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March 26, 2020
IRTF joins with 74 organizations calling on the Dept of Justice to immediately close the immigration courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every link in the chain that brings individuals to the court—from the use of public transportation, to security lines, crowded elevators, cramped cubicle spaces of court staff, packed waiting room facilities in the courthouses, and inadequate sanitizing resources at the courts—places lives at risk.
March 25, 2020
More than 500 people have been arbitrarily detained by police and military during a crackdown in the context of this health crisis. Yesterday, in a neighborhood of Comayagüela, neighborhood women prepared food and took it to the street. When five men gathered to share the meal, police arrested and locked them up in a nearby police station; police warned the women to stop any such solidarity activities and shut themselves in their houses. (After advocacy by the women, the men were later released.)
March 24, 2020
The report, marked “For Official Use Only” and dated March 19, states that ICE’s (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Health Services Corps had isolated nine detainees and that it was monitoring 24 more in 10 different ICE facilities. In June, this reporter had obtained an internal ICE memo describing multiple deaths in ICE custody as having been preventable. The memo, sent from an ICE Health Services Corps (IHSC) official to ICE’s then-director, Matthew Albence, in December 2018, stated: “IHSC [ICE’s Health Services Corps] is severely dysfunctional and unfortunately preventable harm and death to detainees has occurred.” Unsanitary conditions in both ICE and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) detention facilities are well-documented, and have led to concerns about facilitating the spread of coronavirus. In July, a DHS (Department of Homeland Security) Inspector General report found “dangerous overcrowding” and squalid conditions among its southern border facilities. Last week, two doctors who work for the DHS wrote a letter to Congress warning of an “imminent risk to the health and safety of immigrant detainees” as well as the general public in the event that the coronavirus spreads among ICE detention facilities. In addition to the two DHS doctors who warned Congress about the dangers posed by the detention facilities, 3,000 medical professionals signed an open letter urging ICE to release its detainees in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 51 ICE detainees sent a letter to rights groups warning that they were being exposed to flu-like symptoms.
March 24, 2020
“It looked like a war,” said one eyewitness as 1,000 National Police and Military Police violently dispersed a peaceful 88-day encampment of water protectors in October 2018. Eight injured, one killed. One year later, seven Guapinol River defenders were imprisoned and, in March 2020, still sit in pre-trial detention. What’s going on? A large-scale open-pit iron oxide mine threatens their water source and way of life in the Aguan Valley near the Atlantic Coast of Honduras. Carlos Leonel George, an ex-prisoner incarcerated for resisting the mine, says that violence will escalate if the company continues with the open-pit mine because “…without that water they won’t have a way to live. It’s not a joke for them. It’s about survival.” Juana Zúniga, a leader in the Guapinol community and wife of political prisoner José Abelino Cedillo, explains why residents have organized their resistance: “We fight so we don’t have to emigrate from our country. If we cease to fight against the mining company, there are 3,500 people who would have to leave the community.” Reinaldo Dominguez, ex-political prisoner and community activist, looks out over the construction site in the distance and tells the reporter, “We live in fear every day.” #FreedomForGuapinol
March 24, 2020
We are gravely concerned about the continued trend of assassinations against social leaders and human rights defenders. Four more assassinated in five days: Ivo Humberto Bracamonte Quiroz, Marco Rivadeneira, Angel Ovidio Quintero Gonzalez, Omar Guasiruma and Ernesto Guasiruma. In the context of COVID-19, they now face even greater risks: 1- attackers know that public security forces are focusing on issues related to the pandemic, 2-social leaders cannot flee danger because they are subject to restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic, and 3- state protection measures have been weakened.
March 23, 2020
Colombian Armed Forces killed 23 inmates when they used indiscriminate gunfire at La Modelo prison in Bogotá on March 22. La Modelo inmates had joined with prisoners across the country who were holding simultaneous protests against unhealthy conditions, overcrowding, and lack of protections against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Colombian courts have declared the lack of health and overcrowding illegal and in violation of the constitution. Immediate measures must be taken to alleviate overcrowding and improve sanitation and health in the prison system. Here's one: release the more than 300 political prisoners and prisoners of war who should already have been released under provisions of the 2016 Peace Accords.
March 22, 2020
The Colombian peace and justice organization Justapaz recently learned of a pamphlet where they were described as an immediate military target by the paramilitary group Águilas Negras (Black Eagles). The pamphlet is not the first time that Justapaz has been threatened. This threat, however, is much more specific; it threatens to target Justapaz members’ families and children at their schools. To protect the important and legitimate work of Justapaz, we are calling on the government of Colombia to take immediate action to protect members of Justapaz and their partners across the country.
March 21, 2020
Assassinations of social leaders is ongoing, especially in rural zones. We are disturbed to learn that members of the Colombian Army could be implicated in two recent killings. Feb 26: Didian Arley Agudelo, age 38, former city councilor and head of farmer organizations. His body was found with his hands bound and shirt around his neck. His body was discovered in a zone controlled by the Seventh Division of the Army, four days after he went missing. (Antioquia Dept.) Feb 29: Amado Torres, age 49, treasurer of the community council of La Miranda. Armed men in military clothes entered his home, took him by force to a remote location, and shot him in the skull with a rifle at point-blank range. (Antioquia Dept.) Mar 2: Julio Gutiérrez Avilés, founder of the local Association of Rural Workers and president of the community council in El Esmero. Walking home to his farm, he was intercepted by unknown individuals, who shot him repeatedly, killing him immediately. (Huila Dept.)
Skeletons in the Closets of World Bank & Inter-American Development Bank: March 13, 2020 marks 38th anniversary of Chixoy dam/Rio Negro massacres in Guatemala
March 13, 2020
The Chixoy dam was a very profitable investment project of the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in partnership with the U.S.-backed genocidal regimes of Generals Lucas García and Ríos Montt. To clear the way, over 30 Mayan communities were forcibly evicted up and down the river. The village of Río Negro was hit the hardest. The Guatemalan government killed more than 444 villagers over the course of five large-scale massacres in 1981 and 1982. (March 13 is the 20th anniversary of the massacre of 177 Maya Achi children and women.) Since 1994, the Rio Negro survivors have courageously pressured Guatemala’s corrupted legal system to put on trial, find guilty, and send to jail nine former Civil Defense Patrollers (PAC) and military commissioners, mainly from the neighboring village of Xococ. But these were merely the “material authors.” The “intellectual authors” have never been investigated or charged. Not one single military officer in the chain of command, who ordered and carried out the Chixoy dam massacres, was captured, tried and sentenced. Not one official or program officer from the World Bank and IDB was subjected to any investigation into the role of these “development” banks in partnering with the U.S.-backed genocidal regimes of Guatemala (1975-83) in planning and carrying out all aspects of the project. On October 20, 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights did find the Guatemalan government responsible for the Rio Negro/ Chixoy dam massacres and ordered the government to legally investigate the massacres and compensate surviving families. On November 8, 2014, then president and former army general Otto Perez Molina (now in jail on corruption charges) formally apologized on behalf of the government for the human rights violations and sufferings caused by the Chixoy dam project, and signed into law Decree #378-2014, “the Public Policy of Reparations for Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy hydro-electric dam project.” Thirty-eight years later, a measure of reparations has been paid to some of the Chixoy dam victims. But no justice has been done for the roles and responsibilities of the “intellectual authors” in the Guatemalan government, World Bank and IDB that promoted, designed, implemented and profited financially from the project. Pointing out the impunity and corruption of the authors and profiteers of the Chixoy dam crimes highlights the enormity of this global human problem. Across the planet today, governments, “development” banks, corporations and investors push ahead with “resource development projects,” violently displacing populations and destroying habitats, violating a wide range of individual and collective rights, and ravaging Mother Earth.
March 6, 2020
Several years ago, Camila Díaz left her native El Salvador and went to the United States, looking for a place where she would be safer as a transgender woman. But she failed to find a sympathetic ear. Deported back to San Salvador, the nation's capital, she was killed just over a year later. Díaz, 30, was one of 138 Salvadorans deported from the United States who have been killed upon returning to their country since 2013, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. Mónica Linares, an activist with the rights group Arcoiris Trans (Rainbow Trans) said the group had demanded authorities investigate her killing.