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Rapid Response Network
RRN’s team of letter-writers responds to six urgent human rights cases each month to
- protect people living under threat
- demand investigations into human rights crimes
- bring human rights criminals to justice
- ensure that human rights crimes are not happening in the dark.
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January 11, 2022
The National Police and its Anti-Riot Mobile Squad (ESMAD) carried out brutal repression against residents who are protesting against fare increases in Bogota’s TransMilenio transportation system. On January 5, ESMAD agents arrived with two military tanks at the Molinos neighbhorhood of Bogotá. They threw stun grenades at demonstrators and fired tear gas indiscriminately. ESMAD detained a young journalist and kicked him. As many as 2,500 National Police and ESMAD officers were deployed around the city on January 11, when the fare increase went into effect. Many demonstrators have been arrested.
December 16, 2021
We wrote to officials in Honduras expressing our dismay about a court-ordered eviction of the San Isidro Campesino Cooperative which commenced today when 150 policemen arrived and forcibly evicted 80 families from the cooperative farm. This is an illegal eviction that benefits wealthy private landowners and extractive companies in Honduras. In 2012, the San Isidro Cooperative recovered their lands after an arduous legal process. In 2019, a first eviction was carried out in a context of extreme violence. Yesterday, the San Isidro Cooperative tried to stop this eviction by presenting an appeal in the national jurisdiction court of Francisco Morazán. Although the appeal was accepted, two hours later the judge ordered the eviction of the community. We are urging that authorities in Honduras order an investigation of the judges who are issuing these eviction orders as to whether there has been collusion between the court and private economic interests. Land rights groups are suspecting corruption, influence peddling, and bribery.
December 15, 2021
We wrote to officials in Honduras to protest the illegal eviction orders against several campesino cooperatives issued by three judges in three departments. Several private interests, among them the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP), the Dinant Corporation, and the Agropalma company, have persuaded judges to issue the orders, which, we anticipate, will be backed up by military and police. The families of the campesino cooperatives San Isidro, Trinidad, Despertar, Remolino, Camarones, Laureles, Tranvio, Paso Aguán and Plantel are facing imminent threat of eviction, even though the cooperatives are in possession of definitive titles that the National Agrarian Institute (INA) maintains in its archives. Although these cooperatives have filed numerous complaints with the government for the crime of usurpation against Dinant, Agropalma and Ceibeña investments for many years, the investigations have never advanced. We strongly urge that government authorities take swift action to prevent any acts of violence against the campesino families who are making use of their legitimate right to access these lands.
December 14, 2021
We wrote to officials in the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) of Guatemala to express our disappointment that it has not resolved the 15-year controversy surrounding the El Fénix nickel mine in El Estor, Izabal Department. On December 10, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) announced that the community consultation process on the mine was officially completed and that mining operations could resume in January 2022. This is preposterous. The consultation—a process which normally takes at least a year to complete—was conducted in just over three months, during the majority of which the community of El Estor was under a state of siege (cf our letter of November 21, 2021). The Xinka Parliament, the Q’eqchi’ Ancestral Council, the Defensoría Q’eqchi’, and the El Estor Fisherman’s Guild have all refused to recognize the rushed and inadequate consultation process. We urging that MEM suspend the mining license until there is a new consultation process that includes the legitimate ancestral authorities who have been elected by their communities and representatives of the Fishermen’s Guild.
December 13, 2021
We wrote to officials in Honduras with our concerns about acts of intimidation against Nidia Castillo, staff attorney with the National Network of Women Human Rights Lawyers in Choluteca. Unknown actors damaged her car, and a man on a motorcycle followed her when she left home to run errands on December 2. This was the same day she had attended a press conference to oppose the ZEDE Orquídea (Employment and Economic Development Zone); construction commenced in the village of Las Tapias in January. Due to the vast biological diversity of flora and fauna of this area situated near the border of Nicaragua, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared it a biosphere reserve in 2017. Opponents have concerns that the ZEDE’s industrial agriculture projects, designed to produce exports to the U.S., will create severe negative environmental destruction, disrupting communities and threatening the biosphere of the region.
December 2, 2021
The Armed Forces and National Police have militarized the 200-year-old Azacualpa community cemetery in La Unión, Copán Department, at the behest of a US/Canadian gold mining company. Exhumations of the mostly indigenous Maya-Chortí graves have occurred off and on for several years. Despite a Supreme Court order one year ago to stop the exhumations, in October of this year another judge issued an “urgent order” to exhume, transfer and rebury the skeletal remains. The removal of the cemetery (which is why the army and police have been deployed) is to make way for expansion of the San Andrés gold mine, which is owned by US- and Canada-based Aura Minerals and operated by its Honduran subsidiary MINOSA (Minerales de Occidente SA). Those who oppose mining operations are spied on and threatened. Many opponents (at least 35) have been criminalized.
December 1, 2021
In the early hours of the morning of November 14, officers of the National Police in Comayagüela, Francisco Morazán Department, arbitrarily stopped a vehicle, arrested the occupants, and beat one of them to the point where she had to be stitched up at the hospital. The victims: Lucía Enamorado, a local leader of the National Network of Human Rights Defenders, her partner Junior Oyuela, and journalist Nancy Paola García, a columnist for the feminist publication Tinta Verde. With understandable worry after being stopped, Junior Oyuela expressed verbal concern that “the police in Honduras disappeared people.” The police arrested him. When Lucía Enamorado questioned why they were being detained, the police took her into the patrol car and beat her. She had to be taken to a hospital to receive stitches for her wounds. Despite her injuries, they held her in detention for several hours in the Fourth District Police Station in the Belén neighborhood of Comayagüela. They were released at 12:00pm after a social media campaign that pressured the National Police.
November 26, 2021
Human rights defender Adriana Lizarazo, the coordinator of the Santander chapter of the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP), is receiving death threats from paramilitaries. The text messages sent to Adriana Lizarazo on November 13 indicated that the sender was with the Gaitanistas/Gulf Clan paramilitary organization and that they had private information about her. The sender insisted on meeting with her. CSPP was also singled out as a military target. The sender included photos of firearms and someone dressed in military gear with a military rope and a bracelet with the initials AGC. The threats to Adriana Lizarazo, her family, and members of CSPP-Santander are of great concern. INDEPAZ (Institute for the Study of Development and Peace) reports that from January 1 through November 15 of this year, there have been 152 documented acts of aggression against social leaders in Colombia.
November 25, 2021
We wrote to officials in Colombia about the attack on oil pipeline protesters that resulted in the shooting death of 31-year-old farmer Michelsen Vargas Velasco by ESMAD anti-riot police on November 13. Residents of La Hermosura (Bolívar municipality, Santander Dept) had been protesting against an ECOPETROL oil pipeline for the past 50 days because of water contamination and destruction to their roads. On November 13, they blocked access to a road in Puerto de los Cerros. ESMAD arrived and attacked the community, firing tear gas and rubber bullets. They shot Michelsen Vargas Velasco in the head at close range.
November 24, 2021
We wrote to officials in Honduras to protest the police and military attack on two young adults in the community of Llano Largo in San José municipality, La Paz Department, on November 10. Ronald Alexander Gutiérrez Molina and Saúl Ramos were injured by the security agents. Ronald, age 24, is a community leader who organizes a youth soccer team and participates in a dance team. The security agents approached him on the street at 10:30pm and demanded that he direct them to gang members in the area. When he denied knowing anything about gang members, they grabbed, detained, beat, and shot him. (He has a gunshot wound on his right ankle.) They sprayed a toxic gas on his face and threatened to kill him.