Posts Tagged ‘Latin America’

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

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights launches major report on Human Rights Defenders

March 2, 2018

While all eyes are on the ongoing session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) – on 28 February – presented its report “Toward a Comprehensive Policy to Protect Human Rights Defenders,” in the context of the 167th session of the IACHR taking place in Colombia. The purpose of this report is to provide the States in the region with guidance in developing their domestic policies, programs, and protection mechanisms for human rights defenders, in keeping with inter-American human rights standards.

The work of defending human rights in the countries of the Americas has become extremely dangerous,” said the President of the IACHR, Commissioner Margarette Macaulay. “The levels of violence against people who defend human rights in our region are alarming, and the rates of impunity for these types of crimes are very high. The focus of the IACHR’s concern is on the violent deaths of rights defenders, the impunity that tends to surround these types of crimes, and the remaining vulnerability of all persons and groups on whose behalf the defender had worked. This makes it essential and urgent for the States to adopt effective measures to put an end to this situation,” she added.

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/22/amnestys-annual-report-2017-is-out-depressing-but-rays-of-hope/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/15/documenting-the-killings-of-environmental-defenders-guardian-and-global-witness/

…….

“We are aware of and welcome the efforts made by some States to implement different mechanisms, laws, and policies to protect rights defenders, but unfortunately these have not been effective enough,” said the IACHR Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren. “That is why the IACHR in this report has laid out the main components of a comprehensive protection policy, so that such a policy can be effective and so that we can manage to stop the killings and other attacks that are putting an end to the lives of rights defenders or preventing them from doing their work. The aim of the IACHR is to provide the States with a guide on developing domestic policies, programs, mechanisms, and practices for the effective protection of human rights defenders, in accordance with Inter-American human rights standards,” he indicated.

A comprehensive protection policy is based on a recognition of the State’s interrelated and interdependent obligations to enable rights defenders to freely and safely carry out their work of defending human rights. In this sense, a comprehensive protection policy refers to a broad, all-encompassing approach that requires extending protection beyond physical protection mechanisms or systems when defenders experience situations of risk. It requires implementing public policies and measures designed to respect the rights of defenders; prevent violations of their rights; diligently investigate acts of violence against them; and punish the perpetrators and masterminds of any attack on human rights defenders.

The report also analyzes the main steps forward and challenges in terms of the efforts underway in some States, such as the national protection mechanisms, legislation, and policies and programs that exist in some countries. It also makes recommendations to the States on how to ensure better implementation of prevention, protection, and investigation measures to achieve a comprehensive protection policy.

..Human rights defenders are an essential pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of democracies in the hemisphere. Acts of violence against human rights defenders not only infringe on the defenders’ own rights as human beings but also undermine the critical role they play in society and in upholding democratic standards.

Contact info María Isabel RiveroIACHR Press and Communication Office mrivero@oas.org

http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2018/039.asp

International Women’s Day 2017: honoring, defending and watching women human rights defenders

March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day focuses on many different aspects of the struggle for the human rights of women. I have selected three special actions this year:

(1) a short piece honoring woman who are land rights defenders;

(2) a digital protection tool for women human rights defenders (Cyberwomen);

(3) a documentary film on how rape was made into a international war crime.

[Of course this blog has had many earlier posts on women human rights defenders: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/ ] Read the rest of this entry »

Violence against Environmental Human Rights Defenders: one of the worst trends in recent years

September 1, 2016

The chilling trend of attacking human rights defenders working on environment and land rights continues. The help keep an overview here a summary of a number of relevant items:
On 26 August 2016 Patricia Schaefer of the Center for International Environmental Law posted a blog in the NonProfitQuarterly website under the Title “International Collaboration Reports on Violence against Environmental Activists”, summarizing two recent reports (On Dangerous Ground by Global Witness and a more recent “Deadly Shade of Green” by Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), British NGO Article 19, and Vermont Law School).

Read the rest of this entry »

Alarming criminalisation of human rights defenders in Latin America

February 27, 2016

The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of the extraction of natural resources and megaprojects is becoming a very worrisome phenomenon in Latin America, denounces the Observatory in a report published today in Mexico. Entitled “The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of industrial projects: a regional phenomenon in Latin America”, this document points to the role of businesses, civil servants, public prosecutors, judges, and the State. The report issued by OMCT and FIDH (in the context of their Observatory for Human Rights Defenders) on 25 February 2016 describes the specific cases of human rights defenders criminalized in eight Latin American countries (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru).

 

The report especially stresses two core issues common to all the countries studied: Read the rest of this entry »

Santiago Canton leaves RFK to become Secretary for Human Rights in Buenos Aires

January 16, 2016

Santiago Canton will be leaving his post as Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights at the end of this week as he has accepted the position of Secretary for Human Rights for Buenos Aires in Argentina. He started in 2012.Santiago Canton
[Santiago Canton is also an Adjunct Professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, the Georgetown University Law Center, and the Universidad de Buenos Aires. In 2013, Mr. Canton served as a member of the World Bank Panel of Experts on Human Rights, part of a process that reviewed the bank’s environmental and social safeguard policies. From 2001 to 2012, Mr. Canton was the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In 1998, he was elected as the first Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in the Inter-American System. From 1994 to 1998, Mr. Canton was Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. Mr. Canton was a political assistant to President Carter in democratic development programs in countries in Latin America. In 2005, Mr. Canton was awarded the Chapultepec Grand Prize for freedom of expression throughout the Americas.]

Latin America, Philippines most dangerous places for Human Rights Defenders

January 6, 2016

The latest statistical report released by Front Line Defenders revealed the appalling reality that human rights defenders all over the world are at great risk to be victims of extreme forms of violence. And based on the organization’s annual report, 157 human rights activists were killed or died in detention in 25 countries in 2015. Latin America, Philippines are named as most dangerous places for Human Rights Defenders. Read the rest of this entry »

Protection International Focuses on national protection mechanisms

December 3, 2014

Protection Int'I_logo_final_vertical_72dpiBrussels-based Protection International‘s Focus Report  provides detailed monitoring of developments in the field of national public policy on the protection of Human Rights Defenders. This year’s edition of Focus highlights the renewed interest in adopting legal instruments for the protection if HRDs in Latin America (in Honduras and Guatemala) and in Sub-Saharan Africa (in Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi and Mali).

The report (second year running) draws attention to the recent publication of guidelines on the protection of HRDs by OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The work of several Latin American civil society organisations (CSOs) that have presented cases concerning murdered HRDs before the regional mechanisms has been of great value. These efforts have led to the development of jurisprudence by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Finally, this edition includes contributions by external collaborators:

  • the Preface, prepared by Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders;
  • an analysis of advances in the field of protection in the Americas, by Jesús Orozco H., President of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) and Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders;
  • an overview of the topic in Africa by Reine Alapini Gansou, the Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); and
  • contributions by representatives of local CSOs in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, countries that have pioneered the effective implementation of public policies for the protection of HRDs.
  • PI hopes to enrich the discussions on the adoption of appropriate policies in countries where they do not exist and to help authorities and civil society organisations implement them where they do.

For last year’s report: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/protection-international-publishes-focus-report-2013-on-policies-concerning-human-rights-defenders/

Focus 2014 Report:  http://files.flipsnack.com/ /embed.html?hash=fd152nkz0&wmode=window&bgcolor=EEEEEE&t=14174580301417458119

Human Rights Defenders gather in Manila and agree on best practices against enforced disappearances

September 25, 2014

AHRC-FST-072-2014.jpg

From 17-20 September 2014, took place in Manila, Philippines, an inter-regional conference, which tackled the imperative for truth, justice, reparation, memory and guarantees of non-repetition.  The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) organised the “Sharing Best Practices in Advocating for Legislation Against Enforced Disappearances” and human rights defenders came from Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste and the United States of America

The Conference Statement – available in full through the Asian Human Rights Commission link below – describes disappearance in several countries and then concludes with the following lessons:

  • We underscored the vital importance of documentation as the most basic requirement in our search for truth and justice and in our campaign to get the widest possible support in this difficult work;
  • The importance of forming associations of families of the victims in the struggle for justice and of ensuring that the struggle against disappearances in whatever ways has to be owned by the families of the victims and the rest of society;
  • The work against enforced disappearances is jointly done by victims, lawyers and other members of civil society;
  • On the aspect of reparation, it is important to fully maximize existing forms of reparation and not limit these to material and monetary aspects.  Reparation of dignity of the victims for a damage done because of human rights violation is of paramount importance;
  • Media and communication work are very important to disseminate information and to make enforced disappearance a social concern;
  • In view of the global character of the crime, international solidarity is imperative to strengthen response.  This will complement the work at the national and regional levels;
  • In Asia, the signing and the ratification of the Convention and the recognition of the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances should be given prime importance.

“Losing our hope is a bigger crime than the actual crimes perpetrated against us. Therefore, in this conference, we resolve that we are the agents of hope.”

PHILIPPINES: Sharing best practices in advocating for legislation against enforced disappearances — Asian Human Rights Commission.

Human Rights Defender Charles Harper Honoured by Argentinian Government

September 19, 2014

(From left to right — Charles Harper, Estela Barnes de Carlotto, Ambassador Alberto D’Alotto and Bishop-emeritus Aldo Etchegoyen. Photo: Argentinian mission in Geneva)

A former World Council of Churches (WCC) official from Brazil, Rev. Charles Harper, has been honoured with the Order Comendador de Mayo, a high decoration of the Argentine government for his emblematic legacy of struggles for human rights in the ecumenical movement. Harper, was WCC’s director of the Human Rights Resource Office for Latin America from 1973 to 1992. He received this honour in a ceremony held on 16 September in Geneva, Switzerland. Harper, born to an American missionary father working in Brazil, joined the anti-colonial struggle through the Committee for Assistance to Evacuees (CIMADE). At CIMADE, he worked with young people and Algerian immigrants in Marseille, France, in the early 1960s. With CIMADE and later as director of the John Knox International Reformed Centre, Harper supported church leaders persecuted in Mozambique, Angola and Cape Verde. Many of those become key actors in the independence struggles of their countries. At the WCC, Harper coördinated a number of systematic international initiatives denouncing human rights violations in Latin America. He created strong networks to protect the persecuted, imprisoned and tortured people in the region.

Accompanying human rights movements in the 1970s, the WCC was able to respond to the calls for solidarity at regional and global levels. Harper’s work at the WCC was initiated by the WCC member churches in Latin America, following a dialogue held with the WCC’s Commission on International Affairs, chaired then by the renowned jurist Dr Theo van Boven, who also received an honour from the Argentine government in 2012.

In his speech Harper pointed out the current global challenges that a new generation of human rights advocates has to deal with. “Thirty years later – today – the challenges facing the world community of nations, both as international and ecumenical family, not only persist but become more intense: The World Council of Churches, an instrument of unity and service to humanity, strives to accompany churches and groups related to them in critical situations to defend human rights and human dignity, fighting impunity, demanding punitive justice, and building just and peaceful societies.”

At the ceremony, Ambassador Alberto D’Alotto said, “Protestant churches have played an important role in defending human rights and in starting movements for human rights in my country. They helped in founding human rights organizations and sponsored their consolidation, and managed international financing much needed in the beginning…..The churches helped to find ways to overcome the information blockade imposed by the military authorities, giving international visibility to what was happening in Argentina and denouncing the military repression in international forums,” he said.

via Human Rights Defender Charles Harper Honoured by Argentinian Government – Standard Newswire.