Posts Tagged ‘indigenous groups’

Training initiative for indigenous human rights defenders in Philippines and Bangladesh

May 16, 2017

Amidst reports about the rising toll among human rights defenders around the world, especially in rural areas, this initiative must me welcome. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/]
Rights push launched for Philippine, Bangladesh tribes
Representatives of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Relief International pose for a souvenir picture during the launch of the human rights program in the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of the Rural Missionaries)

On 15 May, 2017 ucanews reports that the NGO Relief International has simultaneously launched a project in the Philippines and Bangladesh aimed at training human rights defenders in tribal communities. In the Philippines, Relief International has partnered with the Rural Missionaries “to scale up” the faith-base group’s human rights intervention for tribal people in Mindanao. “This new initiative will promote and protect human rights of vulnerable indigenous communities,” said Sister Famita Somogod, coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

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Video interview with Andrea Ixchíu Hernandez, human rights defender from Guatemala

February 5, 2017

Andrea Ixchíu Hernandez  is an indigenous rights defender working for several organisations in Guatemala. She talks – in English – to ISHR (International Service for Human Rights) about her work to build up community media so the voices of indigenous people are  heard and the violations they face are publicly unveiled.

Profile of human rights defender Tuisina Ymania Brown, a Fa’afafine from Samoa

June 2, 2016

Samoa does not figure often in this blog. So, courtesy of the International Service for Human Rights (Monitor 2 May 2016), here is the profile of Tuisina Ymania Brown of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association which represents and promotes the rights of indigenous lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Samoa.  Read the rest of this entry »

Exceptional response from NGO world on killing of Berta Cáceres

March 7, 2016

A group of over 50 international organizations has written to the President of Honduras to express their shock over the recent killing of Berta Cáceres [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/berta-caceres-human-rights-defender-assassinated-today-in-honduras/], to demand an international investigation and the immediate protection of Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican activist, who witnessed her assassination. Here is the letter and signatories in full: Read the rest of this entry »

Berta Caceres, human rights defender, assassinated today in Honduras

March 3, 2016

A sad day for Honduras and all human rights defenders: today, 3 March 2016, Berta Cáceres was murdered by as yet unknown assailants who broke into her home in the city of La Esperanza in the early hours of the morning. One week prior to her assassination, the defender had denounced the killing of 4 leaders of her community as well as threats against her and other human rights defenders, at a press conference.

BertaCaceres_Credit_GoldmanPrize

Berta Cáceres was one of the most prominent human rights defenders in Honduras and a Lenca indigenous woman who, for the past 20 years, had been defending the territory and rights of the Lenca people. In 1993, she co-founded the Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras – COPINH (http://www.copinh.org/)  (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras), which led fierce campaigns against illegal logging and mega-projects for their detrimental effects on the rights of indigenous peoples in the country. She faced off – and often won – against illegal loggers, plantation owners, multinational corporations, and dam projects that would cut off food and water supplies to indigenous communities. (e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/berta-caceres-in-honduras-continues-to-be-harassed-in-spite-of-court-order).

The human rights defender was a finalist for the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/es/programme/fld-award] and in 2015 she received the Goldman Environmental Prize. She had been a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) since 2009. Her harassment was followed closely by Front Line and others.Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

 

Other human rights defenders (including members of COPINH) have been targeted in the past. The killing of human rights defenders and impunity for the perpetrators have been documented by many organizations. In this blog alone:

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/assassination-of-human-rights-defenders-proceed-in-honduras-venezuela-peru-colombia-and-the-philippines/

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/alarming-criminalisation-of-human-rights-defenders-in-latin-america/

“the most dangerous place to be an environmental activist was actually Honduras, according to Global Witness” [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/killings-of-environmental-human-rights-defenders-up-again-compared-to-last-year/]

Honduras: Berta Caceres, human rights defender & indigenous leader who opposed Agua Zarca dam, assassinated | Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Assassination of human rights defenders proceed in Honduras, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and the Philippines

January 29, 2016

On 30 November I referred to the systematic killing of human rights defenders in 2015 [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/closing-civil-society-space-a-euphemism-for-killing-human-rights-defenders/] and mentioned the annual report by Front Line for 2015 listing Latin America and the Philippines as the most dangerous places [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/latin-america-philippines-most-dangerous-places-for-human-rights-defenders/]. If further illustration is needed, here some short summaries of cases of killing human rights defenders as reported by Front Line over the last few months:Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

Honduras: Killing of LGTBI rights defender Paola Barraza. On 24 January 2016, human rights defender Ms Paola Barraza was assassinated by unknown attackers in front of her house in the neighbourhood of Lempira, in Comayaguela. Paola Barraza, a trans woman, was a member of the board of directors of Asociación LGTB Arcoíris (LGTB Rainbow Association). The human rights defender was at home when  unknown persons knocked at her door and called her outside. When Paola Barraza answered the door she was fired upon five times. She died at the scene as a result of her wounds.  Paola Barraza was previously attacked in connection with her LGTBI rights work on 15 August 2015  [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/29495] Between 23 June 2015 and 31 August 2015, three other LGTBI rights defenders working in country were killed https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/29495.
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Alejandro González, corporate accountability human rights defender from Mexico

September 21, 2015

A bit belatedly, I refer to the interview (19 June 2015) with Alejandro González in the Newsletter of the ISHR. Alejandro is a human rights specialist who works for PODER, an award winning and multi-faceted civil society organisation based in Mexico that helps build the capacities of communities, workers, NGOs, and other civil society groups affected by corporate malfeasance and accompanies their accountability campaigns.

We help communities participate in the consultative process. In the end, it is about what communities want. We are not in favour or against the project. We make sure communities know their rights and are aware of the potential positive and negative impacts of the project.’ Free, prior and informed consent of the local communities is needed to pass development projects in indigenous regions of Mexico. Recent reforms, however, have opened the energy sector to both national and international investment. Mexico is currently in a maelstrom of speculation. ‘This is a dangerous situation. Many powerful companies in Mexico have a poor track record in human rights and we are concerned that local communities will lose their power to defend their land rights. Communities affected by gas speculation can either be obliged to sell their land or be forcibly dispossessed. It is vital that we observe, facilitate and publicise these negotiations.’

PODER, together with rural communities, is currently conducting an ex ante human rights impact assessment on extractive projects in Puebla, Mexico. In other states, such as Hidalgo, Oaxaca, and Sonora, PODER conducts participatory research with communities and accompanies their advocacy efforts. In Oaxaca it is part of an international mission to monitor the Free, Prior and Informed Consent process regarding the construction of wind farms by Australian, Dutch, Japanese and Mexican corporations.

The government wants to use this case as a model – to set a precedent for all future negotiations. If it goes poorly, the consequences could be devastating … We have met frequently with the Dutch, European Union and other embassies to amplify the voices of local people. We have also conducted extensive research into the companies and provided this information to the community, to help them make informed decisions.’

Standing up to powerful economic actors is dangerous work. In 2013, Héctor Regalado Jiménez, member of the Popular Assembly of the Juchiteco People, was shot and killed after opposing the wind farms. ‘Another activist we were working with died in a suspicious car accident. We still don’t know what happened, but this is a common modus operandi in Mexico. The killers make it look like an accident. Community leaders are frequently subject to death threats and assaults.

Since PODER does not directly advocate on land rights issues, Alejandro is not in as much risk as the human rights defenders it supports, though he and his colleagues face increasing surveillance. He believes that a powerful political and corporate élite pose a major challenge to the work of business and human rights defenders across Mexico. ‘There is a small group of families who control most of the market. It is a secretive group who meet with the president and cabinet members behind closed doors. Together they decide the laws and regulations. That’s how they pushed through the reforms that opened up the energy sector.’

To address this lack of transparency in the government and private sector, PODER is involved in online platform  such as “Who’s Who Wiki” (rindeucentas.org) and ‘MéxicoLeaks’ – a whistleblowing tool that allows people to send information of public interest through secure technologies that protect the identity of the source. The information received through MéxicoLeaks is then verified, analyzed and published by the partners of the alliance, made up of civil organizations and media outlets. “The investigations that follow allegations communicated via ‘MéxicoLeaks’ are dangerous. In a two-year period, 10 journalists were murdered and 326 attacked. We have seen an increasing use of cyber attacks – as hackers force outlets offline or bombard them with viruses. Any journalist who exposes government corruption can expect to lose his job.”

Despite these adverse conditions, Alejandro is positive that good business practice is in the best interests of businesses. ‘We make corporations aware that human rights violations are a material risk. For example, if a company pollutes a river, there will be mobilisation and litigation against the company as well as a huge attack on their reputation – all of which costs money. Making corporations aware of the cost of violating human rights puts pressure on them to improve their due diligence.

In Mexico we would like to see a civil society powerful enough to be on equal footing with both the authorities and the private sector. For this you need information, complete transparency in everything the government does and strong accountability mechanisms. The private sector must prioritise human rights with due diligence, and not merely refrain from doing harm, but actively to do good.’

 

Alejandro González: Mexican corporate accountability human rights defender | ISHR.

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/mexico/

Filipino nun wins Weimar human rights award 2015 for fight against mining excesses

August 11, 2015

<p>Sister Stella Matutina explains the threats of large-scale mining in Mindanao during a conference in Manila in early August. (Photo by Leon Dulce)</p>

Sister Stella Matutina explains the threats of large-scale mining in Mindanao during a conference in early August (Photo by Leon Dulce)

A Benedictine nun, Stella Matutina, is the recipient of Germany’s “Weimar Award for Human Rights” 2015 for her anti-mining advocacy in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.

Sister Stella Matutina has been recognized for “[engaging] herself extraordinarily for the rights of the native population, despite being exposed to permanent threats to her safety due to her engagements”. “This highlights the situation of Mindanao and the Philippines in general where the poor, the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the human rights activists and defenders of the environment endure harassment and face risks and death,” the 47-year-old nun told ucanews.com (Jefry Tupas, 7 August 2015) . More than a personal recognition, Matutina said the award acknowledges the “collective sacrifices” of freedom and environment defenders in the face of a “systematic effort to limit democratic space and security threats”.

Matutina has been a vocal opponent of attempts to convert the farmlands in Mindanao to plantation crops like palm oil, pineapples, and bananas. She has also led a campaign against the entry of large-scale mining companies in tribal communities in Mindanao. In 2012, the Philippine military labeled Matutina a “fake nun” and accused her of being a communist New People’s Army guerrilla. In 2009, soldiers detained Matutina and two other anti-mining activists in the town of Cateel in Mindanao for giving a lecture on environmental awareness to residents of an upland village. Early this year, authorities charged Matutina, other Church leaders and human rights activists with kidnapping, human trafficking, and illegal detention for taking care of displaced tribal people in the provinces of Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.

These are proof that helping the oppressed, the poor, the abused comes with great risks,” said Matutina, chairwoman of the Sisters Association of Mindanao and secretary-general of the environment protection group Panalipdan.

Since 1995, the Weimar Award has honored individuals or groups engaged in the fight for freedom and equality, the prevention and condemnation of genocide, the right to free speech, and the respect and preservation of political, ethnic, cultural and religious rights of minorities, among others. The award comes with a 2500,00 Euro stipend.

The same Weimar Human Rights Award went in 2000 to Father Shay Cullen of the Peoples Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance (PREDA) Foundation for his work defending the rights of children and women, victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation in the Philippines.

via Filipino nun wins German human rights award ucanews.com.

worth noticing also is the language of Radio Vatican used in its own announcement:

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/08/07/philippine_nun_honoured_with_german_human_rights_award/1163662

Colombian human rights defender Berenice Celeita talks on 10 June in Washington

June 2, 2015

Wednesday 10 June, 2015 (p.m.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Peace Brigades International, and Amnesty International USA organize a “Discussion with Colombian Human Rights Defender Berenice Celeita“. The event will feature Ms. Berenice Celeita, the founder of the Association for Investigation and Social Action (NOMADESC) and winner of the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Through NOMADESC, Ms. Celeita advises and accompanies social organizations and unions as well as civic, women’s, indigenous, afro-descendent, and family farmer organizations.

Ms. Celeita will discuss the current human rights situation in Colombia, including the most pressing issues faced by marginalized communities claiming their rights, and will speak about strategies for combating human rights abuses against these populations.

[For years, civil society activists in the Cauca and Valle del Cauca Departments of Colombia have endured incidences of intimidation, harassment, and persecution as a result of their work. While these incidences have recently intensified, they are not new and form part of a long pattern of threats and attacks against the work of human rights defenders and community leaders in Colombia. The internal armed conflict in Colombia generates internally-displaced populations and sexual violence against women, and further marginalizes impoverished populations. Indigenous and afro-descendent leaders who stand up for their rights and defend their lands are acutely at risk of death threats and other forms of intimidation. In this context – characterized by a lack of security and government accountability – the work of human rights defenders and civil society activists is paramount and must be safeguarded, as they serve as the voice and guardians for local populations facing evictions, violence, and persecution.]

To attend contact: rsvp@rfkhumanrights.org before 8 June.

UN special rapporteur urged to investigate human rights defenders in the Philippines

December 6, 2014

The UN special rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, has made a fast start with his mandate. Hardly back from Burundi and Morocco, he met with human rights defenders in  Quezon City, Philippines as reported by InterAksyon.com on 6 December 2014.

(Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, with human rights defenders in Quezon City – photo from Karapatan)
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst indicated his interest in filing a request for an official visit after a two-hour meeting late last week with members of Manilakbayan, a contingent of indigenous peoples’ groups and advocates, and representatives of the human rights group Karapatan from Mindanao and Southern Tagalog.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, in a statement, urged the international community and human rights advocates worldwide to “press the Philippine government to accede to the request of the UNSR-HRD to look into the numerous reports of attacks against rights defenders in the country.” Forst’s predecessors — Hina Jilani and Margaret Sekaggya — both submitted several requests to conduct an official investigation in the Philippines, but did not obtain official invitations from the government.

UN special rapporteur wants to probe attacks on PH rights defenders.