Posts Tagged ‘impunity’

A journalist recalls the Indemnity bill in Gambia of which he became the victim

July 3, 2020

The government of Yahya Jammeh had orchestrated first an investigative ‘Commission’ and then an ‘‘Indemnity Bill’’ following the breakdown of public order during the student demonstrations’’ of 10-11 April 2000…..Nevertheless, the two most important charges were never independently investigated.  Instead …. the victims were criticised and condemned. Thanks to the ‘‘Bill’’.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/10/19/how-bad-is-it-in-the-gambia-freedom-radio-has-some-disturbing-quotes/]

Now in a opinion piece of 3 July 2020 Gambian journalist Alhagie Mbye looks back on Yahya Jammeh’s Indemnity Bill that created so much damage:

As a journalist, I followed and covered the whole proceedings both at the ‘‘Commission’’ and outside of it. What was uncovered remained astonishing and shocking. Sadly, some of the ‘‘Commissioners’’ including some respected elites and religious leaders later promoted as heads of his Muslim Council and other lucrative posts remained deplorable and appalling indeed.

Most horrendous was that during the time, the APRC’s representative, refused to answer a single question from the press gallery. It was deliberate act of arrogance, deceit and deception on the part of both the Justice Minister and his boss. Both the local and international press were flabbergasted. The injustice by a Justice Minister will never be forgotten. 

Accordingly, the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders headed by Emmanuel Joof, were fuming. …The Coalition consisting of some of the best lawyers in the country maintained it was ‘‘unconstitutional and cannot be accepted in any civilised society’’.

The opposition parties also openly condemned it in its entirety prompting the National Assembly Members from the opposition side to walk out of the National Assembly in protest. It was a bold move during that crucial time.

...Observers and local human rights activists, including women groups warned that…”the indemnity Bill is untimely provocative, dangerous and unconstitutional”. They called it an ‘‘affront and violation of the county’s own Constitution that give right to citizens to express freely themselves’’. They jointly added that Gambian law ‘‘guarantees everyone to exercise his or her fundamental and basic human rights without interference’’. The international media groups and human rights bodies worldwide were alerted and some of them were absolutely furious but Yahya Jammeh as usual careless about such concerns…

The ambiguous and vague ‘‘Bill’’ also caused the unbelievably curtailing of the rights and freedoms of The Gambian press as well as opposition activities. It brazenly and blatantly downgraded the country’s reputation as well as the respect it earned since independent from Britain as a country of law, peace and stability.

As intended, the ‘‘Bill’’ resulted in several human rights violations with immunity including atrocities committed by reckless National Intelligent Agency (NIA) operatives and the so-called ‘jungler’ officers. Using the ‘‘Bill’’ as a protection and cover against violations, the regime was out to victimise and terrorise the population without any justification. As a result, many innocent citizens got hurt and humiliated. Several men and women maimed. Others lost their lives and livelihoods.

No doubt when I reported on it both in the local and international press, including the brutality of his men against law abiding and innocent citizens including poor farmers and peasants who were totally ignorant of his ‘‘Bill’’, Yahya Jammeh’s revenged was my arrest, detention in confinement at his notorious NIA headquarters in Banjul and brutally tortured me.

Thus, it is startling that today the same accused officers and officials with brutality are still trying to use the same ‘‘Bill’’ as umbrella to outsmart us in our modern courts. But accepting their arguments will be a travesty.

Recently a certain senior politician mocked that people are ‘‘angry’’. Clearly people are right to be angry until justice is seen to be done in favour of the victims of an indescribable and inexpressible human rights violation.

Yahya Jammeh’s ‘‘Indemnity Bill’’ was one of the darkest days of The Gambia. All those involved directly or indirectly should not only bow or hang their heads in shame but be brought to justice as soon as possible.

https://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/opinion/journalist-alhagie-mbye-revisits-yahya-jammehs-indemnity-bill

see also: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51082371

Even Costa Rica has serious problem with protection of indigenous defenders

July 1, 2020

On 8 June qcostarica.com reported that a UN expert expressed grave concern for the lives of indigenous human rights defenders being attacked in Costa Rica, saying that impunity and lack of accountability are fuelling a continuation of violence against defenders in the country despite some positive steps by the Government.

Costa Rica has experienced an upsurge in attacks on indigenous leaders since the March 2019 killing of indigenous Bribri leader Sergio Rojas, who worked for decades defending the rights of indigenous peoples against the illegal occupation of their territories. “Now, over 14 months later, it is still not clear whether the authorities are any closer to identifying the perpetrators,” said Mary Lawlor, the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The expert said other attacks against human rights defenders had gone fully or partially unpunished, and “until there are proper investigations and accountability for these crimes, we may witness further intimidation, injury and death”.

A change in Costa Rican law in 1977 established a legal framework for the redistribution of ancestral indigenous land occupied by non-indigenous persons but the law’s implementation has been slow, and indigenous leaders have carried out peaceful requisitions of lands back to indigenous peoples. This has caused significant violent backlash from non-indigenous illegal land occupants.

While the Costa Rican Government has increased police presence in affected communities, police investigations have been inadequate or inconclusive. As a result, both the victims and their family members continue to be threatened by the suspected perpetrators.

Since the February killing of indigenous leader Yehry Rivera, for example, his family has been repeatedly threatened and intimidated by the family of the perpetrator, who regularly passes close to their land holding a machete.

Pablo Sibar, a human rights defender of the same Broran tribe as Rivera has also been intimidated and subjected to arson attacks that have still not been investigated. Minor Ortíz Delgado, an indigenous land defender from the same Bribri community as Rojas, was shot in the leg in March. The perpetrator, who was released and handed down restraining measures, has since sent death threats to Ortíz and his family.

The expert’s call has been endorsed by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Francisco Cali Tzay.

The experts are in a dialogue with Costa Rican authorities and will continue to closely monitor the situation.

Swee also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/22/misconceptions-about-indigenous-peoples-and-their-defenders-explained/

https://qcostarica.com/costa-rica-ongoing-impunity-prevents-effective-protection-of-indigenous-defenders-says-un-expert

UN Experts Appalled by the Enforced Disappearance of Idris Khattak even though now re-appeared

June 30, 2020

UN experts no only jointly addressed three big countries [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/27/un-experts-address-3-big-ones-usa-china-and-india/] but on 30 june 2020 a group of experts also spoke out on the re-appearance of Idris Khattak, a human rights defender who went missing last year (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/25/how-human-rights-defender-idris-khattak-went-missing-in-pakistan/)

While welcoming of course the disclosure by the Pakistani Government of the whereabouts of Khattak, they strongly condemned his enforced disappearance. On 16 June 2020, the Pakistani authorities acknowledged for the first time that he has been in the custody of law enforcement authorities and detained incommunicado since then.

“The enforced disappearance of Mr. Khattak, which began over seven months ago, is an intolerable attack on his legitimate work of monitoring, documenting and advocating against a range of human rights and minority violations in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan,” the independent experts said.

Even today, Mr. Khattak remains deprived of the most basic protections of the law, and his enforced disappearance subjected him and his family to severe and prolonged suffering, that could amount to torture,” the experts said. “Given the arbitrariness of Mr. Khattak’s arrest and detention, and the very serious violations of his integrity and procedural rights, we call on the Government of Pakistan to immediately release Mr. Khattak and to provide him and his family with adequate redress and rehabilitation,” said the experts..

The experts stressed that there can be no justification for the Government’s failure to end enforced disappearances and that any such violation must be investigated, prosecuted and punished.

Truth and justice must be served, both in the case of Idris Khattak and for countless other victims and their families in Pakistan. State-sponsored disappearances and related impunity may amount to a crime against humanity and must end now,” they said.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26010&LangID=E

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2020

June 27, 2020

UN Women/Ryan Brown After surviving military enslavement in Guatemala, Maria Ba Caal received help through an emergency grant from the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

26 June 2020 was the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Torture is an “egregious abuse of human rights”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said. Although international law “unequivocally prohibits torture in all instances”, the UN chief pointed out that it nevertheless continues in many countries, “even those where it is criminalized”.

On this International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, human rights defenders and survivors of torture around the world take the opportunity to speak out against this abhorrent denial of human dignity and they act to remember and support its victims”, Mr. Guterres said in his message.

Its prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties that expressly prohibit the practice or not, according to the UN.  Moreover, the systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.

The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, channels funding to assist victims of torture and their families by awarding hundreds of grants to civil society organizations worldwide for medical, psychological, legal, social and other assistance.  It contributes to the rehabilitation, reparation, empowerment and access to remedies for nearly 50,000 torture survivors each year.

And to underline that torture is still very much a problem today the Himalayan Times of 26 June writes “that despite new criminal laws, impunity for acts of torture, ill-treatment prevails in detention” in Nepal

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Advocacy Forum (AF) and Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRD Alliance) have voiced concerns about the near-total failure by authorities to investigate and prosecute acts of torture in Nepal. On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the three rights organisations urged the Government of Nepal to investigate into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and to bring prosecutions where warranted under the criminal provisions of the Penal Code…

The ICJ has made an appeal to the Government of Nepal to establish an independent preventative mechanism for monitoring of detention centres and to become party to the Optional Protocol of the Convention on Torture. Nearly two years after provisions in the new Penal Code came into effect, not a single torture prosecution appears to have been brought. There have also been very few instances in which victims have received an effective remedy and reparation for their ill-treatment, the press release stated.

Nepal has, as per the statement, failed to meet its obligations in this regard under article 2(3) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and article 14 of the Convention Against Torture….

The AF and THRD Alliance both published reports on Friday that document instances of torture and other ill-treatment against detainees over the past year. Some 20 per cent of the more than 1,000 detainees interviewed reported some form of unlawful ill-treatment during confinement.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1067072

https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/rights-organisations-urge-government-to-prosecute-acts-of-torture-ill-treatment/

Human Rights Defenders in Sri Lanka: fear return to a ‘state of fear’

June 14, 2020

Families hold photographs of missing loved ones during a protest in Sri Lanka Families hold photographs of missing loved ones during a protest in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city, in February 2020. (TNH)

Rights groups are warning of a crackdown on dissent and rising authoritarianism in Sri Lanka, raising fears for the future of long-stalled civil war reconciliation efforts. Since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office after November elections, local rights activists have reported a rise in surveillance by state security forces, threats, and other measures more common during the country’s 26-year civil war, which ended in 2009, as well as its aftermath. A long piece in the New Humanitarian of 10 june 2020 gives the details:

Surveillance has always been there, but since the election what we have seen is that it’s more open and more rampant,” said Shreen Saroor, a women’s rights activist…

Human Rights Watch says Rajapaksa is re-establishing a “state of fear” in Sri Lanka, citing interviews with dozens of activists and journalists. Many local journalists say they are self-censoring as threatening phone calls and other pressures escalate, acutely aware of the country’s history of unsolved murders and abductions. At least two reporters have already fled the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. 

In February, Sri Lanka announced it was backing out of commitments made to the UN Human Rights Council in 2015 by a previous administration. These promised a range of measures to investigate abuses during the civil war. ..

[see also: from my blog post https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/24/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-43rd-human-rights-council/ Sri Lanka: Civil society groups are concerned over the backsliding on the commitments made by Sri Lanka in Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1. The recently elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, along with his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been appointed prime minister, have been implicated in war crimes and numerous human rights violations when they were defence secretary and president respectively from 2005 to 2015. The new Government has made clear its intention to walk away from the Council process on Sri Lanka, a process that is currently the only hope for victims of human rights violations that truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence are possible. [see https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2020/feb/23/sri-lanka-details-un-case-pullout/] Meanwhile, the relatively open climate for human rights defenders and journalists of the past few years seems to be rapidly closing. More than a dozen human rights and media organisations have received intimidating visits by members of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, while death threats against journalists have resumed. ISHR calls on States to urge for continued cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka with OHCHR and the Special Procedures. The Council should reiterate the reference in Resolution 40/1 to “the adoption of a time-bound implementation strategy” for implementation of all elements of Resolution 30/1. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/22/sri-lankan-government-accused-of-embarking-on-process-to-silence-critics/]

And, this month, Rajapaksa created two “task forces” with vague mandates, which rights groups fear could operate parallel to existing institutions. One, a body created to combat “anti-social activities”, is led by security and intelligence officials. Another task force mandated to protect cultural heritage appears to exclude non-Buddhists and non-Sinhalese. Rajapaksa’s first six months in office, the International Crisis Group said in a May report, have been “aggressively Sinhala nationalist, family-centred, and authoritarian”.

….“All these years of looking for justice would be then wasted,” said Yogeshwari, 45, whose husband disappeared 15 years ago.Families hold photographs of missing loved ones during a protest in Sri LankaTNH Families of Sri Lanka’s missing thousands fear the government is aiming to curb investigations into unsolved civil war disappearances.

In announcing his country’s withdrawal from its UN Human Rights Council commitments in February, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, said the previous pledges would infringe on “the sovereignty of [the] people of Sri Lanka”…

A government body tasked with investigating disappearances, the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), didn’t begin its work until 2018. It’s effectively the only government body actively working on reconciliation issues. Ruki Fernando, an advisor with Inform, a Colombo-based human rights documentation centre, expects the Rajapaksa government to take a similar line domestically by clipping the OMP’s powers.  “It is not about shutting them down,” Fernando said. “It is more about making them administratively limp.”…

Saroor believes the Rajapaksa government will likely ramp up its stance against investigations and reconciliation efforts. “Sri Lanka transitional justice and truth-seeking will come to a standstill,” she said.

This piece was reported by a freelance journalist whose name is being withheld over concerns for their safety. 

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1687911/world

https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news/2020/06/10/Sri-Lanka-activists-state-of-fear?utm_source=The+New+Humanitarian&utm_campaign=412d1dac95-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_06_12_Weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d842d98289-412d1dac95-75444053

https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/un-chief-expresses-alarm-clampdown-freedom-expression-sri-lanka

New law in Peru may protect the police more than indigenous human rights defenders

April 5, 2020

Matias Perez Ojeda del ArcoPolice Protection Act (Law No. 31012), which was passed in Peru by the new Congress on 27 March, without approval by the Executive, 11 days after declaring a state of emergency in the country due to the spread of COVID-19. This law is constitutionaly questionable and may open the door to impunity according to the Institute of Legal Defense (IDL), the Ombudsman’s Office, the National Human Rights Coordinator (CNDDHH) of Peru, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). [The Act forbids ordering a warrant of arrest or pre-trial detention for Peruvian National Police (PNP) personnel who may injure or kill in a regulatory intervention. Its complementary provision repeals the principle of proportionality in the use of force for a police officer response, which undermines actions under a constitutional framework and is against full respect for human rights, and may create excesses and arbitrariness.]

According to the Ombudsman’s Office, as of January 2020, there were 129 socio-environmental conflicts in Peru. So how will the National Police respond to unforeseen events, even more so in a post-COVID-19 context, where indigenous people’s territories could be more vulnerable to actions to reactivate the country’s economy?  This is more relevant within the framework of the End of Mission Statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. At the beginning of this year, it identified that, despite the progress made in this area, human rights defenders, especially from indigenous peoples and local communities, are still unable to carry out their work in a safe environment.

According to the Rapporteur and a report by the Ombudsman’s Office, 960 people have been criminalised for defending and promoting human rights since 2002, of whom 538 were criminalised during social protests. Between 2011 and 2016, 87 human rights defenders lost their lives in Peru, 67% because of law enforcement, according to a CNDDHH report.

Comprehensive police protection for common interest has lost its essence. Instead, the interests of companies are gaining serious ground in Peru, i.e. 145 agreements of “Extraordinary Police Service”, between the Peruvian Police and extractive companies (mining and hydrocarbon sector), were established between 1995 and 2018, according to a report by the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples of the CNDDH. One example of this is the agreement between the hydrocarbon company PETROPERÚ S.A. and the PNP (2018) for operations in Amazonas and Loreto regions, which affects the ancestral land of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation (GTANW).It is crucial that Peruvian authorities repeal said law to avoid risking the lives of human rights defenders, especially indigenous peoples who are at the forefront of threats, harassment and criminalisation when they protest due to conflicts arising in their territories. Indigenous territories are more vulnerable than ever during the current community contagion phase of COVID-19, as proper health infrastructure and equipment may not reach those areas, nor provide timely and dignified protection for them. There are companies working on indigenous territories during the State of Emergency, including the oil palm company Ocho Sur P. in the Shipibo land of Santa Clara de Uchunya. According to IDL, Ocho Sur is continuing to work without an approved Environmental Impact Assessment. When the State of Emergency is over, most companies will want to recover their losses by any means, regardless the rights of indigenous peoples. This is the moment when the State Protection rules must focus on these issues.

http://www.forestpeoples.org/en/new-law-in-peru-threatens-indigenous-human-rights-defenders

TrialWatch finds its feet in 2019

February 15, 2020

TrialWatch logo

Photo courtesy of the Clooney Foundation for Justice.

A year ago this January, I flew out of Sarajevo to join the ABA Center for Human Rights (CHR), ready to start work on CHR’s new program, TrialWatch. ….Since the TrialWatch program was new, I did not know what to expect. In Bosnia, I had dedicated the past several years to advocating for wartime victims seeking justice. Many of these men and women had spent decades pounding on the doors of institutions that had long consigned them to oblivion. As I entered the ABA lobby on my first day, I wondered what it would be like to instead focus on defendants vulnerable to abuse of their rights. What I found was that the experience and ethos of TrialWatch were uncannily similar to those of my work in Bosnia. We aim to ensure that people are not forgotten.

…..

Criminal prosecutions are one weapon in the ever-expanding arsenal of those who seek to derail human rights. Through TrialWatch, CHR sends monitors to proceedings at which they are often the only independent observers. These are remote, dilapidated courtrooms outside the capitals, places where no one would expect a monitor to show up. Our presence can make a significant difference.

In Algeria, for example, CHR sent a monitor to observe the trial of Ahmed Manseri, a human rights defender prosecuted for defamation for claiming that he had been tortured by the authorities. The monitor traveled through multiple checkpoints to reach the city of Tiaret in northern Algeria, some 300 kilometers from the capital of Algiers. The judge, aware of CHR’s interest in the case, treated Manseri differently from all others in court that day, giving Manseri’s lawyers adequate time to conduct questioning, providing Manseri himself with an opportunity to speak, spending several hours on the hearing (as opposed to the five to 15 minutes afforded other defendants), and ultimately acquitting Manseri. When we spoke to Manseri and his lawyer after the trial, they relayed that Manseri may not have gone home that day if the monitor had not been in court. This is CHR’s work: ensuring that people facing the greatest risks are not forgotten, that their voices are heard, and that relevant institutions take their experiences and claims seriously. In some cases, as in Algeria, making an appearance is just as important as the final report.

Prisoners
More than 100 defendants were convicted as part of a mass trial with respect to an alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea. Photo provided by the ABA Center for Human Rights.

In other cases, documentation is critical. If we do not record the abuses that occur in the courtroom, they will be lost in a labyrinthine system with no recourse for defendants. In Equatorial Guinea, CHR monitored the trial of over a hundred individuals prosecuted in connection with an alleged coup attempt. In court, our monitors observed egregious fair trial violations, such as the repeated use of confessions induced by torture, the intervention of military officials in the judicial process, and the imposition of time limits on defense questioning. The defendants were ultimately convicted—some to what were functionally life sentences.

As Equatorial Guinea is a relatively closed country—its doors wide open to oil behemoths but shut to most others—CHR was the only outside entity to send observers to the trial. The information we acquired proved helpful for embassies and other organizations tracking the proceedings. Human Rights Watch, for example, employed CHR’s report to produce a video on the trial that was widely disseminated in Equatorial Guinea via WhatsApp. Meanwhile, CHR’s report was raised before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, after which the committee condemned military interference in civilian trials. Correspondingly, defense lawyers have used the report’s conclusions in advocating for their imprisoned clients. Without the valuable data gained from simply sitting in the courtroom, these various opportunities for impact would have been lost and—again—the defendants forgotten.

 


TrialWatch followed a case in Guatemala of a human rights defender named Abelino Chub, shown here with an unidentified woman. Chub was held in pretrial detention for two years. Chub was being prosecuted on allegations he had burned down trees and fields on a plantation operated by Cobra Investments, a banana and palm company. He was ultimately acquitted. Photo provided by the ABA Center for Human Rights

The overarching goal of ensuring that defendants receive the necessary support motivates the TrialWatch team to grapple with these challenges, as do the inspiring monitors with whom we work. One of TrialWatch’s objectives is to democratize trial monitoring—to place the tools to observe trials in the hands of affected communities. Dedication and a willingness to learn are the only requirements. In a recent case, two different entities within the prosecution appeared to be at odds. One entity had withdrawn the charges, and the other seemed to still be pursuing the case. CHR’s enterprising trial monitor brought a copy of the withdrawal document across town to the latter entity’s office. The office claimed to have never seen this document—or at least to have never been directly confronted with it—and stated that it would cease work on the case. At the moment, the office no longer appears to be pursuing the charges.

In another example, a CHR monitor who is not a lawyer but passionate about press freedom issues agreed to travel to a remote province in Cambodia—a nine-hour bus ride—on Christmas day to observe the start of a trial in which two journalists were being prosecuted for incitement. Though the trial did not in fact proceed that day, the monitor was able to document valuable information, such as the judge ordering defense counsel not to contact the U.S. embassy: a troubling and noteworthy development. That my job entails working closely with these monitors—such a perseverant, diverse group of individuals—makes it all the more worthwhile.

Lastly, one of the most ironic features of trial monitoring is that there is frequently no trial to monitor. In many countries, authorities use criminal charges and detention as a punishment in itself: the trial in such cases is not of consequence. By imprisoning defendants pending trial, deferring substantive proceedings in the vein of Godot, states can avoid scrutiny while still harassing defendants and stifling their work. Through TrialWatch, we have been able to document and respond to this phenomenon.

In India, for example, CHR monitored habeas corpus proceedings brought by journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, who had been arrested on sedition charges for posting Facebook videos in which he criticized the ruling party. When the judge presiding over the case released Wangkhem on bail, the authorities rearrested and imprisoned him on national security grounds. CHR subsequently issued a preliminary report concluding that Wangkhem’s detention was inconsistent with international law. Soon thereafter, he was released, having spent 132 days behind bars.

Similarly, in Nigeria, CHR monitored proceedings against Omoyele Sowore, a journalist who had been charged with treason. Awaiting trial, Sowore remained imprisoned by the state security services despite the presiding court’s order to release him. Amal Clooney, the co-founder of TrialWatch, made a public statement calling for Sowore’s release, bolstering the international uproar and placing pressure on the state. Approximately a month later, Sowore was released.

Defendants languishing in detention, sometimes for years on end, are the most at risk of being forgotten. Seeing these individuals go free in part because of our work is one of the most rewarding aspects of TrialWatch. I am proud to lead the program at the ABA Center for Human Rights and look forward to my second year.

If you are interested in signing up to be a TrialWatch monitor, please fill out this form.

 

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/volunteer-trial-monitors-are-helping-secure-human-rights-around-the-globe

Killing of Marielle Franco’s murder suspect does not end queries

February 12, 2020

In response to the recent death of Adriano da Nóbrega, a former policeman suspected of involvement in the murder of human rights defender Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Silva, Amnesty International Brazil’s Executive Director, Jurema Werneck, said:

After almost two years of investigation into the death of Marielle and Anderson, we demand transparency from the authorities. It is essential for Brazilian society to have full confidence in the efforts to find out who carried out these cruel murders…The information circulating today, like many of the leaks that have occurred since October last year, just sends a public message that the authorities are trapped in doubt.

“Events related to the investigations raise more questions than answers. For almost two years now the whole world has been looking closely at Brazil, waiting for the truth. While we understand the need for confidentiality, this cannot be confused with a lack of transparency…To guarantee justice for Marielle is to guarantee the rights of all human rights defenders to do their work with dignity and security, defending a fairer society.

Adriano da Nóbrega was killed on Sunday 9 February after he fired on police officers trying to arrest him in Northern Brazil. Nóbrega is thought to have led a paramilitary group suspected of ordering the murder of Marielle Franco.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/marielle-franco-one-year-after-her-killing-in-rio/.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/brazil-killing-marielle-franco-murder-suspect-raises-more-questions-answers

Defending the Monarch Butterfly in Mexico costs lives

February 7, 2020

Mexican authorities are investigating the death of an employee of one of Mexico’s largest butterfly reserves. Raúl Hernández Romero was the second person connected to the reserve found dead in less than a week. The first death was Homero Gómez González — an environmental activist and well-known defender of the Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve in the Michoacan state. The deaths have alarmed environmental activists and human rights defenders in the country.

Amnesty International said it is alarmed. Twelve environmental defenders were already killed in Mexico in 2019. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/30/in-2018-three-murders-per-week-among-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]. The World’s host Marco Werman spoke with Erika Guevara Rosas, director of Amnesty International Americas, about the killings. Marco Werman: Homero Gómez González was very well-known for his protection of the monarch butterfly in Michoacán. He administrated sanctuaries to protect the monarch butterfly. But he was also a protector of the environment. He denounced, many times, illegal logging in the area and the increased presence of groups of organized crime that were trying to take over certain territories and land and threatened the environment where these monarch butterflies arrive every year in Mexico. Erika Guevara Rosas: We get a nice sense of his commitment to what he was doing with a video he posted just last month on Twitter. He’s in his butterfly sanctuary and thousands of butterflies are swirling all around him. He’s pretty happy and proudly declares in his tweet that the sanctuary in Michoacan is the biggest in the world. It’s kind of a sad video in retrospect, shot a couple of weeks before Gomez Gonzalez was killed. [https://twitter.com/miblogestublog/status/1222901129199009798]

Hernández Romero’s death, “along with the death of Homero Gómez, demands immediate investigation and full accountability,” tweeted Richard Pearshouse, head of crisis and environment at Amnesty.

‘Horrific’, adding that Raúl Hernández Romero’s family says he received threats regarding his work campaigning against illegal logging in the weeks before he disappeared. El Rosario sanctuary provides a home for millions of migrating monarch butterflies each year and draws thousands of tourists annually. But the reserve has also drawn the ire of illegal loggers in Mexico, who are banned from cutting down trees in the protected area. Before the ban, more than 1,000 acres of the woodland were lost to the industry between 2005 and 2006.

https://www.wvxu.org/post/killing-environmental-activists-has-become-norm-mexico-activist-says#stream/0

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/03/horrific-human-rights-advocates-call-investigation-death-second-monarch-butterfly

Shocking: Aluízio Palmar being sued by his torturer in Brazil

January 21, 2020

A scene in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 1, 1964, during the military coup against President João Goulart that installed a dictatorship. (Photo via Public Archive of São Paulo State)

A scene in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 1, 1964, during the military coup against President João Goulart that installed a dictatorship. (Photo via Public Archive of São Paulo State)

Jacob Blanc a history professor at the University of Edinburgh – published in Nacia of 20 January 2020 a real ‘horror story’ about Aluízio Palmar, a Brazillian human rights defender and tortutre victim being sued by a dictatorship-era torturer. He puts the blame squarely on the climate created by Bolsonaro.

The physical and psychological torture happened 40 years ago, when Palmar was imprisoned by the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. But it was only last month, in a climate defined by Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, that Palmar’s abuser felt emboldened to file the suit….In a cruel twist, it is not a case of the victim seeking justice from his abuser. Instead, Ostrovski—who became a lawyer after his military service—has sued Palmar for defamation of character and “moral damages” over his efforts to bring public attention to Ostrovski’s crimes.

Ostrovski’s human rights abuses have been well-documented, including in the 1984 report on torture titled Brasil: Nunca Mais (Brazil: Never Again) and also in the 2014 National Truth Commission, the largest effort to-date to elucidate the repression of Brazil’s military regime. In these reports, multiple victims testified to Ostrovski’s acts of torture. Despite this evidence, Ostrovski has never stood trial. Nor, for that matter, has anyone in Brazil been held accountable for the cruelty of dictatorship. Unlike in neighboring Chile and Argentina where limited trials did take place, not a single member of the Brazilian military has faced criminal charges.

The lack of legal justice for Brazil’s human rights abusers helps explain the lawsuit against Palmar. Since the 1980s, Palmar has been an ardent human rights activist and journalist. He has co-founded a political newspaper, written a book on the forced disappearances of six Brazilian dissidents, maintained a website that publishes declassified documents, and established the Center for Human Rights and Popular Memory in the city of Foz do Iguaçu. So although there has been a concerted absence of political and institutional justice, Palmar and countless Brazilians like him have fought to keep the memory of the past alive. One of these initiatives took place in 2013 and stands as the crux of the current lawsuit.

As part of the investigations for the National Truth Commission, Palmar and three other torture victims testified in a public hearing. In the aftermath of this testimony, protestors engaged in a political action common in Latin America known as an escrache: to expose Ostrovisky—who had been living in relatively anonymity—the crowd marched to his law office and held a noisy rally to “out” him as a torturer. Palmar himself did not take part in the protest, but he did publicize the event on Facebook. And it is precisely Palmar’s act of sharing the protest on Facebook that Ostroviski is now citing in his claim for legal and financial restitution. But if the event in question took place in 2013, why is the lawsuit only now being brought forth?…The answer ties directly to Brazil’s current political landscape. Since Bolsonaro’s election in October 2018, a long-standing culture of impunity has become even more brazen. An army captain in the final years of the dictatorship, Bolsonaro has built his political career on an unapologetic nostalgia for military rule. Among his many headline-grabbing statements, Bolsonaro invoked the dictatorship’s most notorious torturer in voting to impeach the former president Dilma Rousseff—herself a torture victim—and he has stated that the regime’s murder of some 500 citizens did not go far enough.

“Since 1979, torturers have been protected by a law that is interpreted as impunity for them,” Luciana Silva, a professor of history at the State University of Western Paraná, said. “Now they are sheltered by an irresponsible president, who clearly governs for only a portion of the population. The torturer felt comfortable suing his victim as if nothing were going to happen.”

As both a journalist and a human rights defender, Palmar embodies two of the sectors of civil society most under threat in Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Between early December and early January alone, multiple journalists and media outlets in Brazil have suffered abuse, including two reporters in Rondônia receiving suspended jail time in a defamation case and a radio station’s antennae being destroyed by arson. Bolsonaro himself recently renewed his antagonism against the press: When asked in December about the growing corruption scandal surrounding his family, he deflected by verbally assaulted the journalist: “You look terribly like a homosexual.” These threats contribute to a dangerous reality where since 2010, 22 journalists in Brazil have been killed.

And according to the NGO Frontline Defenders, Brazil is also one of the deadliest places on earth for human rights activists, with a frightening increase in the threats, arrests, and physical attacks on activists, particularly around environmental, Indigenous, and LGBTQI+ rights. In 2019, the number of Indigenous leaders and activists killed reached the highest rate in two decades, and the Bolsonaro regime continues to skirt any responsibility to solve the 2018 assassination of Marielle Franco, a city councilwoman, gay Black feminist, and human rights activist. Bolsonaro also lashed out against the media when evidence emerged of apparent links between his family and Franco’s suspected killers.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/marielle-franco-one-year-after-her-killing-in-rio/]

Palmar’s situation is symptomatic of how human rights are being inverted in Brazil.  “With Bolsonaro in power, [these abusers] feel free,” Palmar said. “They feel free to go around threatening us, to commit a form of terrorism. And more and more they’re putting Brazilian democracy itself in danger. There is a real enemy, and it’s going to set us back a long time.

https://nacla.org/news/2020/01/20/inversion-human-rights-brazil