Posts Tagged ‘Nicaragua’

The NGOs summarize the results of the 40th session of the Human Rights Council

March 25, 2019

On 22 March 2019 a group of important international NGOs (Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, FORUM-ASIA, DefendDefenders, Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, and the FIDH) published a joint assessment of the main result of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council including the adoption by consensus of the resolution on environmental human rights defenders, continued Council scrutiny over Sri Lanka, Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and Iran, as well as initiation of Council action on Nicaragua and several joint statements on Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Cameroon.

Ten leading human rights organisations* welcomed significant Council outcomes at the 40th session such as a strong consensus resolution recognising the critical role of environmental human rights defenders [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/23/human-rights-council-recognises-vital-role-of-environmental-human-rights-defenders/] and the continued and increased scrutiny by the Council over a range of situations of rights violations across the globe. The organisations also expressed their concerns over the Council’s failure to hold the Philippines, Egypt, Libya and China accountable and urged States to take action at upcoming Council sessions.

We welcome the positive step the Council has taken in the direction to effectively protect environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs). By adopting the resolution by consensus, the Council has collectively and explicitly recognized the vital role of EHRDs, including in attaining the SDGs sustainable development goals and ensuring that no-one is left behind, and called for their protection. ……..

We welcome South Africa’s leadership to put on the Council’s agenda emerging human rights issues, in bringing attention to the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that women and girls face in the field of sports, especially on the basis of race and gender…

While we welcome the extension of Council attention on Sri Lanka for another two years, a concrete, transparent, and time-bound action plan is urgently needed to implement its commitments under resolution 30/1 in collaboration with OHCHR. Given the lack of progress and political will to implement these commitments, in the absence of immediate progress, the Council should consider additional measures or mechanisms for ensuring victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparations. Individual States need not wait to exercise universal jurisdiction.

We welcome the resolution on Myanmar and its strong focus on ending impunity and ensuring accountability, and we call for the swift operationalisation of the Independent Investigative Mechanism (IIM). We welcome steps taken to review the UN’s involvement in Myanmar. We urge the UN Secretary-General to ensure that it is independent and transparent, and present the findings and recommendations at the Council’s 43rd session.

We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, a vital mechanism for human rights reporting and evidence gathering. It sends the right message to the government and all parties to the conflict: There can be no lasting peace without justice…

By adopting a resolution on Nicaragua, the Council sent a signal to victims of the current crisis that the international community will not allow impunity for the serious ongoing violations to prevail. We look forward to robust reporting from the OHCHR and we urge the Nicaraguan government to fully engage with the Office to ensure the victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation.

The Council sent a strong message of support to human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/]……

..We welcome the joint statement on Chechnya delivered by more than 30 States and join the call on the Russian authorities for the persecution to stop: for the immediate and unconditional release of all detained for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and for swift, thorough, and impartial investigations.

We welcome the Cameroon joint statement which advances both Council membership standards and its prevention mandate, and urge the Council to keep the matter under scrutiny.

While we have welcomed the Council’s attention to several situations of gross rights violations, we remain concerned about the lack of consistent and principled leadership by States, in particular by Council members.

We are disappointed that even though the demands of several EU and WEOG States to move the resolution on accountability for crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from item 7 to item 2 was met, they still failed to support the resolution. This suggests that no matter the item number, some WEOG members continue in failing to protect the human rights of Palestinians, effectively shielding Israel from accountability.

We regret that States have yet again failed to initiate Council action on the Philippines amidst continued unlawful killings in the government’s so-called war on drugs, and increased targeting of independent media, civil society organisations, and human rights defenders. ……….

We are deeply disappointed that the resolution adopted on Libya again lacks any meaningful accountability mechanism or mandate, despite the impunity for the widespread and systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that prevail there.

We deplore that despite credible reports of the detention of up to 1 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in western China, the Council has yet again given a pass to China, permitting impunity for widespread and severe human rights violations. The efforts China has made to keep States silent, exemplified by intimidation and threats on the one hand and whitewashing the situation on the other, demonstrate the degree to which Council action could have had meaningful results if States had instead called clearly and collectively for an independent, unrestricted fact-finding mission.

…….We applaud Mexico and other States’ resolve to safeguard the independence of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism and to resist any attempts to dilute, distract or distort its essential focus, ensuring that the Rapporteur can continue to have positive impacts both in preventing and responding to human rights violations committed in the name of countering terrorism and in relation to the human rights of victims of terrorism. We urge States to remain vigilant to resist future attempts to undermine the Special Procedures system – the eyes and ears of the Council.

We welcome the Council’s renewal of the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on Iran and the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, so that both can continue to perform their vital work fulfilling their respective mandates and addressing the dire human rights situations in both countries.  We urge the Iranian and Syrian authorities to change their posture of noncooperation with the respective mandate .

Several of our organisations have urged the UN High Commissioner to publish the database on businesses in Israeli settlements and were alarmed at its further delay.  We urge the High Commissioner to release the database with all due haste.

We welcome the renewal of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief mandate, and the maintenance of consensus on the Council resolution 16/18 framework for addressing religious intolerance . Rising intolerance and hate is a global concern, and States must move beyond rhetoric to action in implementing these standards.

The High Commissioner’s update on Venezuela during this session reflected the dire human rights situation in Venezuela. We urge all States to consider what more the Council can do to address the worsening human rights crisis in the country and to support all victims.

We note the highly disturbing report by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing concerning grave reprisals by the Egyptian government against those who cooperated with her during her recent visit to the country and urge this Council to take action to address these attacks.

We welcome the passage of the resolution on Georgia and the continued attention devoted to the importance of full and unimpeded access for the Office of the High Commissioner and international and regional human rights mechanisms.

The full statement can be found via the link below:

http://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc40-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-human-rights-council

https://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/F8666286FD4F67E7C12583C5006579ED?OpenDocument

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.,,

Nicaraguan journalist Wilfredo Miranda in exile wins journalism award

February 4, 2019

Nicaraguan journalist Wilfredo Miranda interviewing a witness to police repression in Masaya, Nicaragua, last summer. CREDIT COURTESY

Nicaragua’s human rights crisis  see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/18/exceptional-response-by-international-ngos-to-human-rights-crisis-in-nicaragua/] has sent many journalists into exile. Among them is Wilfredo Ernesto Miranda, a young reporter for the respected Nicaraguan weekly newspaper ConfidencialMiranda came to Miami after being threatened with imprisonment for exposing the murders of protesters by pro-government forces in a May 2018 article titled “!Disparaban con Precisión – a Matar!” (“They Were Shooting Precisely – to Kill!”) “I was able to document close-range bullet wounds to the heads and throats of protesters that could only be execution-style shots,” Miranda told WLRN.

The Rey de España prize is one of the most prestigious journalism awards in Spain and Latin America. Miranda said he wanted to dedicate his Rey de España prize – awarded by a jury in Spain – to imprisoned Nicaraguan journalists Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda, who face terrorism charges that human rights groups call absurd.

http://www.wlrn.org/post/nicaraguan-journalist-exiled-miami-wins-prestigious-prize-and-vindication

https://www.efe.com/efe/espana/agencia-efe/periodistas-de-ocho-paises-iberoamericanos-ganan-los-premios-rey-espana/50000071-3883708

Exceptional response by international NGOs to human rights crisis in Nicaragua

January 18, 2019

April 18, 2018 marked a watershed moment in the recent history of Nicaragua, with the outbreak of a political and social crisis that has seriously impacted the respect for and guarantee of human rights of the Nicaraguan people. A large number of International NGOs responded by establishing an ‘International Observatory of the Human Rights Situation in Nicaragua

Nine months since the start of the human rights crisis, state repression against protesters, leaders, human rights organisations and social movements continues, placing the defence of human rights and social participation difficult to sustain. The government of President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo has also been denying opportunities for international monitoring, which they had initially invited, such as the Follow-up Mechanism for the Situation in Nicaragua (MESENI) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, (IACHR) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

According to the statement made by the executive secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrão, in his last presentation to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), “the characteristics of state violence show that there was a decision by the State to use forces in such a way that involved the commission of multiple criminal acts against demonstrators and political opponents; specifically murder, imprisonment, persecution, rape, torture and, eventually, enforced disappearances.”

According to what has been documented by the IACHR, the escalation of violence has resulted in 325 people killed and more than 2000 people injured; 550 people detained and prosecuted; around 300 health professionals dismissed from their jobs; and the expulsion of at least 144 students from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN).

With the possibility of international observation terminated, the blocking of spaces for civil society organisations to monitor and follow up human rights violations, the criminalisation of human rights defenders (HRDs) and their organisations, the closure of civil society organisations and the increasing forced migration of thousands of people due to the political violence, the need to establish an international mechanism to observe the situation in the country is extremely urgent.

It is in this context that a group of international and regional human rights organisations have come together to establish the International Observatory of the Human Rights Situation in Nicaragua, including: Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Civicus- World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Urgent Action Fund-Latin America (FAU-AL), Front Line Defenders, Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), EU -LAT Network , JASS – Just Associates, Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (IMD), Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad, Race and Equality, Unidad de protección a defensores y defensoras de Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/13/nicaraguan-centre-for-human-rights-cenidh-robbed-of-its-legal-status/

Download the Statement

 

Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH) robbed of its legal status

December 13, 2018

In response to the decree by Nicaragua’s National Assembly cancelling the legal registration of the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH) today, Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said: Attacking the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and cancelling its legal registration, is another repressive maneuver by President Daniel Ortega to try to cover up the serious human rights violations that his government has committed. Those who denounce the atrocities committed by his government are being punished in Nicaragua. President Ortega is wrong if he believes he will be able to evade justice by trying to silence CENIDH.

It’s extremely alarming that organizations with the trajectory and legitimacy of CENIDH are being persecuted. By cancelling their registration, the government leaves the people of Nicaragua defenseless, preventing organizations from representing victims or fighting for their demands for justice and accountability. Today is a very sad day for the defence of human rights in the region.

https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/nicaragua-attack-on-cenidh-is-a-blow-for-human-rights/

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/02/nicaragua-moves-against-women-human-rights-defenders/

Nicaragua moves against women human rights defenders

December 2, 2018

 
Ana Quiros

On Monday 26 November 2018 Ana Quiros, Maria Jesus Ara, Beatriz Huber and Ana Ara were called in to immigration. Quiros was then taken to the El Chipote interrogation prison and subsequently driven to the Costa Rica border. The Havana Times of 27 November carries a long piece on this. “Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s regime has just raised the level of their harassment against feminist movements, in a day of abuses that culminated on Monday with the expulsion from the country of feminist leader Ana Quiros” write Juan Carlos Bow.

Quiros is a Costa Rican and Nicaragua dual citizen who has lived in Nicaragua for more than 40 years – the entirety of her adult life. Along with Quiros, three European women living in the City of Matagalpa for decades, were also cited by immigration without any explanation to appear on Monday at their offices, where they were held for hours and then had their permanent residency revoked. The authorities refused to allow them to be accompanied by lawyers or human rights defenders.

The Ara sisters are Spanish and Huber is Swiss, all had current permanent residency status. Quiros was born in Costa Rica and is a Nicaraguan national since February 1997. All are part of the national feminist movement that has criticized the repression of the Ortega regime and its responsibility for the death of at least 325 Nicaraguans.

Last week the regime blocked activities of the feminist movement to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is held annually on November 25th.

Before presenting herself at Immigration, Quiros offered a press conference in which she stated that “the dictatorship must be clear that we are going to continue raising our voices, saying strongly that we want a free homeland in which to live.” “I chose to be Nicaraguan and I feel I have the right to demand that my rights be protected, to demand that in Nicaragua there be peace, justice and freedom, and to repudiate the abuses and arbitrariness that they have committed: the murders, the prison and the kidnapping of all those Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, who only want and are asking for a better Nicaragua, a Nicaragua where we all fit, where no one feels that they are above anyone else,” said Quiros.

This is the second time that a government tries to silence the critical voice of Quiros, who is a specialist in public health. In 2000, the administration of Arnoldo Alemán tried to strip Quiros of her Nicaraguan nationality, after she publicly pointed out the acts of corruption of the liberal party president.

Vilma Nunez, of the Cenidh, lamented the expulsion of Quiros noting that the Ortega government has exceeded its intolerance against everything that annoys and bothers it. “…Nuñez said that the citation of Quiros and the other three feminists “has no legal value because it did not state why they are being called in.” ….Nunez said that in order to revoke someone’s citizenship, a trial must first be held, which has not occurred in this case.

https://havanatimes.org/?p=144719

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/deportation-ana-quiros

 

Finalists for the 2017 Front Line Defenders Award come from Ukraine, Nicaragua, Vietnam, South Africa and Kuwait

March 31, 2017

The Jury has selected human rights defenders from Ukraine, Nicaragua, Vietnam, South Africa and Kuwait as finalists for the 2017 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk:

emil-kurbedinov.jpg

Emil Kurbedinov, Crimea/Ukraine

Emil Kurbedinov is a Crimean Tatar and human rights lawyer. Since the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, Emil has been defending the persecuted Crimean Tatar minority, civil society activists and journalists. He also provides emergency response and documentation of rights violations during raids and searches of activists’ homes. In January 2017, masked representatives from Crimea’s Centre for Counteracting Extremism detained Emil and took him to a local directorate of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) for interrogation. A district court found him guilty of “propagandizing for extremist organisations” and sentenced him to ten days in detention.

Pham Thanh Nghien

Pham Thanh Nghien, Vietnam

Vietnamese blogger Pham Thanh Nghien spent four years in prison for her work publicising violations against and defending the rights of relatives of fishermen killed by Chinese patrols. Following her release, she was kept under house arrest, during which time she spearheaded numerous human rights campaigns and co-founded the renowned Vietnamese Bloggers’ Network. Nghien has had her home raided, been blocked from attending medical appointments, had a padlock placed on her door from the outside, and been refused a marriage certificate. Nghien has also survived numerous physical assaults aimed at stopping her powerful, peaceful work uncovering and publicising human rights violations in Vietnam.

nonhle_mbuthuma.jpg

Nonhle Mbuthuma, South Africa

Nonhle Mbuthuma has persisted in her struggle for land and environmental rights in South Africa’s Eastern Cape despite assassination attempts, ongoing death threats and the murder of her colleague. She is a founder and current member of the Executive Committee of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, formed to unite community members in five villages of the Amadiba Tribal Authority region opposing destructive mining projects. In July 2016, Nonhle and other activists successfully forced the biggest shareholder in a titanium mining project to withdraw, but threats to activists continue as the community now fears the project will continue with funding from local “front” companies.

Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli

Abdulhakim Al Fadhli, Kuwait

Abdulhakim Al Fadhli is currently imprisoned for his peaceful activism on behalf of Kuwait‘s stateless Bedoon and other minority communities in Kuwait. The term Bedoon, meaning “without” in Arabic, refers to the community of stateless persons, native to Kuwait, who are prohibited from obtaining any official state documents including, but not limited to, birth, death and marriage certificates. Abdulhakim is currently serving a one-year prison sentence and faces deportation upon release. Throughout his imprisonment, he has protested and staged hunger strikes against the inhumane and unsanitary conditions in the Anbar 4 prison facility, where he has also been subjected to solitary confinement. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/27/car-chase-in-kuwait-bedoun-human-rights-defender-the-target/]

francisca-ramirez

Francisca Ramírez Torres, Nicaragua

Human rights defender Francisca Ramírez Torres‘ children were attacked in attempt to stop her powerful work advocating against a destructive inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua. Francisca is the coordinator of the Council for the Defence of Land, Lake and Sovereignty, which educates communities on their rights, campaigns for the repeal of laws allowing land-grabbing. The proposed canal would displace thousands of small farmers and indigenous peoples, without respecting their right to free, prior and informed consent. Francisca has been detained, harassed, and had her home and family attacked for her peaceful resistance to this destructive canal project.

The annual Front Line Defenders Award seeks to focus international attention on the human rights defender’s work, thus contributing to the recipient’s personal security, and a cash prize of €15,000 is awarded to the Award recipient and his/her organisation in an effort to support the continuation of this important work.

Source: 2017 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk | Front Line Defenders

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 »

Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, 77, still not ready to stop fighting against torture in Nicaragua

December 7, 2015

In the series Human Rights Defenders against Torture, OMCT published on 7 December “Nicaragua: Meet Vilma: Still not ready to stop fighting against torture in Nicaragua”.  Vilma Núñez de Escorcia , 77, has been heading the Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) for the past quarter of a century, assisting civil society’s underprivileged populations and building the capacity to protect and promote human rights.  The first female magistrate in Nicaragua appointed Vice-President of the Supreme Court from 1979 to 1987, Vilma pegs her commitment to fighting for justice to the fact that she was born outside marriage ­- a terrible thing at that time, which meant that she was barred from the best religious secondary school and could not inherit as much as each of her “legitimate” siblings. She is now thankful for what she then considered as a “misfortune” as it made her realize how the legal system treated people differently. This realization made her want to train as a lawyer specializing in human rights and penal law. “I didn’t’ want anyone else to suffer discrimination so I chose to become a lawyer, to understand and stop it,” she explains.

She remembers her first encounter with torture Read the rest of this entry »

IM-Defensoras: women human rights defenders in Central America support each other

February 25, 2014

MDG : Women activists in Latin America  : protest against violence in Mexico

(A woman protesting against violence (c) Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

An excellent piece in the Guardian of 25 February by Jo Tuckman describes the impact of the Mesoamerican Human Rights Defenders’ Initiative [IM-Defensoras] which through solidarity tries to protect woman human rights defenders. The Honduran Berta Cáceres – who has been under threat for years because of her campaign against extractive industries – says that without solidarity from her peers, it could all be over. “The solidarity is why I am alive and why I am here,” she told a recent meeting of the IM-Defensoras in the Mexican capital. “And, of course, we are committed to continue.” (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/berta-caceres/)

IM-Defensoras is a three-year-old effort to provide women rights defenders in the Central American region with protection mechanisms that are gender-sensitive and adapted to different contexts, and that go beyond traditional options. The organisers of IM-Defensoras say activists in Central America are increasingly being targeted and governmental protection is rarely effective and difficult to trust. The initiative documented 414 attacks on women activists between 2010 and 2012, a period in which it says 38 women were killed, with the vast majority of their deaths blamed on the state.

The initiative is built around the creation of national networks of activists. So far, these have been set up in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, with about 360 members. The plan is to expand these networks and set up new ones in Costa Rica and Panama. The importance of the networks stems partly from the recognition that women activists are usually less able to rely on family and organisational support than men. For example, a female leader in danger is much likelier to face pressure from her family, or even from male colleagues, to withdraw from activism. “The gender perspective means recognising that women defenders have already broken the rules“.

The networks are the basis of most of the work of IM-Defensoras. In times of emergency, the networks may draw attention to a credible death threat or organise temporary exile, for example. They devise strategies that take into account complications such as whether an activist also has children.

The Guardian article also draws attention to an often overlooked aspect of support networks: fighting stress. The initiative also encourages activists to pay attention to the stress they accumulate from sustained threats, attacks, sexual harassment and smear campaigns. The risk of burnout is increased further by the fact that most women activists receive no salary and so also undertake paid work, at the same time as spending several hours a day on domestic chores. After getting supportive messages, Lolita Chávez, a Guatemalan K´iche’ (Mayan language) human rights defender is quoted as saying:  “I said to myself: ‘Maybe others think I am a terrorist but there are sisters telling me I am a defender of human rights’,”… “It was a counterbalance.” Chávez also spent three weeks in Mexico at a workshop to help her look after her own mental and physical health, which, like most women activists, she had neglected for years. “The initiative has filled me with life, but there are many sisters out there who are still waiting for this kind of support,” Chávez told the Mexico City meeting. “It is possible to do what we do and not be a martyr.” (see also: http://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/lolita-chavez-about-land-and-life-in-peril-in-guatemala/)

 

Central American women put their lives on the line for human rights | Global development | theguardian.com.