Posts Tagged ‘killings’

Insight into correspondence between NGOs and UK Foreign office about Colombia

January 31, 2018

On 30 January 2018 IRIN reported that on 20 December 2017, ABColombia (a joint advocacy project on Colombia for CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, SCIAF and Trócaire) sent a letter to Sir Alan Duncan, UK Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, expressing concerns regarding the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia. In the letter, ABColombia asked the Minister to ensure a statement is made at the UN Security Council regarding the extremely high levels of killings of Colombian HRDs and that the UK strongly requests the Colombian Government to officially invite Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, to Colombia. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/06/latin-america-philippines-most-dangerous-places-for-human-rights-defenders/]

In his response from 17 January 2018, Minister Sir Alan Duncan wrote:

[…] I share your concern about the increasing violence against human rights defenders in Colombia. As you mention in your letter, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has confirmed that 73 social leaders were killed last year. It is verifying a further 11 cases. A disproportionate number of those killed are linked to disputes concerning land restitution. Some also appear to have been targeted for speaking out for the rights of local and indigenous communities. Please be assured that our Embassy in Bogota continues to monitor the situation on the ground closely.

As you know, Colombia is designated a Human Rights Priority Country by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and protection of human rights defenders is a priority focus for our work. I regularly raise violence against human rights defenders during my meetings with Colombian Ministers and the Colombian Ambassador […]

https://reliefweb.int/report/colombia/violence-against-human-rights-defenders-correspondence-fco

Read the letter that ABColombia sent and the full response by Minister Alan Duncan

How photographer Tom Laffay sees human rights defenders in Colombia

January 20, 2018

While studying at the College of Charleston, Tom Laffay’s political consciousness came not from the classroom but in the fields while working alongside Mexican migrant laborers on a farm in North Carolina. “How they were living in the shadows made me want to know where they came from,” says the St. Ignatius High School alum.
With a background in Latin American studies and photojournalism, Laffay moved to Nicaragua in 2011 and Bogota, Colombia, in 2016. “I’ve never liked the idea of parachute journalism,” says the 28-year-old Laffay, whose work has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic and Al Jazeera. “I get really invested in a place.” Laffay’s latest project Defender, a portrait of human rights defenders under threat for their work in Columbia, is part of the Cleveland Print Room’s Anthropocene group exhibit, running 19 January to 23 February 2018.

Tom Laffay Defender 2

Cleveland Magazine talked with Laffay about the perilous work of defenders intent on protecting their native environment:

Q: In 2016, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia signed a peace agreement. Since then, nearly 200 indigenous leaders, environmental activists, LBGTQ leaders and lawyers have been murdered in Columbia. Why?
A:  It’s open season on human rights defenders in Columbia, who are being killed with impunity for documenting blatant oil contamination by companies using water in fuel extraction. With the rebels demobilizing, the country is open for business in areas they couldn’t be involved with before.   

Q: Are you in danger for your associations with the local activists?
A:
There are a lot of extremely talented and brave journalists here. I definitely take precautions and I make calculated risks. You have to really trust the people you’re with. I make sure I’m always in touch with the legal collective I work with and they always know where I’m going to be.

Q: What do you want people to take away from this exhibit?
A: 
These are men and women defending their communities and environment, and their rewards are arbitrary arrests, fake judicial processes and death. The landscape has become so dominated by the oil industry. … Oil extraction comes first and communities are a distant second. ..

https://clevelandmagazine.com/entertainment/museums-galleries/articles/tom-laffay-s-artistic-defense

Front Line’s 2017 report confirms worst expectation: over 300 HRDs killed

January 5, 2018

At the end of last year I published the post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/31/2017-a-year-to-forget-for-human-rights-defenders-but-dont-forget-the-human-rights-defenders/, and now – 3 January 2018 – Front Line Defenders has published its 2017 report which confirms this impression.

Front Line Defenders said female human rights defenders in particular are increasingly reporting “hyper-sexualised smear campaigns and defamation” which aim to limit their activism by eroding local support networks. File photograph: Getty Images

Front Line Defenders said female human rights defenders in particular are increasingly reporting “hyper-sexualised smear campaigns and defamation” which aim to limit their activism by eroding local support networks. File photograph: Getty Images

There were 312 human rights defenders killed in 27 countries last year, according to the new report. Two-thirds of those killed were activists working on issues of land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights, while 80 per cent of killings took place in just four countriesBrazil, Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines. Front Line Defenders said the number of killings remained “truly shocking”, while the “weak response of both national governments and the international community gives little hope that this will change in the short term”. The report outlined that in 84 per cent of killings the defender had previously received a threat.

Andrew Anderson, executive director of Front Line Defenders, said “we know that those killings, in many cases were preventable”. “When we analyse those killings, in 84 per cent, the defendant had previously received a threat, and that highlights if there had been effective action taken by the police or other authorities, there could have been something done to prevent that killing happening.” Mr Anderson added: “These are not random killings of people in crossfire – This is the targeted elimination of people who are working to defend the rights of the most vulnerable.

Front Line Defenders said female human rights defenders in particular are increasingly reporting “hyper-sexualised smear campaigns and defamation” which aim to limit their activism by eroding local support networks.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/resource-publication/annual-report-human-rights-defenders-risk-2017

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/over-300-human-rights-activists-killed-in-2017-says-report-1.3345060

 

2017: a year to forget for human rights defenders – but don’t forget the human rights defenders

December 31, 2017

A bad year for human rights defenders comes to an end and it is fitting to so with drawing your attention (again) to Amnesty International‘s BRAVE campaign which has branded 2017 as a “bad year to be brave”. Since the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in December 1998, at least 3,500 activists have been killed – an average of 180 deaths a year – and the annual death toll shows no sign of diminishing. [e.g. in 2014, Front Line Defenders recorded 136 killings of human rights defenders; in 2016 that number had risen to 281 – and this year is set to be the deadliest year yet – see also my post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/13/stop-the-killings-you-can-help-front-line/].

In the Brave campaign Amnesty highlighted a number of high profile deaths in 2017:

Amnesty warned of a wider “open season” on activists – which has seen alarming numbers of people imprisoned, threatened, beaten and abused in attempts to silence them. [ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/06/amnesty-just-published-major-report-on-human-rights-defenders/]

Better forget this year and put our hope in 2018, but do not forget the human rights defenders themselves who are willing to pay the price as long as we pay attention…

have a good New Year…

Colombia: 2017 marks one year of peace effort but human rights defenders still suffer

December 31, 2017

The Bogotá Post of 24 November 2017 summarizes the situation in the following rather factual manner: “One year since the signing of the peace agreement with the FARC, and – as was to be expected – there have been a number of ups and downs in post-conflict Colombia. But while there are plenty of challenges, there are also a lot of people throughout the country working to address them.”  Re the killing of activists it says:  “The October protest violence in Tumaco was a reminder of the ongoing turbulence in the troubled region, which has the highest amount of coca production in the country. It highlighted both the issues surrounding forced coca eradication and the increased presence of armed groups and paramilitary activities as rival gangs compete to fill the vacuum left by the FARC. CINEP, a peace NGO, identified the presence of Clan Úsuga, Clan del Golfo, Clan Pacífico, La Empresa, Gaitanistas, Gente del Orden, Cártel de Sinaloa and Guerrillas Unidas del Pacífico in the region this year. A number of national and international NGOs have expressed serious concern about the killings of social activists and community leaders. On November 17 the UNHCR expressed growing concern about the increase in murders and threats. According to their figures, there have been 78 deaths this year and 13 suspected murders. In addition, at least 1,500 people have been displaced by threats and violence in 2017, although the report says the number may be higher because people are afraid to report abuses.

What’s being done? A landmark constitutional reform to prohibit neo-paramilitarism has been approved by congress, and recent military strikes targeting these groups have been successful in capturing some of their most influential leaders. Although steps to indict those responsible for killing social leaders have been made (54 indictments so far, according to President Santos), more long-term measures are needed. To that end, the government has established a national commission for security guarantees, but it has been slow to respond to the increasing dangers in affected regions.”

TeleSur reported on 21 December that “earlier today a community leader in Puerto Colombia, Putumayo was murdered along with his eight-year-old daughter. Pablo Oviedo was walking with his daughter and both were ambushed by a group and shot multiple times. The two were rushed to San Francisco de Asis Hospital in Puerto de Asis and declared dead.

Oviedo’s two brothers who are involved in the Human Rights Network in southern Colombia were also declared missing. The tragic death of father and daughter occurred hours after Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas had participated in security council meeting with the purpose of addressing the violence in the southwestern city of Mocoa. Social leaders present at the meeting wore masks to cover their faces in an attempt to avoid being swept away in the wave of violence.”

At least the UK Parliament took notice with “Early day motion 718”: ‘That this House notes with concern the increased risks faced by human rights defenders and community leaders in Colombia since the signing of the peace agreement with the FARC, and in particular the recent killings of land restitution leaders, Mario Castaño Bravo and Hernán Bedoya; is deeply disturbed that according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 78 defenders have been killed in the first 11 months of this year; further notes the vital importance of the work of human rights defenders in Colombia, and elsewhere; and calls on the Government to strengthen its efforts, bilaterally and through the EU, to protect human rights defenders and civil society leaders in Colombia, and to support and monitor the implementation of the peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC.”

http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22215&LangID=E

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/15/jorge-molano-from-colombia-laureate-of-2015-lawyers-for-lawyers-award/

and

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/06/latin-america-philippines-most-dangerous-places-for-human-rights-defenders/

———

https://thebogotapost.com/2017/12/04/pieces-of-peace/

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Murder-of-Colombian-Social-Leader-Highlights-UN-Condemnation-20171221-0020.html

http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/718

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-human-rights-casualties/colombia-rights-activists-facing-danger-u-n-says-idUSKBN1EE2TQ

Remembering women killed fighting for human rights in 2017

December 4, 2017

Source: Remembering women killed fighting for human rights in 2017 | AWID

Honduras, already the deadliest country in the world for environmental defenders, to get deadlier

October 2, 2017

 
Demonstrators protest in the wake of the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Source: Creative Commons / Flickr–PBS NewsHour 

The article describes how activists in Honduras could soon face up to 20 years in prison for simply marching in the streets after Congress passed an article of the new Criminal Code last week that opposition lawmakers claim criminalizes social protest as a form of “terrorism.”…..Human rights defenders have raised alarm over the proposed reform, arguing that the sweeping definition of “terrorism” in the bill leaves activists and social leaders vulnerable to harsh criminalization and violence at the hands of military and police forces. As the piece is long and copyrighted, here just the link.

Earlier posts on Honduras, which is one of the most dangerous in the world for human rights defenders, include: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/07/exceptional-response-from-ngo-world-on-killing-of-berta-caceres/ .

Source: Honduras, the Deadliest Country in the World for Environmental Defenders, Is About to Get Deadlier – Upside Down World

International Nuremberg Human Rights Award for Syrian photographer “Caesar”

October 1, 2017

“’Caesar’ and his colleagues were driven by a desire to ensure that the documented crimes against humanity would not go unpunished. To this end they took great risks upon themselves”, explains the jury statement. “In bestowing the International Nuremberg Human Rights Award on the ‘Caesar’ group, the jury also wishes to highlight the history of Nuremberg as the cradle of modern international criminal law.

When the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, it was “Caesar’s” job to photograph the corpses of Syrian soldiers and opposition forces and to systematically archive the images. He found the work increasingly difficult to bear. “I had never seen anything like it”, he later said in an interview with the French journalist Garance Le Caisne, whose persistence played a major part in ensuring that “Caesar’s” images found their way into the public domain.

“Caesar” decided to act rather than continue documenting in silence: over a period of roughly two years, he secretly copied his photographs onto USB sticks and smuggled them out of the country with the help of friends. His life was constantly at risk as a result.

In January 2014, “Caesar’s” photographs were published on the Internet and found to be “reliable” by an investigative commission of former chief prosecutors of international criminal courts. “Caesar” fled from Syria and by his own account is now living in Europe.

Because his life is still in danger, the photographer was not able to attend the award ceremony at Nuremberg Opera House. Garance Le Caisne accepted the award on his behalf.

Garance Le Caisne
Stadt Nürnberg/Christine Dierenbach

Source: International Nuremberg Human Rights Award for “Caesar”

United Nations’ Andrew Gilmour: HRDs are like “the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced..”

September 22, 2017

Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights (file). UN Photo/Manuel Elias

On 20 September 2017 the UN reported that a  growing number of human rights defenders around the world are facing reprisals and intimidation for cooperating with the United Nations, ranging from travel bans and the freezing of assets to detention and torture, says a new report issued by the world body.

“It is frankly nothing short of abhorrent that, year after year, we are compelled to present cases of intimidation and reprisals carried out against people whose crime – in the eyes of their governments – was to cooperate with UN institutions and mechanisms,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour“We should see these individuals as the canary in the coalmine, bravely singing until they are silenced by this toxic backlash against people, rights and dignity – as a dark warning to us all,” Mr. Gilmour told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as he presented the Secretary-General’s report.

The report, the eighth of its kind, names 29 countries where cases of reprisal and intimidation have been documented; this is higher than the previous highest number of 20. Eleven of the States are current members of the Human Rights Council, a news release pointed out. Some have featured in the annual report on reprisals nearly every year since it was instituted in 2010. [see my earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/23/reprisals-at-the-un-more-calls-for-action-no-action/]

Mr. Gilmour told the Council that the problem was much more widespread than presented in the report. “Since this report is limited to reprisals against people cooperating with the UN, the cases covered in it represent only a small portion of a far more generalized backlash against civil society and others challenging State authorities, especially human rights defenders”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/21/assistant-secretary-general-for-human-rights-andrew-gilmour-speaks-very-freely-at-the-united-nations-association-of-the-usa/]

———

Amnesty International has launched a campaign to publicize what it says is a worsening situation for human rights activists throughout the world. The group hopes its “Brave” campaign will persuade governments to keep the promises they made in United Nations treaties to protect defenders of human rights. The organization Front Line Defenders says 281 people were killed in 2016 for defending human rights. In 2015, the number was 156.

Guadalupe Marengo, head of Amnesty’s Human Rights Defenders Program, told the VOA that “In the current context of us-versus-them, of demonization, of full frontal attack actually I would say on human rights, it is crucial that we take stock and that we call on the authorities to stop these attacks immediately.” …….Amnesty says human rights defenders are arrested, kidnapped and killed around the world. It says they are also attacked using online technology. Surveillance tools are used to study their activity. Marengo says campaigns launched on social media tell lies about the activists in an attempt to cause others to oppose them. “They are accused of being terrorists; they are accused of being criminals, they are accused of defending ‘immorality.’” Amnesty International hopes the “Brave” program will show the worsening situation for human rights activists worldwide.

——–

To underscore the point the NGO CIVICUS made a statement to the same (36th) UN Human Rights Council based on a panel discussion on the rights of indigenous people. 

“I read this statement on behalf of 39 human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on indigenous, land and environmental rights from 29 countries who met in Johannesburg, South Africa from 7-9 August 2017 to discuss strategies to advance the protection of indigenous, land and environmental rights activists. Mr. President, 2016 surpassed 2015 as the deadliest year on record for those stood up against land grabbing, natural resource exploitation and environmental destruction. Worryingly, the number of killed has risen to 200 from 185 in 2016 and spread to several countries across the world.

In the current global climate, where repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly is becoming the norm rather than the exception, environmental and land defenders are particularly vulnerable. When we express concerns over the collusion between States and corporate actors, we face opposition – dissent is stifled and criminalised, and our lives are threatened. Often our work is discredited and we are labelled ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-development’.

When we protest peacefully against this attack on our resources and livelihoods, we face violence from state authorities, private security groups and state-sponsored vigilante groups. When we stand up to defend the rights of our communities, we face unfounded criminal charges, unlawful arrests, custodial torture, threats to life and liberty, surveillance, judicial harassment and administrative hurdles, among other actions.

Mr. President, our families are threatened into silence and many of us have had to make the difficult decision to flee our homes and go into exile, retreating from a fight that has become too dangerous. We need global action to counter the threats we face.

We ask the panellists to urge the Council to emphasise the need for all states to ensure that affected communities are adequately consulted, including securing their full consent prior to the development of infrastructure and extractive industries projects. “

Sources:

United Nations News Centre – Growing number of rights defenders facing reprisals for cooperating with UN

http://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/united-nations/geneva/2953-joint-statement-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/amnesty-human-rights-campaign/3861696.html

9 August: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples – UN experts see increasing murder

August 8, 2017

Ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August 2017, IPS publishes a statement by Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues), Albert K. Barume (chairman of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples). The group of experts warns that he world’s indigenous peoples still face huge challenges a decade after the adoption of an historic declaration on their rights. The killing of environmental defenders has been the topic of several recent reports (see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/15/documenting-the-killings-of-environmental-defenders-guardian-and-global-witness/).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women from Nepal’s indigenous tribe. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

They state that States must put words into action to end discrimination, exclusion and lack of protection illustrated by the worsening murder rate of human rights defenders. The full text of the short statement follows here: Read the rest of this entry »