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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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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.
November 25, 2020
Death threats continue against community leader Adriel Ruiz Galván in Buenaventura in Valle del Cauca Department. He is coordinator of the Foundation Spaces for Coexistence and Social Development Development (FUNDESCODES), a member of the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee, and advisor to the Inter-Ethnic Truth Commission of the Pacific. He has been the victim of verbal threats and acts of intimidation for several months. On November 2, an unknown caller told him: “…you are already compromising your family…it's time to send people for your family.” We are urging that officials in Colombia: 1) carry out a thorough and impartial investigation into all threats and acts of intimidation against Adriel Ruiz Galván, publish the results, and bring those responsable to justice; 2) provide the requested protection measures for Adriel Ruiz Galván
November 24, 2020
The National Civil Police (PNC) used excessive force and brutality against demonstrators and journalists at a primarily peaceful protest at the Constitutional Plaza in Guatemala City on November 21. We support the demands of Amnesty International: 1) “that the Public Prosecutor's Office conduct a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the excessive use of force by police during the demonstrations, and 2) “that the government ensure that the population is able to exercise its right to raise its voice without fear of reprisal.” Furthermore, we echo the recommendation by Jordán Rodas Andrade, Guatemala’s ombudsman for human rights: “Refrain from using these acts of provocation and vandalism to justify the persecution of journalists and human rights defenders, and criminalize the legitimate demonstration of citizens”
November 23, 2020
A national strike by a teachers' union leads to death threats and assassinations of two of its members. Both of the assassination victims belonged to unions affiliated with FECODE, the Colombia Federation of Educators. Byron Revelo Insuasty, member of the SIMANA teachers union in Nariño Department, was disappeared on November 13. His body was found in a morgue in Tumaco on November 22. Douglas Cortés Mosquera, member of the SER teachers union in Risaraldo Department, was also killed on November 22. These killings follow death threats (in the form of funeral wreaths) against all fifteen members of the FECODE Executive Committee that were sent to the home of the FECODE secretary of legal affairs on October 26. The threats came just days after FECODE was involved in the National Strike protests against government reforms that would weaken collective bargaining and the right to strike. We are urging that officials in Colombia: 1) investigate the assassinations of Byron Revel Insuasty and Dougals Cortés Mosquera, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice; 2) investigate the threats against all 15 members of the FECODE Executive Committee
November 22, 2020
We wrote to officials in the state government of Chiapas and the federal government of Mexico about the state-sponsored repression against indigenous Maya Tseltal campesinos who were beaten (some arrested) when they peacefully demonstrated against the construction of a National Guard station on their ejido (communal land) last month. Our letter focuses on two of the men who were beaten and unjustly detained on fabricated charges of inciting a riot. After 17 days in preventive detention, José Luis Gutiérrez and César Hernández are now released from jail but have strict conditions placed on them by the court system. We are urging authorities to immediately absolve José Luis Gutiérrez and César Hernández of the fabricated charge of rioting.
November 1, 2020
We wrote to officials in Guatemala regarding the criminalization of indigenous journalist Anastasia Mejía Tiriquiz in Quiché Department. (This is a follow-up to a letter we sent September 26, 2020). On September 22, agents from the Specialized Criminal Investigation Division (DEIC) of the National Civil Police (PNC) raided her home, from which she operates the radio station Xol Abaj. They arrested her on charges of “sedition,” “attack with specific aggravations,” “aggravated arson,” and “aggravated robbery.” Although Guatemalan law establishes that an initial hearing must take place within 24 hours after an individual is arrested, that did not happen. Anastasia Mejía Tiriquiz waited in arbitrary detention for 36 days at the Quetzaltenango Preventive Center for Women. On October 28, she was formally charged by the judge of the Criminal Court of First Instance of Santa Cruz del Quiché. A cash bail was set, and she was permitted to leave imprisonment and stay in her home “under house arrest .” We are urging that authorities in Guatemala drop all charges against Anastasia Mejía Tiriquiz.
October 26, 2020
President Alejandro Giamettei closed three government offices that were created to comply with the Peace Accords of 1996 and Guatemala’s international obligations to seek justice for all human rights violations committed during the armed conflict. On July 30, the president signed Government Agreement 100-2020, creating the COPADEH (Commission for Peace and Human Rights ) but not specifically assuming the functions of the three shuttered institutions: Secretary of Peace (SEPAZ), the Secretary of Agrarian Affairs (SAA), and the Presidential Commission for the Coordination of Executive Policy on Human Rights (COPREDEH). This is evidence of abandonment of the Peace Accords, the negating of State responsibility for grave violations of human rights in the past, and the ignoring of the rights to reparations for victims of state violence. We are requesting that: 1) the Constitutional Court suspend the closure of the SEPAZ, the SAA and the COPREDEH; 2) the Central Government respect the commitments of the State of Guatemala to peace and human rights; 3) the Guatemalan Congress fulfill their oversight function and not remain passive in the face of arbitrary decisions.
October 25, 2020
Within 24 hours, four indigenous community leaders were assassinated in two departments. In Cauca: Avelino Ipia, Héctor David Marín, and Gustavo Herrera (a regional coordinator for Colombia Humana). In Huila: Eduardo Alarcón (in Huila). Two other leaders survived assassination attempts in two other departments. In Córdoba: Aurelio Jumí Domicó (vice-president of the indigenous reservation Quebrada Cañaveral Embera Katio del San Jorge). In Sucre: Hernando Benítez (a regional representative for the Movement for Victims of State Crimes, MOVICE). We are urging that authorities in Colombia conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into the assassinations and attempted assassinations of the victims named above, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice
October 24, 2020
Two agricultural union members were assassinated within ten days of each other in Cauca Department. FENSUAGRO (Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria) members: 18-year-old Jayder Quintana (October 3) and Nelson Ramos Barrera (October 13). In addition to his membership in the agricultural union federation FENSUAGRO, Jayder Quintana also belonged to the peasant farmers association ANZORC (Asociación Nacional de Zonas de Reserva Campesina). Nelson Ramos Barrera, who was killed in front of his family, belonged to the Municipal Peasant Workers Association of Piamonte (ASIMTRACAMPIC), an affiliate of FENSUAGRO. Because of its work coordinating crop substitution programs and defending protected biodiversity zones, ASIMTRACAMPIC members have been deemed military targets by armed groups operating in the area. We are urging that authorities in Colombia: 1) carry out transparent and thorough investigations into the assassinations of Jayder Quintana and Nelson Ramos Barrera, publish the results, and bring the perpetrators to justice; 2) provide protection measures to members of ASIMTRACAMPIC and FENSUAGRO in Cauca, in strict accordance with the wishes of their local leaders; 3) demilitarize the rural areas of Cauca because of the military’s complicity in the armed violence, forced displacement, and targeting of rural social leaders