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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.
Save a life. Demand justice. Join the RRN!
January 13, 2021
We wrote to officials in the state government of Chiapas and the federal government of Mexico about verbal threats of violence made against fifteen members of the Jovel Valley Environmental Network in Chiapas. A group of aggressors threatened the environmentalists on December 29 while digging a ditch to help protect Maria Eugenia wetlands, a natural area of 115 hectares. A construction company is threatening the wetlands—the main source of drinking water for the área and habitat for a number of endangered species —by filling in land, paving, and building on top of the land. We are urging authorities to: 1) thoroughly and impartially investigate the verbal attacks and threats of violence against the members of the Jovel Valley Environmental Network, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice; 2) adopt measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the members of the Jovel Valley Environmental Network.
January 12, 2021
Surveillance of social leader Leider Valencia Tumbo that suggests his life is being threatened. Leider Valencia Tumbo is well-known in Southwestern Colombia. He serves as a municipal delegate (Miranda, Cauca Department) for various social organizations, including: FENSUAGRO-CUT (National Federation of Agricultural Trade Unions-Central Union of Workers), PUPSOC (Process for Popular Unity of Southwestern Colombia), the Patriotic March, and notably COCCAM (National Organization of Cultivators of Coca, Poppy, and Marijuana). COCCAM functions as the Territorial Advisory Council for the implementation of the national Program for the Voluntary Substitution of Illicit Crops (PNIS). As we have mentioned in previous letters, COCCAM member farmers who are actively working to implement PNIS have increasingly suffered human rights abuses and have been the victims of assassinations: more than 50 killed since the Peace Accords were signed four years ago.
January 11, 2021
We wrote to officials in Colombia to urge investigations into the assassinations of eight social leaders across six departments during the last week of December, bringing the total to an astounding 310 assassinations of social leaders and other human rights defenders during 2020. The victims are: Felipe Guevara Henao- journalist (Dec 23 in Cali, Valle del Cauca Department); Fablio Armando Guanga Quistial- Awá indigenous activist (Dec 23 in Tumaco, Nariño Department); Pedro Alejandro Pérez Doria- town councilor (Dec 24 in San Pelayo, Córdoba Department); Roberto Eduardo Parra Ovalle - peasant farmer and environmental defender (Dec 25 in Mesetas, Meta Department); Juvenal Vitonás Achicué - indigenous community activist (Dec 26 in Toribío, Cauca); Luis Alberto Anay Ruiz – teacher (Dec 27 in Tumaco, Nariño Department); Omar Moreno- agricultural trade unionist (Dec 28, between Llorente and Pasto, Nariño Department); Norbey Antonio Rivera - agricultural trade unionist (Dec 30 in Popayán, Cauca Department). We are urging that authorities in Colombia guarantee thorough investigations to find the perpetrators of the atrocities listed above and provide all necessary security measures for social leaders to ensure full implementation of the provisions of the peace process.
December 31, 2020
A death threat was mailed (December 7) to journalists Marvin del Cid and Sonny Figueroa of the investigative news website Vox Populi in Guatemala City. The message warned the journalists to refrain from investigating and publishing their work “or else you’ll see.” Both journalists specialize in reporting on alleged corruption. In recent months they have published a series of investigations into alleged influence-peddling among individuals connected to President Alejandro Giammattei. Both have reported incidents of intimidation and obstruction this year, including police harassment in public spaces, an online smear campaign, and being singled out by President Giammattei for criticism at public events. These are further examples of the intimidation and harassment against journalists whose investigative reporting is making a vital contribution to democracy in Guatemala.
December 30, 2020
We wrote once again regarding the ongling criminalization of eight environmental defenders from the community of El Guapinol in Tocoa, Colón Department, who have been imprisoned in “preventive detention” awaiting formal charges since September 2019. A petition for their release was again denied on December 18. To bring attention to several identified environmental, social, human, and economic impacts of large scale mining projects in the Atlantic zone, residents of El Guapinol and surrounding communities (including the eight who are imprisoned) organized the Encampment on the Defense of Water and Life in August 2018. They pointed to contamination of the Guapinol and San Pedro Rivers resulting from an iron ore mine. There are legitimate concerns that the mine is contaminating drinking water sources for populations across three departments in northern Honduras. These eight environmental defenders are: Ewer Alexander Cedillo Cruz, José Abelino Cedillo, Cantarero, José Daniel Márquez Márquez, Kelvin Alejandro Romero Martínez, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, Orbin Nahúm Hernández, Arnold Javier Alemán, and Jeremías Martínez. Because of the COVID-19 health crisis, their continued imprisonment exposes them to serious risks to their lives. We are therefore urging that authorities in Honduras: 1) immediately release them from preventive detention; 2) condemn the misuse of criminal law to control, neutralize and punish people who exercise the right to organize resistance in defense of land and waterways
December 29, 2020
We are demanding an investigation into the assassination of Lenca indigenous leader Félix Vásquez at his home in La Paz Department on December 26. Four armed men in balaclavas entered his home and shot him in front of his adult children. Félix Vásquez was well-known nationally for his work in defense of indigenous land rights (since the 1980s) and for organizing opposition to environmentally destructive megaprojects such as mines, hydroelectric dams, wind farms and logging, as well as for helping dispossessed communities recover ancestral land titles. He was the Secretary General of the Union of Rural Workers (UTC) in La Paz. He was also a pre-candidate for Congress for the Libertad y Refundación (LIBRE) party.
December 23, 2020
We are deeply concerned for the safety of indigenous communities and their leaders in Cauca, following a massacre earlier this month and the killings of other indigenous community members and leaders. Massacre in Cauca Department: On December 6, hooded men carried out a massacre in the rural area of Santander de Quilichao. They entered a family home in the middle of the San Pedro and Gualandai villages, fired gunshots indiscriminately at six people, killing four. One of those killed was Carlos Escue, a musician who served as youth coordinator in the nearby Munchique Los Tigres reservation. Others killed this month in Cauca: Hernán Eduardo Pino Julicué, the 30-year-old son of the renowned indigenous eader Luz Eyda Julicué, was shot to death in Caloto municipality. Juan Carlos Petins, age 45, was shot in the chest several times by armed gunmen. He was an indigenous Nasa spokesperson of the Nega Cxhab Belalcázar reservation in Paéz municipality. Indigenous Leaders Threatened: Within hours of the massacre, the FARC dissident organization “Dagoberto Ramos Front” threatened to kill more than a dozen more indigenous leaders, including Senator Feliciano Valencia, for impeding their drug trafficking activities.
December 22, 2020
We are deeply concerned for the safety of environmental defenders. We are aware of two assassinations (November 30) and ongoing death threats to another. Assassinations: Meta Department: Javier Francisco Parra Cubillos was a 47-year-old environmentalist who worked as coordinator of CORMACARENA (Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Special Management Area of La Macarena). Chocó Department: Harlin David Rivas Ospina was a student of environmental engineering at the Technological University of Chocó and environmental activist in the National Youth Environment Network. Death threats: Santander Department: Nini Johana Cárdenas Rueda is an environmental defender in Carmen de Chucurí in Santander Department who is active in the Alianza Colombia Libre de Fracking and Movimiento Nacional Ambiental. Because of her work denouncing illegal extractive projects, she has been the victim of death threats, surveillance, and physical attacks for the past few years.
December 21, 2020
On December 1, security forces used a disproportionate amount of lethal force during in an eviction that occurred on the banks of the Río Blanco in San Pedro Sula, Cortés Department. Rafael Flores Hernández died after being shot several times by Municipal Police agents, who, accompanied by military personnel, carried out the violent eviction. Several others were wounded. We are urging that officials in Honduras: 1) investigate the methods used by security forces to forcibly evict the residents of the Río Blanco riverbank on December 1 and publish a report of the incident; 2) investigate the killing of Rafael Flores Hernández and bring those responsible to justice ; 3) guarantee safe housing for the people affected by hurricanes Iota and Eta; 4) comply with Honduras’ international commitments regarding humanitarian law and the use of militarized force against civilian populations
November 30, 2020
Political prisoner Raúl Álvarez (currently released pending trial after spending 20 months in “pretrial detention” at the maximum-security, military-run La Tolva prison) was stabbed on November 29 in Tegucigalpa. He was rushed to the Hospital Escuela (at the National Autonomous University) and admitted into surgery at 8:30pm. His condition was stabilized. Raúl Álvarez, a former police officer, was arrested along with Edwin Espinal in January 2018 during a period of nationwide protests about the legitimacy of the re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernández. The two were accused of vandalizing the Marriott Hotel and a Burger King in Tegucigalpa during a large demonstration march. They were released from prison in August 2019, but their trials are still pending. Both men continue to be active in the campaign to release a third political prisoner, Rommel Baldemar Herrera Portillo, who is still being held in “pretrial detention” at La Tolva. He is facing criminal charges of “damages” and “aggravated arson” against the United States Embassy in Honduras during a peaceful protest march.