://havanatimes.org/?p=144719

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/deportation-ana-quiros

 

On 24 October there is a side event in NY on the implementation of human rights treaty body recommendations

October 18, 2016

The Permanent Missions of Costa Rica, Finland, and Switzerland to the United Nations, together with Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), are organizing a side event in the margins of the General Assembly’s 71st session in New York on 24 October 2016 on the topic of: Implementation of United Nations human rights treaty body recommendations.

The event will take place at 3pm in Conference Room 6 of United Nations HQ in New York.

Some of the question to be discussed are: How can implementation of human rights treaty bodies’ recommendations be strengthened? What progress has there been in the area of follow-up and implementation since the High Commissioner’s 2012 report on strengthening the United Nations human rights treaty body system and Resolution 68/268? What are the national mechanisms for reporting and follow-up (NMRF) and which models have been the most effective in different States?

The discussion will focus on tools to encourage engagement and compliance with human rights treaty body recommendations in order to improve the promotion and protection human rights for all, including the treaty body follow-up procedures, national mechanisms for reporting and follow-up, and the role of civil society. Speakers will include representatives of treaty bodies, OHCHR, civil society, and government.

For more information, please contact m.sinclair@ishr.ch.

Some States have the courage to set out their commitments as members of the Human Rights Council

July 17, 2014

ISHR-logo-colour-high

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Amnesty-Internationa

 

 


have successfully co-hosted for the third time an event where candidate countries for the UN Human Rights Council have voluntarily shown up to set out their views and commitments in case they would be elected. ‘We are delighted to see more and more States prepared to participate in what is becoming an annual event, said Eleanor Openshaw of the ISHR. We would encourage all State candidates to see this as an opportunity to speak about their vision and commitments as members of the Council and, through their participation, to demonstrate the kind of transparency and accountability that should be expected of all Council members.  Ahead of elections to the UN Human Rights Council in November by the GA, seven candidate States have subjected themselves to public questioning, at the event hosted at UN Headquarters by the 2 NGOs and the missions of Tunisia and Uruguay.

Albania, Bolivia, Botswana, Costa Rica, Latvia, The Netherlands and Portugal elaborated on their pledges and were questioned on how they would work as members of the Council to challenge human rights violations and uphold the credibility of the Council. It is a pity that the other 10 candidates did not (yet) have the courage to join.

The protection of human rights defenders featured prominently in the discussion, with the Netherlands Human Rights Ambassador, Lionel Veer, describing human rights defenders as agents of change and calling for stronger recognition and protection of their work under both national and international law.  Building on this, all speakers affirmed their State’s commitment to the protection of defenders, with Albania and Bolivia committing to support and strengthen civil society engagement with the UN and Costa Rica pledging to support the right of peaceful protest. Botswana was explicit about its commitment to prevent and ensure accountability for reprisals and to work for the endorsement of Human Rights Council Resolution 24/24, adoption of which by the General Assembly would provide for the appointment of a high-level UN focal point to combat reprisals. We welcome the statements and commitments made by States to protect the work of human rights defenders and support robust civil society engagement with the UN, said Ms Openshaw. This is a recognition of the crucial role played by defenders in holding States to account for their human rights obligations at both the national and international levels.

A webcast of the event is available here: http://webtv.un.org/watch/human-rights-council-elections-a-discussion-of…-aspirations-and-vision-for-membership/3676385473001/.

via States set out their vision and commitments as members of the Human Rights Council | ISHR.

Optional Protocol Children’s Rights comes into effect in April

January 15, 2014

Photo: ILO

With Costa Rica as the tenth country to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children or their representatives will have the possibility to file an individual complaint as from  April 2014,when the Protocol comes formally into effect, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announcement on 14 January. 

 

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.