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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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October 11, 2021
The government of Guatemala is using the National Police (PNC) to intimidate the local Mayan Q’eqchi’ community in El Estor, Izabal Department, which has been organizing opposition to the El Fénix nickel mine for several years. Mining operations are causing contamination of local waterways, namely Lake Izabal. In 2019, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala ruled that the Guatemalan Nickel Company should suspend mining operations until a process of consultation with the local indigenous community is conducted (as required by national and international law). On September 27, 2021 the Ancestral Council of Maya Q’eqchi’ Authorities filed an appeal against Alberto Pimentel Mata, the Minister of Energy and Mines, for his management and bad faith in the pre-consultation process. On October 4, the community set up a road blockade to stop the passage of mining machinery. On October 6, the Guatemalan National Police threatened to evict 94 families (many of them participants of the blockade) from their homes and properties. We are urging that the government (1) issue an order to suspend mining operations, and (2) respect the right of the local Q’eqchi’ community to organize opposition to the mining operations.
September 26, 2021
In Honduras, there is a systemic attempt to silence the voices of those who stand up for environmental and social justice causes, including the journalists who report on such causes. In San Pedro Sula: TV reporter Deyni Menjivar was threatened by a private security guard while covering a demonstration by environmental defenders who were demanding action against the construction of a new upscale housing development in a forest reserve. In Choloma: TV reporter Hector Madrid was followed and threatened after reporting on community opposition to the ZEDEs (Employment and Economic Development Zones), which are autonomous zones ceded by the government to private companies. We are urging that authorities in Honduras (1) adopt and uphold prevention mechanisms to avoid violence against those who work in the media, and (2) train public officials, especially the police and security forces, on the guidelines for conduct for respecting the rights of public assembly and respect for freedom of expression.
September 25, 2021
The targeting of journalists—especially if the police are involved—raises serious issues about freedom of the press and the ability of the press to hold Colombian authorities to account for the brutal treatment of demonstrators these past several months. José Alberto Tejada’s investigative reporting has been crucial in denouncing human rights violations committed by government security forces against demonstrators during the Colombian National Strike that began in April. High level government officials publicly accuse him of spreading “fake news.” Meanwhile, the InterChurch Commission for Justice and Peace has received credible information about an ongoing plan to assassinate the journalist from Channel 2 in Cali; a sum of thirty million Colombian pesos has already been paid to hitmen. Last month, a team of volunteer security guards observed a man on a red motorcycle drawing a gun near the journalist’s residence at 1:30 a.m. When they intercepted him, the motorcyclist fled to a nearby public establishment where several police officers were gathered. When the man arrived, the officers departed.
September 24, 2021
Ramón López Jiménez, a 44-year-old father of three small children and rural community leader in Jalapa Department, left home to work early in the morning of September 20. When he had not returned home in the afternoon, his family went out to look for him. His dead body, showing signs of gunshots and machete wounds, was discovered in a gutter near a creek near the Volcán de Paz in the village of La Paz, Santa María Xalapán. Ramón López Jiménez served as treasurer for the Jalapa chapter of CODECA (Committee for Campesino Development) in Jalapa. His assassination on September 20 occurred just five days after CODECA chapters throughout the country held public demonstrations against the government on the occasion of the bicentennial of Central America’s independence from Spain. His is the 21st assassination of CODECA members since 2018. To date, there has been no justice in any of the cases.
September 23, 2021
Donny Reyes, an active member of the Arcoiris (Rainbow) Association—as well as the director of CIPRODEH (Center for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights)—has been the victim of intimidation, including assault. Two days after a private security guard was seen recording Donny Reyes exiting the office of SOMOS-CDC (Center for Development and Cooperation of the LGTBI Community), unknown persons assaulted him on the street. They stole his personal documents, those of his partner, and also other work belongings. This attack occurred just one day after he filed an appeal against the Honduran government for denying him the right to marriage. We believe that these acts of intimidation against Donny Reyes are occurring because of his work in promoting equal rights—specifically, marriage equality—for the LGTBI community in Honduras. We urge that officials in Honduras expedite to the National Protection Mechanism any requests for protection measures being solicited by Donny Reyes. The government must ensure the right of all LGTBI defenders to carry out their work for justice in safety, under protection of the law, and without the threat of reprisal.
September 12, 2021
In the afternoon of August 18, armed men (some wearing hoods) arrived in the Cañada de Flores sector of Guaimaca (Francisco Morazán Dept) and, without presenting a legal eviction order, carried out a forced eviction. They kicked the doors of houses, entered some of the homes, and fired shots into the air to intimidate the families. It is understood that the armed men were private security guards of Maximiliano Elvir, who has been disputing ownership of the campesinos’ communal lands since 2014. We are urging that the INA (Instituto Nacional Agrario) investigate the legal titles of these disputed lands to establish true ownership/possession and make accommodations for the 44 impacted campesino families.
September 11, 2021
Student leader Esteban Mosquera was killed in Popayán, Cauca Department, when he left the house to walk his dog at 6pm on a Monday. In Popayán, Esetban had played an organizing role in recent protests over inequality and state violence. The 26-year-old was shot dead just several yards from the Humanitarian Refuge for Life meeting, which had been organized by social activists and former combatants with the aim of strengthening human rights and peace. In 2018, Esteban lost an eye when, during student mobilizations demanding a larger budget for public universities, he was attacked by the ESMAD anti-riot squad police, an event which sparked a wave of indignation towards the police and solidarity with the young man. In the three months of the national strike this spring, Institute for Peace and Development Studies (INDEPAZ) reports that 83 protesters suffered eye damage, along with at least 44 citizens murdered, and 1,832 people arbitrarily detained by police. We demand a thorough investigation that leads to the intellectual authors of this heinous crime.
August 16, 2021
Social leaders and ex-combatants who are working to forge peace in Colombia do so at their own peril. Since 2016, at least 278 signatories of the Peace Agreement have been assassinated. One of those is Jesús Danilo Mora Londoño , who was assassinated on July 21 in Puerto Leguízamo, Putumayo Department. He was traveling with his wife on a motorcycle taxi when two men wearing dark clothes and balaclavas (ski masks) forced him off the vehicle and killed him. As an ex-FARC combatant, Jesús Danilo Mora Londoño had been enrolled in the reincorporation process.
August 15, 2021
Campesino organizers in the Bajo Aguán Valley of Honduras persist in their struggle for access to land to to grow food for their families. The challenges are daunting: false criminalization of their leaders and continued assassinations. Long-standing land conflicts between campesinos and businesspersons in the Bajo Aguán have placed campesino leaders at serious risk for many years. Despite the granting of precautionary protective measures to 123 leaders in the region by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the killings continue. Assassinated in recent weeks were: Santos Marcelo Torres, former member of the campesino organization Movimiento Campesino Fundación Gregorio Chávez (MCRCG, also known as “Gregorio Chávez”) (June 26, 2021) and Juan Manuel Moncada, a recent leader of “Gregorio Chávez” (July 6, 2021). Falsely criminalized are two current leaders of “Gregorio Chávez”: Jaime Adali Cabrera del Cid and Hipólito Rivas. We demand that the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP) stop making statements that stigmatize and falsely accuse the land defenders in the Bajo Aguán. We demand that the government of Honduras fully implement precautionary protective measures for land defenders in the Bajo Aguán Valley.
August 4, 2021
IRTF members wrote to the attorney general of Guatemala regarding the assassination of Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) member Regilson Choc Cac, a Q’eqchi Mayan sixteen-year-old land rights defender. He was murdered on July 20 at 10:30pm in San Juan Tres Ríos, Cobán, Alta Verapaz. Regilson Choc Cac was a community leader who had participated in dialogues related to a land dispute that has been ongoing in his community for the past ten years. He is the third leader of CCDA in San Juan Tres Ríos murdered in recent years. We are urging that the government of Guatemala: (1) carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the assassination of Religison Choc Cac, publish the results, capture both the material and intellectual actors, and bring them to justice, in accordance with international standards; (2) implement the necessary measures to guarantee the physical safety and psychological integrity of all the members of CCDA, in strict accordance with their wishes; and (3) guarantee that all human rights defenders, in particular Indigenous and environmental rights defenders, are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of restrictions or reprisals in Guatemala.