News

Philippines: Human rights defender Father Marcelito Paez shot dead

On 4 December 2017, Father Marcelito “Tito” Paez, coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of Philippines in Central Luzon, was shot dead in Nueva Ecija.

Father Marcelito “Tito” Paez was a former parish priest in Gumbia and the regional coordinator of Rural Missionaries of Philippines in Central Luzon. In the 1980, he was the a leader of the Central Luzon Alliance for a Sovereign Philippines (CLASP), and campaigned for the removal of US military bases in Philippines. He was also an anti-nuclear activist.

On December 4, at around 8pm, Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez was shot while driving his vehicle in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija. He was shot by unidentified assailants riding a motorcycle. He was taken to San Leonardo Hospital where he died at 10.45pm. Earlier that day, Fr Marcelito “Tito” Paez assisted in facilitating the release of peasant organiser and political prisoner Rommel Tucay, who was detained at the provincial jail in Cabanatuan city.

The climate of impunity that prevails in the Philippines has resulted in the serious deterioration in the situation for human rights defenders in the country. Defenders of economic, social and cultural rights, including land and environmental defenders, are among the most targeted groups. Filipino NGO Karapatan reported there have been 98 victims of extrajudicial killings between July 2016 and September 2017. On 28 November 2017, HRDs Elisa Badayos and Eleuterio Moises were shot and killed in the Negros Oriental province.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the killing of Father Marcelito “Tito” Paez which it believes was solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of human rights in the Philippines.

Nicaragua: Another Indigenous Community Leader Killed by Colonos

Source IC Magazine

Ya Basta! A phrase known for its political and revolutionary connotations throughout much of the Spanish-speaking world, translates roughly into English as, ‘Enough is Enough!’

It is a statement of finality; a concrete call to action; a heightened call for awareness; and an official call of duty to end cultures of violence and impunity against Indigenous Peoples.

His name was Felipe Perez Gamboa. He was 24 years old.

According to Mark Rivas, who has aided in representing the Moskito Council of Elders at the United Nations, Gamboa was a leader of much distinction among the young people of the community of La Esperanza on the traditional Indigenous frontier region of Moskitia – located on the northern Caribbean coast of colonial Nicaragua and home to the largest tropical rainforest, second only to the Amazon, in the western world.

For his part, Rivas credited Cejudhcan Derechos Humanos – a local NGO whose founder, lawyer Lottie Cunningham, and staff, have been on the receiving end of death threats for their ongoing human rights work in the region –  with originally disseminating and confirming the tragedy to the larger community.

The traditional Indigenous frontier regions of Moskitia have been terrorized by mounting acts of deadly colonial violence, stemming from the expanding agricultural frontier and the rigidly nationalist agenda, since 2015.

IC first began reporting on the escalating tragedies in the traditional Indigenous regions in June of 2016.

Readers may refer to previous analyses here and in other outlets concerning the role of the Ortega government, neoliberalism, and the fraudulent banner of ‘Christian Socialism’ the fallen Sandinista leader still attempts to hang over his tenuous authoritarian rule.

As of right now, we can do no more than reach out to the Indigenous rights community in the rest of Latin America, and across the world, with the simple message, made famous by the Zapatsista, that ‘Enough IS Enough’.

It’s time to end this culture of impunity surrounding deadly violence against Indigenous Peoples – in this instance, those who are protecting the last bastions of a biodiverse, climate mitigating rainforest.

¡YA BASTA!

Intercontinental Cry (IC) is a non-profit newsroom that produces public-interest journalism centered on Indigenous rights and the environment. A project of the Center for World Indigenous Studies (a US-based 501(C)(3) founded in 1979), IC is led by journalists and academics of Indigenous descent.

Amnesty International New Report: States worldwide failing to prevent killings and disappearances of human rights defenders

 

States around the world are failing in their duty to effectively protect people who defend human rights, leading to an escalation in preventable killings and enforced disappearances, Amnesty International said in a new report.

The organisation’s new report, Deadly but Preventable Attacks: Killings and Enforced Disappearances of Those who Defend Human Rights, highlights the growing risks faced by human rights defenders – people from all walks of life who work to promote and defend human rights.

The report includes testimonies from friends, relatives and colleagues of human rights defenders, including environmentalists, LGBTIQ and women’s rights activists, journalists and lawyers, who have been killed or disappeared. Many described how victims’ pleas for protection had been repeatedly ignored by the authorities and how the attackers had evaded justice, fuelling a deadly cycle of impunity.

“We spoke to families of killed and forcibly disappeared human rights defenders all over the world, and kept hearing the same thing: these people knew their lives were at risk,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Head of Amnesty International’s Global Human Rights Defenders Programme.

“Their deaths or disappearances had been preceded by a string of previous attacks, which authorities turned a blind eye to or even encouraged. If states had taken their human rights obligations seriously and acted diligently on reports of threats and other abuses, lives could have been saved.”

Amnesty International’s new report brings together stories from around the world to illustrate the rise in preventable attacks on HRDs and highlights a chilling pattern of impunity. Cases include:

Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental and Indigenous activist who was shot dead in 2016 after years of threats and attacks.

Xulhaz Mannan, an LGBTIQ activist who was hacked to death in Bangladesh, along with his colleague, in 2016. Over 18 months later, justice is yet to take place.

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, founder of a human rights organization in Burundi, who was shot in the face and neck in 2015. Months later, while he was recovering abroad, his son and son-in-law were killed.

The “Douma 4”, four Syrian activists who were abducted from their office by armed men in December 2013 and have not been seen since.

Pace of attacks increasing
When the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998, the international community committed to protecting them and recognizing their crucial work. But Amnesty International’s report shows that championing human rights continues to be highly dangerous work, with thousands of human rights defenders killed or forcibly disappeared by state and non-state actors in the two decades since.

According to the NGO Front Line Defenders, at least 281 HRDs were killed globally in 2016 alone; this number has almost doubled since 2015. The true figure is likely to be much higher, as many defenders killed or forcibly disappeared may not be identified as such.

Amnesty International’s report reveals the motives behind these attacks are multiple and layered. Some people are attacked because of their occupations (for example, journalists, law professionals, trade unionists), for standing up to powerful actors violating human rights, for sharing information or raising awareness.

Others are at heightened risk of attack both for what they do and who they are, facing discrimination and violence. These people include those defending the rights of women; sex workers; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people; Indigenous peoples and other minority groups. Others are attacked in context-specific situations, for example during conflict or where communities are in the grip of organized crime and violent crackdown.

“Although the motives behind these attacks may vary, what lies behind them all is the desire to silence anyone who speaks out against injustice or challenge powerful interests. This silencing has a ripple effect in the wider community, creating a cycle of fear and undermining everyone’s rights,” said Guadalupe Marengo.

Impunity increases risk
When threats and attacks are not properly investigated and punished, the resulting climate of impunity erodes the rule of law and sends the message that HRDs can be attacked without consequences.

“My mother deserves justice and it’s imperative we shed light on the conspiracy that took place. It’s fundamental if we are to prevent further killings” said Bertha Zúniga, daughter of Honduran environmental and Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres (the founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras – COPINH – who was killed last year), said: “Prior to my mother’s death, there was a clear alliance between business interests, private security agents, state officials and organised crime. As these parties were complicit in my mother’s death, a thorough investigation is proving more and more difficult. My mother [Berta Cáceres] deserves justice and it’s imperative we shed light on the conspiracy that took place. It’s fundamental if we are to prevent further killings.”

Recommendations

We owe it to all those who have bravely defended our human rights at the cost of their lives to protect those who are continuing to advance their vital work

Amnesty International is urging all states to prioritize the recognition and protection of human rights defenders. Authorities must publicly support their work, and acknowledge their contribution to the advancement of human rights.

They must take all necessary measures to prevent further attacks on them, and bring to justice those responsible for attacks by effectively investigating and prosecuting killings and enforced disappearances.

Crucially, governments should send a clear public message that these human rights violations will not be tolerated.
“The brutal attacks documented in this report are the logical end point of a disturbing trend, where instead of standing up for human rights defenders many world leaders are putting them at increased risk through smear campaigns, the misuse of the criminal justice system or by falsely portraying them as opposed to national interests, effectively signalling contempt for the human rights of us all,” said Guadalupe Marengo.

“To reverse this dangerous narrative, states need to publicly recognize the key role that human rights defenders play. We owe it to all those who have bravely defended our human rights at the cost of their lives to protect those who are continuing to advance their vital work.”

This report is part of Brave, Amnesty International’s campaign launched last May calling on states to recognize the work of human rights defenders, and to ensure they are able to carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment.

Philippines: Karapatan lodges 25 cases of EJE’s with United Nations Special Rapporteurs

Source The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights advocate group Karapatan yesterday filed a second batch of complaints before the United Nations in connection with cases of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) allegedly perpetrated by state security forces of the Duterte administration.

In two separate letters dated Dec. 2 submitted to UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killing Agnes Callamard and UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders Michel Forst, Karapatan called for the immediate investigation of 25 cases of summary killings committed “in line with the intensifying counter-insurgency program of the administration of President Duterte.”

“From one counter-insurgency program to another, cases of extrajudicial killings against peasants, indigenous peoples, Moro, workers, women and youth continue to be committed with impunity under the murderous Duterte regime,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said in the letter.

“We allege that state security forces are primarily responsible for these killings that are all in the context of a government program that makes no distinction between armed and unarmed civilians, thus providing a pretext for the arbitrary tagging of individuals, groups and movements as ‘enemies of the state’,” she added.

Karapatan submitted its first batch of complaints before Callamard and Forst in April of this year concerning 47 cases of EJKs under the Duterte administration.

Karapatan said that from July 2016 to October 2017, it has documented 104 victims of EJKs under Duterte’s counter-insurgency program. The group said this is on top of 20 incidents of forced evacuations and 17 cases of aerial bombardment.

“Duterte’s recent pronouncements and direct orders on the crackdown on progressive groups and on attacks against human rights defenders, political dissenters and ordinary folks embolden state forces to further violate people’s rights,” Karapatan’s new letter of complaint read.

Just last week, Duterte said he ordered the police and the military to shoot armed members of the communist group New People’s Army, adding that his office is already preparing an executive order declaring the NPA as terrorist group.

Duterte also said he would slap Callamard if she probes the EJKs in line with his administration’s war on drugs.

In its letter, Karapatan said Callamard and Forst, who are both under the Geneva-based Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), must hasten their investigation on the EJK cases in the Philippines as “most, if not all, of the perpetrators of human rights violations under the administrations of former Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and president Benigno Simeon Aquino III have not been brought to justice.”

The group attached to the letters documentation of each of the 25 EJK cases. The group said most of the victims were peasant leaders and members of various human rights advocate groups.

Among them were Carolina Arado, 52, a member of a progressive farmers’ group in Compostela Valley staunchly opposing the entry of large-scale mining corporations in the province.

Karapatan said Arado was killed by armed men believed to be members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 46th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army on July 13, 2017 inside her residence in Mabini town. Arado’s husband Carlito and their four children were wounded from the incident.

The group also documented the killing of Daniol Lasib, 58, a barangay councilor and member of the B’laan tribe in Matanao, Davao Del Sur.

Karapatan said on May 26, 2017, Lasib was on his way to Dalapo medical clinic to visit his confined daughter when five gunmen fired at him and his companion. Lasib sustained 11 gunshot wounds, majority on his head, which caused his immediate death. His companion survived.

Colombia: ¿Quiénes los están matando? La lista roja de defensores de derechos humanos

“El doloroso listado de asesinatos de defensores/as de derechos humanos en Colombia, que entre el año 2016 y lo que va corrido de 2017 llegó a 200 homicidios”.

Source El Espectador

Con el reciente asesinato de un líder social, la cifra llega a 200 entre 2016 y lo que va corrido de 2017. Fiscalía trabaja en esclarecimiento de casos.

A comienzos de la semana pasada fue asesinado en el municipio de Caloto (Cauca), Jair Mera. Se trata del integrante de la comunidad indígena Huellas y hermano de la exconsejera de la Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca (Acin), Luz Eida Julicué Gómez. Su homicidio se produjo a manos de sicarios que le propinaron varios disparos. Lo paradójico del hecho es que, según la Red de Derechos Humanos del Suroccidente Colombiano, el hecho ocurrió a menos de 200 metros de la estación de policía y cerca de una base militar.

De esta manera, aumentó el doloroso listado de asesinatos de defensores de derechos humanos en Colombia, que entre el año 2016 y lo que va corrido de 2017 llegó a 200 homicidios. Una cifra que se consolidó luego de cruzar los reportes oficiales de la Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU), el movimiento político Marcha Patriótica, la organización Cumbre Nacional Agraria y la Defensoría del Pueblo, quienes vienen reportando sus informes a la Fiscalía General de la Nación, con el propósito de que esclarezca el origen de los asesinatos y aplique justicia para evitar la impunidad.

Con estos reportes, las denuncias en los despachos judiciales, las audiencias públicas, el clamor de las víctimas y los requerimientos de organismos de derechos humanos en Colombia y en el exterior, el fiscal Néstor Humberto Martínez, junto con la vicefiscal María Paulina Riveros, diseñaron la primera estrategia de priorización para la investigación y judicialización de agresiones contra defensores de derechos humanos, líderes sociales, políticos y comunales. Su aplicación se empezó a ejecutar y se mantendrá como política institucional hasta el año 2020.

Puede Leer el artículo completo aquí

 

 

Philippines: Two members of a human rights fact finding mission gunned down in Iloilo City

Source  INQUIRER.NET

ILOILO CITY — Unidentified armed men gunned down two members of a human rights fact-finding mission and wounded another in Bayawan City in Negros Occidental on Tuesday afternoon.

The fatalities were identified as Elisa Badayos, a 59-year-old Negros Oriental coordinator of the human rights group Karapatan, and Eleuterio Moises, a village watchman and a member of Mantapi Ebwan Farmers Association.

Carmen Matarlo, 22, was wounded in the shoulder and was in stable condition as of 9:30 p.m.

Elisa Badayos was the wife of former labour leader and desaparecido Jimmy Badayos.

In a phone interview, SPO2 Archer Birjes, investigator of the Bayawan City Police Station, said the victims were in a habal-habal (a modified motorcycle) when they were fired at by at least two men at Barangay Nangka around 3:40 p.m.

The three victims were taken to the Bayawan District Hospital where physicians pronounced Badayos and Moises dead on arrival.

Matarlo was later taken to Dumaguete City, the provincial capital of Negros Oriental, which is about 106 kilometers from Bayawan City.

Badayos had a gunshot wound in the head, while Moises was hit in the armpit.

Police recovered empty shells from a .45-caliber pistol at the site of the incident

Investigators were still determining the identities of the gunmen and the motive of the attack.

According to Birjes, the victims dropped by the Bayawan City Police Station before noon to coordinate with the police that they were going to Nangka to see the village chief, according to Birjes.

But in a statement, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said the victims went to the police station to report an earlier incident wherein armed men tried to stop them from entering Hacienda San Ramon in Barangay Nangka where they would be conducting a fact-finding mission.

Patrick Torres, executive director of the Cebu-based Farmers Development Center and a member of the fact-finding mission, said they were on the last day of their four-day activity when the attack happened.

The three victims separated from the 30-person contingent to go to Nangka to interview farmers who reportedly had been harassed by security guards of a land claimant involved in a land dispute.

He said the attack prompted concerns over the security and safety of the other participants who belong to human rights organisations and groups of women, workers and youth in Cebu and Negros Oriental.

The fact-finding mission was conducted to investigate reported cases of killings, harassment and other human rights violations in several towns in Negros Oriental.

Torres said nine members of farmers groups and militant organisations had been killed this year in Negros Oriental. These include eight in Guihulngan City alone.

The killings in Guihulngan happened after the July 21 attack of New People’s Army rebels on the Guihulgan City Police Station, during which six police officers, including the chief of police, died and three others were wounded.

Karapatan condemned the attack.

“The attack on human rights defenders are becoming more rampant, more brutal, more fearless,” Palabay said in a statement. “The perpetrators know they will be dealt with impunity, as human rights have lost force and meaning especially under this regime. Fact-finding missions are a mechanism for human rights organizations to confirm reports of abuses, and this incident has only proven how fascism works to outrightly kill those who dare to question.” /atm

Mexico: Human Rights Ombudsman shot dead in Baja California

The latest wave of killings in the state of Baja California has resulted in the shooting dead of the state’s Human Rights Ombudsman, Silvestre de la Toba Camacho, and his 20 year old son Fernando, as they were driving through the city centre on the evening of Monday 20 November.

As they passed an intersection in the city centre several gunmen opened fire on the Ombudsman’s car, causing it to swerve violently and crash into a building. The Ombudsman and his son were declared dead on the scene while his wife and daughter were seriously injured and taken to hospital.

In a prepared statement, national ombudsman Luis Raúl González Pérez condemned the attack on de la Toba and his family. “The CNDH [the National Human Rights Commission] reports that it has issued preventative measures in order to guarantee the safety of Mr. de la Toba’s family and that of all the staff of the state agency . . . ” said González.

Via the video link below you can access an interview with Silvestre de la Toba Camacho, from April 2017, during which he was asked about the level of violence in Baja California Sur and the killing of journalist Max Rodriguez.

The killing of De la Toba is the first assassination of a human rights ombudsman since the post was created more than 25 years ago in a bid to improve safeguards for Mexican citizens. Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, issued a statement on this latest killing.  “I condemn the killing of Silvestre de la Toba Camacho in the strongest possible terms, and am equally outraged by the assault on his family.” “I call on the state and federal authorities to ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted and the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

In January 2017, following his first ever official visit to the country, during which he met more that 800 HRDs, the Special Rapporteur stated “The situation of human rights defenders in Mexico is conditioned by the criminalisation of their activities through the deliberate misuse of criminal law and the manipulation of the state’s punitive power by both State and non-State actors, to hinder and even prevent the legitimate activities of defenders to promote and protect human rights,”

Speaking from Dublin, Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders said, “The killing of Silvestre de la Toba Camacho did not come out of the blue. It is directly attributable to the culpable negligence of the government of Mexico and its failure over years to take effective action to protect HRDs or to bring the perpetrators of attacks against them to justice. Instead it has engaged in smear campaigns and covert surveillance to obstruct their work and undermine their credibility, thereby putting their lives directly at risk”.

In the last week alone 35 people have been killed in Baja California. Most of these killings took place in La Paz and Los Cabos.  Interior Secretary Álvaro de la Peña Angulo acknowledged in a public statement that violence has indeed spiked in Baja California Sur, quoting data from the state Attorney General’s office that indicated that between May and November 2017 there were 376 homicides, 123 of which took place in October alone.

Experts cite various reasons for the rise in killings, including the chaos that has ensued as rivals battle for the turf formerly controlled by fallen drug cartel leaders such as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Several factions are said to be engaged in bloody competition for the fractured empire of the former head of the Sinaloa cartel, now jailed in New York on various charges.

Mexico: impunity for killings by army reveal woeful inadequacy of government reforms

Source MPN News

“When pursuing their various “wars” on drugs and “wars” on terror, the U.S. and the governments it supports in these “wars” are apt to overlook human rights abuses committed by the militaries and police forces upon which they rely. A new report details how this has played out in the Mexican military”.

MEXICO CITY – A study published Tuesday by the advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) has revealed the woeful inadequacy of the Mexican government in pursuing cases of human rights violations committed by soldiers against civilians — in spite of recent reforms that allow such cases to be heard by civilian, rather than military, courts. According to its website, WOLA is “a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas.”

WOLA’s report, titled “Overlooking Justice: Human Rights Violations Committed by Mexican Soldiers Against Civilians are Met with Impunity,” examined data made available by Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR). The data showed clearly that the vast majority of investigations, even those in which abundant evidence exists to show proof of wrongdoing, fail to result in punishments for those accused of abuses of human rights, such as extrajudicial killings, torture, kidnappings and the use of excessive force. In all, only 16 of the 505 criminal investigations PGR launched between 2012 and 2016 ended with a conviction.

Furthermore, of those 505 cases, only two involved commanding officers — with the vast majority examining the conduct of rank-and-file soldiers, many of whom claim to have been following the orders of their superiors. WOLA cited this trend as a strong indication that Mexico’s military leadership operates with relative impunity.

Nicaragua: Community judge shot dead in attack on indigenous community by armed settlers

 At 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 8 September, Community Judge Celedonia Zalazar Point was murdered along with her husband, Tito José González Bendles, while they were at home in the community of Tungla in the remote territory of Prinzu Awala of the Municipality of Prinzapolka. It seems that the day before they had received a warning from a stranger.

According to the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN), Celedonia Zalazar was the substitute judge for the indigenous territory and her murder, carried out with firearms, could be related to a dispute over territorial property between settlers and indigenous people.

Celedonia Zalazar is the second defender of indigenous territory murdered in the Caribbean Coast.  In November of 2016 Bernicia Dixon Peranta was shot dead along with members of her family. It is estimated that the conflict over land in the North Caribbean has so far caused 50 deaths, 3 disappearances, 80 injured people and hundreds of displaced persons, in a context of total impunity and omission on the part of the Nicaraguan State.

Human rights organisation  IM-Defensoras issued a statement in which they said “we regret and condemn this crime and given the clear evidence of systematic discrimination against indigenous people in the justice system,  often shown by the failure to investigate cases in which indigenous people are victims, we demand that the Nicaraguan authorities carry out  an effective, expeditious and unprejudiced investigation, so that justice is done. This case should not become yet another example of the prevailing climate of impunity…Finally, we call on international human rights organisations and bodies to remain vigilant about the grave situation facing the indigenous communities of the Caribbean Coast”.