Posts Tagged ‘indigenous groups’

Documenting the Killings of Environmental Defenders (Guardian and Global Witness)

July 15, 2017

Last Friday I asked attention for Front Line’s project Memorial that tries to honor all human rights defenders who have been killed since 1998 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/13/stop-the-killings-you-can-help-front-line/]. Now the Guardian announces that this year, in collaboration with Global Witness, it will attempt to record all of the deaths of people who are killed while defending their land, forests, rivers or wildlife – most often against the harmful impacts of industry. The project will also document the stories of some of the land and environmental defenders still under attack

Activists, wildlife rangers and indigenous leaders are dying violently at the rate of about four a week, with a growing sense around the world that ‘anyone can kill environmental defenders without repercussions’

Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally, new research reveals.

    • The Guardian pieces addresses also the crucial question of methodology.” Environmental defenders: who are they and how do we decide if they have died in defence of their environment?” [see:

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/13/environmental-defenders-who-are-they-and-how-do-we-decide-if-they-have-died-in-defence-of-their-environment]

      Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo were murdered by gunmen in Brazil’s Pará state in May 2011
      Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo who were murdered by gunmen in Brazil’s Pará state in May 2011. Photograph: Stringer, Brazil/Reuters

      Some excerpts:

      Who are land and environmental defenders?

      Land and environmental defenders are people who take peaceful action, either voluntarily or professionally, to protect the environment or land rights. They are often ordinary people who may well not define themselves as “defenders”. Some are indigenous or peasant leaders living in remote mountains or isolated forests, protecting their ancestral lands and traditional livelihoods from business projects such as mining, dams or luxury hotels. Others are park rangers tackling poaching or illegal logging. They could even be lawyers, journalists or NGO staff working to expose environmental abuse and land grabbing.

      How does Global Witness document killings of defenders?

      Global Witness uses online searches and its extensive network of local contacts to source evidence every time a land or environmental defender is reported as murdered, or as having been abducted by state forces. A number of criteria must be fulfilled for a case to be verified and entered into the Global Witness database. A credible online source of information is required with the victim’s name, details of how they were killed or abducted (including the date and location), and evidence that s/he was a land or environmental activist. In some cases, specialised local organisations are able to investigate and verify the case in-country, meaning that an online source is not necessary. Global Witness includes the friends, colleagues and family of defenders if either they appear to have been killed as a reprisal for the defender’s work, or because they were killed in an attack which also left the defender dead. While Global Witness endeavours to keep its database updated in real-time, verification of cases can be time-consuming, meaning that the names of some individuals are added weeks, or even months, after their death.

      Honduras: Julia Francisco Martinez, widow of indigenous activist Francisco Martinez Marquez who was killed in January 2015
      Honduras: Julia Francisco Martinez, widow of indigenous activist Francisco Martinez Marquez who was killed in January 2015 after months of death threats. His killers have not been brought to justice. Photograph: Giles Clarke/Global Witness

      Why does Global Witness say that its data is incomplete? There are a number of reasons why the information in Global Witness’s database is likely to be incomplete. Many killings go unreported, and very few are investigated by the authorities, which is part of the problem itself. Suppression of the media and restrictions on human rights in some countries reduces the number of organisations and outlets documenting killings. In high-conflict countries it can be difficult to verify that a killing was linked to somebody’s activism. Some countries are likely to be under-represented because principal searches are currently limited to English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Global Witness’s network of local sources is also stronger in some regions than others.

      For full details of Global Witness’s methodology, visit globalwitness.org/defenders/methodology

      see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/

 

Source: The defenders | The Guardian

 

Bartolome de las Casas, an award specially for indigenous peoples

July 14, 2017

portada

Photo: Leader of Peru’s Ashaninka indigenous people, Ruth Buendia, was handed over the Bartolome de las Casas Prize from the Government of Spain. ANDINA/Difusión

Granted already in 2014, King Felipe VI of Spain presented the 23rd Bartolome de las Casas Award on Tuesday 4 July to Ruth Buendia, for her leadership skills as chairwoman of the Central Ashaninka del Rio Ene (CARE), a local organization in Peru that gathers 17 indigenous communities and works to defend the rights of the Ashaninka people in the Ene River Valley.the award honors her significant contribution to human and sustainable development, as well as her environmental protection work.  The jury acknowledged Buendia’s efforts to provide access to public health and education services across the communities. Also, she managed to stop the construction of the Patizipatango hydroelectric dam, which prevented arable lands of 10 communities from being flooded.

In 2014, Buendia received also the Goldman Environmental Prize, dubbed the Green Nobel Prize, which recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/

The Bartolome de las Casas Award was also granted to Colombia‘s Fundacion Caminos de Identidad —FUCAI (Roads to Identity Foundation) for its constant work strengthening identity and autonomy of indigenous peoples in different fields: education, food sovereignty, family, childhood and youth.

Maria Torres from Peru about ISHR’s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme.

June 19, 2017

Hi, my name is Maria Torres. I come from Peru and I work as a lawyer for the International Institute on Law and Society. I became a lawyer because I wanted to fight against injustice. As a student, I travelled to the Amazon and I saw how indigenous people were suffering violations of their most basic human rights; and there was a lot of indifference from civil society. At that moment, I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to this cause. It was really important that one of us in my organisation learns about UN mechanisms and that’s why I came to Geneva to attend ISHR’s training.”

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/