Posts Tagged ‘local community’

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

December 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

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

———

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

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

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

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

Fascinating insight: local community can be the leading violators of rights of HRDs

July 6, 2017

Local community leading violators of rights of HRDs

We all assume that the biggest threat to human rights defenders comes from the State or similarly powerful actors. Now a report by the Human Rights Centre Uganda (led by former UN Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya, pictured above) shows that it can be the local community that is the leading violator of the rights of HRDs. Juliet Kigongo of KFM, reports on 16 June 2017 that – at least in Uganda – 28% of complaints recorded were about members of the community, against 17% about government officials and 16% about politicians. The study was carried out in nine districts of Kasese, Mbarara, Lira, Soroti, Gulu, Mbale, Hoima and Kampala with Arua being the most affected.

[The report compiled by the Human Rights Centre Uganda also raises the red flag over the slow investigations of cases of violations against rights defenders, warning that the “slow pace of investigation could be seen as condoning attacks on Human Rights Defenders. While launching the report Margaret Sekaggya, the center’s Executive Director appealed to parliament to review existing laws that impede the work of human rights defenders and ensure that the legislative framework reflects provisions of the constitution and Uganda’s international commitments to ensure a safe and conducive environment.]
That the danger comes from all sides is clear, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/30/uganda-killing-of-human-rights-defender-erasmus-irumba-by-security-forces/, but I really wonder what the situation is in other countries and whether other such studies have been carried out.

Source: Local community leading violators of rights of HRDs | KFM

Profile of Arul, a Human Rights Defender from Malaysia

March 22, 2016

Arutchelvan Subramaniams, known as Arul, is a grassroots human rights defender from Malaysia. He works primarily for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights – including housing rights for the urban poor, the rights of farmers, plantation and industrial workers, as well as the rights of indigenous communities. The ISHR published this profile on 21 March 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Colombian human rights defender Berenice Celeita talks on 10 June in Washington

June 2, 2015

Wednesday 10 June, 2015 (p.m.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Peace Brigades International, and Amnesty International USA organize a “Discussion with Colombian Human Rights Defender Berenice Celeita“. The event will feature Ms. Berenice Celeita, the founder of the Association for Investigation and Social Action (NOMADESC) and winner of the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Through NOMADESC, Ms. Celeita advises and accompanies social organizations and unions as well as civic, women’s, indigenous, afro-descendent, and family farmer organizations.

Ms. Celeita will discuss the current human rights situation in Colombia, including the most pressing issues faced by marginalized communities claiming their rights, and will speak about strategies for combating human rights abuses against these populations.

[For years, civil society activists in the Cauca and Valle del Cauca Departments of Colombia have endured incidences of intimidation, harassment, and persecution as a result of their work. While these incidences have recently intensified, they are not new and form part of a long pattern of threats and attacks against the work of human rights defenders and community leaders in Colombia. The internal armed conflict in Colombia generates internally-displaced populations and sexual violence against women, and further marginalizes impoverished populations. Indigenous and afro-descendent leaders who stand up for their rights and defend their lands are acutely at risk of death threats and other forms of intimidation. In this context – characterized by a lack of security and government accountability – the work of human rights defenders and civil society activists is paramount and must be safeguarded, as they serve as the voice and guardians for local populations facing evictions, violence, and persecution.]

To attend contact: rsvp@rfkhumanrights.org before 8 June.

Timmins High School, Canada, shows the way in local action

March 25, 2015

For those who don’t realise how much is going on at the local level in support of human right, here is a little story from Canada. Alan S. Hale in The Daily Press of 24 March describes an evening at Timmins High School:”Local defenders of human rights to be honoured“.

Tom Baby and Toree Doupont hold up with winning posters from the anti-racism poster contest held in local schools during the campaign leading up to the Evening of Applause scheduled at Timmins High Wednesday night.

Tom Baby and Toree Doupont hold up with winning posters from the anti-racism poster contest held in local schools during the campaign leading up to the Evening of Applause scheduled at Timmins High Wednesday night

The inaugural Evening of Applause is being organized by a recently-formed committee made up of the local school boards and post-secondary institutions, as well as the Timmins Friendship Centre and the Timmins Local Immigration Partnership. The committee’s goal was to reproduce the successful campaign which has been taking place every year in North Bay for the past 25 years.

We decided that we wanted to start that project up here in Timmins. So in September, we brought together representatives from all the different education institutions and formed a committee. So this committee has been putting together all the different events to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (which was on March 21,)” recalled Tom Baby, the Timmins Local Immigration Partnership coordinator.

For the past three months, the committee has been doing a variety of awareness raising activities in local schools, including in-class instruction and an anti-racism poster contest. The contest drew many submissions, but in the end, the winners were Lindsay Johnston in Grade 3, Emily Morreau in Grade 6 and Cassandra Lapointe in Grade 7. All three students received a $50 prize for their posters. [Anita Spadafore of Amnesty International; Dan McKay who is a local advocate for people with seeing disabilities and founding member of the Barrier Elimination Action Committee, and Ed Ligocki who is the executive director of the Good Samaritan Inn homeless shelter.]

During the Evening of Applause, the first three honourees will be inducted onto the Human Rights Wall of Fame, which will be a new permanent fixture at the Timmins Public Library.

Local defenders of human rights to be honoured | Timmins Press.

Yolanda Oquelí – Guatemalan Human Rights Defender in video testimony

February 24, 2014

This video with testimony by Yolanda Oquelí, human rights defender from Guatemala, was posted last year by AI Canada and recently re-issued in French by AI France.

Since March 2013, activists and members of the local community have held an ongoing protest against the mine development by Radius Gold, a company based in Vancouver, Canada, and its wholly owned Guatemalan subsidiary, Exploración Mineras de Guatemala (EXMIGUA).  Some community members claim that they were not consulted about the opening of the mine and fear it will pollute their water supply and damage land in San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc municipalities. On the evening of 13 June events took a sinister turn. Outspoken anti-mining activist Yolanda Oquelí was driving home from taking part in this ongoing protest when two gunmen on a motorbike cut across in front of her car and fired four shots. Yolanda was hit and a bullet lodged close to her liver. She recovered, continues to be subject to threats.
In February 2011, protesters in north-western Guatemala’s San Marcos region were attacked after speaking out against the local Marlin Mine, owned by Canadian company Goldcorp Inc. Community activist Aniceto López, was taken to the local mayor’s office, where officials allegedly beat him and threatened to kill him if he failed to stop speaking out against the mine.

[In July 2010, another grassroots activist in San Marcos, Deodora Hernández, was shot at close range in her own home by two unknown men. She had spoken out to defend her community’s right to water amidst fears that mining had polluted the local water supply]

When James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples visited Guatemala in June 2010, he received allegations that the Guatemalan government had repeatedly granted licences for the exploration of natural resources in indigenous territories without consulting with local indigenous peoples – or receiving their free, prior and informed consent.