Posts Tagged ‘Indigenous rights’

Front Line Defenders Global Analysis 2019 is out: 304 HRDs killed

January 14, 2020

The most dangerous and deadly sector of human rights defenders remains land, environmental and indigenous rights, according to the Global Analysis report 2019 by Front Line Defenders. 304 people across 31 countries were targeted and killed last year and the document starts by listing their names.

Front Line Defenders said this was due to “the profit driven exploitation of natural resources, combined with corruption, weak governments and poverty“. Speaking to RTÉ News, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, Andrew Anderson, described the scale of the killings as “horrific” ..almost one person a day is being killed around the world because they are working “peacefully to defend land rights, environmental rights” and to “hold the powerful to account”.  “The true scale of the problem is probably much higher” he said.

In the cases for which the data is available, the report found:

  • 85% of those killed last year had previously been threatened either individually or as part of the community or group in which they worked
  • 13% of those reported killed were women
  • 40% of those killed worked on land, indigenous’ peoples and environmental issues

Last year saw mounting pressure on activists defending LGBTI rights, as well as women’s rights and migrants’ rights. Female activists faced online smear campaigns, trolling and defamation to intimidate, shame or harass in order to push women activists out of online spaces. The statistics show that 13% of human rights defenders killed in 2019 were women. The report also notes some positive developments, including the male guardianship system being revoked in Saudi Arabia, women from the Sulaliyat tribe in Morocco being able to inherit and own land, and Sudan removing a law where women could be arrested if found dancing, wearing trousers or mixing with men who were not their relatives.

With massive protests in Iran, Hong Kong and Chile, Front Line Defenders said that 2019 was characterised by waves of public uprisings of “remarkable magnitude”, which demanded change of how people are governed. However, it said there were restrictions on freedom of expression and authorities often invoked “security” as a justification to ban all peaceful demonstrations Physical assaults, defamation campaigns and digital attacks were major issues.

Internet shutdowns, restricting access or blocking communication tools, such as social media, were common. Messaging app WhatsApp, which is popular for organising and communications, became a “serious threat” when it was used against human rights defenders in a number of cases.

As the role of human rights defenders ranged from organising and mobilising to monitoring and documenting human rights violations, the human rights organisation said it provided more than 620 protection grants to activists at risk in 2019.

For last year’s report see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/

https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2020/0114/1107280-front-line-defenders/

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/jan/14/300-human-rights-activists-killed-2019-report

Six HRDs from Latin America on PBI’s European tour

November 18, 2019

Whilst the European Union continues to express concern for the increased impact of climate change on the planet, those defending their territories and the environment continue to be attacked for their activism across the world. This alarming trend is present in Latin America where the women defenders of land, territory and the environment are particularly vulnerable. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/06/environmental-human-rights-defenders-more-deadly-than-being-a-soldier-in-a-war-zone/] With this in mind, PBI will be accompanying five women and one man from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia to different parts of Europe in order to exchange experiences and perspectives about protection and self-protection from a holistic perspective. These defenders will share information about their own situation of risk, as well as the cases they are working on.

Guatemalan human rights defender Abelino Chub Caal wins Trócaire human rights award

November 8, 2019

Abelino Chib Caal from Guatemala in Dublin after he was awarded the Romero International Award by Trócaire, for his work defending human rights. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Abelino Chib Caal from Guatemala in Dublin after he was awarded the Romero International Award by Trócaire. Photograph: Dave Meehan

On 26 April, 2019 Abelino Chub Caal walked free after spending 813 days in prison. Less than six months later, the Guatemalan human rights defender stood before a large Irish audience at the Riddel Hall in Belfast to accept the Trocaire Romero Award. This was the second edition of the award [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/trocaire-romero-award]. The inaugural award in 2018 went to Sr Bridget Tighe in recognition of her humanitarian work in Gaza and the Middle East (for more on her click here)

The following week Sorcha Pollak of the Irish Times sat in a small meeting room in the Irish Times building with the Guatemalan teacher who has dedicated his life to fighting for the environmental and cultural rights of the indigenous people of his home country. A few days later, the 35-year-old flew back to Guatemala, unsure of the reception he will receive in a country which has an extremely poor international reputation for its treatment of community leaders who call for greater equality and recognition of human rights.

This has been the struggle of the indigenous people throughout our lives,” explains Caal in Spanish. “We’ve been completely rejected by the state. On the one hand the government says we’re the pride of Guatemala and they get millions of dollars in tourist money but at the same time we’re being repressed. They criminalise and persecute us; they send people to their deaths. They harass men and women who raise their voices against the injustice.”

Caal first became involved in the campaign for equal land rights aged 14 when his family’s community, in the department of Izabal in eastern Guatemala, was suddenly taken over by the cattle farm of a French woman operating in the area. “She had about 1,000 cattle just roaming around the community. They slept under our roof and ate all our crops.” He was deeply shocked when a community leader, who had come to the town to educate locals about their rights and the international treaties they could cite as protection, was thrown in jail for eight years.

After school, having graduated with a diploma in sustainable tourism, Caal began working for the Guillermo Toriello foundation which promotes local development. He also trained as a teacher but never got the chance to use his qualification. “I’ve dedicated myself to the community struggle and to becoming a mediator between state institutions and communities on land issues. It’s a legitimate and true struggle, the land for us is like our mother.”

The mining industry along with the rapidly growing production of palm oil, fruit, sugar cane and rubber by multinational companies is being carried out at the expense of local communities, says Caal. “They’ve accumulated all the land they can. All areas of flat land have been declared private property for palm plantations but not for the production of food.

“The state’s intention is to dispossess and exterminate the life of the indigenous communities. The communities are being expelled from their land and left without any alternatives. They just treat them as if they were toys.”

Caal cites examples of fellow human rights activists who were jailed for their work defending local communities, including Bernardo Caal Xol who was sentenced to eight years for his efforts to halt the development of a hydroelectric project along the Cahabon river by the Spanish ACS construction group which is chaired by Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez.

In February 2017, Caal was arrested and charged for alleged aggravated land grabbing, arson, coercion, illicit association and belonging to illicit armed groups. He spent the following two years in prison in Guatemala city.

While former government officials, locked up on corruption charges, made his life in prison difficult, he was surprised by the reception from gang members. “They were actually really respectful to me and called me profe [teacher]. They said I didn’t deserve to be there.”

During his two years behind bars, Caal witnessed hitmen inside the jail killing other prisoners and frequently worried for his safety. Despite being released earlier this year, after he was absolved of all charges, he knows that many other land rights defenders continue to face similar treatment. “The president is attacking human rights defenders, insinuating they have connections to drug trafficking. I wasn’t the first person to go to prison and I certainly won’t be the last. Our economic powers, they either send you to prison or send you to the grave.”

Upon his release, Caal spent one month in a safe house in Guatemala city and another three months in Costa Rica before travelling to Ireland to accept the Romero International Award presented by Irish NGO, Trócaire. He hopes his time in Ireland will raise awareness around the daily struggles faced by indigenous people across Guatemala in their attempts to hold on to their land. “We have been completely rejected by the state, we can’t be at peace. We just ask that people continue to show their solidarity with us.”

Caal is conscious that the Guatemalan public prosecutor’s office has not accepted his release and is appealing the decision. We part with uncertainty as to what will happen when he arrives home.

Gary Walsh of Trócaire says the voices of land rights defenders like Caal should put pressure on countries worldwide, including Ireland, to sign an international treaty on business and human rights which would help protect indigenous peoples around the globe.

Land grabs, environmental damage and violent attacks, including murder, are all too common features of how big business interacts with communities in the developing world,” says Walsh. “This has been facilitated by the absence of any global framework governing how businesses impact the human rights of the communities they engage with.” A binding international treaty is needed to ensure businesses operating outside the EU respect human rights, and that vulnerable people are protected, says Walsh. Recent negotiations held in Geneva around the revised draft of a legally binding treaty showed some progress despite insufficient engagement from EU member states including Ireland, said a spokeswoman for Trócaire

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/guatemalan-activist-abelino-chub-caal-wins-tr%C3%B3caire-human-rights-award-1.4076152

Environmental Human Rights Defenders: “More Deadly Than Being a Soldier in a War Zone”

August 6, 2019

The number of environmental human rights defenders murdered across the world has doubled over the past 15 years, climbing above the number of soldiers killed in some conflict zones, research has revealed. Between 2002 and 2017, as many as 1,558 people across 50 countries were killed while defending the environment, according to a study published in the journal Nature Sustainability,  The supply chain of violence”.

That is more than double the number of U.K. and Australian armed service personnel killed while on active duty in war zones during the same period, the researchers emphasized. Since 2004, the recorded number of environmental defenders dying has risen from two per week to four per week. Most were killed due to conflict over natural resources….

“Environmental defenders currently face a wave of violence that includes threats of physical harm, intimidation and criminalization,” the authors wrote. “Deaths represent the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the violence that environmental defenders face.”

indigenous woman, Brazil, protest, getty, Brasilia
An indigenous woman holds a Brazilian national flag stained in red representing blood during a march in Brasilia on April 26, 2019, on the last day of a protest to defend indigenous land and rights. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

In 2017, at least 185 activists were killed, with Indigenous peoples making up the biggest portion at around 30 percent, down from 40 percent in 2015 and 2016. At 36 percent, most deaths happened in Central America, followed by South American at 32 percent, and Asia at 31 percent. The most indigenous peoples died in the Philippines and Colombia between 2015 and 2017, with 36 and 22 deaths respectively. In 2017, 56 environmental defenders were killed in Brazil and 47 in the Philippines.

And the loved ones of victims struggle to seek justice, the authors said. Just over 10 percent of murders result lead to a conviction each year. This is likely due to corrupt police and authorities, who are sometimes involved in environmental devastation, and because murders are often carried out in remote areas. For instance, military and civil police are the main suspects after 10 land rights activists were killed in the city of Pau D’Arco, Brazil.

The researchers said the elections of populist leaders Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines are a further cause for concern. Bolsonaro has called activists terrorists, and plans to relax gun and environmental protection laws, while the Philippines’ president “has taken a violent stance toward human rights defenders, Indigenous peoples, environmentalists, women, drug users and others,” the authors wrote.

..

Companies and consumers also have a responsibility to “investigate the sources of products, publish the results and commit to eliminating violence from supply chains,” the authors said. Co-author Dr. Nathalie Butt, a researcher fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia, School of Biological Sciences commented in a statement: “The number of reported deaths of environmental defenders has increased, as well as the number of countries where they occur.” Butt told Newsweek she was surprised that corruption was the key driver of the deaths, rather than the resources themselves. “As a lot of the resource demand is driven by international markets, consumers in countries in the Global North need to make sure they are aware of where their products come from, and how they were obtained, and demand (through pressure on supply companies) ethical and transparent supply chain processes,” she said.

Butt continued: “In many cases they [environmental defenders] are trying to protect environments that are important for everyone on the planet such as the Amazon, which is critical in terms of buffering climate change and carbon emissions.”

….Christopher Jeffords, associate professor in the department of economics at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, told Newsweek: “These studies help shine a light on known instances of extreme violence committed against environmental defenders and thus help illuminate the notion that there are likely many cases which go unreported.” Eve Bratman, adjunct professorial lecturer at the American University Washington, D.C., School of International Service, told Newsweek: “The study tells us that the most important driving forces behind human rights abuses and the killings of environmental defenders are corruption and rule of law; when governments become more accountable, the benefits will likely be seen across the board. “In Brazil and several other countries, there is reasonable cause for concern that rates of violence will spike even higher given the dangers of today’s political climate.”

https://www.newsweek.com/more-deadly-being-soldier-war-zone-environmental-activists-killed-defending-planet-have-1452277

For the study mentioned see: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0349-4

World Environment Day: seven stories of human rights defenders

June 9, 2019

Amnesty International marked 5 June – World Environment Day – by focusing on environmental human rights defenders, who often face the gravest risks to protect their homes and communities. Being an environmental human rights defender has deadly consequences, making it among the deadliest types of activism. According to the NGO Global Witness, in 2017 almost four environmental defenders were killed each week for protecting their land, wildlife and natural resources. In 2017, 207 environmental activists were killed. The vast majority of them hailed from South America, making it the most dangerous region in the world. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/global-witness-report-2018-on-environmental-defenders-bad-but-2017-was-worse/]

Amnesty highlights the stories of seven environmental activists from the Americas who remind us of why we need to stand up for Earth’s defenders.

BERTA CÁCERES, COPINH (HONDURAS)

Berta Cáceres cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH) in 1993 to address the growing threats posed to the territorial rights of the Lenca communities and improve their livelihoods. For more on her case see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/berta-caceres/

JULIÁN CARRILLO AND THE COLORADAS DE LA VIRGEN COMMUNITY (MÉXICO)

Julián Carrillo was a leader of the Coloradas de la Virgen community. His job was to take care of the territory, the water, the forest and the wildlife. He had publicly denounced logging and mining by landlords in their ancestral land, as well as violence by criminal armed groups against his community. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/07/reprehensible-says-un-about-mexican-killing-of-human-rights-defender/%5D

PARAGUAY: AMADA MARTÍNEZ, INDIGENOUS DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TERRITORY

Amada is an Avá Guaraní Indigenous environment defender from the Tekoha Sauce community.

In the 1970s, the construction of the Itaipú Binational hydroelectric plant, in the border between Paraguay and Brazil, forcibly displaced her community from its ancestral territory, putting their survival at risk. Since then, she has defended the right of her community to have a territory in which they can thrive in harmony with nature and has denounced the serious impacts of hydroelectric projects on nature and Indigenous Peoples’ lives. On 8 August 2018, a group of armed men threatened to kill her. Amada was leaving the community in a taxi along with his seven-year-old son, his sister and two young nephews, when the vehicle in which they were traveling was intercepted by a pickup truck with the logo of the hydroelectric plant. Amada Martínez believes that the threat against her was due to her work defending Indigenous Peoples rights and the environment.

PATRICIA GUALINGA, INDIGENOUS DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TERRITORY

“We are united and we will continue our struggle to defend Mother Earth.”

Patricia is an Indigenous leader of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku community. She defends her people’s rights to their territory and to live in a healthy environment in the face of damaging oil activities there. Patricia is also protecting the Amazonian environment and promoting sustainable development. In 2012, the Indigenous Sarayaku community achieved a historic victory for Indigenous Peoples against the Ecuador government after reporting an oil concession that had installed explosives on their territory without consulting them. In the early hours of 5 January 2018, an unknown man made death threats to Patricia and attacked her at her home in Puyo, in the east of Ecuador., The man shouted, “Next time we’ll kill you, bitch!” before fleeing. Patricia and her family had to leave their home after the attack because the property owner “was terrified that something would happen to her.”

NEMA GREFA, INDIGENOUS DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TERRITORY

 

Nema is defending the Amazon environment and her people’s right to protect their territory from the possible negative effects of oil activity. After being legally recognized as President of the Sápara nationality of Ecuador in January 2018, her appointment was challenged by a group of people who Nema says are supportive of oil activities on the Sápara territory. Nema’s appointment was revoked in April 2018 as a result. Later that month a video was shared on social media featuring a man armed with a spear, identified by Nema as belonging to the group who had challenged her appointment, issuing her with a death threat: “Those present here are united in rejecting her and are thus going to kill Nema Grefa; she has no territory.” One year on, the Attorney’s Office has yet to open in investigation into the death threat. On 19 October 2018 Nema was finally recognized as president but still faces serious threats to her life. In April this year, despite the Ecuadorian authorities’ promises to protect her and her family, unknown individuals forcibly broke into her home to steal two computers containing sensitive information on her human rights work.

SALOMÉ ARANDA, INDIGENOUS ENVIRONMENTAL AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS DEFENDER

Salomé is an Indigenous leader from the Kichwa people who is defending the Amazonian environment and the right of women in her community to live in a healthy environment, free from sexual violence. Salomé is the Women and Family Leader in Moretecocha commune, Pastaza province. Salomé has publicly denounced the possible environmental impacts of oil operations in the Villano River basin, Pastaza province, and the sexual abuse of Indigenous women that have occurred in this context. In the early hours of 13 May 2018, a number of unidentified individuals attacked and threatened her and her family at home. Despite making a formal complaint, the Pastaza Provincial Attorney’s Office has yet to make any significant progress in this investigation. The authorities have not even offered her protection measures to address the risk facing her and her family.

MARGOTH ESCOBAR, ENVIRONMENTAL AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ RIGHTS DEFENDER

Margoth has devoted her life to defending the environment and Indigenous Peoples’ rights. In August 2015, Margoth was physically attacked by police officers at a protest and national strike called by the social and Indigenous movements in Puyo, Pastaza province. She was held on pre-trial detention for more than a week despite poor health caused by her injuries. She was charged with “attack and resistance”, which she was eventually acquitted of. In September last year Margoth’s house was set on fire, destroying all her belongings. On 1 October 2018, the Puyo Fire Brigade Commander stated that the fire at Margoth’s house had been intentional. Margoth lodged a criminal complaint with the Pastaza Provincial Attorney’s Office to investigate the attack, yet no progress has been made in her case. Margoth refused to join the country’s witness protection program because of her previous experience at the hands of the police: “I didn’t want to join the victim and witness protection system because I have no faith in the current government, I have no faith in the independence of the legal system in Ecuador, nor in the military or police forces.”

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/06/why-we-need-to-stand-up-for-earth-defenders-this-world-environment-day/

 

 

Profile of Putla: a 75-year-old indigenous rights defender in Cambodia

May 16, 2019

….if you drive two and a half hours West of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, you reach a community consisting of five small villages with a total population of around 1,350 people. They are the last members of the indigenous Souy people, who until recently, lived peacefully on their ancestral land. This is where the indigenous rights defender Putla has lived most of her life – except when she was forced to move away by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

Today, she is a 75-year-old woman whose skin has been tainted by the sun and from a hard life. She is a tiny woman, not more than 150 centimeters tall, and often dresses in the Souy people’s traditional black cloth. Putla is a woman who looks fragile at first sight – but this impression only lasts until she starts to speak, or until you look into her eyes. She has a strong and crisp voice, and her eyes reflect the hardships that she has endured in her life. She is a very warm woman who often finishes her tirades with heartfelt laughter. Read the rest of this entry »

Impunity with Canadian flavor

February 5, 2019

Brent Patterson posted on Rabble.ca on 4 February, 2019 a piece entitled: “Impunity for human rights violations must be challenged from Guatemala to the Wet’suwet’en territories“. It looks at the concept of impunity, especially in the context of indigenous people in Latin America and..Canada. Read the rest of this entry »

Global Witness report 2018 on environmental defenders: bad (but 2017 was worse)

January 9, 2019

This morning I blogged about Front Line Defenders Global Analysis 2018 report which notes a record number of human rights defenders killed in 2018 with the majority being environmental defenders [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/]. On 24 December 2018 referring to a preliminary Global Witness report, wrote that – while the numbers were still being finalized – the death toll for this group in 2018 was slightly lower than in 2017 (“For embattled environmental defenders, a reprieve of sorts in 2018”). This is most likely due to definition issues.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Reprehensible” says UN about Mexican killing of human rights defender

November 7, 2018

On 6 November 2018, four UN Special  Rapporteurs have strongly condemned the killing of Julián Carrillo, an indigenous rights defender from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, who had worked tirelessly for over two decades to defend his community against the exploitation of Rarámuri ancestral lands.

On 23 October 23 2018, Julián Carrillo told a friend by phone that he believed he was being watched and said he would go into the forest in an attempt to hide. On the evening of 25 October, his body was found. He had multiple bullet wounds. “We urge the Mexican authorities to identify the perpetrators of this reprehensible crime and to bring them to justice in accordance with the law,” the experts said.

The experts also urged the Government to address the underlying causes of such violence. “The killing of Julián Carrillo highlights the serious situation in the Sierra Tarahumara where the lack of recognition of indigenous land rights is a root cause of the recurring violence against and displacements of indigenous communities.”… [The UN experts are: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples;  Ms. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons.]

Julián Carrillo’s murder is one of a spate of killings of human rights defenders in the country. According to official OHCHR figures, 21 human rights defenders have been killed so far this year, nine of them from indigenous communities. Four members of Julián Carrillo’s family – his son, son-in-law and two nephews – have been killed since February 2016.

This follows soon after the assassination on Wednesday 23 October of journalist Gabriel Soriano Kuri.  Soriano had been covering Governor Héctor Astudillo Flores’ third annual report for the Radio y Televisión de Guerrero (RTG) broadcaster that evening. After the event, held in Acapulco, he was driving a company vehicle when he was attacked and killed by armed civilians. Following the murder, Astudillo offered his condolences to Soriano’s family via Twitter. But it didn’t go down very well. Soriano’s daughter replied with a blunt message: “My dad was assassinated doing his job. Covering your report to the state! Do your job and fix the situation the state is in. It’s not right,” she wrote. Her discontent was echoed in at least three demonstrations where journalists demanded that authorities solve the assassination of their colleague. A state journalists’ association reported that three members of the profession have been slain during Astudillo’s three years in office.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/es/profile/noel-castillo-aguilar

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/10/mexico-asesinato-de-lider-raramuri-demuestra-falta-de-proteccion-estatal/

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/demonstrations-follow-journalists-assassination/

Profile of Human Rights Defender Angélica Choc from Guatemala

October 10, 2018

The is the profile of indigenous Human Rights Defender Angélica Choc from Guatemala. Another in the series recently published by European External Action Service (EEAS) in the context of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/04/chia-wei-chi-first-in-series-of-videos-by-european-external-action-service/]. 

Human Rights Defenders- Angélica Choc- Guatemala