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June 30, 2021
Please see a summary of the letters we sent to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, Guatemala, 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: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, and (3) bring human rights criminals to justice. IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six 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 on 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.
June 26, 2021
We wrote to the attorney general of Guatemala regarding the amendments to Bill 5257, a law governing the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which went into effect on June 21. The revised law will create an even more hostile environment for those working to defend human rights. The law seeks to silence public criticism that may threaten the state’s power, thereby perpetuating schemes of corruption and impunity. We are urging that the government of Guatemala: (1) allow civil society organizations to proceed with legal challenges to the Bill 5257 amendments; (2) monitor the impacts of the implementation of these Bill 5257 amendments; (3) ultimately repeal the Bill 5257 amendments
June 25, 2021
State-sponsored violence against popular demonstrations has continued over the past several weeks, resulting in the deaths of more than 40 Colombians. In the Usme neighborhood of south Bogotá on June 21, ESMAD repeatedly attacked demonstrators, killing one person, injuring at least 42 and arresting many more. Jaime Alonso Fandiño, age 33, was killed after an ESMAD agent shot him in the chest with a high-powered projectile from close range. Media reports said that ESMAD agents also attacked medical teams and journalists, while threatening at least two human rights observers.
June 24, 2021
State security forces exercised brutal repression against demonstrators in the Chamelecón neighborhood of San Pedro Sula, Cortés Department, on June 18. Hundreds of residents of Chamelecón took to the streets to demand that the levee that protects their neighborhood from the waters of the Chamelecón River be repaired. Instead of having their voices heard and their needs responded to, they were faced with brutal repression by the National and Military Police.
June 23, 2021
We wrote to the Supreme Court of Justice of Honduras regarding the current trial of David Castillo, charged with the March 2, 2016 assassination of indigenous environmental defender Berta Cáceres. The extensive and detailed evidence submitted in this trial (and related prosecutions) demonstrates that David Castillo was part of a criminal structure that engaged in a range of crimes, including financial crimes and violence. Besides his trial for the murder of Berta Cáceres, David Castillo is also one of six people awaiting trial for corruption charges related to the construction of the Agua Zarca project. We urging that authorities in Honduras: (1) ensure that the judges overseeing the trial of David Castillo’s be able to make their decision without pressure from powerful actors interested in swaying the verdict and obscuring the truth about the intellectual authors of this crime; and (2) ensure that COPINH (Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) be permitted to be included in any future legal proceedings involving David Castillo and DESA, as is their right under Honduran law
June 22, 2021
Pride Month is a time to celebrate, but also a time of heightened danger to those who are out in the LGBTQ+ community. In Guatemala, two transwomen leaders were assassinated in just two days: Cecy Ixpata and Andrea González. On June 9, Cecy Ixpata, a member of the trans rights group Otrans Reinas de la Noche (Queens of the Night) and Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Personas Trans (RedLacTrans), died in a hospital in Salamá, Baja Verapaz Department, from sustained injuries suffered in a violent attack in a very public place: a fruit and vegetable market. On June 11, Andrea González, the legal representative of Otrans Reinas de la Noche, was shot dead only meters from her home in zone two of Guatemala City. She was a fellow of the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and a collaborator with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
June 21, 2021
National Civil Police used violent repression against a peaceful demonstration by residents of the community of Chicoyogüito, municipality of Cobán, Alta Verapaz Department. In 1968 the Q'eqchi families of Chicoyogüito were dispossessed and uprooted from their land by the Guatemalan state. In their place, the government built Military Base #21, a center where the army carried out forced disappearance, torture, execution, and burial of hundreds of indigenous men, women, and children. On June 9, community members demonstrated in Cobán, asking authorities for the return of their ancestral lands. The National Civil Police beat and injured several people. They arrested 21 men.
Needs Improvement: Amnesty International Progress Report on the Biden Administration Making the U.S. a Safe Refuge
June 17, 2021
A June 2021 report from Amnesty International showed the Biden administration needs improvement on making the U.S. a safe refuge.
Guatemala: Legal actions to achieve the definitive suspension of the Fenix mining operation in El Estor
June 17, 2021
Thank you to Rights Action for this news piece.
Migrant Justice: 'I'm going to tase this kid': Government shelters are turning refugee children over to police
June 8, 2021
Ricardo Cisneros, the interim director of the Southwest Key Casa Blanca shelter in San Antonio, repeatedly gave the teen his word that the police wouldn’t touch him or take him anywhere. They just wanted the boy to come out. The boy sat motionless and didn’t touch anyone. Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy Patrick Divers didn’t request evidence of the child’s alleged wrongdoing at the time. He did ask staff whether they wanted to press charges. After Cisneros said yes, the deputy shared his plan with the staff members: He would wait for his partner to arrive. “As soon as they get here, we’ll take care of this,” he said. The boy repeatedly asked what they were going to do with him. He was a refugee, an asylum seeker in the country without his parents and in the custody of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. The previous year, he’d fled a gang that had beaten him and, his family says, threatened his life in Honduras.