Posts Tagged ‘Telesur’

Honduras: one of the worst places to be a human rights defender

June 5, 2015

On 25 May 2015 the inaugural PEN Canada/Honduras Award for investigative journalism, ‘Escribir sin Miedo’, was presented in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to the journalist and documentary filmmaker Fred Alvarado for his essay “HONDURAS: the Process of American Remilitarization and the Failure of the War on Drugs”.

Escribir sin Miedo was organized and launched by the newly established PEN Honduras centre, in partnership with PEN Canada, with funding from the British embassy in Guatemala. “Investigative journalism has never been more important in this country,” said Dina Meza, president of PEN Honduras, “and awards like this recognize the importance of creating a culture in which writers and human rights defenders can address sensitive issues without fearing for their lives.”

And the problems are grave:

– At least 30 journalists have been killed since the country’s 2010 Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations, and at least 48 since 2003. Several were killed even after receiving protection measures, including “precautionary measures” granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). To date the government has obtained convictions in just four of these cases, with the remaining 44 unresolved – an impunity rate of over 90 per cent.

– Frontline reports that Honduran human rights defender, Ms Gladys Lanza Ochoa, continues to face intimidation and harassment following her sentencing to 18-months imprisonment on 26 March 2015. An appeal against the sentencing has been lodged before the Supreme Court of Honduras.  [Gladys Lanza Ochoa is Coordinator of the Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz Visitación Padilla (Honduran Women’s Committee for Peace “Visitación Padilla”), a collective of women human rights defenders from across Honduras who work on issues such as gender violence and women’s participation in public life, in addition to advocating for democracy and human rights in Honduras. Over the last years, Gladys Lanza Ochoa, as well as other members of Visitación Padilla have been regularly victims of threats, intimidation and surveillance in connection with their human rights work (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/19743Most recently, on 14 May 2015, the human rights defender was followed by unidentified persons riding motorcycles and driving a car that did not bear registration plates. This intimidation occurs right after Gladys Lanza Ochoa’s lawyer launched her appeal before the Supreme Court against her sentence to 18 months in prison https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/28385.

– On 25 May 2015 Telesur published a lengthy “Analysis From Reagan to Obama: Forced Disappearances in Honduras” which provides many details on 30 years of horror: “Hondurans today suffer not just from the terror of death squads but from the ravages of three decades of the implementation of neoliberal policy made possible by death squads, which makes them that much more vulnerable.” 

– Bertha Oliva, director of COFADEH and winner of the Tulip award, lost her husband Tomas Nativi to forced disappearance by Battalion 316. Nativi was taken from their home by masked agents in 1981 and has never been seen again. Over the years after Nativi’s disappearance, Oliva came to realize that she was not alone, and others had similar experiences of family members being disappeared. In 1982, 12 of these families came together to form COFADEH with the objective of bringing back alive family members who had been disappeared. In the majority of cases throughout the 1980s while Battalion 316 was operating, COFADEH did not succeed in their goal. After the 1980s, COFADEH broadened its scope as an organization not only committed to seeking justice for the families of the disappeared and truth for Honduran society, but also representing and defending victims of human rights abuses, documenting cases, and providing training to raise awareness about human rights. The creation of COFADEH was, in its own words, a “concrete action” in the face of the inactivity of the state to ensure “the right of victims to live and to have due process, among other rights that have been violated.” COFADEH has continued to play a key role in documenting and denouncing human rights abuses and demanding justice, particularly once again in the years since the coup.

for more on Honduras: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/honduras/

Canadian and Honduran PEN centres award inaugural prize for investigative/public interest journalism – MarketWatch.

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/From-Reagan-to-Obama-Forced-Disappearances-in-Honduras-20150522-0027.html

Mexico Activists Convene First People’s Constitutional Assembly

February 11, 2015

Catholic priest, human rights defender and key organizer, Raul Vera, addressing the assembly.

Catholic priest, human rights defender and key organizer, Raul Vera, addressing the assembly. | Photo: Victor Figueroa / teleSUR

Marking the anniversary of the signing of Mexico’s 1917 constitution, activists, intellectuals and citizens participated in the first national ‘Citizen’s and Popular Constituent Assembly’ to propose a ‘bottom-up’ revision of Mexico’s Magna Carta. So reports teleSur on 5 February.  The assembly, held in Mexico City and attended by nearly 1000 people, proposes to develop a new constitution that prioritizes social, political and economic rights.

One of the assembly’s key organizers, catholic bishop and social activist, Raul Vera, said that the current state and crisis of violence as well as political and economic corruption in Mexico is a primary driving force behind the initiative.“Justice and rights have disappeared for the mass majority of the Mexican multitude of poor and the small number of middle class that remains…thus, the idea of forming a new constitution in Mexico comes from the idea, finality, objective that we Mexican citizens can be become subjects of the country’s historical construction,”said the human rights defender in his address to the crowd.

Participating in the assembly were families of the disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students, their fellow classmates, as well as human rights defenders, writers, artists, priests, students and labor leaders.

The Catholic priest and respected migrant rights defender, Alejandro Solalinde, exclaimed that the assembly and its objectives rule out the participation of political parties in the process, declaring that legislators “do not represent anybody.” Solalinde went on to send a message to Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, that the work of the assembly will move forward to push for peaceful systemic political and social change. “It depends on you [Pena Nieto] that the changes will be pacific, we are going to carry them out no matter what, but if you repress or use force and violence, you will be the only one responsible … you will be guilty,” Solalinde stated.

Although it remains unclear as to how the assembly’s findings and declarations will be implemented legally, organizers say that the grassroots work and proposals of viable alternatives will carry on beyond 2017, marking 100 years of the original constitutional assembly of the Mexican Revolution.

Mexico Activists Convene First People’s Constitutional Assembly | News | teleSUR.

Mexico and human rights defenders: shoot the messenger

December 9, 2014

Vidulfo Rosales (Center)

(Vidulfo Rosales (Center) | Photo: Clayton Conn/ teleSUR)
A lengthy report entitled: “Ficha Cisen a abogado de normalistas” written in the electronic investigative journal, Reporte Indigo, shows that Mexico’s Intelligence Agency (CISEN) has opened dossiers on human rights defenders from the Human Rights Center of the Mountain “Tlachinollan” calling them “dangerous to governance.” The report details that Vidulfo Rosales, lawyer and representative of the 43 families of the Ayotzinapa students as well as Tlachinollan’s director, Abel Barrera are “elements” that pose a “threat” to the government and that the two participate in “subversive” activities.   Telesur of 8 December refers to a public letter signed by over a dozen reputable human rights organizations: “It is outrageous that public resources are used to weaken the human rights movement instead of using intelligence capabilities to combat infiltration and corruption by narco-governments and guarantee that serious human rights violations do not go unpunished”.

Mexico Intelligence Agency Investigates Rights Defenders | News | teleSUR.

New Death Threats to Human Rights Defenders aim to weaken Colombia’s peace process

September 25, 2014

Two weeks ago I referred to reports about efforts to destabilise the Colombian peace process [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/death-threats-to-human-rights-defenders-linked-to-peace-process-in-colombia/]. Now new threats have been made public – hard to imagine by coincidence – on the eve of the September 22 reopening of negotiations in Havana. Nine human rights defenders in Colombia have been declared “military targets” by criminal group Los Rastrojos.

The latest list includes Marco Romero, director of human rights NGO Codhes who also forms part of the National University of Bogota’s team accompanying the peace process. Also on the list were Leon Valencia and Ariel Avila of NGO Paz y Reconciliacion, and Luis Emil Sanabria of NGO Redepaz.

A pamphlet labeled the nine on the list “guerrilla bureaucrats and human rights defenders dressed as civilians,” appearing to accuse many of them of having links to guerrilla group the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), before stating, “Los Rastrojos reserve our right to continue in the struggle for a country free of slags like you, the only thing you do is cheat people, teaching them communist doctrines against our ideas and the responsibilities of the country in favor of the most needed class.

For Luis Emil Sanabria, the threats issued by the Rastrojos and Aguilas Negras only serve to prove that the paramilitary demobilization process of 2006 was an abject failure, demanding a full disarmament process as part of any effective post-agreement phase of the peace negotiations ongoing in Havana: “This effort made by the Colombian government and the FARC, and other guerrilla groups to advance a peace process must bring us to the full deactivation of all of the armed actors, including the criminal groups (a term used by the government for post-2006 paramilitary groups),  including the drug traffickers and of course including the guerrillas groups,” Sanabria told teleSUR.

New Death Threats to Human Rights Defenders Latest Attack on Colombia’s Peace Process | News | teleSUR.

Death Threats to Human Rights Defenders linked to peace process in Colombia

September 11, 2014

Alberto Yepes has been told he will be murdered for his human rights work. (Photo: teleSUR)

(Alberto Yepes has been told he will be murdered for his human rights work. Photo: teleSUR)

Telesur News reports on 10 September that a paramilitary group historically linked to state agents in Colombia has issued death threats to 91 human rights defenders, in a move that could be linked to the advances made in the country’s ongoing peace process. Sent by email to various NGOs and social organizations, the threat was directed at the 91 people and their families and signed by the “Aguilas Negras” [Black Eagles].

According to Alberto Yepes, one of the human rights defenders named in the email, it is in the context of the peace process that the threats must be understood, because the powerful figures that stand behind the work of the country’s paramilitary groups are fearful of what may emerge from any truth commission set up following an agreement. “They sense the imminence of a peace process that will demand things be cleared up. These criminal organizations have been terrorizing the population and social organizations that will in some way have to discover who is behind all of that, and these groups see that as a threat,” said Yepes. Though the links between the threats and the peace process remain speculative, it appears emblematic that the 91 activists were told to leave the country by September 18 – the date set for a Senate debate into ties between paramilitary groups and elected officials.

via Death Threats to Activists Point to Fear Over Imminent Peace in Colombia | News | teleSUR.