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Chihuahua – Mexico: Second Indigenous Rights Defender Killed in 2 weeks

Two weeks after the killing of Goldman Environmental Prize winner Isidro Baldenegro Lopez another indigenous and land rights defender Juan Ontiveros Ramos has been killed in the same area. The killing took place at a time when there were hundreds of police in the area monitoring a protest against a gas pipeline.

On 31 January, unidentified armed men broke into the family home of Juan Ontiveros Ramos in Guadalupe y Calvo municipality, beat him and other family members and forcibly took him away. Witnesses heard gunshots immediately after. On 1 February, Juan Ontiveros’ body was found elsewhere in the same municipality.

Just days before Juan Ontiveros had taken part in a meeting with indigenous leaders and representatives of the State Prosecutors office, as well as state and federal officials, to discuss the increasingly dangerous situation in the region.

Juan Ontiveros and members of the community have been campaigning to protect the forests of the Sierra Madre from the depredations of illegal loggers who use criminal gangs to intimidate the community. In 2013 community leaders Jaime Zubías and Socorro Anaya Ramos were killed in similar circumstances. To date there has been no progress in the investigation into their deaths.

You will find further information on the killing of Juan Ontiveros Ramos here

Philippines: 4 HRDs killed in January 2017

In the Philippines attacks continue against farmers and leaders of indigenous communities who have dedicated their lives to the defence of their land and rights. As the Duterte administration and its Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced their new counter-insurgency plan Oplan Kapayapaan, replacing Oplan Bayanihan, attacks targeting land and environmental activists, perpetrated by private armies of landed families and mining firms complicit or in connivance with state security forces, have become routine.

On January 5, 2017, around 4pm, Venie Diamante, 43, a T’boli and municipal tribal chieftain, was brutally killed by an unnamed assailant on board a motorcycle while on his way home from Koronadal City. Residents from the community attested that Diamante was a good person and a respected tribal leader. The police then showed a petition to survey the area which is part of the T’boli ancestral domain, a move that Diamante had  strongly advocated against.

Weeks later, on January 20, 2017, two activists in Surigao del Norte and in Negros Occidental were killed. Katribu regional party list coordinator Veronico Delamente, 27, a Lumad-Mamanwa and member of Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon (KASALO) was shot by two unnamed assailants. On the evening of the same day, around 8pm, Alexander Ceballos, 54, regional council member and district area coordinator of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) was gunned down by two unnamed assailants near his house.

On January 28, 2017, Quilina Ceballos, wife of Alexander Ceballos, received a death threat via text message. The message stated: ‘You, your companions, and your two children’s place in the cemetery is ready.’ Quilina Ceballos received the threats while still in mourning for her husband’s death.
 In a separate incident on January 25, 2017, another farmer from Negros Occidental, Wencislao Pacquiao, 48, member of the San Benito Farmers Association- Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), was shot while doing work in the designated land cultivation area (LCA).
 In its Annual Report 2017, which covers the period January-December 2016, Front Line Defenders reported the killing of 31 human rights defenders in the Philippines, the highest of any country outside the Americas.
Full details on the killings are available here

Honduras: the Deadliest Place to Defend the Planet

Top Honduran politicians and business elites linked to violent crackdown on people defending their rights to their land. United States must urgently review its support of Honduran industry, military and police.

A new Global Witness investigation has named the president of Honduras’ ruling party, Gladis Aurora López, as one of several top politicians and business tycoons implicated in a violent crackdown on families standing against the theft and destruction of their land.

The United States also comes under scrutiny for backing Honduran state forces, which are often behind the murders and attacks of activists.

The report,  Honduras: the Deadliest Place to Defend the Planet. documents the fact that 120 people have been killed since 2010 for protesting against the theft or destruction of their land, forests or rivers, including high-profile indigenous activist Berta Cáceres, whose murder last year was the first to prompt international outrage.

Conflicts over mining, hydropower and agribusiness are the biggest drivers of deaths, with most victims from indigenous groups and rural communities. Global Witness has uncovered new evidence of the back-door deals, bribes and lawbreaking used to impose these projects and silence opposition.

You can download the full version of the report Here

 

Front Line Defenders 2017 Annual Report highlights killing of 281 HRDs in 2016

In its 2017 Annual Report which covers the period January December 2016, Front Line Defenders has reported a total of 281 HRDs killed around the world. 49 percent of the HRDs killed were defending land, indigenous and environmental rights.

Front Line Defenders found that in the vast majority of cases, killings were preceded by warnings, death threats and intimidation which, when reported to police, were routinely ignored. In addition to killings, over half of the cases reported by Front Line Defenders in 2016 concerned criminalisation, a tactic which the organisation calls “the first choice of governments to silence defenders and to dissuade others.”

“This report honours the hundreds of defenders killed in 2016,” said Front Line Defenders Executive Director Andrew Anderson. “We mourn their loss and celebrate their lives and achievements. Each and every peaceful HRD killed is an outrage. The scale of the killings in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines is a bloody indictment of the governments concerned; it demands an urgent and systematic response.”

You  can download the full text of the report here

Six HRDs assassinated in one week in Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala

At a time of populist right wing anti human rights rhetoric, when respect for human rights is under threat, human rights defenders (HRDs) are increasingly at risk. In its Annual Report Front Line Defenders reported the killing of 281 human rights defenders in 2016 – 215 of them in the Americas. In this last week alone Front Line Defenders has received reports of the killing of 6 HRDs in Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico.

On 6 January Olmedo Pito García was shot dead by unknown gunmen when he was travelling home from work. Olmedo was a member of the Movimiento de los sin tierra (Landless Rights Movement) and was an active campaigner for the land  rights of the indigenous community.

On 7 January Aldemar Parra García, president of the Asociacion Agricola de El Hatillo, in the province of Cesar in Colombia, was shot dead by two gunmen travelling on a motor bike which had been seen scouting out the area on previous days. Aldemar was one of a  group of local activists protesting against contamination caused by mining projects in the area.

On 13 January 53 year old community leader Edmiro León Alzate was reported missing in the province of Antioquia, Colombia. The next day his body was found on the side of the road. He had been shot dead. Edmiro was one of the community leaders who had been defending the community’s access to water and campaigning to protect water sources in advance of the development of a major hydroelectric project in the area.

In 2005 Mexican environmental rights defender Isidro Baldenegro Lopez won the Goldman Environmental Prize for North America. Isidro Baldenegro was recognized internationally as a champion of indigenous land rights. On Sunday 15 January he was shot in the home of a relative and died later from his injuries. According to local media reports the murder suspects are linked with known assassins of other indigenous environmental activists in the region.

On Tuesday, 17 January, protesters led a peaceful demonstration against a hydroelectric plant in Guatemala. But the event ended in death after paramilitaries shot and killed 72-year-old activist Sebastian Alonso. The groups have been protesting the project for five years, with little acknowledgement from government officials. Violence has dogged the dam project; in 2014, two people died in disputes over the project.

Colombian human rights defender Emilsen Manyoma was last seen with her husband, Joe Javier Rodallega, boarding a taxi in Villa on Saturday 14 January. On Tuesday, 17 January 2017, their bodies were found in the neighbourhood of el Progreso in Buenaventura. Emilsen Manyoma was the leader of the Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los Territorios (Communities Building Peace in the Territories, CONPAZ) in Buenaventura. CONPAZ is an initiative of communities and organisations that live in territories where the armed conflict is taking place.

Repressive governments think that HRDs can be killed with impunity and that there will be few if any real consequences. As human rights standards are being rolled back in Poland and Hungary and the President of the Philippines is threatening to include HRDs in his “harvest” of killings, the human rights movement needs government champions who will combat this dangerous trend by re-stating their commitment to the human rights which have been built up at such cost over the last 60 years.  Governments should condemn every killing of a HRD as with every killing the prospects for building more just and equal societies are lessened.

Champion of indigenous land rights Isidro Baldenegro Lopez assassinated in Mexico

Isidro Baldenegro López, 2005 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner, North America (Mexico), holding his Ouroboros statuette, waves to the enthusaistic crowd, San Francisco, April 18, 2005.

In 2005 Isidro Baldenegro Lopez won the Goldman Environmental Prize for North America. Isidro Baldenegro was recognized internationally as a champion of indigenous land rights. On Sunday 15 January he was shot in the home of a relative and died later from his injuries. According to local media reports the murder suspects are linked with known assassins of other Indigenous environmental activists in the region.

Baldenegro’s courageous efforts have made him a national and international hero. He brought world attention to the beautiful, ecologically crucial old-growth forests of the Sierra Madre as well as the survival of the Tarahumara.

You can read the full profile of Isidro Baldenegro Lopez here

The frightening issue that could destroy Colombia’s peace deal

A man waves the Colombian flag during a Nov. 30 demonstration to demand the immediate endorsement of the revised peace deal between the government and FARC guerrillas. (Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images)

After a half-century of war, peace has come to this long-troubled region of Colombia, and the change has been terrifying.

Nick Miroff, Latin American Correspondent The Washington Post

On Christmas Day, gunmen assassinated a rural activist from the leftist Marcha Patriótica party as he rode home on his motorbike. A member of the group was ambushed along the highway here in early November. The mutilated body of another activist turned up two weeks later in the same area. Read More >

Irish President Launches First Global Record of Killed Human Rights Defenders

24/11/2016 : Pictured was President of Ireland Michael D Higgins (centre) and Front Line Defenders Executive Director Andrew Anderson with an international committee of human rights defenders and NGO representatives at the launch of the Human Rights Defenders Memorial in Dublin. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.
24/11/2016 : Pictured was President of Ireland Michael D Higgins (centre) and Front Line Defenders Executive Director Andrew Anderson with an international committee of human rights defenders and NGO representatives at the launch of the Human Rights Defenders Memorial in Dublin. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

The HRD Memorial aims to document, for the first time ever, all killings of human rights defenders since 1998, the  year the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders was adopted. Carlos Guevara is a Colombian human rights defender with more than a decade of  experience fighting for justice in one of South America’s most dangerous countries for HRDs. Read More >

Front Line Defenders report finds police in Bangladesh refusing to investigate death threats against human rights defenders in Dhaka

People think the only problem is that we’re being killed – that ‘extremists’ are murdering activists. But no one talks about the government arresting us, making new laws to silence us, and refusing to protect us when we tell them about the death threats.” – LGBTI rights defender, Dhaka

avatar-1577909_960_720Since 2013, at least 14 HRDs have been murdered in Bangladesh. Multiple HRDs who have been physically attacked and the families of those who have been killed reported that in the six months prior to the attack police denied a request for protection. Police routinely tell HRDs to “just leave the country” when they report death threats. Four months before he was hacked to death in his home, police told HRD Niloy Neel “we can’t help you, you’re a blogger.”

Instead of properly investigating the killings of HRDs, the government has released statements criticising the activists’ writings rather than the attackers’ crimes. In lieu of proper protection, surviving activists working in at least 10 different rights areas – including gender equality, LGBT issues, and indigenous peoples’ rights – have been forced to reduce their work and cut ties with colleagues.

Front Line Defenders found that at least 40 LGBTI activists have gone into hiding or stoppedcommunicating with colleagues in an attempt to survive. Forced to change phone numbers, apartments, and social media profiles, HRDs report a severe breakdown in activist networks as a result of the government’s inaction. Read More >