Posts Tagged ‘killings’

Colombia: 52 activists killed in 3 months

April 29, 2022

In Summary:

• Most of the victims are targeted because they clash with the interests of illegal armed groups, including drug trafficking gangs, according to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman.

• The victims include 28 land rights and community rights activists, nine indigenous activists and four farming activists, Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reports. 

A total of 52 Colombian human rights activists and community leaders have been killed in the first three months of this year, authorities say.

It is a significant increase from 2021, which saw 145 murders all year.

Most of the victims are targeted because they clash with the interests of illegal armed groups, including drug trafficking gangs, according to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman.

The country is one of the world’s most dangerous for activists, monitors say.

The victims include 28 land rights and community rights activists, nine indigenous activists and four farming activists, Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reports. Of the victims, 48 ​​were men and four were women.

One of the most shocking cases was that of Breiner David Cucuñame, a 14-year-old indigenous activist who was shot dead in January while on patrol with an unarmed group that seeks to protect indigenous lands.

Colombia is officially at peace after signing a deal with the largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), in 2016. But other armed gangs continue to operate in the country, the world’s largest cocaine producer.

Violence started increasing towards the end of last year due to disputes over territory and resources involving dissident Farc rebels and members of another Marxist guerrilla group – the National Liberation Army (ELN) – as well as right-wing paramilitary groups and criminal gangs such as the Gulf Clan.

“The homicides against social leaders and human rights defenders seriously affect the foundations of democracy,” said Carlos Camargo, the human rights ombudsman.

https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/world/2022-04-27-colombia-reports-52-activists-killed-in-three-months/

Clean energy will not automatically be good for indigenous land defenders

April 7, 2022

Emily Pontecorvo a reporter for GRIST published on 6 April 2022 a piece about a new report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre which states that the renewable energy sector is unprepared for the protection of land rights defenders.

In April of last year, José de Jesús Robledo Cruz and his wife Maria de Jesús Gomez Vega were found dead in the desert in Sonora, Mexico. In July, Fernando Vela, a doctor in Coqueta, Columbia, was shot to death by two men on a motorcycle while he was in his truck. In September, Juan Macababbad, an attorney in the Philippines was shot dead outside his home.

In each case, the victims were prominent human rights defenders, known in particular for defending their communities’ natural resources from mining, deforestation, water contamination, and other threats. These were just three of at least 76 such murders that occured in 2021. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/02/human-rights-high-commissioner-bachelet-urges-support-for-environmental-defenders/]

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre tracks attacks on people who protest or otherwise raise concerns about business-related human rights abuses. It has documented more than 3,800 attacks, including killings, death threats, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detention, and lawsuits, since January 2015, with 615 occurring in 2021 alone.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/ as well as: https://news.mongabay.com/2022/04/more-than-half-of-activists-killed-in-2021-were-land-environment-defenders/]

Our data shows almost the tip of the iceberg,” Christen Dobson, senior program manager for the BHRRC and an author of the new report. “Many attacks are not publicly reported. And so we know the problem is much more severe than these figures indicate.”

According to the report, human rights defenders who spoke out against mining projects consistently experienced the greatest number of attacks over the past seven years. The authors say this is especially concerning considering the expansion of mineral production required by a transition to clean energy. All those batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines are going to require a lot of cobalt, nickel, zinc, lithium, and other minerals.

We’re already seeing this level of attack, and we’re not seeing major producers of transition minerals have strong policies or practices in place about protecting defenders,” said Dobson. “There’s a real risk there and I think it’s an area that we’re very concerned about.

The report urges investors to publish a human rights policy and require that companies begin disclosing human rights and environmental-related risks. But Dobson said that voluntary actions from companies and investors was not enough. She said there was some momentum building behind mandating that companies report on measures they are taking to respect human rights, including legislation proposed in the European Union and Canada.

“It is concerning to see a vast majority of companies and investors, including major renewable energy companies, do not have policies expressing zero-tolerance against reprisals in their operations, supply chains and business relationships,” said Dobson in a statement. “It’s time for companies and investors to recognise the energy transition cannot be effective if it is not also rights-respecting.”

https://grist.org/international/land-defenders-face-violence-and-repression-clean-energy-could-make-it-worse

Myanmar: one year after the coup – only getting worse

February 2, 2022
A crowd of protesters wearing face masks, holding up an image of a woman, Aung San Suu Kyi.

On 1 February last year, the military seized power over Myanmar/Burma by overturning the election results and detaining State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. The military is still controlling power by force and uses brutal violence against human rights defenders, civil society groups, and journalists in order to silence all forms of protest and dissent. More than 1,500 people have been killed by the military and over 8,000 people have been arrested.

The coup prompted mass protests and more than 1,500 people have been killed by the military. Over 8,000 people have been arrested in the harsh crackdowns. In a series of charges, Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to several years in prison. Most recently, five new corruption charges against her were announced and in all she faces up to 164 years in jail. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/30/rohingya-human-rights-leader-mohibullah-murdered-in-bangladesh-refugee/

Despite the military’s brutal response, people have come together to fight the dictatorship. Nationwide protests, boycotts, strikes, and coordinated civil disobedience movements have taken place. Journalists across the country have continued their work despite severe attacks by the military.  

A new report by Athan looks at how the military coup has affected journalists’ work and press freedom in the country. Throughout the country’s history, military coups have led to severe attacks on press freedom and the 2021 coup is no exception.  Since the launch of the coup, 141 journalists have been arrested and 13 have been sentenced to prison. On 10 December, photojournalists Ko Soe Naing and Ko Zaw Tun were arrested while taking photos of a nationwide silent strike. Ko Soe Naing was tortured to death at the interrogation centre four days later. Just a couple of weeks after that, editor of the Federal Journal, A Sai Kay (Aka) Sai Win Aung, was shot dead by the military in Lay Kay Kaw.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/11/three-democratic-voice-of-burma-journalists-and-two-activists-risk-refoulement-by-thailand/

According to Athan, the attacks on press freedom since the 2021 military coup have been the worst the country has seen.  “Journalists and news media require continuous support to sustain local media and its journalists in order to secure journalists’ careers and their safety, and to enable an environment for journalistic professionals and the industry,” says a representative from Athan about the report. 

On the one-year anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar, the High Representative on behalf of the European Union and the Foreign Ministers of Albania, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have made the following declaration:

….The European Union is deeply concerned by the continuing escalation of violence and the evolution towards a protracted conflict with regional implications. Since the military coup, the situation has continuously and gravely deteriorated. A large part of the population is now in a highly precarious situation, experiencing poverty, food shortages, displacement, and violence. ..

The European Union condemns in the strongest terms continuing grave human rights violations including torture, sexual and gender-based violence, the continued persecution of civil society, human rights defenders, and journalists, attacks on the civilian population, including ethnic and religious minorities by the Myanmar armed forces. Therefore, the EU calls for full accountability of the leaders responsible for the coup as well as of the perpetrators of violence and human rights violations. The EU also reiterates its firm demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners arbitrarily detained in relation to the coup and the return to power of democratically elected leaders.

As a matter of priority, the EU reiterates its calls for an immediate cessation of all hostilities, and an end to the disproportionate use of force and the state of emergency. The military authorities must ensure rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access to all displaced persons and people in need, in all parts of the country. The European Union will continue to provide humanitarian assistance, in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence and reiterates its call for the full and immediate respect of international humanitarian law…

In view of the escalating violence in Myanmar, increased international action is required in line with the already existing EU arms embargo on Myanmar. Since the military coup on 1 February 2021, the EU has imposed targeted sanctions on the Myanmar military, its leaders, and entities. In the absence of any swift progress of the situation in Myanmar, the EU stands ready to adopt further restrictive measures against those responsible for undermining democracy and the serious human rights violations in Myanmar.

It is a failed coup,” said Yanghee Lee, co-founder of the Special Advisory Group on Myanmar and former UN special rapporteur for human rights in the country in a CNN report of 1 February. “The coup has not succeeded in the past year. And that is why they are taking even more drastic measures to finish out the coup.” He reported on problems for human rights defenders already in 2015, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/19/myanmar-backsliding-by-prosecuting-human-rights-defenders-instead-of-perpetrators/

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/01/31/asia/myanmar-coup-anniversary-resistance-junta-intl-hnk-dst/index.html

More killings of journalists in Mexico in 2022

January 31, 2022

Mexican journalist Lourdes Maldonado dedicated her last program to a fellow journalist one day after he was gunned down outside his home, and then she described her own vulnerability covering the violent border city of Tijuana. She blasted Mexico’s corruption and accused a state official of drug ties before telling her viewers she had been under state government protection for eight months. “They take good care of you,” she said on her internet radio and television show called “Brebaje” or “Potion.” “But no one can avoid—not even under police supervision—getting killed outside your house in a cowardly manner.”

Her words eerily predicted her fate. Five days later, Maldonado was shot outside her home at 7 p.m. in the evening. She was the third journalist this year to be killed in Mexico. Their deaths over the span of a month is an unusually high toll in such a short period even in Mexico and drew the largest protest yet over the killings with thousands demonstrating nationwide on Tuesday. The murders have left journalists working in the most dangerous place for their trade in the Western Hemisphere — feeling angry and hopeless. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/24/killing-of-journalists-in-mexico-juan-carlos-morrugares-the-latest-victim/

And just now arrives the news that a fourth journalist has been killed:

Roberto Toledo, a journalist with an online news outlet was preparing to record a video interview Monday when he was shot by assailants, becoming the fourth journalist killed in less than a month in Mexico, the outlet’s director said. Roberto Toledo had just arrived at the law offices of the deputy director of the outlet, Monitor Michoacan, when three armed men shot him, said Monitor director Armando Linares, who had also planned to be there. See: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/nation-world/story/2022-01-31/another-journalist-slain-in-mexico-the-4th-this-month

On Friday, a day after Maldonado’s funeral, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador returned to criticizing the press. He said that his government guarantees free speech but “very few journalists, women and men, are fulfilling their noble duty to inform. Most are looking to see how we fail.”

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, since the current administration began on Dec. 1, 2018, at least 32 journalists have been killed and 15 disappeared, despite a government program to protect them. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/01/19/international-press-institute-in-2021-45-journalists-died-doing-their-work/

“[T]he discrediting by the president is seen by others as permission to attack,” media advocate Leopoldo Maldonado (no relation to Lourdes Maldonado) says. Leopoldo Maldonado’s anger is shared by many in Mexico, as frustration and grief over their ever-growing number of dead peers pushes journalists to call for change. And despite promises by politicians like A.M.L.O., the government can do much more than conduct a simple investigation, because the inaction of the Mexican government is at the heart of the issue. Journalist violence isn’t solely the result of powerful cartels. Rather, journalist violence in Mexico is symptom of poor government policy, which creates dangerous social conditions, fails to hold perpetrators of violence accountable or build systems that protect journalists, and both directly and indirectly creates policies that hinder journalists.

On top of this on 28 January 2022 Mexican anti-femicide activist Ana Luisa Garduno Juarez was found dead by local authorities of southern Morelos state of Mexico in the early hours of Friday. Police reports said that a call was placed over gunfire inside a bar in Morelos’ Temixco city, on Thursday night. By the time authorities arrived, Garduno was found dead suffering gunshot wounds on her body. in this context, see also: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/01/dignified-justice-women-human-rights-defenders-mexico/

https://www.bakersfield.com/ap/national/slain-mexican-reporter-described-vulnerability-in-last-show/article_32e45eed-8bb4-5207-b020-6501f9ee82d1.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/annihilating-journalism-mexican-reporters-work-attacks-killings-rcna14196

https://www.yenisafak.com/en/world/anti-femicide-activist-murdered-in-mexico-3588570

https://www.jurist.org/news/2022/02/amnesty-international-sounds-alert-over-20-human-rights-defenders-4-journalists-killed-in-january/

And see recent: https://www.jurist.org/news/2022/04/violence-against-journalists-in-mexico-increased-exponentially-under-current-administration/

Conservation deaths in 2021 – you can help

January 19, 2022

Mongabay.com on 30 December 2021 made a tentative list of deaths of environmental human rights defenders

  • Between the pandemic, natural disasters worsened by human activities, and violence against environmental defenders, 2021 was another year of significant losses in conservation.
  • The following is a list of some of the deaths that occurred in 2021 that were notable to the conservation sector.

On 10 January 2022, the following shocking addition can already be made: 14-year old Breiner David Cucuame – who was part of Cauca Self-Defense Groups, a territory contested by drug traffickers and other illegal groups – was murdered on Friday 14 January. The killer El Indio is a defector from the former guerrilla FARC [https://hardwoodparoxysm.com/brenner-david-kokonami-indigenous-activist-murdered-at-age-14-in-colombia-corriere-it/]

This list acknowledges some of the deaths in 2021 that are significant to the broader conservation community. In case Mongabay missed a death that occurred in 2021 that’s notable in conservation, it asks to reach out via this form.

  • 6 Congolese rangers: Six Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) rangers working at Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were killed in an ambush by a local militia group in January. They were: SuruMwe Burhani Abdou, 30; Alexis Kamate Mundunaenda, 25; Reagan Maneno Kataghalirwa, 27; Eric Kibanja Bashekere, 28; Innocent Paluku Budoyi, 28; and Prince Nzabonimpa Ntamakiriro, 27. More.
  • Ann Croissant, 81 (United States): An environmental activist, educator, and botanist who worked to protect native plants like Brodiaea filifolia in California’s San Gabriel Mountains via the Glendora Community Conservancy, which she founded in 1991. More.
  • Aruká Juma, 88 (Brazil). Aruká Juma, the last of the Juma people in Brazil, died of Covid-19. More.
  • Bob Scholes, 63 (South Africa). A professor of systems ecology at Wits who served as the Director of the Global Change Institute (GCI) and was one of the world’s leading scientists on climate change. More
  • Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, 99 (Canada): The landscape architect sometimes known as the ‘Queen of Green’, Oberlander embraced sustainable design before it was fashionable and was an advocate for rewilding. More.
  • Dave Courchene Jr., 71 (Canada): A Manitoba elder also known by his spirit names Nitamabit and Nii Gaani Aki Inini, Courchene Jr. founded the Turtle Lodge Centre of Excellence in Indigenous Education and Wellness to “exchange intergenerational knowledge, revitalize language, train youth leaders and find environmental solutions to climate change.”. More.
  • David Wake, 84 (United States). An authority on salamanders who grew alarmed by the disappearance of many amphibians. Wake founded AmphibiaWeb. More.
  • Deb Abrahamson, 66 (United States): An Indigenous environmental activist who campaigned against mining pollution and uranium contamination on Indigenous lands. Abrahamson was active in the Standing Rock protests and the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women coalition.. More.
  • Debra Ann Jacobson, 69 (United States): A lawyer and environmentalist who helped cofound the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment and served in leadership roles in the local and state Sierra Club groups. Jacobson spent nearly 20 years working on clean energy and other issues at the U.S. Department of Energy. More.
  • Dongria Kondh or Penny Eastwood, 65 (United Kingdom): A founding member of Treesponsibility and founder of The Source Partnership, Kondh spent 30 years working to slow climate change through tree planting and other initiatives. More.
  • Edward O. Wilson, 92 (United States). A prominent biologist and prolific author who help raise global awareness and understanding about biodiversity and conservation. Lovejoy is credited with coining the term “biological diversity”, developing the concept of “debt-for-nature” swap programs, and being one of the earliest to sound the alarm about the global extinction crisis. While Wilson’s research on ants was highly influential in scientific circles and won numerous recognitions, he was mostly widely known for his accessible writing, including articles and best-selling books which introduced concepts like biodiversity to the masses. More.
  • Elsie Herring, 73 (United States): An environmental activist who sued a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods in 2014 for pollution from their industrial hog farms eventually winning a $550 million judgement in 2018 (which was later reduced to $98 million). More.
  • Estela Casanto Mauricio, 55 (Peru). A human rights defender who founded the Asháninka community of Shankivironi in the Perené valley of Junín in Peru. Mauricio was murdered in March 2021. More.
  • Francisco “Paco” Javier Valverde Esparza, 48 (Mexico). A conservationist who dedicated his life to protect the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise and most threatened marine mammal. He died of COVID-19. More.
  • Gonzalo “Gonza” Cardona Molina, 55 (Colombia): A conservation biologist who worked to protect the yellow-eared parrot and other critically parrots in the Colombian Andes. Cardona was murdered in January while doing a bird count. More.
  • Greg Lasley, 71 (United States). Wildlife photographer and naturalist who served in leadership role in several ornithology organizations and published dozens of articles on birds. More.
  • Guillermo Guerra, 60 (Peru). A logistics specialist at Project Amazonas and Margarita Tours. He died of COVID-19. More.
  • Ian Lemaiyan, 31 (Kenya). A rhino conservationist and anti-poaching patrol pilot who died in a plane crash in February 2021.More.
  • Javiera Rojas, 43 (Chile): A Chilean environmental activist who opposed dams was foundered murdered in Calama city. More.
  • Jene McCovey, 69 (United States): A Yurok elder who was a fierce advocate for Indigenous rights, environmental rights, and social justice. McCovey played an important role in taking down the Klamath Dams and protecting the Headwaters Forest from logging. More.
  • Jesús Choc Yat, 57 (Guatemala). A Mayan spiritual guide who was found dead with signs of torture. More.
  • Karapiru AWA, 70s (Brazil). After a violent ambush that killed most of his family in the Brazilian Amazon, Karapiru wandered the forests of eastern Brazil for a decade alone. Karapiru later became a holder of traditional knowledge and an activist for Indigenous rights in Brazil. He died of COVID-19. More.
  • LaFanette Soles-Woods, 63 (United States): An environmental justice activist who fought pollution from landfills near her community in Florida. More.
  • Paul J. Crutzen, 87 (Germany). A meteorologist and atmospheric chemist who won the Nobel Prize in 1995 for his work the formation and decomposition of atmospheric ozone, including the effects of chlorofluorocarbon chemicals (CFCs). Crutzen popularized the term Anthropocene to describe the our current epoch where humanity has a substantial impact on the planet. More.
  • Pentti Linkola, 87 (Finland). Founder of the Finnish Nature Heritage Foundation which works to preserve the few ancient forests still left in southern Finland. More.
  • Peter Gorrie, 71 (Canada): An environmental journalist who reported on Canadian tar sands and other issues for multiple newspapers in Canada. More.
  • Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 99 (United Kingdom). The husband of Queen Elizabeth II who was the royal consort from 1952 until his death in 2021. Philip was an avid conservationist, helping found the Australian Conservation Foundation in 1963 and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1961. He went on to serve as President of WWF-UK from 1961 to 1982 and President of WWF International from 1981 to 1996. More.
  • Rafael “Rafa” Gallo (Costa Rica). A prominent figure in the world’s river rafting community, Gallo founded Rios Tropicales in 1985 and became defender of the free-flowing Pacuare River against efforts to dam the popular whitewater river. Gallo also established the International Rafting Federation and was Board Chair at the International Whitewater Hall Of Fame. More.
  • Rizki Wahyudi, 25 (Indonesia). A forest ranger at Mount Palung National Park in West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, Wahyudi was killed in the Sriwijaya plane crash off Java in January 2021. More.
  • Rory Young (Zambia). The co-founder and CEO of Chengeta Wildlife was killed in an ambush on patrol in Burkina Faso in April 2021. More.
  • Sharon Begley, 64 (United States). Science journalist for the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and Reuters. More.
  • Sharon Matola, 66 (Belize): The biologist, environmentalist, and zookeeper who founded the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center. Matola was sometimes known as the “Jane Goodall of jaguars” and the “Jane Goodall of Belize. More.
  • Shirley McGreal, 87 (United States): Founder of the International Primate Protection League who campaigned to prevent wildlife trafficking. More.
  • Solomon Chidunuka (Zambia). Senior Wildlife Warden who oversaw the North Luangwa Area Management Unit, Zambia’s only area protecting black rhino. Solomon was a Tusk Conservation Award winner. More.
  • Sunderlal Bahuguna, 94 (India). An environmentalist best known for leading Chipko movement in the 1970s and the anti-Tehri dam Movement in the 1990s. Bahuguna inspired a generation of environmentalists. He died of COVID-19. More.
  • Tom Lovejoy, 80 (United States). A prominent and influential conservation biologist who helped catalyze a global movement to save life on Earth as we know it. Lovejoy is credited with coining the term “biological diversity”, developing the concept of “debt-for-nature” swap programs, and being one of the earliest to sound the alarm about the global extinction crisis. More.

Groups like the The Thin Green Line Foundation, The International Ranger Federation and The Game Rangers’ Association of Africa keep tallies on conservation and wildlife rangers who have died, including the Ranger Roll of Honor.

69 NGOs address worsening situation in Eswatini

July 22, 2021

On 21 July 2021 FIDH and many other NGOs addressed an open letter to the Government of Eswatini and the international community:

We, the undersigned 69 civil society organisations, are deeply concerned about the eruption of state violence in Eswatini. We stand in solidarity with the people of Eswatini in condemning the government’s violent repression of mass protests demanding democracy and economic justice.

We support the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s call urging the authorities to fully adhere to human rights principles and reminding them that peaceful protests are protected under international human rights law. We call on the Government of Eswatini to immediately cease its brutal crackdown against civilians, restore and maintain internet access, and engage in inclusive dialogue with pro-democracy groups and politicians.

We call on the international community, including the United Nations, African Union, Southern African Development Community, and individual governments, to demand that the Government of Eswatini respect human rights, allow a thorough, independent investigation of who authorised violence against protesters, including shoot to kill orders, and support a peaceful transition to a democratic form of government.

Reports out of Eswatini indicate that, since late June, the army and police forces have killed dozens of unarmed civilians and injured around 1,000 people, including by shooting indiscriminately at and wounding protesters. The government has reportedly imprisoned hundreds of people, many of them young people, and shut down internet access across the country for several weeks, which Amnesty International calls “a brazen violation of the rights to freedom of expression and information.” Reports further indicate that security
forces have sought to intimidate human rights defenders and activists with unlawful surveillance, imposed a curfew, and restricted public gatherings and petition deliveries to the government. This political crisis caused by state-sponsored violence risks creating a humanitarian crisis, as hospitals struggle to treat the influx of people injured by security forces, food and fuel supplies become limited, and people’s movement and ability to conduct basic commerce is restricted.

Specifically, we lend our support to the demands of civil society organisations, political organisations, and people’s movements within Eswatini calling for a long-term resolution to the current political crisis through an inclusive political dialogue, the total unbanning of political parties, a transitional authority, new democratic Constitution, and a multiparty democratic dispensation.In the immediate term, we join democracy defenders in Eswatini in the following demands, calling for action from the Government of Eswatini to cease violence, restore and maintain communications services, and provide urgently needed humanitarian support:

● The immediate cessation of the killing of civilians and the return of the army to the
barracks;

● The immediate restoration of civic services such as the rapid issuing of death
certificates for those killed in the past days;

● Mandatory independent pathologists to conduct post-mortems on the deceased;

● Urgent humanitarian support to the affected families, workers and citizens who
need basic necessities such as food, sanitary towels, baby food, etc.

● The provision of direct financial support to resuscitate affected small and medium
enterprises;

● The full and permanent restoration of internet and communication services and
peoples’ right to freedom of expression; and

● The urgent availability of vaccines to all emaSwati and the end of unnecessary
lockdowns.

As the Government of Eswatini, Africa’s only remaining absolute monarchy, violates the human rights of residents, suppresses freedom of speech and assembly, and jails young people for demanding a brighter future, the international community cannot remain silent.

We call on partners in international civil society, regional governmental bodies, and diplomats to join us in amplifying the demands of the Eswatini people and seeking the protection of people’s human rights.

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/Africa/swaziland-eswatini-civilian-killings-must-stop-now

Goldman Prize laureates express concern about colleague Alberto Curamil in Chile

July 3, 2021
Alberto Curamil. (Vicente Franco/Water For Life)

In the Washington Post of 1 July 2021, Craig Williams and Alfred Brownell (winners of the Goldman Prize in 2006 and 2019 respectively) wrote: He has worked to protect the Earth. Now we must protect him.”

As environmental activists and human rights defenders, we are alarmed by a spike in violent attacks on and killings of land rights activists across the globe and, most recently, in Latin America. The latest in this disturbing trend is a violent assault on Alberto Curamil, a leader of the Indigenous Mapuche people in southern Chile and an activist working to protect his people’s land, water and other resources. As we write, we fear Alberto could become the latest casualty in a global war against Earth’s front-line protectors. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/4f845ff0-86d2-4b12-97af-1590f6ba8602]

On April 29, Alberto was attending a protest along with his son andnephew, both teenagers. They were there to show support for Elena Paine, another Mapuche leader, and her community a day after her house and crops in Koyam Montre were burned to the ground. Alberto, Paine and members of the Machupe community believe that the threat may have come from far-right-wing groups in the area.

As Alberto and his teenage relatives were driving away from the protest, the back window of their truck was shattered by a tear-gas canister. When they got out of the vehicle, police shot Alberto at point-blank range three times with buckshot, which lodged in his back, side, arm and the back of his leg. Then, police beat the teens with batons while yelling “Pinche Mapuche” (“Lousy Mapuche”). The three were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct at a public event and breach of sanitary provisions. Alberto was taken to a hospital three hours after being brought into custody, bleeding and in excruciating pain. The teens were bruised, battered and traumatized.

This was not the first time Alberto had been a target of the Chilean government. In 2018, he was arrested and jailed for 15 months on false charges of armed robbery based entirely on hearsay evidence. He was acquitted of all charges and released in December 2019. Due to his imprisonment, he had been unable to receive the Goldman Prize — known as the “green Nobel” — at ceremonies in April and May 2019 in D.C. and San Francisco. He was previously arrested after being violently beaten by police in 2014.

Our alarm has led us, along with several dozen of our fellow Goldman Prize winners from across the globe, to demand assurances from Chilean President Sebastián Piñera that Alberto’s safety will be given the highest priority. We are also seeking support through appeals to the U.S. Congress, the European Union and the United Nations.

We believe time is of the essence, especially given the broader context of violence against those who stand up to protect the Earth. In 2016, the internationally celebrated Honduran Indigenous activist and Goldman Prize winner Berta Cáceres was murdered by operatives for the power company Desarrollos Energéticos (Desa) for her opposition to a hydroelectric project on the Rio Gualcarque. Seven men accused of plotting Cáceres’s murder were convicted and sentenced to between 30 and 50 years in prison. An eighth suspect, Roberto David Castillo Mejía, president and chief executive of Desa, is currently on trial, accused of masterminding the murder-conspiracy plot.

In its latest report, Global Witness recorded the highest number of environmental defenders killed in a single year — more than 212 people killed in 2019, a rate of four a week. More than two-thirds of the killings took place in Latin America. [see also: Global]

The killings of and assaults on Earth’s defenders worldwide have accelerated in some of the most fragile pristine landscapes and biodiverse countries, jeopardizing the fight against climate change and species extinction. In Mexico, police are investigating the suspicious killings of two employees at a butterfly reserve in 2020. That same month, six members of an Indigenous community were killed at a nature reserve in Nicaragua. And in South Africa, environmental activist Fikile Ntshangase was killed last year in an attack local activists fear was related to her opposition to disruptive local mining operations.

In Chile, Indigenous communities’ push for human rights go hand in hand with their struggle for land and water rights, as government-backed companies try to run them off their land with threats, harassment and violence.

Attacks on environmental defenders in Latin America and worldwide are not only an affront to human rights, but also a cause for deep alarm at a time when the world must fight climate change and bring about a sustainable future. We are demanding that the Chilean government take immediate steps to stop these aggressive and often deadly attacks on the Mapuche community. There should also be a thorough, independent investigation into the destruction of Paine’s home.

We must act against this brutality, or we threaten the fight for a planet in crisis.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/01/alberto-curamil-chile-environmental-defender-safety/

William Zabel Human Rights Award 2021 to Philippines NGO Karapatan

May 27, 2021

Human Rights First announced that it will present Karapatan, Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, with its annual William D. Zabel Human Rights Award in recognition of its commitment to human rights in the Philippines. For more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/984CA015-FE02-4992-8AED-4EB1AEC7D0EE

Karapatan is a Philippines-based alliance of human rights organizations, programs, committees, and individual advocates that have been at the forefront of the struggle for human rights in the country since 1995. 

Human Rights First has tremendous respect and admiration for Karapatan and the work done by Tinay Palabay,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First. “They are human rights defenders whom the government of Philippines regularly targets, and we hope this award, and our ongoing partnership, helps shine a bright light on their efforts and shields them from additional threats.”

With more than forty member organizations and sixteen regional chapters across the country, Karapatan addresses extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, political prisoners and militarization all across the Philippines. The Alliance helps organize mass actions that expose human rights violations and challenge State policies and actions that promote the culture of impunity.

Karapatan documents human rights violations through fact-finding missions; files cases through courts, even quasi-judicial bodies like the Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations, and other international human rights bodies. It also refers victims to medical professionals and groups for psycho-social and additional assistance; and organizes victims of human rights violations and their families.

It also monitors peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the nation’s adherence to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and other agreements.

Fifteen human rights workers of Karapatan have been killed in the past five years, nearly 70 since 2001, and many more are imprisoned or are facing judicial harassment and threats because of their work in defending human rights,” said Tinay Palabay of Karapatan. “This recognition is an homage to their memory and legacy of selflessness, compassion and service to the poor and oppressed and we continue to honor them every day as we do the best that we can in advocacy, documentation, direct services and movement-building in the Philippines.”

Human Rights First and Karapatan are currently working on a pilot project testing “Digital Shield,” an application that tracks threats of violence and harassment made against the organization and its members online. 

For last year’s award: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/07/human-rights-first-to-present-saudi-organization-alqst-with-william-d-zabel-human-rights-award/

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-present-philippines-organization-karapatan-william-d-zabel-human

Journalists and HRDs pay the price of authoritarian impunity

May 6, 2021

Regan Ralph on 2 May 2021, in Open Democracy, writes: “When authoritarians get a free pass, activists pay the price”. It is a rich piece.

Much ink has been spilled about US president Joe Biden’s non-response to the confirmation by US intelligence services that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman directed the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018. Most of it, like Joseph S. Nye, Jr.’s recent article ‘Biden and Human Rights’, focuses on the political consequences.

The real price of authoritarian impunity, however, is paid by the victims. Pulled punches – like refusing to sanction the crown prince – endanger the lives of brave individuals standing up for democratic values. If the Biden administration is to deliver on its promise to “stand firm behind our commitments to human rights, democracy, [and] the rule of law”, it must make protecting the lives of activists a priority.

In 2020, 50 journalists were killed worldwide. For activists and advocates, the numbers are even grimmer – at least 331 human rights defenders in 25 countries were murdered. Countless others were detained, beaten, and threatened with worse. Women, especially, are singled out for sexualized violence and harassment. And the number of human rights activists killed, harassed, or thrown in jail is steadily rising. According to UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders Mary Lawlor, 1,300 peaceful activists were murdered between 2015 and 2019.

Like journalists, frontline activists are targeted by the powerful institutions they publicly criticize. Last month marked five years since the murder of Honduran environmental justice advocate Berta Caceres. She was gunned down in her home on the night of 2 March 2016, after a years-long campaign of harassment and intimidation. Caceres was killed because of her peaceful struggle against the Agua Zarca dam project, which threatens the land and livelihoods of indigenous Lenca communities in western Honduras. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/berta-caceres/]

Investigations into Caceres’s murder indicated an elaborate web of co-conspirators, including high-level government officials, former military personnel, and top executives at Desarrollos Energeticos SA (DESA)—the company building the dam. Seven men, hired by DESA executives, were convicted in 2018 for Caceres’s murder. DESA’s president, a former military intelligence officer, will stand trial next month. He is indicted as the “intellectual author” of the assassination.

These brutal murders are tragedies. They also reveal the costs incurred when we indulge authoritarians as they crack down on voices of dissent.

Not long ago, it seemed that the price of oppression was on the rise. There was a growing consensus that brutal, autocratic actions would isolate a country from the international community. Powerful actors on the world stage, including the US State Department, could and did support the right of independent voices to criticize abuses of power and call for accountability.

Then the new authoritarians came to power. In countries across the world, illiberal and autocratic strongmen granted each other the gift of impunity and permission to silence critics without consequence. Human rights advocates watched with grim resignation as former president Donald Trump’s administration excused gross rights violations and embraced abusive regimes.

Existential threats to human rights activism are not theoretical; they grow more concrete and specific every day

The now-defunct International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), for example, was established in 2006 with political and financial support from the United States and the United Nations. It scored groundbreaking victories against corrupt and abusive political and military figures. In 2015, Joe Biden, then US vice-president, helped keep the CICIG alive while the then Guatemalan president Perez Molina – later imprisoned on corruption charges – tried to shut it down. But in 2019, when the Guatemalan government dismantled the CICIG, there was nary a peep from Washington.

Existential threats to human rights activism are not theoretical; they grow more concrete and specific every day. As the Trump administration turned a blind eye, the Egyptian government cracked down on critics, harassing or jailing thousands of activists and journalists. Local advocates say President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been emboldened by the lack of consequences over his government’s flagrant disregard for human rights.

Civil society activists are vulnerable wherever they live and travel. Khashoggi’s murder shows the lengths to which an unchecked authoritarian will go to silence critics. This is what happens when heavyweight governments like the United States abdicate their moral leadership—frontline advocates everywhere in the world pay the price. It is unfathomably cruel to valorize the bravery of human rights advocates on the one hand and refuse to hold their murderers accountable on the other.

US leadership should offer the kind of moral suasion that will effectively counter and curtail attacks on human rights defenders. Others, including Khashoggi’s own colleagues at The Washington Post, have outlined the immediate actions Biden can take to hold Saudi Arabia’s crown prince accountable. But beyond sanctions for egregious violations, the Biden administration must do more to proactively support the thousands of courageous individuals who risk their lives to promote democracy and justice.

First, the administration should consistently apply the human rights norms it espouses—at home and abroad. Second, it must lend political and, where appropriate, financial support to those building democratic movements and institutions, especially when their efforts are attacked. Last, it should explore the creation of a novel global security compact, following the collective protection model pioneered by local activists. The safety of human rights defenders anywhere is the concern of governments everywhere, and policymakers must take measures to ensure that all civil society actors can carry out their vital work in safety.

The schoolyard teaches us that bullies don’t back down when they get what they want; instead, they demand more. It’s time to stand up to autocratic bullies and hold them accountable for their actions. The lives of countless brave activists may depend on it.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/when-authoritarians-get-free-pass-activists-pay-price/

Philippines killings continue and de Lima stays in jail

March 9, 2021

Human rights groups called on the Philippine government to investigate what they said was the use of “lethal force” during police raids on Sunday that left at least nine activists dead. The raids in four provinces south of Manila resulted in the death of an environmental activist as well as a coordinator of left-wing group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, among others, and resulted in the arrest of four others, activist groups said.

These raids appear to be part of a coordinated plan by the authorities to raid, arrest, and even kill activists in their homes and offices,” Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said in a statement.

These incidents, he said, were “clearly part of the government’s increasingly brutal counter-insurgency campaign“. “The fundamental problem is (that) this campaign no longer makes any distinction between armed rebels and noncombatant activists, labour leaders, and rights defenders.” The United Nations has warned in a report that “red-tagging”, or labelling people and groups as communists or terrorists, and incitement to violence have been rife in the Southeast Asian nation.

The Philippines government should act now to investigate the use of lethal force in these raids, stop the mayhem and killings that has gone hand in hand with the practice of red-tagging,” Robertson said.

Sunday’s raids, which human rights group Karapatan condemned, came two days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the police and military to “kill” communist rebels and “ignore human rights”.

“Nothing could be more apt than calling this day a ‘Bloody Sunday,’” Karapatan’s Cristina Palabay said.

Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade, head of an anti-rebel task force, told Reuters the raids were “legitimate law enforcement operations”, and authorities acted on the basis of search warrants for possession of firearms and explosives.

“As usual these groups are so quick in assuming that the subjects were activists and that they were killed. If (the) motive was to kill them they should all be dead but there were those who did not resist arrest so they were collared,” Parlade told Reuters in a phone message. — Reuters

In the meantime on 7 March 2021 Rappler.com reported that UK lawmakers called for release of jailed Duterte critic De Lima

Senator De Lima’s prosecution appears to have set the pattern for silencing of President Duterte’s opponents,’ write 27 UK parliamentarian as she entered her 5th year in jail, her office said Sunday, March 7. https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/35cd51c0-93fb-11e8-b157-db4feecb7a6f

Signatories include Rt Hon Dame Diana Johnson, MP (chair, All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group), Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Harriett Baldwin MP, Paul Blomfield MP, Tracy Brabin MP, Lyn Brown MP, and Dawn Butler MP, according to the Office of Senator Leila de Lima.

President Duterte’s self-styled ‘war on drugs’ has seen an estimated 30,000 extra-judicial killings – along with increased targeting of journalists and human rights defenders, and the undermining of judicial independence,” they added.

A Muntinlupa court on Friday, March 5, dismissed her second drug case appeal, even as she was earlier acquitted in another case. A third case against her is pending before another court.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/world/rights-groups-call-for-investigation-into-killings-of-philippine-activists-221956

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/03/08/bloody-sunday-left-activists-labor-leaders-executed-philippines-after-duterte-says

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/03/1086782

https://www.rappler.com/nation/uk-lawmakers-call-for-release-duterte-critic-leila-de-lima