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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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August 2, 2021
The government of Honduras—in collusion with mining companies—continues to harass and criminalize environmental defenders. On July 23 the National Police unjustly detained (and, fortunately, later released) Reynaldo Domínguez. Reynaldo is one of many environmental defenders in the northern coastal departments of Honduras who continue to defend the Guapinol River and advocate for the release of the Guapinol 8—eight environmental defenders who have been in pre-trial detention since September 2019. He is active with the Committee Pro-Defense for the Common Good, which is working to get the government to cancel the environmental license granted to the company Inversiones Los Pinares to operate an iron oxide mine within the Montaña de Botaderos National Park. It is widely understood that the extraction of iron oxide is intended for the production of steel by Nucor Corporation, which is based in North Carolina in the United States.
August 1, 2021
Members of the Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley live with constant threat. In 2019, during an in-country visit by delegates of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), environmentalist Olga Velázquez gave testimony that she was being subjected to intimidation and surveillance by strange men at night. Flash forward two years later. At approximately 8:00pm on July 28, five men dressed in Preventive Police uniforms arrived at her house in Cedros municipality, Francisco Morazán Department. They did not arrive in a police patrol car. Olga recognized the civilian car as one similar to one parked in front of her house a few days prior. In an act of intimidation, three of the men entered her house without justification or confirming their identities.
July 6, 2021
At around 10:00am on July 5, Indigenous human rights defender Simón Pedro Pérez López was shopping with his youngest son at the outdoor market in Simojovel, Chiapas State, when an attacker riding on a motorcycle shot him in the head. The 35-year-old father of four was a catechist at Santa Catarina Catholic Church in Pantelhó municipality. Long active as a human rights defender in the highlands of Chiapas, last year he served as board president of Las Abejas de Acteal, a Christian, pacifist, anti-neoliberal grassroots organization. He recently accompanied Maya Indigenous Tzotzil residents who are requesting action from their local government to hold back armed groups who are extorting families and forcing some off their land. We are urging authorities to (1) investigate the assassination of Simón Pedro Pérez López, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice, (2) adopt protection measures for members of Las Abejas de Acteal (including members of the family of Simón Pedro Pérez López ), in strict accordance with their wishes, and (3) in consultation with members of Las Abejas de Acteal, take measures to dismantle criminal organizations that are operating in the Los Altos de Chiapas region. Simón Pedro, ¡presente! #JusticiaParaSimonPedro
July 5, 2021
On June 29, the Bogotá-based Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP), announced that it was investigating 240 attacks on members of the press amid demonstrations that have been ongoing for the past two months, including 138 attacks by police. Two of those assaults happened on that very day. In Bogotá, police officers of the ESMAD unit (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios, or Anti-Riot Squad) assaulted two journalists while they covered protests for the independent broadcaster RCN Radio. Katy Sánchez, a reporter, and Alexandra Molina, an intern, were attacked by police officers while they were filming ESMAD police beating and kicking a youth during the demonstration. One officer shoved Katy Sánchez to the ground with his shield, kicked her in the back, and hit her with his nightstick, leaving her with a badly sprained left ankle and bloodied knees—injuries that would prevent her from working for at least a week. We demand that the government of Colombia protect both the demonstrators and journalists who are reporting on their legitimate activities—activities that should be protected by their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
July 4, 2021
We wrote to officials in Honduras regarding ongoing death threats to Dr. Ligia Ramos, who as president of the Medical Association of the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS), has been publicly critical of the government, especially its disinvestment in the public health system. Now living in exile with her children, Dr. Ligia Ramos is campaigning for a seat in the national legislature. We are urging that authorities in Honduras: (1) carry out a thorough and impartial investigation into the threats to the life of Dr. Ligia Ramos, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice; (2) implement the necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Dr. Ligia Ramos, in direct consultation with her; (3) protect the democratic process by working to immediately halt all threats and assassinations of political candidates, poll workers, and journalists, as have been well documented since the military coup in 2009.
July 3, 2021
The climate for journalists in Oaxaca is extremely dangerous. There is documentation of six journalists killed throughout Mexico in 2020; five of those were in Oaxaca. Journalist Gustavo Sánchez Cabrera is the latest victim. On June 17, two unidentified people driving a car near the town of Morro Mazatán, Oaxaca, crashed into him while he was traveling on a motorcycle with his 15-year-old son. Gustavo Sánchez and his son fell from the motorcycle. The attackers then exited their car and shot and killed Gustavo Sánchez, riddling him with bullets. The municipal police in Tehuantepec reported that at least 15 9-millimeter bullet casings were found at the scene of the crime. The journalist received at least one gunshot to the head. We are urging officials in Mexico to : (1) carry out a thorough, exhaustive and impartial investigation into the assassination of Gustavo Sánchez Cabrera, publish the results, and bring the perpetrators to justice; (2) review protection programs for reporters and human rights defenders, and take all necessary protection measures to guarantee the safety of journalists in Oaxaca, in strict accordance with their wishes; (3) conduct an internal investigation into why Gustavo Sánchez Cabrera had not yet received the protection assigned to him by the Mecanismo de Protección de la Secretaría de Gobernación
July 2, 2021
In a letter to the president and attorney general of Colombia, we expressed our outrage at the alarming rate of assassinations of social leaders across Colombia, especially in Antioquia Department. Social leader Ángel Miro Cartagena Correa, a member of Community Association of High Quality Coffee Producers of Dabeiba (APROCAD), went missing on June 14. His tortured body was found in the Urama River in the rural area of Dabeiba municipality, Antioquia, on the afternoon of June 20. We are urging authorities in Colombia to (1) conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the assassination of Ángel Miro Cartagena Correa, publish the results, and bring the perpetrators to justice; (2) seek all necessary strategies to guarantee the life and integrity of social leaders in Antioquia, in strict accordance with their wishes; (3) join with the National Commission of Security Guarantees to establish and implement policies that will identify, prosecute, and dismantle the intellectual authors, financiers, and members of the neo-paramilitary and other criminal groups that are continuing to interfere with the implementation of the peace process
July 1, 2021
We wrote to the president and attorney general of Colombia about the alarming rate of assassinations of social leaders across Colombia, now at 80 for this year. Diana María Jaramillo Henao became one of the latest victims on June 20. Diana Jaramillo (age 49) was dedicated to community work in the 5 Estrellas neighborhood of La Gabriela, municipality of Bello in Antioquia Department. She was murdered along with a married couple: Wilson Alfonso Zapata Guisao (age 51) and Nubia Isleny Pérez Cárdenas (age 50). Police reported the discovery of their bodies put in bags and sealed with tape. We are urging authorities in Colombia to: (1) conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the killing of Diana María Jaramillo Henao, Wilson Alfonso Zapata Guisao, and Nubia Isleny Pérez Cárdenas, publish the results, and bring the perpetrators to justice, and (2) seek all necessary strategies to guarantee the life and integrity of social leaders in Antioquia, in strict accordance with their wishes.
June 26, 2021
We wrote to the attorney general of Guatemala regarding the amendments to Bill 5257, a law governing the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which went into effect on June 21. The revised law will create an even more hostile environment for those working to defend human rights. The law seeks to silence public criticism that may threaten the state’s power, thereby perpetuating schemes of corruption and impunity. We are urging that the government of Guatemala: (1) allow civil society organizations to proceed with legal challenges to the Bill 5257 amendments; (2) monitor the impacts of the implementation of these Bill 5257 amendments; (3) ultimately repeal the Bill 5257 amendments
June 25, 2021
State-sponsored violence against popular demonstrations has continued over the past several weeks, resulting in the deaths of more than 40 Colombians. In the Usme neighborhood of south Bogotá on June 21, ESMAD repeatedly attacked demonstrators, killing one person, injuring at least 42 and arresting many more. Jaime Alonso Fandiño, age 33, was killed after an ESMAD agent shot him in the chest with a high-powered projectile from close range. Media reports said that ESMAD agents also attacked medical teams and journalists, while threatening at least two human rights observers.