Posts Tagged ‘extrajudicial killings’

STOP THE KILLINGS: you can help Front Line

July 13, 2017

At the end of last year I announced the new Front Line project to remember human rights defenders who have been killed [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/02/new-on-line-memorial-to-remember-killed-human-rights-defenders/] and now I am asking you for your cooperation. If you yourself do not know any cases to be included, you could still forward the post to any person or organization you think could be helpful.  The main parameters of the project are:


The HRD Memorial – http://www.hrdmemorial.org

The the aim is to commemorate all human rights defenders who have been killed for their peaceful work in defense of human rights since the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders came into effect in 1998.

The criteria for inclusion is simply that the person targeted was a HRD killed because of their peaceful human rights work. (The HRD Memorial doesn’t include disappearance cases because of the difficulty in documenting the cases and trying to determine if the person is alive or dead.)

Front Line Defenders have taken a policy decision to only include a case with the permission of the family because of the risk of re-victimisation.

Any inputs (as well questions) can be sent straight to , Head of HRD Memorial Project at Front Line Defenders [jimATfrontlinedefenders.org>]

Repressive governments continue to kill human rights defenders because they think human rights defenders are expendable people, that the killings will have no consequences and that the HRDs will soon be forgotten. The Memorial would be an important tool in the fight against impunity and to keep the flame alive. The Memorial and the participation of national and international NGOs will provide the basis for an international campaign with the theme “Stop the Killings”, which will be launched in the first quarter of 2018. 

Killings of environmental human rights defenders up again compared to last year!

April 24, 2015

Jeremy Hance – writing in Mongabay on 20 April, under the title “Killings of environmental activists jumped by 20 percent last year confirms again the terrible truth that it is in the countryside, away from monitors, and in disputes over land issues that the most gruesome repression takes place and the leader is..Brazil! [for last year’s report see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/environment-deadly-for-human-rights-defenders-says-global-witness/]

Soy field in the Brazilian Amazon. Again this year, Brazil has the highest number of murders of environmental and land defenders. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Soy field in the Brazilian Amazon.  Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

The assassination, murder, and extrajudicial killing of environmental activists rose by 20 percent last year, according to a new grim report by Global Witness. The organization documented 116 killings in 2014 across 17 countries with the highest number in Brazil, which saw 29 environmental and land defenders killed. Still, the report is a major understatement of the problem as data across much of Africa, China, the Middle East, and Central Asia remains scarce to non-existent.

Across the world environmental defenders are being shot dead in broad daylight, kidnapped, threatened, or tried as terrorists for standing in the way of so-called ‘development’,” said Billy Kyte, a campaigner with Global Witness. “The true authors of these crimes—a powerful nexus of corporate and state interests—are escaping unpunished. Urgent action is needed to protect citizens and bring perpetrators to justice.

Most of the deaths last year—116 of them—were related to disputes over land. But mining was linked to 25 deaths, and hydroelectric dams and agribusiness to 14 each. Indigenous people also remain among the most targeted.

In 2014, 47 indigenous people were killed defending their natural resources, 40 percent of the total deaths of environmental and land defenders,” reads Global Witness’s new report, entitled How Many More?. This year’s report follows a landmark document last year that tracked environmental activist killing—all 908 of them—over a dozen years.

Environmental activist killings by sector. Image courtesy of Global Witness.
Environmental activist killings by sector. Image courtesy of Global Witness.

Human rights defenders are stigmatized (as ‘anti-development’) and criminalized in order to silence their opposition.

While Brazil had the highest number of environmental activist murders in 2014, the most dangerous place to be an environmental activist was actually Honduras, according to Global Witness. During the last five years (2010-2014), Honduras lost 101 activists, giving it the highest rate of environmental activist killings per capita.

“A UN Human Rights Council resolution addressing the heightened risk posed to environmental and land defenders would be a start,” Kyte said. “But, in the end, governments themselves have to take responsibility and ensure impartial, exhaustive investigations into killings of these activists. And they have to bring perpetrators to account. Many targeted assassinations of activists are being passed off as ‘common’ murders and are going unnoticed.

Environmental activist killings by country. Those in red were indigenous people. Image courtesy of Global Witness.
Environmental activist killings by country. Those in red were indigenous people. Image courtesy of Global Witness.

Read more:  http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0420-hance-activist-murder-rise.html#ixzz3XxWqLdTV

 

Killings of environmental activists jumped by 20 percent last year.

Human rights lawyers and indigenous people in the Philippines endangered

January 24, 2015

Human rights lawyers and their clients stage a picket at the Supreme Court to mark the ‘Day of the Endangered Lawyer’ (photo courtesy of NUPL)

Human rights lawyers in the Philippines on Friday 23 January 2015 protested publicly against the growing death toll within their ranks as they marked the “Day of the Endangered Lawyer” by trooping to the Supreme Court. The protest spearheaded by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers [NUPL] and joined by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines was joined by lawyers’ and support groups that staged pickets or held dialogues at Philippine embassies and consulates in 23 cities in 11 European countries.

Figures show that, since attacks on legal professionals began being recorded in 1977, “100 lawyers have been attacked (57 since 2001) while 50 lawyers have been killed (41 since 2001).” “Nineteen judges have been murdered, 18 since 2001”

Government must simply do its job: protect its citizens, categorically condemn these attacks on lawyers as human rights defenders; seriously and credibly investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators; and uphold human rights because the attacks on lawyers is not only an attack on the individual lawyer, it is an attack on the legal profession, and most fundamentally — in the context of the targeted assaults on human rights and public interest lawyers — an attack itself on the rights and interests of the mostly poor and oppressed in our country” 

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/103685/a-deadly-profession–human-rights-lawyers-count-the-costs-on-day-of-the-endangered-lawyer

A petition <http://www.advocatenvooradvocaten.nl/wp-content/uploads/Petition-Day-of-Endangerd-Lawyer-2015.pdf> signed by lawyers organizations from Asia, Canada Europe and the United States  calls on the Aquino government  to prevent extrajudicial killings and all forms of harassment of lawyers and to end impunity by prosecuting perpetrators of rights violations. The petition also calls on the Aquino government  to protect the safety of lawyers as provided for in the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1990.  Underlying causes for extrajudicial killings. The practice of labeling (classifying victims as ‘enemies of the state’), the involvement of the military in politics, the proliferation of private armies and vigilante groups and the culture of impunity have been identified by national and international fact-finding bodies as the main root causes for the alarming rate of extrajudicial killings, including the extrajudicial killings of lawyers, in the Philippines.

Away from the capital human rights violations against indigenous people and their human rights defenders also continue as demonstrated in 2 film documentaries:

Gikan sa Ngitngit nga Kinailadman” (From the Dark Depths) records grave rights violations using interviews and recollections of the survivors and witnesses. The cases featured in the film remains unresolved; the perpetrators waiting for the next human rights defender to hunt. The film shows the atrocities of the military and paramilitary troops, including the armed agents of the agro-industrial corporations in the hinterlands of Mindanao.

-The first case presented in the film is the assassination of Gilbert Paborada—a Higaonon farmer in Bagocboc, Opol, Misamis Oriental. Daisy Paborada, the wife of Gilbert, and Joseph Paborada, his brother, reiterates how the struggle of their community against the entry of palm oil plantations of A Brown Company led to Gilbert’s death.

-The film also shows interviews about the harassment of the Lumad community in Opol as they suffer from the goons of A Brown Company. The harassments and intimidation breed the culture of fear and terror among the people who opt to protect their ancestral domain vis-à-vis the environment over money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTO taken during the shooting of “Gikan sa Ngitngit nga Kinailadman” in the mountains of Pantaron in Bukidnon. (RMP-NMR)

Dalena is also the director of Alingawngaw ng mga Punglo (Echo of Bullets) that exposed the criminal acts of the military under the infamous General Jovito Palparan, also known as ‘The Butcher.’ Palparan now is in jail, facing allegations of murder against human rights defenders.

Sr. Maria Famita Somogod, regional coordinator of Rmp-Nmr, said the film highlights political repression. The spate of human rights violations featured in the film is the reaction of the government to quell the legitimate dissent of the lumads against the entry of agro-industrial corporations in their ancestral domain. Somogod said the dissent of the lumads and farmers is legitimate. Their demands are to protect their ancestral domain against the encroachment of foreign corporations in the hinterlands. “Instead of seeds, bullets. Instead of food, bombs. Instead of peace, forcible evacuation. Instead of life, death,” Somogod said, adding this is what the ordinary lumads and farmers get for protecting the land of promise.

In the words of the author Anjo Bacarisas, in Sunstar of 25 January: at the end of the film one asks: How should we stop this appalling cruelty against the lumads and farmers?

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cagayan-de-oro/feature/2015/01/25/underbelly-land-promise-388461

No more double speak for Peña Nieto’s Mexico

November 21, 2014

On 21 November 2014 Ben Leather (Advocacy and Communications Manager at the International Service for Human Rights, who was previously Advocacy Coordinator for Peace Brigades International’s Mexico Project) published an extensive and fascinating piece on Mexico’s double talk when it comes to human rights defenders: “No more doble-cara: it’s time for Peña Nieto to practise what he preaches”.

(In Mexico, 43 students remain missing. How is this possible in a country known for its UN human rights advocacy? Demotix/Hugo Ortuño – Some rights reserved)

The key notion of the article in Open Democracy is summarized in the phrase: “How can Mexico lead the way internationally, when it cannot protect the basic rights of its own people?“. A contradiction laid bare also by Alejandra Ancheita’s Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in October this year [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/breaking-news-alejandra-ancheita-is-the-2014-mea-laureate/].

On September 26, I delivered the final NGO statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 27th session, celebrating some of the key resolutions passed after weeks of diplomatic arm-wrestling. As in previous experiences advocating at the UN since swapping Mexico City for Geneva, I observed Mexico’s firm commitment to strengthening international human rights norms through its diplomats’ constructive initiatives.

Yet that very same night, I also learned that Mexican police forces were suspected of disappearing 43 student protesters from Ayotzinapa college, after murdering six others at the scene. A month later, those students remain missing, while the role of Mexican officials in human rights violations is becoming increasingly apparent.

These contrasts are a microcosm of Mexico’s perverse doble-cara, or two-facedness, which has exasperated its civil society for decades. They demonstrate the schizophrenia of a reputed international human rights promoter that is also proven to repress, torture, disappear and kill at home. How can Mexico lead the way internationally, when it cannot protect the basic rights of its own people?

This contradiction was underscored when Alejandra Ancheita, Director of the Mexican human rights group ProDESC, won the acclaimed Martin Ennals Award and denounced the risks facing Mexican human rights defenders. Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho then visited the UN to put her own case of arbitrary detention and torture to its Human Rights Committee. She highlighted Mexico’s exemplary efforts to strengthen its own legal framework, but lamented appalling implementation. She also emphasised the role of corruption, drugs and people traffickers—in exacerbating the context of abuses.

The schizophrenia’s causes therefore, are complex. However, the cases of Ayotzinapa, Alejandra and Lydia are not only emblematic of the Mexican human rights paradox, but also of two crucial factors which prevent its cure: blanket impunity and unbridled risks for human rights defenders.

Mexico: la doble-cara of human rights

None of this, of course, is new. In the 1960s and 70s, successive Mexican presidents opened the doors to political refugees fleeing persecution in Europe and Latin America, while simultaneously disappearing, torturing andmassacring student activists, political opponents and guerrilla groups in theDirty War.

Under former president Felipe Calderón, Mexico became a member of the UN’s Human Rights Council, where it led and lobbied for resolutions on women’s, migrant and indigenous rights. It consistently promoted the protection of human rights defenders, and voted for UN action worldwide. Yet this was all happening while the Mexican State was failing to prevent systemic femicide, migrants were denouncing abuses by public security forces colluding with organised crime, and indigenous activists were condemning attacks by the army.

Calderón promulgated some excellent human rights policies, including a Constitutional Reform guaranteeing the domestic legal transcendence of international treaties. On the ground, however, the abuses multiplied: 80,000 people were killed and over 27,000 disappeared in six years of the “War on Drugs”. In many cases, there is considerable evidence that Mexican State actors were involved, but the lack of sufficient investigation leaves most perpetrators free and unidentifiable.

Under current President Peña Nieto, with his emphasis on structural economic reforms and on international investment, Mexico’s progressive reputation at the UN and the Organization of American States has consolidated. Time magazine’s controversial front page this February was emblematic of the international community’s willingness to overlook Mexico’s human rights abuses in return for business opportunities. However, the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, along with the attempted cover-up of 22 civilians killed by Mexican soldiers in the town of Tlatlaya this June, mean that—like the mass graves in Guerrero State—Mexico’s human rights reality is being exposed.

Impunity: green light for human rights abusers

In December 2011, I participated in Peace Brigades International’s meetings with Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre and federal authorities to demand accountability for the killing of two students from Ayotzinapa shot by police at a protest, with others arbitrarily detained and tortured. Aguirre promised justice, while Mexico’s Human Rights Commission deemed authorities at all levels guilty of abuses. Nevertheless, the local Attorney only imprisoned a handful of local policemen, who were soon released.

Exacerbating the large number of crimes in Mexico is the fact that 98% of them remain unsolved. The impunity of 2011 joined a longer list of unsolved violations and, echoing in a weak international response, sent a message that resonated with grave implications this September: in Mexico, you can murder and abuse activists without consequence.

The relevance of widespread impunity becomes even clearer when one realises that Aguirre last governed Guerrero when the 1998 El Charco Massacre saw the army open fire on indigenous community activists, killing 11. His predecessor had stood down following another massacre of activists, just as Aguirre did this October. Nobody was punished for either crime. Meanwhile Peña Nieto himself has been criticised for the excessive use of force, torture and sexual abuse by police officers against protesters in San Salvador Atenco, when he was governor of the state of Mexico. Impunity prevails.

Silencing those who dare to speak out

Alejandra Ancheita has faced defamation, threats and attacks for her work. Yet this is par for the course in Mexico, with at least 25 human rights defenders killed and 29 disappeared in the first 18 months of Peña Nieto’s government, which began—in December 2012—with the arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force by Mexico City police against those protesting alleged electoral fraud. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented that activists face threats, attacks, criminalisation, harassment and killings for their work, with aggressions carried out by a range of state, non-state and unidentified actors. Members of the ruling party have proposed a lawto jail protesting teachers.

In 2012, Mexican activists successfully lobbied for the passage of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which reflects civil society input and international best practise. Yet the law’s implementation has been consistently undermined by administrative flaws, a lack of resources and—crucially, as identified by NGOs on the ground—an absence of political will at all levels. Government officials have not implemented the preventative organ promised by law, staff constantly rotate, and some activists complain that the same police forces attacking them are sent to protect them.  

A shared schizophrenia

It is not only Mexico’s doublespeak that compromises global human rights protection. If the international public is appalled by abuses in Mexico, then it is time their political and diplomatic representatives began to condition aid, trade and political support on the evidence of real change on the ground. While the EU and the US have established human rights dialogues with their Mexican counterparts, activists complain that these serve only to legitimise, rather than impact, the free trade agreements with what the EU calls its “strategic partner”.

Meanwhile in Mexico, Peña Nieto must use Ayotzinapa as a catalyst to ensure his federal officials are clean, competent and accountable, and that they use their power to investigate and punish local level officials suspected of human rights violations. Ongoing abuses undermine not only the valuable efforts of Mexico’s diplomats, but the international system itself.

Resolutions and laws are not enough: those with leverage must demand implementation and otherwise attach a real political cost. By protecting human rights defenders and ensuring justice, Mexico can take steps towards safeguarding not only human rights on the ground, but the integrity of the entire human rights system.”

No more doble-cara: it’s time for Peña Nieto to practise what he preaches | openDemocracy.

Guatemala: suppression and intimidation of human rights defenders is the norm

May 11, 2014

For the weekend a longer read: On 22 April 2014, human rights defender Dr Yuri Melini in Guatemala discovered that intimidating text had been painted on his front gate. The text names the member of the police provided as personal security to the human rights defender since an assassination attempt was made against him. Yuri Melini is the Director of the Centro de Acción Legal, Ambiental y Social de Guatemala (CALAS) – Legal, Environmental and Social Action Centre of Guatemala. CALAS is an organisation working for the strengthening of environmental issues, community participation and respect for the collective rights of indigenous communities in relation to environmental concerns. The human rights defender was awarded the Front Line Defenders Award in 2009. The human rights defender has previously faced harassment, intimidation, defamation and an attempt on his life as a result of his human rights work, see: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/23190  [Last year eighteen human rights defenders were assassinated, a 72-percent increase over 2012, even as the country’s general murder rate has decreased.]

To place this incident in context one should read the report by Patricia DAVIS published in Eurasia Review of 28 April 2014:  “GUATEMALA: SUPPRESSING DISSENT AT HOME AND ABROAD – ANALYSIS”

After a lengthy introduction concerning the ad personam attack by Guatemalan President Molina on Tim Rieser, majority clerk on the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee (for blocking military aid), the article dives into the numerous human rights problems in the country.  Read the rest of this entry »

Death threats in Colombia on the rise again

February 12, 2014

Martha Díaz at the 2013 FLD Platform for Human Rights Defenders
(Martha Díaz at the 2013 FLD Platform for Human Rights Defenders)
Death threats abound again in Colombia:
Front Line Defenders report that on 9 February 2014, human rights defender Martha Díaz received the fifth text message to declare her a military target and threaten her with death within three days. All five threats have come from the same phone number. Martha Díaz is the director and legal representative of the Asociación de Familiares Unidas por un Solo Dolor (Association of Relatives United by a Single Sorrow – AFUSODO), an organisation for family members of victims of extrajudicial killings, particularly false positives. She is also the technical secretary of the Atlantic chapter of MOVICE (National Movement of Victims of the State).On Wednesday 12 February,  the President of Parliamentarians for Global Action Ross Robertson has expressed his concern and condemnation of the death threats against a well-known Colombian parliamentarian, Ivan Cepeda is a well-respected Colombian MP and human rights defender as well as against Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro and human rights defender Alirio Uribe Muñoz (the latter is the 2003 Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, portrayed here with his wife in 2003). Alirio Uribe Munoz and spouse MEA 2003

via:

Colombia: Series of death threats against human rights defender Martha Díaz | Front Line.

MP deplores death threats against Colombian MP | Voxy.co.nz.

“Better to die while speaking the truth” – human rights defenders in the DRC continue to be threatened

December 16, 2013

On 16 December Amnesty International came out with a special report on the death threats and intimidation by armed groups and state security forces in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo [North Kivu] over the past year have, with the aim of silencing human rights defenders, even after the defeat of M23.  The report “Better to die while speaking the truth” details the heightened clampdown on human rights defenders by armed groups and the national security forces since the crisis escalated last Amnesty-Internationayear.  “The whole population is vulnerable to human rights abuses in North Kivu and those speaking out to protect these people are deliberately targeted from all sides,” says Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director. Read the rest of this entry »

Lawyers for Lawyers object to false charges against peoples’ lawyers in the Philippines

August 1, 2013

 Yesterday I had a post “Philippines Chief Human Rights Defender, Rosales, asked to resign for ‘incompetence’”. In reaction I received from Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) an update on the continued pressure on ‘opposition lawyers’ who are labeled as “enemies of the state”.  L4L logoThe Dutch foundation Lawyers for Lawyers warns in an open letter to Read the rest of this entry »