MAY 2021: IRTF’s Rapid Response Network letters
Please see below a summary of the six letters we sent to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries. We join with civil society groups in Latin America to:
-protect people living under threat
-demand investigations into human rights crimes
-bring human rights criminals to justice
IRTF’s Rapid Response Network volunteers write letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn, or ask us to mail you hard copies.
MAY 11 2021
Threatened: Garífuna community leader Mabel Robledo
A man was approached by unknown persons on the streets of the Garífuna community Nueva Armenia and threatened: “if you do not want to die, stop hanging around Mabel Robledo, because we have already been authorized them to kill her." A half-hour earlier, an unknown individual entered Mabel Robledo's place of business and threatened: “…we are going to kill you.” This occurred after Mabel Robledo denounced before local and national officials the appropriation of ancestral Garífuna territories by palm growers and the extraction of sand from the Papaloteca River by drug traffickers.
MAY 12 2021
Police violence: Tolupán indigenous resist illegal logging
Honduran National Police (and suspected military personnel as well) are waging armed violence against environmental defenders of the Tolupán indigenous community of San Francisco de Locomapa in Yoro Department. On May 5, National Police fired on their encampment (Campamento Digno por la Defensa del Bosque y el Territorio Tolupán) that was set up to protect a pine forest against illegal logging. Norma Yackelin Ávila suffered a gunshot. We are unsure how many others might have been wounded. While exercising repression against the peaceful encampment, the police provided cover for the logging company to fix their truck and drive out the timber that they had illegally cut down in the indigenous territory.
MAY 13 2021
Police/military violence: national strike demonstrations
A majority of Colombia’s people are fed up with current social conditions: extreme social inequality, rampant corruption, tax increases, assassinations of social leaders (62 killed as of early May 2021), and weak implementation of the November 2016 Peace Accords. That's why tens of thousands of demonstrators have filled the streets in more than half of Colombia's municipalities over the past few weeks. The government's response: anti-riot police and soldiers, killing upwards of 40 people. Hundreds have disappeared, most arbitrarily detained. Those who have reappeared tell stories of physical and psychological aggressions by the National Police and the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD). Women have denounced being victims of sexual violence in police custody. Victims have been found beaten and subjected to torture, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.).
We are calling on the government to: (1) withdraw all military personnel from the streets because soldiers are trained for armed conflict, not for public safety; (2) investigate all reports of violence against demonstrators by security personnel and address any violations of human rights; (3) continue official talks with the National Strike Committee, which represents various groups including indigenous people, unions, environmentalists and students, to discuss key demands; (4) stop stigmatizing protesters and suggesting that they are linked to armed rebel groups; (5) guarantee the rights of peaceful assembly and to protest
MAY 14 2021
Police violence: environmental defenders protest thermoelectric plant
The National Electric Power Company (ENEE) has been granting licenses to private companies to construct thermoelectric generation plants without the prior consultation and consent of impacted populations. In Baracoa, Cortés Department, the National Police broke up a demonstration of residents along highway CA-13 by firing tear gas canisters at the residents. Residents are also concerned that they will not be given the opportunity to attend town meetings at which final approval for the electric generation plant will be given. Residents near other thermoelectric plants in Honduras face health risks from being exposed to constant emissions from turbines, including emissions from fuels so toxic that they are banned in other countries.
MAY 15 2021
Legislative Assembly fires magistrates of Constitutional Court
Many sacrifices have been made by the people of El Salvador to build a democratic system of government. Tens of thousands fought and died for a democratic El Salvador during the civil war; one million people had to flee as refugees to escape the massacres and other armed violence. Now the president and members of the Legislative Assembly are actively weakening democracy. On May 1, a coalition of four political parties (led by the majority New Ideas party) wiped out the judiciary when it fired all five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court without adhering to constitutionally-established justifications for doing so. Attorney General Raul Melara was also dismissed. We are calling on President Bukele and the Legislative Assembly to reverse the firing of the Supreme Court magistrates and grant them a defense hearing, as is their right under the law. Maintaining an independent judiciary is crucial to strengthening democracy in El Salvador.
MAY 16 2021
Threatened with eviction: Tolupán indigenous community
Five thousand members of the Tolupán indigenous community of Agalteca in Yoro Department are being threatened with eviction. Tolupán lands contain precious resources, such as mahogany forests, silver, and iron oxide. To seize those resources, those with economic interests carry out attempts at forcible evictions (some successful). As a consequence of government concessions to mining companies over the past eight years, Tolupán communities have experienced an increase in evictions, as well as destruction of their land and waterways. Those who resist outside encroachment on their ancestral territories suffer attacks, murders, and judicial harassment. Over the past twenty years, forty Tolupán community members have been murdered.