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Anti-Militarism: News & Updates

News Article

Colombia is in an age of upheaval. After decades of practical impunity for war criminals in the country, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) war tribunal was established in an effort to work up the past, bring those involved to justice, and provide reparations for the victims of the atrocities comitted by paramilitaries and the Colombian state. 

One case investigated by the JEP is the assassination of two union leaders at the US mining company Drummond. In this case the Colombian executive of Drummond, Jose Miguel Linares as well as his predecessor Augusto Jimenez, are on trial for the funding of an illegal terrorist group and the killing of the two union leaders. So far the charges against the two executives are conspiracy. In the tribunal Miguel Linares and Jimenez are accused of have hired the the Northern Bloc of the right wing United Self-Defense Forcesmj of Colombia (AUC) to provide "security" for a Drummond mining operation in Cesar Department. 

The  Colombian state's key witness in the case is the former food provider Jaime Blanco. Blanco, who was sentenced to 38 years in prison in 2013 for his involvement in the killing of the two union leaders, has been cooperating with the JEP war crime tribunal since 2019. In his testimony, Blanco accuses Drummond of the artificial inflation of food contracts between 1996 and 2001 as a means to pay the AUC, and clarified further financial, and cooperative relations between Drummond and AUC. Drummond has denied all alligation. 

While preparing the trieal, the JEP received a number of confidential testimonies. The two defendants' attorneys have requested to see the testimonies; that was rejected by the court. In a press release, the defense claimed that the trial is built on false testimonies "of convicted criminals who received payments for their testimony."

We at IRTF strongly support the JEP tribunal as an effort to bring  forward the truth and those guilty to justice. It is important, and long overdue, that the history of impunity in the country comes to an end and those who financed paramilitaries are held accountable for their complicity. We hope that Linares and Jimenez will be sentenced according to their crimes and reparations will be served for the bereaved of the victims. We also hope that the tribunal will fully resolve the case by bringing possible accomplices to justice. Crimes like these assassinations have to be investigated and solved if Colombia ever wants to find peace.      

News Article

Time and time again, journalists are victims of violence and repression in many Central American counties. In an effort to cut the freedom of the press, governments all over the continent have implemented laws to persecute critical media and shut down news outlets, as well as obstructing access to public information and stigmatizing individuals and outlets. But this repression is only one side of the sword. In many countries journalists and reporters are targets of threats, cyber attacks and even assassinations. This constant harassment and fear of being the next one killed or imprisoned has caused many to go into exile. 

In Honduras four reporters have been killed since the beginning of 2022, a trend that has been going on for decades. Between 2001 and today 98 killings of journalists were recorded. Such violent attacks and killings usually remain without any sentence or even conviction in Honduras, a fact criticized by many. The director of the Committee for Free Expression calls this lack of punishment "enormous impunity," and the Honduras National Human Rights Commission sees the media as a victim of "extreme violence." Besides the direct violence against journalists, the state threatens the freedom of expression with laws targeting reporters, journalists and news outlets. 

The exiling of reporters takes its most excessive form in Nicaragua, where nearly 200 journalists and reporters and others have gone into exile, 23 of whom were even stripped of their citizenship. As a legal rationalization, the Nicaraguan government declared these 23 individuals as traitors to the nation. In addition to the oppression of individual people, Nicaraguan authorities have taken over the daily La Prensa, the channel 100% Noticias, the two digital magazines Confidencial and Niu, and the television programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche. 

In Guatemala, criminal persecution is the most serious threat to the free press. In that country many journalists, reporters and other media personal have been jailed. Since President Alejandro Giammattei took office in January 2020, 12 journalists and reporters critical of him have gone into exile. 

In El Salvador violence against media personnel is a regularity.According to the  Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES), 611 cases of aggression against reporters and Journalists have been recorded since the election of President Nayib Bukele in 2019. Legal reforms in the country hindering reporters and journalists in their work have led the news outlet El Faro to move to Costa Rica in mid-April. Again and again repression has  caused reporters to leave the country.  Eleven individuals were forced to exit the country and 30 were spied on with the Pegasus software, provided by Israel. Between 2021 and 2022 the government has closed down three radio stations. 

Another country cutting freedom of  the press is Panama. Here the state regularly abuses its oppressive legal system against critics. Anti-slander, and personal data protection laws are being used by authorities to set up civil and criminal lawsuits against media outlets like La Pensa daily and the digital media site Foco. The fear of being sued, and charged with millions in fines or even prison time, leads to a climate of self-censorship within the media spectrum. 

Compared to the other countries mentioned above, Costa Rica is a relatively safe harbor. In the country no journalists are reported jailed or persecuted. But even here three critical media outlets were verbally attacked by government officials.

Though these grievances have been going on for decades, the situation hasn't improved. It is important that journalists, reporters and news outlets are able to do their work safely and without having to fear persecution. We call on all Central American nations to ensure a free press and freedom of speech.