- About Us
- Rapid Response Network
- Young Adults
- Get Involved
- Memory & Resistance Coalition
You are here
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!
July 24, 2020
On June 19, the body of Antonio Bernárdez, a 71-year-old leader of the Garífuna community of Punta Piedra, was discovered with bullet wounds and signs of torture. This was six days after he was disappeared. The Punta Piedra has been plagued by violence stemming from a land conflict since non-Garífuna families started settling there in 1992. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has criticized the government for not adhering to its mandates to protect Garífuna ancestral lands and adequately investigate the murders of Garífuna community leaders. As recently as May 2019, the Court acknowledged that Garífuna community members are still experiencing "direct death threats," "blackmail, increased robbery," and "profiling of leaders." The forced disappearance of at least four Garífuna men from Triunfo de la Cruz on July 18 is evidence of the ever-present dangers faced by the Garífuna communities along the Atlantic coast (cf our letter July 20, 2020). We are demanding that authorities in Honduras 1- carry out a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the assassination of Antonio Bernárdez, publish the results, and bring the perpetrators to justice; 2- develop protection mechanisms for Garífuna communities and their leaders, in strict accordance with their wishes; and 3- adhere to all resolutions and judgments issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to protect Garífuna ancestral lands, community residents and leaders.
July 23, 2020
Environmental leader Jani Rita Silva's life is being threatened in Putumayo, Colombia. We sent letters to the director of the National Protection Unit and other officials in Colombia about acts of intimidation, surveillance, and a recently revealed plan to assassinate Jani Rita Silva. She is the legal representative of the Association for the Integral and Sustainable Development of the Amazon Pearl (ADISPA). She has been a vocal advocate for full implementation of the Peace Agreement of 2016, promoting reforestation initiatives, and denouncing the socio-environmental effects of oil extraction operations, including those of Amerisur, whose partners include Houston-based Occidental Petroleum. On May 26 we wrote that the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP) disclosed information from an anonymous source about a plan to assassinate her. This month, CIJP learned from a confidential informant that there is indeed an assassination plan being conducted by the criminal group “La Mafia.” Organized criminal groups are putting heavy pressure on farmers to grow coca for the cocaine trade. It is presumed that Jani Silva is considered an enemy because of her active promotion of the crop substitution program (PNIS) in Putumayo.
July 22, 2020
TV reporter German Gerardo Vallecillo was murdered on his 41st birthday. He was killed July 1 along with his camerman/editor Jorge Posas in La Ceiba, Atlántida Department, when armed men riddled their automobile with bullets. Their bodies were later discovered inside the automobile. They both worked for TV 45. German Gerardo Vallecillo also did reporting on his Facebook account about topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic and murders committed in La Ceiba. It is unclear whether he was being threatened. German Gerardo's father, also a journalist, told Honduran National Radio (HRN) that his son had no problems with anyone; he also highlighted the altruistic role that his son played in managing material aid for people in need. Although some initial suspects have been arrested, we demand that authorities in Honduras conduct a thorough and transparent investigation, publish the results, and bring the perpetrators (including the intellectual authors of the crime) to justice.
July 20, 2020
We sent letters to officials in Honduras regarding the kidnapping on July 18 of four Garífuna leaders from the community of Triunfo de la Cruz, Atlántida Department. One of the four is Albert Sneider Centeno, president of the Community Board of Triunfo de la Cruz. They were kidnapped from their homes in the early morning by heavily armed men who were wearing bullet-proof vests and uniforms of the Policía Militar (Military Police) and the Dirección de Investigación Policial (DPI, Police Investigations Directorate). Others victims of the kidnapping include Milthon Joel Martínez Suany and Aparicio Mejía. We demand an immediate search to find the Garífuna leaders alive. We demand a thorough investigation process that will lead to the capture and prosecution of the kidnappers. We further demand that the State of Honduras cease all acts of violence and harassment against the Garífuna communities.
RRN Case Update
July 1, 2020
April, May and June RRN case summaries at a glance
On behalf of our 190 Rapid Response Network members, IRTF volunteers write and send six letters each month to government officials in southern Mexico, Colombia, and Central America (with copies to officials in the US). Who is being targeted? indigenous and Afro-descendant leaders, labor organizers, LGBTI rights defenders, women’s rights defenders, journalists, environmental defenders, campesinos, and others.
July 1, 2020
We are deeply concerned about recent attacks against the Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). COPINH has a community center (called Utopia Center) in La Esperanza, Intibucá Department, which serves as a meeting place for sharing information, developing strategies, and conducting human rights trainings. COPINH recently offered the Utopia Center to be used as an isolation center for people in prison infected with COVID-19. They have been receiving threats as a result.
June 25, 2020
We are outraged at the beating and arrest of journalist Francisco Chox in the municipality of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, in Sololá department.
June 24, 2020
We are writing to express our concern about attacks on civil liberties against members of the Comité Ambientalista de Azacualpa (Azacualpa Environmental Committee) in Azacualpa, municipality of La Unión, Copán Department.
June 23, 2020
We are deeply distressed over the death threats issued for feminist journalist Soledad Jarquín and members of the feminist organization Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca (Consorcio Oaxaca) in the municipality of Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca State.
June 22, 2020
The government of Colombia unjustly targeted and arrested six campesino men from Mapiripán, Meta Department, in a joint operation carried out June 7-8 by “an elite body of the police with the support of the Colombian Air Force and in coordination with the Attorney General of the Nation,” according to Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo. The campesinos arrested are Carlos Julio Betancourt Flores, José Isidro Martín Barreto, Carlos Julio Diaz, José Vicente Hernández, Norbey de Jesús Bustamante Cardona, and Luis Alberto Méndez. They are longtime residents and well-known members of several rural zones around Mariripán. We are disturbed that Defense Minister Holmes Trujillo has alleged that the six men belong to a residual organized armed group and are the authors of “forced displacement and threats against social and community leaders, and the substitution of illicit crops in both Meta and Guaviare.” Their families and community members strongly deny such accusations and are concerned that the government is constituting a new case of judicial “false positives.” The government is suggesting that these campesino men are working against the PNIS crop substitution program. Not true; five of the six men are active participants. Despite its overwhelming success, PNIS is being actively undermined by millions of dollars of Colombia governmental funding to security forces to forcibly eradicate coca in the name of the “War on Drugs” and commit human rights abuses in the process. More than 50 members of COCCAM (National Coordinator of Cultivators of Coca, Poppy, and Marijuana), one of the leading organizations of farmers active in the program, have been killed since the Peace Accords were signed in 2016. We demand that the government 1- immediately release all six men, 2- repair damages to community infrastructure and property incurred during the arrest operation, and 3-conduct a thorough review of the investigation that led to the arrest of these six men, including disciplinary investigations into those who ordered and conducted the arrest, and disclose any irregularities