Posts Tagged ‘land rights defender’

Human Rights Council recognises vital role of environmental human rights defenders

March 23, 2019

The ISHR reports that on 21 March 2019 the UN Human Rights Council has adopted a strong consensus resolution recognising the critical role of environmental human rights defenders in protecting vital ecosystems, addressing climate change, attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and ensuring that no-one is left behind. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/].

The resolution meets many of the civil society demands ISHR expressed in a joint letter along with more than 180 groups (see reference below). By formally acknowledging the important role of environmental human rights defenders, the Council highlights the legitimacy of their work, helps counter stigmatisation and can contribute to expanding their operating space. Though the resolution falls short in some key areas, its adoption by consensus is a positive step towards better protection of environmental human rights defenders. It must now be followed by implementation at the national level by all relevant stakeholders, including States, UN agencies, businesses and development finance institutions….

The resolution was led and presented by Norway, on behalf of 60 States from all regions. In particular, many Latin American States strongly supported the resolution, which is significant given the dangerous situation for defenders in many of those countries. The consensus on the protection of environmental human rights defenders is a welcome sign of unity by the international community in recognising their vital contribution to a biodiverse and healthy environment, to peace and security, and to human rights.

We now look to States, business enterprises and development finance institutions to take rapid and decisive steps to address the global crisis facing environmental human rights defenders’, said Michael Ineichen, Programme Director at the International Service for Human Rights. ‘This means States need to create protection mechanisms which guarantee the security of defenders. States must also ensure that businesses put in place specific policies and processes allowing for the inclusion of human rights defenders and their concerns in due diligence processes’, Ineichen said.   

Key points of the resolution:

  • Expresses alarm at increasing violations against environmental defenders, including killings, gender-based violence, threats, harassment, intimidation, smear campaigns, criminalisation, judicial harassment, forced eviction and displacement. It acknowledges that violations are also committed against defenders’ families, communities, associates and lawyers;
  • Recognises that the protection of human rights defenders can only be achieved through an approach which promotes and celebrates their work. It also calls for root causes of violations to be addressed by strengthening democratic institutions, combating impunity and reducing economic inequalities;
  • Pays particular attention to women human rights defenders, by stressing the intersectional nature of violations and abuses against them and against indigenous peoples, children, persons belonging to minorities, and rural and marginalised communities;
  • Urges States to adopt laws guaranteeing the protection of defenders, put in place holistic protection measures for and in consultation with defenders, and ensure investigation and accountability for threats and attacks against environmental human rights defenders; and
  • Calls on businesses to carry out human rights due diligence and to hold meaningful and inclusive consultations with defenders, potentially affected groups and other relevant stakeholders.

While the resolution was adopted by consensus, the unity came at the price of a lack of specificity in certain areas. For instance, the resolution does not clearly recognise all of the root causes of the insecurity facing environmental human rights defenders, as documented by UN experts, nor comprehensively name the perpetrators or the most dangerous industries. It also fails to clearly spell out the human rights obligations of development finance institutions, and to detail the corresponding necessary steps to consult, respect and protect the work of environmental human rights defenders. 

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc40-council-unanimously-recognises-vital-role-environmental-human-rights-defenders

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc40-states-should-defend-environmental-human-rights-defenders

The UN Environmental Rights Initiative interviews Donald Hernández Palma

February 26, 2019

On 26 February 2019 the UN Environmental Rights Initiative (launched in Geneva last year during the UN Human Rights Council). The aim is to ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their activism safely, defend their local environments and the planet. 

However, alarming statistics on killings have been reported over the past few years—especially regarding the targeting of indigenous groups. Latin America has seen the highest number of murders in recent years, accounting for almost 60 per cent of the global total in 2016. In Honduras, 128 defenders are estimated to have been murdered since 2010—the world’s worst rate. UN Environment reached out to Donald Hernández Palma, a Honduran lawyer and human rights defender, for his take on the situation facing environmental and human rights defenders. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/11/28/peace-brigades-international-officially-launches-its-country-chapter-in-ireland/ ]

Donald specializes in criminal and environmental law, with a particular focus on mining. He is a member of the Latin American Lawyers’ Network, which works against the negative impacts of transnational extractive companies in Latin America. Since 2010, Donald has worked for the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development as coordinator of its legal department. He is also the coordinator of the Human Rights and Environmental Department.

Could you tell us a little about yourself, where you come from and how you became part of the environmental advocacy movement?

I am the son of peasant parents who cultivated coffee. I grew up in a remote village in Honduras. I studied in a school that only went up to sixth grade and had to walk almost 20 kilometres a day to go to class. Later, I studied agronomy, a profession I practiced for more than 10 years, in direct contact with peasant families across Honduras. I have directly witnessed the serious subsistence difficulties faced by my countrymen far from government aid.

Since graduating in criminal law in 2007, have been working on environmental protection issues in rural communities. In 2010, I began my work at the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development, allowing me to work in the defence of human rights for the same populations I had known for many years before.

What situations help explain the kinds of challenges environmental human rights defenders face in Honduras?

Different forms of political and economic corruption in Honduras have compromised – and in some cases denied – local communities’ access to natural resources. Many people have resisted mining, hydro and logging projects, and because of this resistance, have found themselves criminalized and harassed—even killed. Honduras is today considered one of the most dangerous countries for those who defend their land and territories.

What kind of resources are being exploited in your country and how is it affecting land, water, air and biodiversity?

Currently, 302 mining concessions have been approved by the Honduran Government for open-pit mining. Projects are awarded to national and international businesses on thousands of hectares of land, affecting populations that are rarely consulted. Meanwhile, rivers are being appropriated in many regions of the country to generate electricity. Projects are also often granted without consultation to business families, as a payback for favors made for political campaigns.

Also, thousands of hectares of land are being used to plant African palm, transgenic corn and sugar cane for biofuels. This is displacing traditional agriculture, and also causing displacement of populations from their territories to urban centres within and outside the country. Laws have also been passed in Congress to privatize criollo seeds, removing the right of indigenous peoples and peasant peoples to trade their seeds as they have been doing for thousands of years.

What has been done to address these problems?

Organizations like ours do permanent research on the concessions of common goods. This information is very difficult to obtain because it is hidden from the people. There is a law on access to public information that is not respected. We give this information to the affected peoples, whom we also organize and train on human rights and indigenous law, among other issues. We also carry out public protests, present unconstitutionality appeals before the Supreme Court of Justice and carry out legal defence actions when the leaders are criminalized for defending their territory.

What kind of national laws have been enacted? Do international laws help you in any way?

We have a mining law that is highly harmful to the population, a plant breeders’ law that harms people’s rights over seeds, and energy laws that facilitate the implementation of electrical projects that avoid environmental impact prevention processes. In addition, the modification of the criminal code criminalizes public protest. It is precisely international law that allows us to exercise defensive actions in favor of indigenous peoples and peasants, since Honduras has been found not to comply with the international treaties that bind the Honduran state to respect human rights defenders.

Are you working with any NGO groups? 

I am the facilitator at The National Coalition of Environmental Networks and Organizations Honduras (CONROA), a joint space that brings together more than 30 organizations.

Has the newly-signed treaty by 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries, formally called the Regional Agreement on Principle 10, provided any protection on people’s rights in Honduras

Unfortunately, the Honduran state was one of the countries in the region that did not sign this important treaty.

Have you encountered any successes, and is attention increasing on this issue on the ground? 

Unfortunately, an advocate such as Bertha Cáceres, our comrade in this struggle, had to die so that the eyes of the world could return to the terrible situation due to the contempt of the state against those who defend common goods. The visits of the rapporteurs (Michel Fort) and the rapporteur of indigenous peoples have been very important in forcing the Honduran State to respect human rights defenders.

Human Rights Defenders in Latin America under constant attack

February 20, 2019

Some 50 human rights defenders from Latin America held a meeting at the Journalists Club in Mexico City to exchange strategies and analyse the challenges they face in the most lethal region for activists. Special rapporteurs on indigenous peoples, displaced persons and freedom of expression attended the meeting. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Some 50 human rights defenders from Latin America held a meeting at the Journalists Club in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

We’re in a very difficult situation. There is militarisation at a regional level, and gender-based violence. We are at risk, we cannot silence that,Aura Lolita Chávez, an indigenous woman from Guatemala. (Chávez was a finalist for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2017, and winner of the Ignacio Ellacuría Prize of the Basque Agency for Development Cooperation that same year). She has received death threats and attacks that forced her to seek refuge in Spain in 2017.

Latin America, the most lethal region for human rights defenders according to different reports, especially activists involved in defending land rights and the environment. Some 50 activists from Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, the United States and Uruguay participated in the International Meeting of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in Mexico City from 15-18 February under the slogan “Defending does not mean forgetting.”

Guests at the meeting were United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz from the Philippines; UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Cecilia Jiménez-Damary from the Philippines; and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza from Uruguay.

The human rights defenders identified common threats such as interference by mining and oil companies in indigenous territories, government campaigns against activists, judicial persecution, gender-based violence, and polarised societies that often fail to recognise the defence of human rights.

Evelia Bahena, an activist from the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, told IPS about “the suffering and destruction” at the hands of “companies that make profits at the cost of the lives of others.”

A number of reports have focused on the plight of human rights defenders in the region. In the report “At what cost? Irresponsible Business and the Murder of Land and Environment Defenders 2017”, published in July 2018, the international organisation Global Witness stated that of the total of 201 murders of human rights defenders in the world in 2017, 60 percent happened in Latin America. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/global-witness-report-2018-on-environmental-defenders-bad-but-2017-was-worse/]

Brazil recorded the highest number of homicides of activists of any country, 57. In Mexico, the number was 15, five times more than the year before, while Nicaragua recorded the highest murder rate of activists relative to its population, with four killings, according to the British-based organisation.

The “Global Analysis 2018”, produced by the international organisation Front Line Defenders, also depicts a grim outlook, counting 321 human rights defenders killed in 27 countries, nine more than in 2017. Of that total, 77 percent involved defenders of the land, the environment and indigenous people. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/]

For Ana María Rodríguez, a representative of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, difficult conditions persist in her country, where 20 human rights activists have been murdered so far in 2019. “There are delays and non-compliance with the peace agreement,” which have contributed to the defencelessness of human rights activists, according to the lawyer.

The rapporteurs present at the meeting, on unofficial visits to Mexico, listened to the accounts given by activists and recalled that governments in the region have international obligations to respect, such as guaranteeing the rights of indigenous people, displaced persons and journalists, as well as protecting human rights defenders…In her October report on Mexico, the special rapporteur criticised the violation of rights of indigenous people, especially the right to prior consultation on energy, land or tourism projects in their territories. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/16/human-rights-defenders-journalists-in-mexico-in-1919-2-killed-2-released/]

For his part, Lanza, the IACHR special rapporteur, said the recommendations of the joint report released in June 2018 with David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, should be the starting point for the measures to be adopted by the Mexican government.,,

Profile of Mexican indigenous defender Romel Rubén Gonzalez Diaz

February 17, 2019

ISHR published on 21 January 2019 this profile of Romel Rubén Gonzalez Diaz from the Indigenous and Popular Regional Council of Xpujil. This organisation works in partnership with the Cooperativa Chac Lol, in the defense of the territory, training in municipal and human collective rights, generating sustainable development alternatives (agriculture, biocultural tourism, sustainable management of natural resources). The main problem in Muna, Yucatan is the proposal to establish a solar park megaproject with 1227,000 solar panels, destroying 700 hectares of tropical forest, by the company Sunpower of the USA.

ISHR sets out the priorities for the Human Rights Council in 2019

February 9, 2019

On 28 January 2019 ISHR presented a blueprint for States with recommendations to some of the key issues the Human Rights Council should address in 2019. 

In 2018, the Council adopted some landmark decisions

  • an independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar
  • Yemen, renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts
  • Burundi, extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry.

At the same time, several situations of gross rights violations escaped Council scrutiny for political reasons.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/04/general-assemblys-3rd-committee-concludes-2018-session/]

The annual “High Level Segment” in March 2019 is a critical opportunity to set the agenda for the year. The Human Rights Council’s three regular sessions in March, June/July and September are further opportunities to advance priorities.

Here is ISHR’s checklist on the human rights situations and issues which should be advanced in 2019.

States should commit to strengthening the Council by demonstrating leadership, principled action and sustained follow through.

All regional groups presented the same number of candidates as seats for the 2018 Council elections and several States with terrible human rights records and with poor records of cooperation with UN mechanisms were elected, turning the elections into more of an appointment process, and going against the vision of the Council’s founding document.

States should collectively express concern about China’s failure to uphold human rights principles and protect the rights of its citizens, especially ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans and those involved in the defence of human rights. China’s rejection of critical dialogue and universal principles is especially worrying as the Chinese government becomes increasingly active in the Council – a space dedicated to those same values.

States should also collectively press for the immediate and unconditional release of detained women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. If the international community is serious about contributing to advancing women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, it should recognise Saudi women human rights defenders as agents of change and urge the Saudi authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their vital work.

States should also initiate Council action to address recent cases of reprisals in Egypt as reported by the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing after her visit in September 2018. These attacks come amidst a context of wide-scale repression against civil society through intimidation, arbitrary arrests, unfair prosecutions and travel bans.

States should collectively denounce the ongoing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Bahrain, including reprisals for engaging or attempting to engage with UN mechanisms. As a minimum, States should call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release all those detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, such as Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.

At the 40th session:

The Council will consider a resolution on the situation of human rights defenders working on rights related to land and environment. ISHR calls on States to address the particular threats and attacks against this group of defenders, in particular the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders, to combat impunity for attacks against them, and ensure full civil society participation in development and the management of natural resources. The draft resolution should call on States who prioritise the protection of human rights defenders to condition their provision of diplomatic support to business – such as export credit guarantees and trade support – on companies’ commitment to respect, consult and protect defenders. ..The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders will present his report on the situation of women human rights defenders. States should publicly recognise the specific risks and threats women defenders face and commit to taking further measures to enhance their protection, underline the legitimacy of their work, their specific protection needs and adequate remedies to the specific violations they face.

At the 41st session:

Thanks to the sustained efforts by civil society and supportive UN Member States, the mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) was established in 2016. At the 41st session, ISHR urges States to renew the mandate and ensure that it is not weakened, so that it continues its vital work in capturing good practices and assisting States in ending discrimination and violence based on SOGI. The mandate continues to work with a diverse range of States from all geographical regions. Defenders from across the globe have affirmed that the mandate has contributed to their protection and recognition of their work. ..The Council will also consider a resolution on migrants and human rights. States should ensure that the text reiterates their obligations to support and not restrict defenders’ in their vital work and to protect migrant rights defenders in the face of rising intolerance, xenophobia and illiberalism. ISHR recalls Principle 18, from the OHCHR Principles and Guidelines on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations, which sets out measures States can take to respect and support the activities of migrant rights defenders.

At the 42nd session:

Human rights defenders must be able to access the UN freely and safely so that the UN can do its crucial work of monitoring countries’ compliance with human rights obligations and protecting victims from abuses. At the 42nd session in September 2019, States should not miss the opportunity to cite specific cases of reprisals at the second interactive dialogue on the Secretary-General’s annual report on reprisals….Finally, the accessibility of the Council to rights holders, victims and defenders is both a key contributor to, and indicator of, the Council’s relevance and success.  As discussions on enhancing the efficiency of the Council resume, States should continue to support and guarantee that any proposed measures do not restrict or limit civil society participation at the Council.

Protective accompaniment for land, water and human rights defenders badly needed

January 17, 2019

Photo: Peace Brigades International
Those who work to defend land, water, Indigenous, LGBTQI+ and human rights around the world face many dangers, including death- Photo: Peace Brigades International

Brent Patterson wrote on 16 January, 2019 a blog post: “Protective accompaniment supports land, water and human rights defenders”. It is a timely reminder of the work done by PBI:

According to Front Line Defenders, 2018 saw the highest number ever on record of human rights defenders killed [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/]. One way to support these defenders is through protective accompaniment (often popularly describes ed as the ‘human shiled’). According to NGO Peace Brigades International (PBI), “Protective accompaniment is a strategy pioneered by PBI for protecting human rights defenders and communities whose lives and work are threatened by political violence.” The strategy involves recruiting volunteers from around the world who want to help “defend the defender,” providing them with training, and then sending them into areas of conflict in a highly visible way to provide increased security and moral support to defenders.

Normally volunteers spend a minimum of one year in the field. “When the level of threat is high accompaniment is sometimes round the clock. In other situations volunteers stay with threatened communities or remain in the offices of organizations, and accompany threatened activists when they travel,” PBI notes. “Another form of accompaniment is regular phone calls to organizations to check on their safety.

These volunteers are backed by an international network that raises the profile of the defender and their struggle, provides analysis and international solidarity, and increases the stakes and risk of repercussions for potential attackers. “Accompaniment increases the perceived political costs of ordering an attack in front of international witnesses — witnesses whose organization is committed to making such attacks as costly as possible for those responsible,” PBI notes. The political costs can be amplified by garnering local, national and international media coverage, mobilizing embassies, governments and international bodies, challenging with facts the official rhetoric that a human rights situation is improving, and making risk-adverse investors aware they could lose money with controversial mega-projects. Hundreds of defenders have received protective accompaniment over the years.

Those accompanied by PBI have included activists from Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, women’s organizations, trade unions, community organizations, as well as LGBTQI+ activists, journalists, lawyers and relatives of the disappeared.

Brent Patterson is an activist-blogger who writes this monthly column on inspiring stories of global resistance to neoliberalism and climate change.

http://rabble.ca/columnists/2019/01/protective-accompaniment-supports-land-water-and-human-rights-defenders

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

November 7, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Profile of Human Rights Defender Margarita Durán Estragó from Paraguay

October 18, 2018

Human Rights Defender Margarita Durán Estragó from Paraguay is a land rights defender. This is another of the profiles recently published by European External Action Service (EEAS) in the context of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/04/chia-wei-chi-first-in-series-of-videos-by-european-external-action-service/].

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/51516/human-rights-defenders-margarita-durán-estragó-paraguay_en

Indigenous human rights defenders up against mining giant BHP

October 8, 2018

 AGM Protest Credit: London Mining Network
AGM Protest Credit: London Mining Network

Independent Catholic News of 4 October 2018 carries the following story on the London Mining Network 12-20 October 2018:

“I am Misael Socarras Ipuana, of the Wayuu People. I live in the north of Colombia, in the peninsula of La Guajira, in the community of La Gran Parada. I am a human rights defender, indigenous communicator, director, cultural expert and leader of my community. I am 48 years old, married according to the traditions of my people to Moncia Lopez Pushaina. I have six children, for whom I struggle daily to give them a better future, free of contamination and mining. We want to be autonomous in our territories, free and able to enjoy Mother Nature without restrictions or fear.”

Misael is one of the five human rights and environmental defenders joining the London Mining Network for a week of action 12-20 October around the annual shareholder meeting of BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company. He will be speaking at events, meeting anti-coal campaigners in County Durham and holding BHP executives to account.

The London Mining Network, which highlights justice, peace and environmental issues related to extractive industries, is supported by religious and missionary groups with experience of the problems in countries where they work. Most of the world’s biggest mining companies, and many smaller mining companies, are listed on the London Stock Exchange, and on its Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

Communities all over the world are rising against mining violence and building alternatives that offer truly-sustainable futures, assert people’s rights and are deeply rooted in custodianship of land and water. This week of action will be an opportunity to explore this resurgence. They call for the UK government to commit to a Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights to end corporate impunity.

As the world’s largest multinational mining company, Anglo-Australian-owned BHP’s AGM is an important moment to build these arguments. BHP’s record of forced displacement, dispossession and catastrophic environmental damage stretches back decades. The company is so powerful it is seldom held to account for this devastation, while indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant communities are hardest hit.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/28/2018-latin-america-still-the-graveyard-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/35749

Some good news from Cambodia: Tep Vanny and three other human rights defenders pardoned

August 22, 2018

Tep Vanny, second from left, gestures upon arrival at her home in Phnom Penh, Aug. 20, 2018.

Tep Vanny, second from left, gestures upon arrival at her home in Phnom Penh, Aug. 20, 2018. – AP Photo

Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni on 20 August 2018 granted royal pardons to prominent land rights activist Tep Vanny and three others convicted for their roles in a protest over a land grab in the capital Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake community. Tep Vanny, 38, was arrested on 15 August 2016 after participating in a demonstration, handed six days in prison for “insulting a public official” and, instead of being released when the sentence was served, charged with “aggravated intentional violence” for a protest she held more than three years earlier in front of the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

On Feb. 23, 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Tep Vanny of assaulting two security officers during the 2013 protest at Hun Sen’s home, sentencing her to 30 months in prison and making her pay 9 million riels (U.S. $2,250) in compensation to the officers. Three other female activists—Heng Mom, Bo Chhorvy, and Kong Chantha—were also convicted for “obstructing public officials” during the protest, but released on bail.

On Monday, King Sihamoni issued a royal decree at the behest of Hun Sen, overturning the convictions of all four activists without providing any reason for the decision. Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Tep Vanny said: “I was given no prior notice that I would be released,”“The prison guards came to inform me just before 8:30 p.m. that I would be freed soon and said I should get my things ready. I told them they had come to tell the wrong person.”  Although I am happy tonight for the freedom to meet with my family, relatives, and community members, my pain remains with me, as I have spent over two years in jail,”.

Tep Vanny was awarded the 2013 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award for her work campaigning on behalf of the community evicted from Boeung Kak Lake, which was later filled with sand to make way for a development project with ties to Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). On Monday, she appealed to Hun Sen to release all of the country’s remaining political prisoners, including former RFA reporters Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, who have spent nine months behind bars on “espionage” charges.

Various rights groups had demanded Tep Vanny’s release in the lead up to the 15 August anniversary marking her two years in prison, with New York-based Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson calling her conviction “just one of many outrageous cases in which the authorities have misused Cambodia’s justice system to harass and imprison peaceful land rights activists.” On Monday, London-based Amnesty International’s senior director of global operations Minar Pimple welcomed Tep Vanny’s release in a statement, but called it “long overdue.”

re Boeung Kak Lake case see my older: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/06/20/boeung-kak-lake-women-sentenced-for-peaceful-protest-in-cambodia/

Still this is only SOME good news as in the meantime Front Line reported that on 12 August 2018, human rights defender Nay Vanda received a court summon dated 9 August 2018 issued by the Vice Prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, summoning him to attend a trial at 7:30am on 27 August 2018 at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Subsequently, human rights defender Ny Chakrya also received the same court summons. These summons are related to charges brought against five human rights defenders on 2 May 2016. Nay Vanda, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony were charged  <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/five-adhoc-members-detained#case-update-id-3050&gt; with bribing a witness under Article 548 of the Criminal Code, and Ny Chakrya was charged as an accomplice to bribery of a witness in accordance with Articles 28 and 548 of the Criminal Code. If convicted, they face between five to ten years imprisonment. It is anticipated that the three human rights defenders who have not received the court summons will receive them in the coming days. 

The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/adhoc&gt;  is a human rights organisation founded in December 1991 by a group of former political prisoners aiming to address violations of rights and freedoms. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/adhoc/

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Many links including: https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/pardons-08202018162801.html