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Anti-Militarism: News & Updates

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For years Colombian social leaders and human rights activists have been living in fear. Every year more than a hundred lose their lives due to violent attacks and assassinations. But 2022 marks a sickening new record in this bloodshed with 225 recorded killings of these important members of society. Over the cause of the year illegal armed groups have been intensifying the violence, especially in major drug trafficking areas. In a statement, the government's ombudsman Carlos Camargo said, "It's a serious impact on the basis of democracy, because these are leaders who take up the concerns of the people, who are spokespersons and who work for a country where human rights are respected."

Despite the newly elected President Gustavo Petro's pushes for peace, the violence is still ongoing. Striving for peace, Petro has started talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), plans on implementing a peace agreement with remaining dissident FARC fighters and bring gang violence to a halt and members to justice, by offering a reduced sentence to those who surrender.

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For Years activists in Atlanta have been in the fight opposing the project "Cop City" which aims to tear down a local forest, to build the biggest police training facility in the nation. The predominantly Black, underserved local residents oppose the project. They had hoped that the area--a canopy of trees that serve as a buffer against climate change--would be turned into a municipal park instead of a symbol of oppression.

A week ago, at the site of the protests, 26-year-old environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Tortuguita) was shot dead by an Georgia State Trooper inside his tent. Hearing about it from Panama City, Panama where she lives, Manuel's mother said: “they killed him … like they tear down trees in the forest – a forest Manuel loved with passion.”

Manuel Esteban Paez Terán ¡PRESENTE!

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Twenty-one years ago, on January 11, 2002 President Bush opened the torture facility Guantánamo. Since then approximately 779 individuals have passed through the prison and nine lives were lost, seven of  which were by suicide. Today the United States government still holds 35 men hostage, 20 of whom have already been cleared for release. Barely any of the 779 people have ever been charged with a crime let alone convicted. In 2022 the Biden administration has released one(!) person, 75 year-old "forever prisoner" Saifullah Paracha, who was detained in 2003. 

To protest this injustice, 35 activists in orange jumpsuits and black hoods gathered in front of the White House to remember its victims.  The protest was accompanied by a number of speeches. First was Herb Geraghty, organizer for Witness Against Torture and activist. In his opening remarks he defined Guantánamo as the representation of "the worst of this country’s xenophobia" and called on President Biden to keep his promise and shut down Guantánamo Bay Prison. Following Herb, Dr. Maha Hilal, an expert on institutionalized Islamophobia and co-director of Justice for Muslims Collective, held a powerful speech, stating that Guantánamo's existence “…has institutionalized Islamophobia...that in turn has been used to…demonize, criminalize and to justify state violence against Muslims." The third speech was by James Yee, a former U.S. Army prison chaplain to detainees at Guantánamo, who after speaking out against the crimes committed by the U.S. in the facility, was arrested and held in solitary confinement for 76 days while being falsely accused of aiding the “terrorist enemy.” He talked about his first hand insight into the prison's daily abuse and his own experience of being framed and criminalized as a terrorist. After a reading of the 35 names of the men still imprisoned in Guantánamo,  Imam Saffet A. Catovic offered a final prayer in which he called for justice to be done here in the U.S. and throughout the world while referring to Guantánamo. 

After the White House gathering, a small group of activists marched to the Washington Post headquarters to promote coverage on the ongoing injustice in Guantánamo. The group was met with security guards who denied them access to the building and asked the activists to step back on the sidewalk and off their private property. There was no interest by the editors to hear or be informed about the issue. Evidently, the publication’s masthead motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” has not been conveyed to the security and journalistic personnel. 

A summary of the entire three day action by Wittness Against Torture, will be up on the website soon.

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Nina Lakhani covered in The Guardian the murder of Guapinol defenders Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor condemned the murder and calls for an independent investigation.
ContraCorriente published an important investigation into the economic ties between Lenir Pérez and the State of Honduras. "Lenir Pérez, the businessman who owns the concessions in the Guapinol mine and the Palmerola airport, maintains his power intact despite the official discourse of President Xiomara Castro against these projects. Accused of benefiting from his relations with former president Juan Orlando Hernández to obtain irregular contracts and abuse the human rights of communities, Pérez could maintain privileged access to the new government through the legal work of Pamela Blanco Luque, partner and wife of Tomás Vaquero, Minister of Government, Justice and Decentralization."

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"The state of emergency was implemented in Honduras under questioning and rejection by human rights defenders and other sectors of society, who asserted that the measure places the population in a situation of greater vulnerability. A recent report by the National Human Rights Commissioner (CONDAEH) states that approximately 60% of the police interventions reported as successful actions by the Security Secretariat took place in localities other than Tegucigalpa, Comayagüela and San Pedro Sula (...). The director of Conadeh's National Human Rights Observatory, Carlos Joaquín Méndez, in an interview with stated that they have found that police interventions do not require the suspension of guarantees or a measure as restrictive as the one currently in place in Honduras. In Méndez's opinion, there is an urgent need to implement structural measures in the country, to adopt a comprehensive approach strategy that involves public policies and not a state of exception, "this is an exceptional measure for exceptional situations", he revealed."

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January 11, 2023 marked a grim milestone; the 21st anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Nearly 800 predominately Muslim men and boys have been held in indefinite detention at Guantánamo for years without trial, some of whom were tortured in violation of international law. Only two have ever been convicted of a crime. Hundreds of lives have been destroyed and recent stories have emerged of the continued punishment faced by these men even after they are released.

Today, at a cost of $540 million per year, thirty-five men remain imprisoned at Guantánamo. Twenty-three of these men have never been charged with a crime, and twenty have already been recommended for transfer. You can see the names of those who have been transferred or still held in detention here

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On February 9. 2002 the United States, without a verdict, sent the Yemenite Mansoor Adayfi to Guantánamo. Without a trial and the ability to defend himself, Mansoor was imprisoned for more than 14 years. During his time in Guantánamo, he took part in a number of hunger strikes.

Following his release in 2016, Mansoor found himself stranded in Serbia. Instead of returning him to his home-country of Yemen, the US dropped him off in a foreign country without language skills, access to healthcare, a job, or the ability to visit his family. In Serbia, Mansoor started another hunger strike, this time to protest his conditions and demand to be transferred to an Arab country. He was unsuccessfull. In his new "home" Serbia, where a tabloid ran a two-page spread calling him a terrorist, it's next to impossible to find friends or a job. 

The repression and stigmatization reached its peak 2017, when reporters interviewing Mansoor were stopped and questioned by Serbian police. The following day Serbian men forced their way into Mansoor's apartment and searched it. Later, he called a reporter to show him hidden cameras he found in his apartment. In the interview, Mansoor said he felt like he was still in prison.

 The United States government has a responsibility to uphold rehabilitation and reintegration after release from Guantánamo.

News Article

In the Tapachula area of southern Mexico, more and more arriving immigrants are left stranded as they strive for a safer life. In the area activists of the Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos en el Sureste Méxicano, monitoring migration movements, point out massive human rights violations and unfair treatment at the asylum application centers.

With many of the arriving migrants being Haitian or African, the lack of translators and general holdback of information leads to confusion, leaving immigrants stuck in the rain, no access to basic human needs like clean water, a roof over their heads or sanitary facilities. Furthermore, the activists reaffirm their denouncement of 

- the spread of misinformation on asylum and immigration regulations by the authorities

- authorities handing over personal documents in a discriminatory way and through corrupt processes

- authorities improvising measures putting people's health at risk

- the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) setting review appointments up to September 13, leaving immigrants stuck without the ability to work or take part in society. 

Until their process appointment,  the individuals are tied to a temporary security status (Multiple Migration Form, MMF) allowing them to stay in Chiapas state but denying permission to travel throughout the country. Immigrants caught outside of the Chiapas area are met with detention or even deportation. Especially vulnerable are migrants from Central and South America bringing many young children.

We demand a treatment with dignity and the upholding of human rights by the Mexican government for individuals fleeing war, violence, natural disasters and poverty.