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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 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 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
June 19, 2020
The human rights association Proceso Social de Garantías para la Labor de las y los Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Antioquia (Social Process of Guarantees for the Work of the Human Rights Defenders of Antioquia) has warned authorities in Colombia about a grave threat to the inhabitants in and around Ituango, Antioquia. A few weeks ago, the AGC paramilitaries began implementing their strategy Operación Mil, surrounding Ituango with 1,000 armed forces in order to take complete control of the urban and rural areas. The AGC has been mobilizing paramilitary units from the departments of Chocó and Córdoba to implement this plan. It is feared that they are also engaging in forced child recruitment to supplement their forces. The threats of violence are real. On June 6, armed persons committed a massacre of several persons in the Quebrada del Medio rural zone of Ituango. The victims include: Camilo Sucerquia Durango, the 15-year-old son of an ex-FARC combatant; Carlos Barrera, age 17; William Pérez, a truck driver; and at least two unnamed persons. It is worth noting that this massacre occurred just one day after members of the Social Process of Guarantees for the Work of Human Rights Defenders held a meeting with the Mesa Territorial de Garantías (Territorial Roundtable of Guarantees) with high level government officials, such as the Vice-Minister of the Interior. The human rights defenders left the meeting disappointed in what they described as responses from the officials that were “ambiguous” and reflected “institutional negligence, bureaucratic incompetence, [and] dangerous inaction.”
June 18, 2020
Some 650,000 DREAMers are temporarily safe from deportation (at least for now) because of today’s Supreme Court ruling against the Trump administration. Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote when he joined the court's four liberal justices. Their ruling: the 2017 decision by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) to rescind DACA was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. This is an unexpected and positive ruling, but the fight on behalf of the DREAMers is far from over. DACA recipients have gotten advanced degrees; they have started businesses; they have bought houses, had children who are U.S. citizens; and 90% have jobs. Some 29,000 DREAMers are health care professionals. It’s no surprise that the majority of people in the US want the DREAMers to stay. But this won’t happen until Senator Mitch McConnell introduces the American Dream and Promise Act onto the Senate floor. The bill, which would give permanent legal status and path to citizenship for the DREAMers, was passed by the US House with an overwhelming majority on June 4, 2019. The Senate has stalled, refusing to take up this crucial piece of legislation.
June 11, 2020
We sent letters to officials in Honduras regarding attacks on civil liberties being carried out by security forces in Honduras under the guise of health emergency protections. The military and militarized police forces have increased arbitrary detentions and physical assaults, resulting in at least one killing. Marvin Rolando Alvarado Santiago (Cortés Dept.) was shot and killed on April 24 at a military police checkpoint. Oscar Machado and Eduardo Vásquez (Valle Dept.) were attacked on April 24 by los TIGRES with kicks and tear gas. Miguel Padilla and Yoni Duarte (Olancho Dept.) were illegally detained by military police on May 7, then transferred to a prison and tortured. César Arnulfo Blandón Merlo (El Paraíso Dept.) was beaten on May 9 by Preventative Police, breaking one of his hands. Heydi Mareli and her brother Wilmer Roberto Amaya Rubio (Olancho Dept.) were arbitrarily detained on May 20 and assaulted with punches, kicks, slaps and insults by nine Preventative Police agents. We are urging that the above incidents be investigated and that authorities end all forms of aggression, threats and harassment against the people of Honduras, especially human rights defenders, during and after this health emergency.
May 26, 2020
Because she is an outspoken defender of the environment and territorial rights in Putumayo (Amazon Basin), Jani Rita Silva has been subjected to intimidation, surveillance and death threats. In March, the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIPJ) reported that an anonymous informant told them of a plan to assassinate her. After an investigative visit to the Amazon Pearl Peasant Reserve Zone earlier this month (May 2020), representatives of CIJP reported that the military is conducting illegal surveillance on the environmental defender (as well as against staff of CIJP). Jani Rita Silva is the legal representative of the Association for the Integral and Sustainable Development of the Amazon Pearl (ADISPA). As such, she has denounced the oil extraction operations of the multinational company Amerisur, whose partners include Houston-based Occidental Petroleum.
May 25, 2020
The militarization of drug eradication in Colombia is resulting in violence and death. The Colombian government is feeling the pressure from Washington, so they're deploying their army onto coca plantations where they are facing resistance from campesinos. Since March, the Colombian army has been conducting forced eradication operations in the Catatumbo region of Norte de Santander Department. On May 18 they opened fire on unarmed rural workers who were protesting these activities, killing Emerito Digno Buenida Martínez, age 44, and injuring Miguel Hernández León, Juan José Orozco, and Jimmy Alberto González. The murder of Emerito Buendía Martínez comes just weeks after Colombian security forces (also in the Catatumbo region) killed Alejandro Carvajal, age 20, in his home on March 26. Alejandro was the nephew of a well-known community leader and had been working in crop substitution programs to replace illegal crops with traditional alternatives. We urge that the government of Colombia put an immediate end to forced crop eradication and allow the voluntary substitution program to proceed according to the Peace Accords of 2016.
May 24, 2020
Unknown individuals raided and vandalized the house of human rights lawyer Esteban Emanuel Celada Flores while he was at work. This is the third raid on his home in less than five months. Esteban Celada has filed at least six complaints before the Public Ministry for multiple attacks against him since 2016. While filing complaints he has experienced intimidating attitudes from members of the Public Ministry. The intimidating content as well as the continuous and systemic nature of the attacks have left a harmful psychological impact on Esteban Celada. No advances have been made on the investigations, nor have protection measures been implemented to safeguard his life and integrity. When he filed a complaint with the the Public Ministry's Crime Unit against Human Rights Activists of this recent incident (April 22), he was told that due to COVID-19 the Unit was lacking the resources to immediately assess the crime scene.
May 23, 2020
The body of Edwin Noel Flores Sacaza, a young Garífuna man, was discovered on the afternoon of May 1 inside a container on the property of the Ensenada thermoelectric plant, where he worked as a security guard. Residents of Sambo Creek are awaiting autopsy reports that might reveal the cause of death and clarify how Edwin ended up inside the container, where he may have suffocated to death. There are many doubts among the members of the community about what happened, how the investigations will be carried out, and how justice will be administered. Concerns are intensified because of the increase of killings of Garífuna people over the past year, especially of women Garífuna leaders of territorial defense. The thermoelectric plant itself is also cause for concern. Garífuna communities in the region face health risks from being exposed to plant emissions from Bunker C (Fuel #6), banned in several countries because it is considered highly toxic.