Posts Tagged ‘land rights defender’

Seven more land rights defenders killed in Guatemala in a single month

June 13, 2018

The seven people killed in the last four weeks were all involved in defending their communities’ land, territory or the environment, and they were all members of the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA) or the Altiplano Campesino Committee (CCDA). The wave of attacks began on 9 May, when CODECA coordinator Luis Arturo Marroquín, 47, was shot dead by unidentified assailants in San Luis Jilotepeque. The next day, CCDA member José Can Xol, 37, was also shot to death by unidentified assailants in Choctún Basilá in the municipality of Cobán.

On 13 May, 31-year-old Mateo Chamám Paau, another CCDA member, was found dead in San Juan Tres Ríos, also part of Cobán. He had previously been threatened because of his activism. Then, on 30 May, two men attacked Ramón Choc Sacrab, an Indigenous Q’echí’ leader and regional CCDA leader in Ixloq San Pedrito, Cobán. He died two days later from the injuries sustained to his throat and face. On 4 June, the CODECA community leaders Florencio Pérez Nájera, 42, and Alejandro Hernández García, 40, were found dead in the southern Jutiapa region shortly after attending a community meeting. Their bodies bore machete wounds. Four days later, 68-year-old Francisco Munguia, another CODECA community leader, was also hacked to death by assailants with machetes in Guatemala’s Jalapa region.

To date, no one has been arrested or charged in connection with these killings, which have occurred within a context of extreme violence, including threats, attacks and smear campaigns to demonize human rights defenders. President Jimmy Morales has referred to CODECA using stigmatizing and defamatory language in recent weeks, thus contributing to the atmosphere of hostility and violence against its members. The Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), a non-governmental organization, documented 493 attacks against human rights defenders in 2017, and there have already been 12 killings this year. Those working on rights related to land, territory and the environment are among the most commonly targeted.

The ray of hope I signaled recently [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/25/ray-of-hope-2-guatemala-and-impunity/], turned out be just a ray. On 16 January 2018 Cargill’s withdrawal sendt an important signal to the palm oil industry, and set an important precedent for environmental and social accountability. “However, it brings with it real concern for ongoing repression,”​ said Jeff Conant, Senior International Forests Program Director for Friends of the Earth. “Unfortunately, land defenders continue to be under threat, and companies that have profited from activities in the region have a responsibility to prevent these threats.”​

2018: Latin America still the graveyard for environmental human rights defenders

April 28, 2018

This blog has on several occasions drawn attention to reports that show that Latin America is among the deadliest places to be a human rights defender [e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/06/latin-america-philippines-most-dangerous-places-for-human-rights-defenders/]. An infographic – published on 27 March 2018 by Latin America Press – summarises criminalization of land & environmental rights defenders in Latin America.

 
http://www.lapress.org/objetos/informe/48PI_criminalization-defenders-of-the-land.pdf
In 2016/17 an Amnesty International team took two trips to Peru and one to Paraguay and spoke with representatives of 10 human rights groups in Peru and 14 in Paraguay. AI concludes that environmental leaders are under constant threat. Authorities in Paraguay and Peru are unjustly criminalizing activists who speak out to protect their environment and land, an Amnesty International report released Thursday revealed. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/27/alarming-criminalisation-of-human-rights-defenders-in-latin-america/]

The report, A Recipe for Criminalization: Defenders of the Environment, Territory and Land in Peru and Paraguay, outlined the three “ingredients” both countries use to undermine the efforts of human rights defenders. First, they delegitimize activists through smear campaigns. Second, they apply laws and regulations that allow for forced evictions. And, third, they misuse the criminal justice system to prosecute activists for unfounded reasons.

Those who bravely stand up to defend their land and the environment are frequently targeted because of their work. These attacks have a devastating impact on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as that of their families and communities,” Amnesty International Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas said in a press release.

The report included examples of how these ingredients combine on the ground. For example, Amnesty International highlighted the case of community activists working to protect their home in Peru’s Cajamarca region from the gold and copper Conga mining project. On 26 April 2013, police arrested 16 protesters on trumped up charges of abduction and coercion. The state prosecutor sought 30-year prison sentences. But the evidence presented was secondhand and so spotty and contradictory that a court dismissed the case in 2017.

In Paraguay, the Tekoha Sauce community of the Avá Guaraní People was evicted from their ancestral lands by a court order following a dispute with local businessman German Hultz. The community was forced onto a nature reserve where they struggle to survive because hunting and fishing is not allowed. During the court proceedings leading up to the eviction, their opponents stigmatized the indigenous community by referring to them as a “gang of criminals.”

On 24 April 2018, Front Line reported that on 19 April 2018, Olivia Arévalo Lomas, a woman human rights defender and spiritual leader of the Shipibo-Konibo indigenous peoples, was killed by unknown assailants just a few feet from her home in the community of ‘Victoria Gracia’, in Peru. The defender was shot in the chest and died instantly. Her body was left on the street in full view of her local community (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/olivia-arevalo).  The killing of Olivia Arévalo Lomas comes after a spike in violence, threats and intimidation against members of FECONAU communities in Ucayalí, such as Santa Clara de Uchunya. In the past six months, several members of FECONAU have been subjects of attacks. A representative of FECONAU, Edinson Mahua, was shot at close range and narrowly escaped serious injury, while community leaders in Ucayalí have received anonymous death threats. 

In the meantime Colombia has seen a spike in assassinations of human rights defenders in 2018, according to study by Colombian NGO Somos DefensoresA total of 46 human rights leaders have been killed so far this year, up from 26 in the same period last year; paramilitary groups were responsible for three of the killings, four were murdered by guerrilla groups and another four were killed at the hands of security forces. The investigative body also recognized a total of 132 acts of aggression against public defenders so far this year. Of the registered acts, there were 12 attacks, 66 death threats and one case of forced disappearance. The provinces in which the aggression occurred were predominately in areas at the heart of the country’s conflict, with Cauca, Antioquia and Norte de Santander figuring heavily in the statistics.

The UN has said it is “extremely concerned” about the increase in violence surrounding social leaders while Inspector General Fernando Carrillo has “urged” authorities to “assume their commitments to defend the lives of social leaders.” While the government has attempted to reel in the varying armed criminal groups responsible for a lot of these acts — as seen with the 2016 peace deal with the FARC guerrilla organisation, and ongoing peace negotiations with the ELN rebel group — it has clearly failed to provide basic security, and protect human rights defenders, rural community leaders and other social activists.

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https://www.ecowatch.com/environmental-activists-amnesty-international-2563882266.html

https://reliefweb.int/report/peru/recipe-criminalization-defenders-environment-territory-and-land-peru-and-paraguay

https://colombiareports.com/killing-of-human-rights-leaders-in-colombia-more-than-doubles-study/

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latin-america-infographic-summarises-criminalization-of-land-environmental-rights-defenders-in-the-region

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

 

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/

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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

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 »

Interview with human rights defender Victor Nanklan Touré of Ivory Coast (in French)

February 13, 2017

Victor Nanklan Touré is the president of NGO ‘Club Union Africaine Côte d’Ivoire’ which is mainly working on statelessness and land issues. A human rights advocate for over 15 years he participated in the civil society training organised in Banjul from 15 to 16 October 2016 by ISHR, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies. On this occasion he presented his work to ISHR and shared a message towards African political leaders.

The interview mentioned above is unfortunately only available in French.

Front Line launches its 2016 Report on Human Rights Defenders at Risk

January 9, 2017

 

After a short break, this blog resumes its job of selecting and summarizing events related to Human Rights Defenders. 2016 was a horrible year for HRDs and the launch of the annual report of Front Line Defenders confirms this by reporting that “more than 1000 human rights defenders were killed, harassed, detained, or subjected to smear campaigns and other violations in 2016″.

Download the Report

According to the report, 281 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries, 49 percent of whom were defending land, indigenous and environmental rights. Front Line Defenders found that in the vast majority of cases, killings were preceded by warnings, death threats and intimidation which, when reported to police, were routinely ignored. In addition to killings, over half of the cases reported by Front Line Defenders in 2016 concerned criminalisation, a tactic which the organisation calls “the first choice of governments to silence defenders and to dissuade others”.

For other post on Front Line last year, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/category/front-line/page/4/

Joan Carling – indigenous land rights defender from the Philippines

November 2, 2016

On 1 November 2016 the Reuter Thompson Foundation published an article on a woman human rights defender, Joan Carling, under the title “Malaria, murder and occupational hazards of indigenous activists in the Philippines“.

Joan Carling, a prominent indigenous rights defender from the Kankanaey tribe of the northern Philippines’ Cordillera region. Photo Reuters

A little over a decade ago, indigenous activist Joan Carling from the Philippines Cordillera region lost three colleagues in the space of a few years – all murdered in one of the world’s deadliest countries for land rights defenders. Then came her turn: a relative in the military told Carling’s father his daughter’s name was on the “order of battle”, the Philippines military’s list of people, including activists, who are deemed enemies of the state. “When you are on the order of battle, you are an open target for extrajudicial killings,” said 53-year-old Carling…She kept her head down, hired a bodyguard, then spent several months at a U.S. university having won a fellowship for frontline human rights defenders.

For decades, Carling has been at the forefront of the fight for land and the environment, which London watchdog Global Witness calls “a new battleground for human rights”, with communities worldwide locked in deadly struggles against governments, companies and criminal gangs exploiting land for products like timber, minerals and palm oil.

In 2015, more than three people a week were killed defending land, forests and rivers against industries, said Global Witness. Of the 185 murders it documented in 16 countries, the Philippines ranked among the most dangerous, with 33 deaths last year alone.

Carling, from the Kankanaey tribe of the northern region of Cordillera, grew up on a logging concession where her parents ran a shop. She got her first taste of protest in the mid-1980s while studying at the University of Philippines in Baguio. She spent two months in the Kalinga tribal areas protesting against four World Bank-funded dams along the Chico River, which activists said threatened to inundate 16 towns and villages and displace an estimated 85,000 people. The World Bank ended up withdrawing its funding for the Chico dams, which were never built, and the episode prompted the bank to develop its policy on indigenous peoples, she said.

In the early 1990s, Carling immersed herself in mountainous tribal villages in the Cordillera and worked with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) fighting for land rights, until the day she fell sick and had to be hauled out on a stretcher. “…..After medical treatment, she went straight back to her duties, hanging her dextrose IV bag on the walls of a building in the town center, where she met indigenous people from remote areas who shared grievances about alleged land grabs.

After working with the CPA to help indigenous peoples at home, she moved on to a regional stage, and nearly eight years ago became head of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Through her work with AIPP, she has helped build a network among indigenous peoples from countries including Indonesia, Nepal, Taiwan and Japan – helping them to feel less isolated. She has turned her attention to the impacts of climate change and solutions such as hydropower, which often have a negative impact on indigenous communities.

Carling expressed concern about the “narrow conservation approach” of taking people out of the environment to protect the environment, instead of allowing indigenous peoples to protect the resources and watersheds on their ancestral land. “Indigenous people are actually the natural conservationists because it’s part of our being – to protect and conserve our natural environment because we need to pass it on to future generations,” Carling said. “That is the wisdom of the indigenous people – we only use what we need.” 

Source: http://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/11/02/16/malaria-murder-and-occupational-hazards-of-indigenous-activists-in-the-philippines

 

Unmitigated rise in attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, especially in the environmental area

October 31, 2016

Photo Credit: The Goldman Environmental Prize

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet and 30 October 2016 she summarized the findings of the latest OXFAM report under the appropriate title: There Is an Epidemic of Assassinations Targeting Human Rights Defenders in Latin America.

Michel Forst – the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders – wrote on 21 October in the Guardian equally alarmingly about the problem faced by land rights defenders under the title: “Police and hired assassins are killing land rights defenders. Let’s end this violence.” He ends with the conclusion: “In a resource-constrained world heading towards a climate emergency, we urgently need to rethink our approach to land use, which pivots on short-term profit regardless of human and environmental cost. Working more closely with environmental defenders is not just about protecting individual lives; it’s about protecting our planet.”

Many (including HRW, AI and Front Line) have reported on the 18 October 2016 killing of human rights defenders José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionisio were murdered after they left a meeting of peasant farmers in the Bajo Aguán region of [AGAIN https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/honduras/Honduras. Both were organizers with the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA). Read the rest of this entry »