Posts Tagged ‘death threats’

Trans defender’s Karla Avelar’s life is under constant threat

May 16, 2017

Brian Dooley of Human Rights First, wrote the following piece “Karla Avelar’s Life Of Constant Threats” in the Huffington Post of 13 May 2017 (in full below). Karla (El Salvador) is one of the three finalists of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/26/breaking-news-three-human-rights-defenders-selected-as-finalists-for-the-2017-martin-ennals-award/].  An rise in deadly violence against transgender women in El Salvador prompted the United Nations on Friday to call for an investigation into crimes against sexual minorities in the conservative Central American country. So far this year, seven transgender women have been killed in El Salvador, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights [http://www.reuters.com/article/us-elsalvador-violence-lgbt-idUSKBN189018]

CARLOS CRUZ, COMCAVIS TRANS
Karla Avelar, advocating despite the danger.

Six times in two years. Human rights activist Karla Avelar has been forced to move home six times in the last two years after being physically threatened by individuals she believes are gang members and for her work as a human rights defender in El Salvador.

She’s a leading advocate for the human rights of LGBT people, founder and head of COMCAVIS TRANS, an organization known for its work for transgender people for nearly a decade. It’s dangerous, unpopular work, and Avelar is regularly targeted and threatened.

A couple of weeks ago she was forced to move home when people tried to extort from her possible prize money for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Award, for which she is a finalist. The award’s winner will be decided and announced in October, but news of her nomination has prompted these latest threats.

It hasn’t been an easy life. She was shot in two separate incidents, spent five traumatic years in jail and has been a constant target of abuse for being a transgender woman. Avelar told my colleague Mariel Perez-Santiago at her office in San Salvador last year how she had been raped by more than a hundred men on her first day in prison, and that the attacks continued with the complicity of prison staff.

She became a formidable advocate for the rights of trans people in and out of prison, helping to win important reforms in the prison where she used to be an inmate. Thanks to her campaigning, transgender women are now separated from men in different wards, and human rights organizations are allowed access to the prisoners to educate them about their rights. She also represented El Salvador’s LGBT civil society at the country’s 2014 Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations in Geneva.

Her advocacy has led to international recognition including becoming a finalist for this year’s Martin Ennals Award. “Transgender persons, and the wider LGBT community, face widespread hostility and social rejection in El Salvador,” said the Martin Ennals organization in a statement. “Crimes against them are almost never brought to justice, which results in a climate of impunity. Sadly, this treatment of transgender people can be seen well beyond El Salvador. We aim to highlight Ms. Avelar’s bravery in continuing her work. We are encouraged that the authorities contacted her after the media coverage of the latest threats. This needs to be followed up with judicial proceedings against those responsible and, most importantly, effective protection for Karla Avelar.”

Her profile has meant that the threats against her are receiving attention, and the Attorney General’s office has been in touch with her to discuss issues of her safety. But for Avelar and others in El Salvador’s LGBT community the risks are daily and grave. She estimates around 600 cases of unsolved murders of LGBT people in the country over the last 25 years.

“Sadly, these most recent threats against me are not surprising and are part of a broader and systematic pattern of persecution of members of the LGBT community in El Salvador,” said Avelar. “I will not be silenced by these threats, but the Salvadoran government must guarantee my safety and that of all human rights defenders and activists, who work tirelessly to monitor and urge respect for the human rights of the most vulnerable.”

Forced to leave her home again and again, she’s asking for protection as well as international visibility. Making her more famous won’t guarantee her safety but we can try to help by sharing her story with whoever we know, by showing that we’re watching, and by saying that she should be protected and never be forced to move again.

Source: Karla Avelar’s Life Of Constant Threats | HuffPost

Imran Anjum in Pakistan called a ‘blasphemer’ for caring about brick makers

June 2, 2016

imran_anjum

Imran Anjum is a human rights defender from the city of Sahiwal, Punjab province in Pakistan. He is the Founder and the Executive Director of Peaceful & Active Center for Humanity (PEACH), a non-governmental organisation working on the social and economic development of some of the most disadvantaged communities in Pakistan. Imran Anjum is directly involved in the provision of legal aid to people from these communities and carries out advocacy work on the rights of bonded labourers, including child labourers and brick kiln workers. Currently, PEACH is running a campaign across the Punjab province aimed at raising awareness among brick kiln workers about their rights.

On 20 May 2016, a group of brick kiln owners displayed banners around the city of Gojra, Punjab province, calling human rights defender Mr Imran Anjum ‘a blasphemer‘ and insisting on his execution. These threats follow an attack on 9 May 2016, when Imran Anjum, along with two of his colleagues, was travelling home to Sahiwal from a conference in Gojra devoted to the protection of the rights of brick kiln workers. Two people on motorbikes chased his car, forcibly stopped him, dragged him and his colleagues out of the vehicle and threatened them at gunpoint. They said that they would kill the human rights defender and his colleagues if they did not stop their labour rights work or if they went back to Gojra.Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-imran-anjum

Honduras: one of the worst places to be a human rights defender

June 5, 2015

On 25 May 2015 the inaugural PEN Canada/Honduras Award for investigative journalism, ‘Escribir sin Miedo’, was presented in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to the journalist and documentary filmmaker Fred Alvarado for his essay “HONDURAS: the Process of American Remilitarization and the Failure of the War on Drugs”.

Escribir sin Miedo was organized and launched by the newly established PEN Honduras centre, in partnership with PEN Canada, with funding from the British embassy in Guatemala. “Investigative journalism has never been more important in this country,” said Dina Meza, president of PEN Honduras, “and awards like this recognize the importance of creating a culture in which writers and human rights defenders can address sensitive issues without fearing for their lives.”

And the problems are grave:

– At least 30 journalists have been killed since the country’s 2010 Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations, and at least 48 since 2003. Several were killed even after receiving protection measures, including “precautionary measures” granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). To date the government has obtained convictions in just four of these cases, with the remaining 44 unresolved – an impunity rate of over 90 per cent.

– Frontline reports that Honduran human rights defender, Ms Gladys Lanza Ochoa, continues to face intimidation and harassment following her sentencing to 18-months imprisonment on 26 March 2015. An appeal against the sentencing has been lodged before the Supreme Court of Honduras.  [Gladys Lanza Ochoa is Coordinator of the Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz Visitación Padilla (Honduran Women’s Committee for Peace “Visitación Padilla”), a collective of women human rights defenders from across Honduras who work on issues such as gender violence and women’s participation in public life, in addition to advocating for democracy and human rights in Honduras. Over the last years, Gladys Lanza Ochoa, as well as other members of Visitación Padilla have been regularly victims of threats, intimidation and surveillance in connection with their human rights work (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/19743Most recently, on 14 May 2015, the human rights defender was followed by unidentified persons riding motorcycles and driving a car that did not bear registration plates. This intimidation occurs right after Gladys Lanza Ochoa’s lawyer launched her appeal before the Supreme Court against her sentence to 18 months in prison https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/28385.

– On 25 May 2015 Telesur published a lengthy “Analysis From Reagan to Obama: Forced Disappearances in Honduras” which provides many details on 30 years of horror: “Hondurans today suffer not just from the terror of death squads but from the ravages of three decades of the implementation of neoliberal policy made possible by death squads, which makes them that much more vulnerable.” 

– Bertha Oliva, director of COFADEH and winner of the Tulip award, lost her husband Tomas Nativi to forced disappearance by Battalion 316. Nativi was taken from their home by masked agents in 1981 and has never been seen again. Over the years after Nativi’s disappearance, Oliva came to realize that she was not alone, and others had similar experiences of family members being disappeared. In 1982, 12 of these families came together to form COFADEH with the objective of bringing back alive family members who had been disappeared. In the majority of cases throughout the 1980s while Battalion 316 was operating, COFADEH did not succeed in their goal. After the 1980s, COFADEH broadened its scope as an organization not only committed to seeking justice for the families of the disappeared and truth for Honduran society, but also representing and defending victims of human rights abuses, documenting cases, and providing training to raise awareness about human rights. The creation of COFADEH was, in its own words, a “concrete action” in the face of the inactivity of the state to ensure “the right of victims to live and to have due process, among other rights that have been violated.” COFADEH has continued to play a key role in documenting and denouncing human rights abuses and demanding justice, particularly once again in the years since the coup.

for more on Honduras: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/honduras/

Canadian and Honduran PEN centres award inaugural prize for investigative/public interest journalism – MarketWatch.

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/From-Reagan-to-Obama-Forced-Disappearances-in-Honduras-20150522-0027.html

Charlie Hebdo columnist Zineb El Rhazoui at the Oslo Freedom Forum

May 30, 2015

Another speaker at the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) 2015 was Charlie Hebdo columnist, Zineb El Rhazoui, who paid tribute to her colleagues slain in the January 2015 attacks [she was at the time of the attack abroad] and describes her own experience facing thousands of death threats. In her passionate defense of free speech, El Rhazoui argues that criticism of religion should be encouraged, not avoided. The personal touch in her presentation is moving.

Jorge Molano from Colombia laureate of 2015 Lawyers for Lawyers Award

May 15, 2015

L4L logoJorge Elecier Molano, a Colombian human rights Lawyer and member of DHColombia, is the winner of the Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2015. He is based in Bogota and works as an independent lawyer and legal advisor to several NGOs, including ‘Sembrar’. Jorge Molano received numerous death threats in the course of his work as a lawyer and human rights defender. After the death threats in 2009 and 2010, he felt obliged to send his daughters to live abroad for security reasons. In January 2013 the Colombian State’s National Protection Unit (NPU) defined Jorge Molano’s risk level as “extraordinary,” due to several security incidents. In 2014 Jorge Molano and other members of DHColombia and Sembrar have been the victim of several aggressions including attacks on family members, raids on his home to steal information, cyber-attacks on email and website accounts, telephone interception, and illegal surveillance, among others.

Currently, Jorge Molano represents victims in some of the most emblematic human rights cases in Colombia, such as the disappearance of 11 people after the dramatic events around the hostage-taking at the Palace of Justice in Bogota on 6 and 7 November 1985, and the killing on 21 February 2005 of several members (including minors) of the Comunidad de Paz of San José de Apartado, a group of villagers who have sworn not to become involved in the conflict in Colombia. Jorge Molano also provides legal support to persons in cases where organizations and human rights defenders are spied upon by national intelligence agencies, and in cases concerning extrajudicial executions.

The jury noted that among the nominees a shockingly large amount of lawyers are imprisoned for doing their work. In far too many countries human rights lawyers and their relatives live in constant danger. The jury found in Jorge Molano a lawyer who is standing out for his decennia long commitment to those who are not accepting the suppression by the often criminal and violent powers that be. By awarding Molano the jury wants to applaud his immense personal courage and stamina and draw attention to the largely overlooked dire human rights situation in Colombia”.

Human rights lawyers from across the world were nominated for the L4L Award. Khalil Maatouk from Syria and Pu Zhiqiang from China were the other two shortlisted lawyers. Jorge Molano will accept the award on 29 May at L4L’s seminar ‘Lawyers are not their clients’.

For more information on the award see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/lawyers-lawyers. For L4L visit www.lawyersforlawyers.org or contact the Executive Director (+31.6 262 743 90)

Pakistan: human rights defender Sabeen Mahmud shot dead – others threatened

April 27, 2015

Sabeen Mahmud has been killed after hosting a discussion at her cafe [Alia Chughtai / Al Jazeera]

Having just published a post on the killing of (environmental) human rights defenders in which Latin America figures highly [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/killings-of-environmental-human-rights-defenders-up-again-compared-to-last-year/], I feel that drawing attention to the situation in Pakistan is equally necessary:

As reported by many newspapers including Al-Jazeera (Asad Hashim on 25 April) Sabeen Mahmud, a prominent Pakistani human rights defender, has been shot dead, shortly after hosting an event on Balochistan’s “disappeared people”, in the southern city of Karachi. Mahmud, 40, was the director of T2F [The Second Floor], a café and arts space that has been a mainstay of Karachi’s activists since it opened its doors in 2007. She was one of the country’s most outspoken human rights advocates. Mahmud was shot four times at close range and pronounced dead on arrival at the National Medical Centre hospital on Friday 24 April at 9.40pm.

Mahmud and her mother were on their way from an event (“Unsilencing Balochistan,” hosted at T2F, with Baloch human rights activists Mama Qadeer, Farzana Majeed and Muhammad Ali Talpur) when her car came under fire from unidentified gunmen, according to police. Her mother was also shot twice, but was out of immediate danger, hospital officials said.

The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons organisation, which both activists belong to, says that more than 2,825 people have “disappeared” in this way since 2005. They allege the disappearances, which are mostly of Baloch rights activists and students, have been carried out by the Pakistani government and its powerful ISI intelligence agency, a charge the agency denies.

Sabeen was a voice of reason, pluralism and secularism: the kind of creed that endangers the insidious side of constructed Pakistani nationalism,” Raza Rumi, a rights activist who escaped an assassination attempt in March 2014 and now lives in the United States out of fear for his life, told Al Jazeera.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 

Sri Lanka reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with the UN continue

September 17, 2014

A UN Human Rights Council mandated inquiry is currently investigating alleged violations of international humanitarian law, as well as gross and systematic human rights abuses, committed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which led to estimated 40,000 civilian deaths in 2009 alone. In a joint letter dated 25 August to the President of the UN Human Rights Council and to the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, a coalition of NGOs outline an alarming trend of intimidation, threats and reprisals in Sri Lanka against people engaging with UN human rights mechanisms, including the Commission of Inquiry.

This pattern has been brought many times to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council by civil society, human rights experts and States, and even by the UN Secretary-General and High Commissioner. ‘The Government of Sri Lanka has the primary responsibility for protecting people from threats, intimidation and reprisal, and must condemn all such acts immediately and unequivocally as well as take all necessary lawful steps to affirm and uphold the right of all persons to free communication with the UN, safe from hindrance or insecurity’ said ISHR Director Phil Lynch. See also on reprisals: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/

Still on 13 September 2014, human rights defenders Mr Namal Rajapakshe and Mr Manjula Pathiraja in Sri Lanka were threatened with death in connection to their work as defence lawyers, reported Front Line on 15 September. Namal Rajapakshe and Manjula Pathiraja are leading human rights lawyers who have frequently appeared (often pro bono) in public interest litigation representing victims of human rights violations across Sri Lanka.

[On 13 September 2014, two unidentified men wearing jackets and helmets covering their faces entered the office of Namal Rajapakshe and threatened that he and Manjula Pathiraja would be killed should they appear in any more “unnecessary cases”.  This is not the first time that Namal Rajapakshe and Manjula Pathiraja have been targeted. On 4 August 2014, the human rights defenders were intimidated, along with another lawyer, while they were making representations on behalf of their clients. They were harassed by a group of thugs inside the Maradana Police station – in front of the local Inspector.]

via Sri Lanka: End reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN | ISHR.

Death Threats to Human Rights Defenders linked to peace process in Colombia

September 11, 2014

Alberto Yepes has been told he will be murdered for his human rights work. (Photo: teleSUR)

(Alberto Yepes has been told he will be murdered for his human rights work. Photo: teleSUR)

Telesur News reports on 10 September that a paramilitary group historically linked to state agents in Colombia has issued death threats to 91 human rights defenders, in a move that could be linked to the advances made in the country’s ongoing peace process. Sent by email to various NGOs and social organizations, the threat was directed at the 91 people and their families and signed by the “Aguilas Negras” [Black Eagles].

According to Alberto Yepes, one of the human rights defenders named in the email, it is in the context of the peace process that the threats must be understood, because the powerful figures that stand behind the work of the country’s paramilitary groups are fearful of what may emerge from any truth commission set up following an agreement. “They sense the imminence of a peace process that will demand things be cleared up. These criminal organizations have been terrorizing the population and social organizations that will in some way have to discover who is behind all of that, and these groups see that as a threat,” said Yepes. Though the links between the threats and the peace process remain speculative, it appears emblematic that the 91 activists were told to leave the country by September 18 – the date set for a Senate debate into ties between paramilitary groups and elected officials.

via Death Threats to Activists Point to Fear Over Imminent Peace in Colombia | News | teleSUR.

Situation of human rights defenders in Africa – Observatory on HRDs before African Commission

May 21, 2014

FIDH and OMCT, in the framework of their Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their grave concern about the situation of human rights defenders in Africa. They do so in a 7-page written statement before the 55th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights [ACHPR] on 20 May in Luanda. It can be read in full on: Situation of human rights defenders in Africa – Contribution to the 55th ordinary session of ACHPR  Read the rest of this entry »