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Colombia: Asesinato de líderes sociales: la guerra que sigue viva

Aunque la tasa general de homicidios disminuyó con el acuerdo de paz, la violencia se ha enseñado contra quienes defienden los derechos de los más vulnerables- es decir contra los mismos que sufrieron la guerra-. ¿Qué está pasando y qué se puede hacer?

Author Carlos Guevara

Source Razón Pública

Los salmones

Siempre he sentido fascinación por los salmones. Me asombra su capacidad de afrontar obstáculos y vencerlos. Los salmones enfrentan un sin fin de depredadores durante meses y en el momento culmen de su vida, nadan contra la corriente para poder reproducirse.

La vida de los líderes sociales en Colombia se asemeja a la de este pez extraordinario.

Durante décadas, los líderes sociales fueron la población más invisibilizada del conflicto armado. Tanto así que ni siquiera el Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica los mencionó en su principal documento, el informe Basta Ya. Han sido olvidados por el Estado colombiano en su conjunto. Los gobiernos de turno de los últimos 20 años han hecho todo lo posible por ocultar la violencia sistemática que sufren los líderes sociales de Colombia.

Desde la sociedad civil, el registro más antiguo de violencia contra líderes sociales es el  del Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular (CINEP). Pero la documentación más precisa la tiene el Programa Somos Defensores, que cuenta con la base de datos más completa y donde se registran aproximadamente cinco mil defensores y defensoras de los derechos humanos que han sido agredidos.

Los diversos gobiernos de los últimos 20 años han hecho todo lo posible por ocultar la violencia estructural que sufren los líderes sociales.

Esta invisibilidad, que parecería ser lapidaria para los líderes sociales, no ha sido excusa para que estos “salmones” sigan adelante. En medio de la guerra, estos activistas en los ámbitos local, regional, nacional e internacional izaron la bandera de la salida negociada del conflicto como única forma de acabar con las hostilidades y así buscar un país distinto.

Hace veinte años comenzamos a oír de los “defensores de derechos humanos” gracias a la declaración de Naciones Unidas donde se definía quiénes eran estos activistas y se establecían las obligaciones de cada Estado miembro con estos hombres y mujeres.

Pero en Colombia ya los conocíamos, aunque con otros nombres: los llamábamos líderes campesinos, indígenas, afros, sindicalistas, líderes estudiantiles, feministas o ambientalistas. Claro está, una pequeña pero poderosa fracción de la población colombiana los llamaba de otras formas peyorativas: chusmeros, mamertos, revoltosos, guerrilleros, terroristas.

El pasado 27 de enero, el líder social y defensor de derechos humanos Temístocles Machado fue asesinado en Buenaventura por sujetos todavía desconocidos.

Hoy, a pesar de los años y del avance de la democracia, la ampliación del paquete de derechos humanos y la firma de un acuerdo de paz con la guerrilla más antigua del continente, los “salmones” se siguen muriendo, pero no de viejos.

2017: más violencia focalizada

Ministro de Defensa, Luis Carlos Villegas
Ministro de Defensa, Luis Carlos Villegas
Foto: U.S Department of Defense

 

La implementación de los acuerdos de paz con las FARC tiene un sabor agridulce. Si bien es de suma importancia reconocer que el silencio de los fusiles implicó que tuviéramos la tasa de homicidios más baja en los últimos 30 años —24 por cada 100 mil habitantes—, esa tasa de homicidios se disparó focalizadamente en los defensores y defensoras de los derechos humanos.

Según cifras del Programa Somos Defensores los homicidios contra estos activistas vienen en aumento sostenido desde que empezó el proceso de paz:

  • En 2013 hubo 78 casos
  • En 2014, 55 casos
  • En 2015, 63 casos
  • En 2016 80 casos

En 2017 la cifra rompió la barrera de los 100 casos y en 2018 la situación no mejora y se torna aún peor con un registro de 18 líderes asesinados en los primeros 31 días del año.

De estos homicidios recientes de 2017 y lo que llevamos de 2018, los activistas con mayor número de muertes son los líderes campesinos, comunitarios, de juntas de acción comunal e indígenas en zonas rurales. Esto muestra que la violencia se concentró en personas defensoras pobres de lugares apartados del país donde la guerra ha estado siempre: departamentos como Antioquia, Norte de Santander, Valle de Cauca, Cauca, Nariño, Meta, Córdoba y Chocó.

Son personas con pocas posibilidades de acceder a la ayuda estatal: la misma población que ha puesto los muertos de esta guerra que no termina.

La violencia se focalizó en personas pobres de lugares apartados: la misma población que ha puesto los muertos de esta guerra que no termina.

Es aquí donde surge la pregunta del millón: ¿quién los está matando? Hay un mar de dudas.

Según la medición histórica de Somos Defensores, los mayores asesinos siguen siendo desconocidos (en parte por la inmensa impunidad, que llega al 87 por ciento según el informe especial STOP WARS – Paren la Guerra contra los defensores), seguidos de grupos de ascendencia paramilitar y con participaciones en menor proporción de fuerzas de seguridad del Estado y guerrillas.

Para las autoridades, los responsables de estos crímenes son de distintos tipos y por diversas motivaciones, como lo señaló el Fiscal General Néstor Humberto Martínez o incluso por “líos de faldas”, como lo dijo el Ministro de Defensa Luis Carlos Villegas. Infortunadamente, ambos funcionarios desconocen de tajo las motivaciones políticas que desde siempre han estado detrás de estas muertes y que aún no son investigadas a profundidad.

Más de 70 personas han sido capturadas por los crímenes de 2016 a 2018, pero ninguna de ellas corresponde a autores intelectuales sino tan solo a los que halaron el gatillo.

Un río de desafíos

Líderes sociales.
Líderes sociales.
Foto: Gobernación del Atlántico

 

En ese contexto, los “salmones” enfrentan el desafío de ser la pieza clave en la puesta en marcha de los acuerdos de paz, pues son ellos quienes tienen los contactos, el conocimiento de terreno y de las comunidades así como la experiencia organizativa y de vida para hablar de paz en medio de la guerra soterrada que aún los golpea.

Ellos fueron ellos quienes entre 2014 y 2017 lograron la movilización política de las víctimas, el avance en políticas estatales de derechos humanos y de protección, el no estancamiento de espacios tripartitos (Gobierno – Comunidad Internacional – Sociedad Civil) para garantizar la vigencia de los derechos humanos en Colombia e hicieron grandes contribuciones a las mesas de La Habana y de Quito.

El Estado colombiano tiene un río de desafíos para garantizar que los defensores sigan vivos y haciendo su trabajo:

1. Protección: Los mecanismos de protección existentes (decreto 1066 de 2015 y su programa de protección a personas en riesgo) y los derivados de los acuerdos de paz (Comisión de Garantías de Seguridad y No Repetición) aún no acaban de armonizarse.

El gobierno sigue protegiendo con escoltas, chalecos antibalas, vehículos blindados y teléfonos celulares, pero la protección colectiva, que es la que realmente se necesita, aún no despega muy a pesar de tener un decreto reglamentario (decreto 2078 de 2017).

Todo en el papel se ve bonito, pero a la fecha no hay dinero suficiente para cubrir semejante desafío. Actualmente, el Estado protege a 9 mil personas y en ello invierte más de 150 millones de dólares al año. El desafío es proteger nada menos que a 15 mil personas. Tampoco existe la capacidad institucional para atender el volumen de solicitudes de protección por venir.

No hay dinero suficiente para los líderes sociales, ni existe una institucionalidad preparada para dar abasto a las solicitudes de protección.

2. Prevención: Si bien el decreto 1066 de 2015 y su programa de protección a personas en riesgo dicen que el componente de prevención de esas violencias es fundamental, en la realidad nunca se han podido adoptar mecanismos eficaces para hacerlo.

Los mecanismos existentes, como el Sistema de Alertas Tempranas (SAT), no son tomados con la seriedad necesaria por el gobierno. Ejemplo de ello es el Informe de Riesgo 010 – 17 emitido el año anterior donde se advertía sobre el peligro que corrían más de 200 organizaciones de derechos humanos y sus activistas en 24 departamentos del país, sin que a la fecha se sepa qué hizo el gobierno para atender esta advertencia.

En el nuevo escenario de post acuerdo, el componente de prevención deberá ser una prioridad si no queremos seguir contando defensores muertos. Para lograrlo, ya hay un  nuevo decreto (decreto 2124 de 2017) que podría fortalecer la autonomía y eficacia del SAT. Amanecerá y veremos si se logra.

3. Investigación: Si bien hay que reconocer que en 2017 la Fiscalía avanzó como nunca antes en las investigaciones por crímenes contra defensores, falta avanzar en análisis sobre esta violencia y sobre los posibles patrones comunes entre estos crímenes.

Es muy positivo que el Fiscal General haya reconocido que hay indicios de “sistematicidad” en los asesinados de defensores, pero esta posición debe redundar en investigaciones profundas que develen los planes y organizaciones criminales detrás de estas muertes.

Solo cuando el salmón logra desovar en aguas más tranquilas, río arriba, descansa de su largo trayecto y recuerda que el camino que enfrentó recorrió y venció es la garantía de que sus descendientes tengan una oportunidad de vivir.

Así también los defensores de derechos humanos y líderes sociales han recorrido un largo camino hasta llegar a esta paz negociada con la esperanza de que sus descendientes y en general, sus propias comunidades, tengan esa oportunidad de conocer un país con menos dificultades para vivir en paz.

Colombia tiene la responsabilidad de estar a la altura de esa misión.

* Carlos Guevara es Coordinador de Comunicaciones, Incidencia y Sistema de Información de Derechos Humanos (SIADDHH) del Programa Somos Defensores, máster en Comunicación Política y Empresarial, especialista en Dirección de Cine, Video y TV, comunicador social y periodista.

 

Almost four environmental defenders a week killed in 2017

Source The Guardian and Global Witness

Author Jonathan Watts

Exclusive: 197 people killed last year for defending land, wildlife or natural resources, new Global Witness data reveals. In recording every defender’s death, the Guardian hopes to raise awareness of the deadly struggle on the environmental frontline

A cross on the side of the road painted in the colours of the Nasa indigenous people, reads, “Lord forgive them, fore they know not what they do.” Miranda, Cauca, Colombia. Photograph: Tom Laffay for the Guardian and infrastructure projects.

The slaughter of people defending their land or environment continued unabated in 2017, with new research showing almost four people a week were killed worldwide in struggles against mines, plantations, poachers and infrastructure projects.

The toll of 197 in 2017 – which has risen fourfold since it was first compiled in 2002 – underscores the violence on the frontiers of a global economy driven by expansion and consumption.

“The situation remains critical. Until communities are genuinely included in decisions around the use of their land and natural resources, those who speak out will continue to face harassment, imprisonment and the threat of murder,” said Ben Leather, senior campaigner for Global Witness.

But there was a glimmer of hope that after four consecutive increases, the number of deaths has flattened off, amid growing global awareness of the crisis and a renewed push for multinational companies to take more responsibility and for governments to tackle impunity.

Most of the killings occurred in remote forest areas of developing countries, particularly in Latin America where the abundance of resources is often in inverse proportion to the authority of the law or environmental regulation.

Extractive industries were one of the deadliest drivers of violence, according to the figures, which were shared exclusively with the Guardian in an ongoing collaboration with Global Witness to name every victim.

Mining conflicts accounted for 36 killings, several of them linked to booming global demand for construction materials.

In India, three members of the Yadav family: Niranjan, Uday and Vimlesh, were murdered last May as they tried to prevent the extraction of sand from a riverbank by their village of Jatpura.

In Turkey, a retired couple, Ali and Aysin Büyüknohutçu, were gunned down in their home after they won a legal battle to close a marble quarry that supplied blocks for upscale hotels and municipal monuments.

The hunger for minerals was also blamed for turning the Andes into a “war zone” with high-profile conflicts between indigenous groups and the owners of Las Bambas copper mine in Peru and El Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia.

Agribusiness was the biggest driver of violence as supermarket demand for soy, palm oil, sugarcane and beef provided a financial incentive for plantations and ranches to push deeper into indigenous territory and other communal land.

With many of the tensions focussed in the Amazon, Brazil – with 46 killings – was once again the deadliest country for defenders. Relative to size, however, smaller Amazonian neighbours were more dangerous.

Colombia suffered 32 deaths, largely due to an uptick of land conflicts and assassinations in the wake of the 2015 peace deal, which left a power vacuum in regions previously operated by Farc guerrillas. Among the most prominent victims was Efigenia Vásquez, a radio and video journalist from the Kokonuko community who was shot during a protest “to liberate Mother Earth”.

Peru witnessed one the worst massacres of the year in September when six farmers were killed by a criminal gang who wanted to acquire their land cheaply and sell it at a hefty profit to palm oil businesses.

Gangs and governments were largely responsible for the bloodshed in the second and fourth countries on the list: Mexico with 15 killings (a more than fivefold rise over the previous year), and the Philippines, which – with 41 deaths – was once again the most murderous country for defenders in Asia.

A broader crackdown by the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, was a key factor. When his soldiers massacred eight Lumad in Lake Sebu on 3 December, the government claimed they died in a firefight with rebels, but fellow activists insisted they were killed for opposing a coal mine and coffee plantation on their ancestral land.

Members of a delegation of indigenous and rural community leaders from 14 countries in Latin America and Indonesia, the Guardians of the Forest campaign, demonstrate against deforestation in London. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

In Africa, the greatest threat came from poachers and the illegal wildlife trade, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo where four rangers and a porter were ambushed and killed in July. But the highest profile victim last year of the poaching conflict was Wayne Lotter, an influential conservationist who was murdered in Tanzania after receiving death threats.

Global Witness believe many more murders go unreported. Defenders are also being beaten, criminalised, threatened or harassed. In a recent example, Ecuadorean forest activist Patricia Gualinga reported last month that attackers had thrown rocks through her windows and yelled death threats at her.

This is common. The EU-funded Environmental Justice Atlas has identified more than 2,335 cases of tension over water, territory, pollution or extractive industries, and researchers say the number and intensity are growing.

Justice is rare. The assassins are often hired by businessmen or politicians and usually go unpunished. Defenders, who tend to be from poor or indigenous communities, are criminalised and targeted by police or corporate security guards. When they are killed, their families have little recourse to justice or media exposure.

But there are patches of progress. Some countries saw falls, notably Honduras and Nicaragua, though activists remain in a vulnerable situation.

Civil society groups and international institutions are also increasingly mobilising behind environmental rights. Last month, 116 organisations in the Philippines launched a petition declaring: “It is not a crime to defend the environment.”

Campaigners for indigenous communities have taken their struggle to global climate talks and the United Nations.

Some international institutions are willing to listen. Following criticism for having backed the Honduran hydro project linked to the murder of activist Berta Cáceres, the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) has broken ground by declaring the safety of human rights defenders to be a key factor in future investment decisions. “The time has come for more investors to step up and take measures which guarantee that their money isn’t fuelling attacks against activists,” said Leather.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, urged governments to address the culture of impunity and said the media had an important role in boosting transparency.

“Environmentalists have been at risk for many years, but the full extent of the global crisis has only become clear as a result of the work of Global Witness and the Guardian to identify every environmental defender killed because of their work,” Knox said.

“As a result, it’s possible to see more clearly the underlying causes and risk factors, including the failures of governments to protect these defenders from threats and violence. I think that there are some signs that governments are starting to respond to the increasing international attention to these cases, but much more needs to be done.”

 

 

Dos de cada tres activistas asesinados el año pasado eran latinoamericanos

Source El País

Author: Felipe Sánchez

Al menos 212 defensores de derechos humanos fueron asesinados el año pasado en América Latina, según un informe de la ONG Front Line Defenders, con sede en Dublín (Irlanda). El documento, difundido a principios de mes y presentado la semana pasada en castellano, señala que la mayoría de crímenes en la región corresponde a Colombia y Brasil, que juntos registran 156 víctimas (73,5%). La suma de este tipo de asesinatos en el continente representa más de dos tercios del total mundial registrado por la organización internacional (312).

Una protesta contra la visita de Judith Butler en São Paulo, el 7 de noviembre.
Una protesta contra la visita de Judith Butler en São Paulo, el 7 de noviembre. N. ALMEIDA AFP-GETTY

La particularidad del caso colombiano está en que mientras la guerrilla de las FARC entregó las armas el año anterior como parte de los acuerdos de paz con el Gobierno de Juan Manuel Santos, las bandas criminales y paramilitares se han desplegado para perseguir y asesinar a líderes sociales, principalmente en las regiones en las que operaba el grupo. Naciones Unidas registra hasta el pasado 20 de diciembre 105 asesinatos de defensores de los derechos humanos en el país sudamericano; el 59% de estos perpetrados por sicarios.

“La violencia contra los defensores de derechos humanos se intensificó a la par de las crisis políticas y económicas en Venezuela, Brasil, Guatemala, Paraguay, Honduras y Argentina”, remarca el informe de Front Line Defenders, que cuenta con la ayuda de una red de organizaciones sobre el terreno para recolectar los datos de cada país.

Venezuela es el caso más emblemático entre los enumerados por la organización. El país sudamericano vivió una ola de protestas entre abril y julio contra los ataques del régimen al Parlamento, de mayoría opositora, en la que hubo más de 120 muertos, según la Fiscalía. La ofensiva antidemocrática del régimen de Nicolás Maduro desembocó en el establecimiento, en agosto, de una Asamblea Constituyente conformada únicamente por el chavismo que usurpó las funciones del Parlamento opositor.

“En Brasil se produjo un aumento de la violencia y de la participación [en esta] de las fuerzas de seguridad del Estado”, afirma el documento sobre el segundo país con el mayor número de asesinatos en la región junto a Colombia. “En mayo, 10 defensores pacíficos del derecho a la tierra fueron abatidos a tiros por la policía en Pau-d’Arco [Estado de Pará, en la región amazónica]. Seis semanas después, un testigo de la masacre que se había escondido también fue asesinado”, agrega el texto, que apunta a los activistas en favor de los pueblos indígenas y la defensa de la tierra como las principales víctimas del país.

Ola ultraconservadora

El informe alerta, sin embargo: “La violencia […] se ha extendido a otros sectores e incluye ataques en áreas urbanas, por ejemplo, contra defensores de derechos humanos que trabajan en las favelas de Río de Janeiro o grupos LGBTI en Curitiba”.

Con respecto a este último punto, el diagnóstico de la ONG coincide con el ascenso de una ola ultraconservadora en el gigante sudamericano que incluye intentos de agresión contra la filósofa feminista estadounidense Judith Butler o el boicot de una exposición artística sobre género y diversidad sexual en un museo de Porto Alegre.

Front Line Defenders también llama la atención sobre el caso de México, que a pocos días del fin de 2017 amenazaba con cerrar su año más violento en dos décadas. “El 2017 también fue testigo del mayor número de asesinatos de activistas ambientales y periodistas registrados en [el país] en los últimos años”, subraya el informe. Y agrega: “La aprobación en diciembre de una nueva Ley de Seguridad Interior que permite la intervención de las fuerzas armadas en asuntos de seguridad pública es particularmente preocupante por la ambigüedad de la redacción, su probable implementación arbitraria y sus posibles efectos negativos en la protesta social”.

La región más peligrosa del mundo

Asesinatos. 212 defensores de derechos humanos fueron asesinados en 2017 en Latinoamérica, el 67,9% del total global (312), según la ONG Front Line Defenders.

Colombia. Este es el país con el mayor número de víctimas; registraba hasta el pasado 20 de diciembre 105 asesinatos de activistas, según el recuento de las Naciones Unidas.

Disminución. La cifra de 2017 es levemente menor a la de 2016, cuando la organización registró 217 crímenes de este tipo en la región (77,2% de la cifra mundial, 281 asesinatos).

Distribución. En 2016, el número de asesinatos de activistas se repartió así: Colombia (85), Brasil (58), Honduras (33), México (26), Guatemala (12), El Salvador (1), Peru (1) y Venezuela (1).

Guatemala: UDEFEGUA denuncia los procesos de criminalización de los/las defensores/as de derechos humanos

“Desde el 2004 hemos intentado mantener un registro de un fenómeno que no se acota en el espacio y en el tiempo sino que permanece como una agresión constante similar a la de la desaparición forzada”. Source: La Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos

 

UDEFEGUA empezó a denunciar los procesos de criminalización a partir del año 2004, cuando el fenómeno que estaba, previamente, asociado con el abuso del delito de Usurpación Agravada en contra del movimiento campesino tiene un cambio substantivo tanto en sus modalidades como en el objetivo de su actuar.

Entre el 2004-2005 empieza a emerger de nuevo la figura penal de terrorismo y asociación ilícita tanto en las denuncias judiciales no fundamentadas como en las acciones públicas de difamación. Eso destapa una nueva dinámica de criminalización que se extiende como un cáncer a toda expresión de defensa de derechos humanos y libertades fundamentales. En los últimos años, la denuncia permanente de diversos movimientos sociales, organizaciones y defensores/as de derechos humanos ha permeado tanto las actividades nacionales e internacionales de denuncia de la situación guatemalteca.

La criminalización ha retado también a UDEFEGUA no sólo como víctima del proceso sino como organización que atiende a personas y organizaciones criminalizadas. Desde el 2004 a la fecha hemos intentado mantener un registro de un fenómeno que no se acota en el espacio y en el tiempo sino que permanece como una agresión constante similar a la de la desaparición forzada.

Asimismo, hemos tratado de denunciar los mecanismos pseudo – legales utilizados para mantener a una persona en proceso penal de forma indefinida. Hemos visto como el fenómeno no se detiene con la denuncia, sino muchas veces se profundiza como es el caso de los policías que denuncian penalmente a la ciudadanía antes de que estos, en acciones valerosas, puedan denunciar los vejámenes en su contra.

De esa cuenta, cuando observamos en las audiencias públicas de la Comisión Interamericana que los números de defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos criminalizados variaban mucho entre los denunciantes y que el estatus del criminalizado era poco claro, decidimos realizar una sistematización y actualización de los casos denunciados ante UDEFEGUA entre el año 2012 al 2017.

La sistematización genera un número alarmante de personas criminalizadas pero también vuelve a arrojarnos la dificultad que existe para actualizar la situación legal de las personas. A diferencia de otras sistematizaciones, la impunidad en torno a la criminalización se empieza a romper con algunas sentencias o decisiones judiciales que absuelven a los defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos. Sin embargo, a pesar de la claridad de los tribunales y juzgados de llamar a que se detenga la práctica, encontramos que el Ministerio Público sigue utilizando esa herramienta y una buena parte de Jueces siguen privilegiándola como respuesta ante la defensa de derechos humanos.

Un caso paradigmático es el de Abelino Chub Caal quien fuera acusado por hechos ocurridos en una comunidad cuando él no se encontraba en el lugar y que fuera individualizado por su labor de mediación en varios conflictos territoriales en El Estor, Izabal. La acción fiscal y judicial inicial le colocan en prisión preventiva y con un proceso de investigación abierto en su contra. La Fiscalía General interviene para garantizar una investigación imparcial a través del cambio de fiscalía que conoce el caso. La investigación establece, al momento de la acusación, que no hay hechos que incriminen al defensor en delito alguno. El juez decide no aceptar la posición fiscal y ordena ampliación de investigación y sostiene la prisión preventiva bajo el argumento de que así se evita que belino Chub ‘organice más invasiones a fincas’. La ruptura de la imparcialidad del juez permite el traslado del caso a otro juzgado; sin embargo, el tiempo pasa y Abelino sigue preso.

La sistematización arroja que situaciones similares han sido enfrentadas por varios defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos mientras purgan prisión preventiva; y, en su mayoría, es la situación que enfrentan la mayor parte de denunciados como consecuencia de su labor como defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos.

Philippines: Probe concludes killing of Mindanao tribesmen was massacre

Human rights activists protest the killing of tribal people in Mindanao during a demonstration in Manila. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Source UCA News

Bong Sarmiento, Koronadal
Philippines

Gunfire during which eight people were slain only came from troops, investigation by church, rights groups claims

Eight tribal people, who reportedly died in an armed clash with Philippine troops in Mindanao last month, were killed in a massacre, according to an independent investigation conducted by the Philippine church and human rights groups.

In its report, the fact-finding mission rejected claims made by the military that the victims were communist guerrillas who died after an armed encounter with troops near Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato province on Dec. 3.

Dr. Benito Molino, a forensic expert who was part of the investigation, said at least 300 empty and live shells from M14 and M16 rifles were recovered from various sites where soldiers apparently fired their weapons.

“Based on physical evidence … it appears that there was no clash,” said Molino.

Lita Wali, sister of slain tribal leader Victor Danyan, said all the gunfire came from the soldiers. “We heard gunshots and my brother rushed out to see what’s happening,” she told members of the fact-finding team.

“He was gunned down. There was no exchange of gunfire,” said Wali. She admitted, however, that her brother was carrying a homemade gun.

Sister Susan Bolanio, executive director of the Oblates of Notre Dame’s Hesed Foundation, said Danyan was the target of the attack for being vocal in a tribal people’s claim over a contested piece of land.

“He was deliberately targeted to silence dissent in the area,” said the nun whose foundation has helped organize local tribal communities against mining and logging incursions into tribal lands.

Danyan was chairman Tamasco, a tribal group formed in 2006 to reclaim 1,700-hectares of ancestral land that was planted with coffee by an agri-industrial company.

The organization was also protesting the entry of coal mining operations on their ancestral land.

Aside from Danyan, his sons Artemio and Victor, son-in-law Pato Ceraldo, and his neighbors in Datal Bonlangon Samuel Angkoy, Mating Balabagan-Bantal, Toto Diamante, and Toto Danyan were also killed.

The villagers have since fled to nearby areas.

“We will continue the fight to reclaim our ancestral land even with the death of my father,” said Danyan’s daughter, Tarcela, who was also the wife of Pato Ceraldo. “Right now, we want justice for all the victims,” she added.

The military, however, claimed that the Dec. 3 encounter resulted in the taking over of the “largest [communist] guerrilla base” in the area.

Military spokesman Captain Arvin Encinas, said a firefight erupted around noon of Dec. 3 when communist fighters opened fire on patrolling soldiers near a “terrorist cave hideout” in the village of Datal Bonlangon.

The firefight also resulted in the wounding of five tribesmen, including an eight-year-old child, and the displacement of at least 200 villagers.

Members of the independent fact-finding mission have issued a statement calling on the Philippine government to conduct a thorough probe into the incident and for the military to withdraw troops in the area.

 

 

More than 300 Activists Murdered in 2017: Front Line Defenders Launches Annual Report on Human Rights Defenders At Risk

Press Release

  • More than 300 Activists Murdered in 2017: Front Line Defenders Launches Annual Report on Human Rights Defenders At Risk
  • Más de 300 activistas asesinados en 2017: Front Line Defenders lanza un informe anual sobre los defensores de los derechos humanos en riesgo
  • Mais de 300 ativistas assassinados em 2017: Front Line Defenders lança relatório anual sobre defensores de direitos humanos em risco

Cover - 2017 Annual Report

Dedicated to the more than 300 human rights defenders murdered this year, the Front Line Defenders Annual Report on Human Rights Defenders At Risk opens with two pages listing the names of the deceased. Launched today in Dublin, the report details the physical attacks, threats, judicial harassment, and smear campaigns used by state, non-state, and corporate actors to hinder the work of peaceful human rights defenders (HRDs) around the world.

In 2017, 312 defenders in 27 countries were killed for their peaceful work, according to data collected by Front Line Defenders. More than two-thirds of these, 67% of the total number of activists killed, were defending land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights, nearly always in the context of mega projects, extractive industry and big business.

Of the cases tracked, only 12% of all murder cases resulted in the arrest of suspects. Impunity for acts of violence against HRDs continues to enable an environment of frequent killings, said the organisation, as does a chronic lack of protection for HRDs at risk. Of the cases for which data on threats was collected, 84% of murdered defenders received at least one targeted death threat prior to their killing.

“Around the world, defenders continue to tell us that police and government officials refuse to respond to requests for protection following death threats to activists,” said Executive Director Anderson, speaking at the launch of the report in Dublin. “Killings almost always occur following a series or pattern of threats, indicating that if preventive action were taken by police, and threats against defenders were taken seriously by authorities, HRD killings could be drastically reduced.” – Executive Director Andrew Anderson

In addition to the high rate of murders in 2017, criminalisation remained the most common strategy used to hinder the critical work of HRDs. In 2017, thousands of activists were detained on fabricated charges, subjected to lengthy, expensive and unfair legal processes or sentenced to long prison terms.

In a number of countries, authorities accused HRDs of “waging war against the state” and “secession,” charges which carry the death penalty. In the Middle East and North Africa, HRDs faced charges relating to terrorism, state security and espionage. In Vietnam, the government staged a systematic campaign against bloggers, academics and citizen journalists in 2017, with activists arrested, charged, labeled “enemies of the state” and given jail terms of up to ten years and addiiton time under house arrest.

The report also highlights that international pressure on governments who target HRDs is critical. In 2017, six HRDs in Sudan were detaiend and put on trial for “conspiracy to conduct espionage and intelligence activities in favour of foreign embassies” and “waging war against the state.” Three of them were detained for almost a year; two were tortured. Following an extensive campaign of domestic and international pressure, however, all six received a presidential pardon in August.

In many cases reported by Front Line Defenders, both judicial harassment and physical attacks were preceded by defamation and smear campaigns at the local level. Women human rights defenders around the world are increasingly reporting hyper-sexualized smear campaigns and defamation, which aim to limit their activism by eroding local support networks.

In response, according to Executive Direction Andrew Anderson, Front Line Defenders is working to promote HRD security with a range of protection programming. In addition to risk management and digital protection trainings, advocacy at the national, international, and EU level, emergency relocation, and nearly 500 protection grants provided to activists at risk in 2017, Front Line Defenders also works with HRDs to devise visibility campaigns to counteract the defamation and smear campaigns that put them at risk.

For more information or to speak with Front Line Defenders, please contact:
Erin Kilbride
erin@frontlinedefenders.org
+353 85 863 3655

Russia: Historian Arseny Roginsky who recovered the names of the millions executed under Stalin and others, has died aged 71

Source: The Guardian

The Russian

The Russian historian Arseny Roginsky, who has died aged 71, made it his mission to record and recover the names of the millions who had been imprisoned or executed under Joseph Stalin and subsequent Soviet leaders. In 1988 he helped to found Memorial, one of the first independent human rights organisations allowed to be established after Mikhail Gorbachev started to liberalise Soviet politics.

A soft-spoken scholar of great intellectual courage, Roginsky argued that remembering the past with empathy and accuracy was crucial to the construction of a civilised society. It was not enough to build monuments. Every persecuted individual’s fate had to be discovered and made known.

The impetus for his life’s work came partly from his own family history. Roginsky’s father, Boris, an electrical engineer and Talmudic scholar from Leningrad, was twice arrested and sent to labour camps. On his first release he was confined to internal exile in the remote northern village of Velsk in the Archangel region, where his son Arseny was born.

Re-arrested, Boris Roginsky died in detention in 1951 but it was not until 1955, when Arseny was nine, that his mother was informed her husband was dead, allegedly of a heart attack. For four years she had continued to send him food parcels without being told it was a waste of time and resources.

Arseny studied at the University of Tartu in what was then the Soviet republic of Estonia. He graduated from the history and philology faculty in 1968, the year in which Soviet tanks and troops invaded Czechoslovakia to crush a movement trying to reform communism. It was a formative experience which also radicalised several intellectuals who later became Gorbachev’s leading advisers. One of Roginsky’s classmates was the poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya, who was arrested for demonstrating in Red Square against the invasion.

Roginsky described himself later as a child of 1968. Less provocatively than Gorbanevskaya, but equally bravely, he moved to Leningrad and started interviewing survivors of the labour camps and creating an archive on the pattern of what the writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was doing separately for his book The Gulag Archipelago. Roginsky’s official jobs were as a bibliographer at Leningrad’s main public library and a teacher of Russian language and literature in evening schools. In his spare time he founded an underground group called Memory (Pamyat), and from 1975 to 1981 edited its collections of historical works. They were circulated privately and illegally in what was known as samizdat (self-publishing), and from 1978 they were smuggled out of the Soviet Union and published abroad.

The KGB searched Roginsky’s flat in February 1977 and again in March 1979. Although they found nothing, he was fired from the evening school where he taught. Two years later he was offered the choice of forced emigration or detention. He chose the latter and was sentenced to four years in camps for “the production and sale of forged documents”, and “for transferring materials abroad to anti-Soviet publications”.

On release he found himself swept up in the liberalisation of the media and the lifting of censorship – glasnost – ordered by Gorbachev. A longtime admirer of Russian radicals from the 19th and early 20th century, such as the People’s Will movement and the largely rural Socialist Revolutionaries, Roginsky compiled a book in 1989 called Memories of Peasant Tolstoyans, the 1910s-1930s.

As glasnost accelerated, his academic work soon took a back seat to public organising. Roginsky joined with friends, including the physicist Andrei Sakharov, in creating Memorial, known officially as the Historical and Educational, Human Rights and Humanitarian Society, Memorial. From 1998 he was chairman of its board. Memorial had many achievements. Apart from getting a monument to repressed Soviet citizens erected near the KGB’s headquarters in Lubyanka square in 1991 (a massive piece of stone from the Solovetsky islands, where several camps used to be located), Memorial helped to discover numerous sites of mass graves of repressed citizens in and around Moscow and other cities. But its wish for the state to create a publicly funded library and archive of repression and government-sponsored crimes has never been fulfilled.

Under Vladimir Putin’s more authoritarian leadership, several Memorial branches in different Russian cities were raided and the organisation was forced to register as a “foreign agent” in 2014 because it received funds from abroad – a step described by Roginsky as a “huge blow”. But, in a sign of the complexity of current Russian politics, Roginsky took a seat on the presidential commission overseeing the building of the Wall of Sorrow, a massive monument to victims of Soviet repression. Putin unveiled it in October. Although some human rights activists called Putin hypocritical and sneered at the project, Roginsky welcomed it. “A monument on behalf of the state is necessary because the state must clearly say terror is a crime,” he told a Russian news website.

Taken ill a year ago, Roginsky moved to Tel Aviv for cancer treatment, and retreated from public activity.

He is survived by his second wife, Yekaterina, and their son, Aleksandr, and two children, Boris and Asya, from his first marriage, which ended in divorce.

All his life Arseny Roginsky worked relentlessly to preserve the memory of victims of political terror in the Soviet Union. One of his last projects called “the last address” consisted in putting memorial signs on buildings in Russian cities indicating the names and personal information of persons who had been living there and who were arrested before disappearing in Soviet camps.

Front Line Defenders would like to convey its sincere condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of Arseny Roginsky.

Arseny Borisovich Roginsky, historian and human rights campaigner, born 30 March 1946; died 18 December 2017

You can read the original article here

Colombia – Statement by Minister of Defence undermines peace process and casts doubt on government’s commitment to protecting human rights

Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas talks during an interview with Reuters in Bogota, Colombia, May 18, 2016.REUTERS/John Vizcaino

The recent interview with Colombian Minister of Defence Luis Carlos Villegas, in which he said that the vast majority of killings of human rights defenders in Colombia were due to “problems in their personal lives, such as quarrels with their neighbours or romantic partners or their involvement in illegal economic activity is a denial of reality and amounts to nothing less than an calculated smear campaign against human rights defenders.

Sr Villegas has also stated that apart from killings carried out by members of the ELN and the FARC, only 50 community leaders and HRDs were killed in 2017.

The Minister’s statement is a convenient work of fiction which bears no relation to the harsh reality of life for HRDs in Colombia. The state’s own Human Rights Ombudsman has stated that 204 community leaders and HRDs have been killed in the last two years, while the Attorney General, Nestor Humberto Martinez, has identified “systemic criminality” in the assassination of social leaders — something the government has always denied, despite the evidence presented in numerous human-rights reports.

In its Annual Report for 2016 Front Line Defenders reported 86 killings of HRDs, the vast majority of which have never been fully investigated. In its report for the first six months of 2017, Front Line Defenders partner organisation, Programa Somos Defensores, documented 52 cases of killings of HRDs in the first six months alone of 2017. The Front Line Defenders Annual Report for 2017 which will be launched in January 2018 is likely to report a similar level of lethal violence.

While the Minister maintains the official line that there is no pattern of organised paramilitary activity the facts tell a different story. On 31 July 2017, Front Line Defenders reported a fresh wave of threats from members of Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC), a paramilitary group operating in the municipality of Barrancabermeja, among others. The group circulated a pamphlet naming several rights groups and five defenders known for their work in the Colombian peace process.

The paramilitary group accused them of colluding with the government and the Farc rebels “against the interests of the Colombian people.” AGC stated that their communities would soon find them “chopped up in plastic bags.” Lest there be doubt about the possibility of gruesome attacks, the group added, “for your knowledge this is not a threat, it is a declaration of war. We are already in the area. You and your family know that.”

The Minister’s statement is a political smokescreen designed to relieve the pressure on the government from the international community to deal with the issue of the killings of HRDs.

“Front Line Defenders welcomes the fact that the State Prosecutor has initiated an investigation into the Minister’s statement but believes that the government of Colombia must immediately disassociate itself from the Minister’s comments and reiterate it’s full commitment to human rights and the protection of human rights defenders, as an integral part of the peace process”. said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders.

At a time when the Colombian peace process is entering a critical phase, one of the key elements in guaranteeing the successful future implementation of the agreement is the restoration of trust in the institutions of state and in particular the criminal justice system and the security apparatus.

“At best the Minister’s statement shows a lack of understanding of the risks faced by human rights defenders in carrying out their peaceful human rights work. At worst it shows a cynical willingness to misrepresent the reality in which HRDs are attacked and killed on an almost daily basis”, said Anderson.

The prevailing climate of almost absolute impunity for these attacks on human rights defenders continues because of the lack of political will to address the systemic flaws in the state’s response to endemic violence, which the Minister, as the person in charge of the armed forces of the state, has a direct responsibility to address. Minister Villegas no longer has any credibility.

Andrew Anderson is Executive Director of Front Line Defenders www.frontlinedefenders.org

 

 

Colombia: Community leader murdered for standing up to palm oil

Hernan Bedoya – photo courtesy of Frontera Invisible

 

SourceMongabay:

Author: Taran Volckhausen

Colombian community leader Hernan Bedoya, who defended collective land rights for Afro-Colombian farmers as well as local biodiversity in the face of palm oil and industrial agriculture expansion, was shot dead allegedly by a neo-paramilitary group on Friday, Dec. 5.

Bedoya was owner of the “Mi Tierra” Biodiversity Zone, located in the collective Afro-Colombian territory of Pedeguita-Mancilla. The land rights activist stood up to palm oil, banana and ranching companies who are accused of engaging in illegal land grabbing and deforestation in his Afro-Colombian community’s collective territory in Riosucio, Chocó.

According to the Intercelestial Commission for Justice and Peace in Colombia (CIJP), a Colombian human rights group, Bedoya was heading home on horseback when two members of the neo-paramilitary Gaitánista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) intercepted him on a bridge and shot him 14 times, immediately killing him.

According to Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation (PARES), 137 social leaders have been killed across Colombia in 2017. Other observers have found lower numbers, but most track over 100 killed over the course of the year.

As one of more than an estimated 8 million people afflicted by five decades of armed conflict in Colombia, Bedoya had returned to his land with family in 2012 after being displaced by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group in 1996.

Following his return to the community, Bedoya fought alongside non-governmental organization to push back against powerful palm oil, banana and cattle interests. He wanted to ensure that the collective Afro-Colombian territory was protected from ongoing “invasions” that were cutting into his community agricultural lands and destroying protected areas set aside for their rich biodiversity.

Bedoya allegedly began receiving threats from illegal armed groups beginning in 2015. According to CIJP, the Colombian state, through the National Protection Unit (UNP), had given Bedoya a cell phone and a bullet-proof vest in an attempt to protect his life.

In June, CIJP denounced an industrial agricultural company for “destroying primary forests and resources for illegal industrial agriculture,” also claiming that their the group’s lawyer had singled out Bedoya’s biodiversity reserve as a target for parcelization and development.

“They are cutting the forests, destroying subsistence crops and causing displacement when they take over the family farms to plant plantain and palm oil projects,” said CIJP to local media.

On Thursday, 25 social leaders from Bajo Atrato and Urabá regions in Choco and Antioquia, who had received death threats or had relatives who were murdered, met in Bogotá to demand guarantees that they would be able to return to their territories. In order to protect their identities, the leaders wore masks to the press conference.

Social leaders from Bajo Atrato and Urabá wore masks to their meeting in Bogotá. Photo courtesy of Contagio Radio

The activists said they know of plans to kill several other land rights leaders in the region: Miguel Hoyos, Eustaquio Polo and María Ligia Chaverra, as well as two local communal leaders.

You can read the full article here

 

 

Money and Mining: the human cost of extracting wealth from the global south

Source The Ecologist

Authors: Hannibal Rhoades, Tatiana Garavito and Sebastian Ordoñez

Community leaders from Colombia, the Philippines and Uganda have been in London challenging attendees of the Mines and Money Conference.

Protesters confronted by armed police. Leandro Taques. Cachoeira Escura, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
London Mining Network

Environmental and Human Rights Defenders (EHRDs) from the frontlines of mining struggles in the Philippines, Colombia and Uganda travelled to London to expose the true costs of the UK’s extensive ties to the global mining industry and oppose the Mines and Money Conference.

The annual Mines and Money brought together more than 2,000 mining company representatives and investors hoping to cut deals that expand one of the world’s deadliest, most polluting industries.

Keynote speeches were delivered by Arron Banks, the Brexit financier, and Nigel Farage, the former UK Independence Party leader.. They provided advice on how mining companies can most ably exploit the political and economic climate post-Brexit, especially with regards to extracting wealth from the global south.

Mining-affected communities

The delegation of frontline defenders formed part of a week of creative action called Rise, Resist, Renew: Alternatives to Mines and Money. The action was designed to highlight London’s role in the expansion of global mining destruction, reminding UK citizens that deals struck here often mean displacement, destruction and death for communities living on mineral-rich lands around the world.

The express aim of Mines and Money, which took place last month, is to match-make big money with big mines, helping finance flow to new and undeveloped projects – it advertises itself as the event where ‘deals get done’.

The mines that result are getting bigger, deadlier and more prone to catastrophic disasters. Mining is currently the world’s most deadly industry for the people who stand in the way of mining projects, and for those who lose lands and livelihoods to its operations.

As a hub of global mining finance and power, London is a logical location for the conference. Many of the world’s biggest mining companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange and conduct their business through London. Still more companies are listed on the city’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

British high street and investment banks, pension funds and insurance companies invest hundreds of millions of pounds a year in mining projects across the globe, connecting working people’s earnings in Britain with the struggles of mining-affected communities around the world.

Government officials

The mining industry also enjoys deep and longstanding connections with the UK government, which often gives UK-based mining companies diplomatic support overseas, even when their activities are opposed by local people.

Just 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) collectively control over $1 trillion worth of Africa’s most valuable resources, according to a 2016 report from War on Want. They are enabled by the UK government’s power and influence.

The report highlights a pattern human rights abuses, forced migration and ecological destruction that is characteristic of neo-colonial extraction pervasive throughout the global south. This further demonstrates the UK’s role as a safe haven for the mining industry.

Around the world, the operations of UK-linked mining companies are facing staunch resistance from communities seeking to protect land, water and livelihoods from the impacts of mining. This resistance is rendered invisible at Mines and Money, which presides over panels on ‘responsible’, ‘sustainable’ mining without seeking contributions from affected communities.

Throughout the week of the conference, the delegation of EHRDs from Colombia, the Philippines and Uganda shared their experiences of the impacts of UK-linked mining projects in their territories, and of their resistance, with the UK public, NGOs and government officials.

Frontline defenders

Camila Mendez from youth collective COSAJUCA in Cajamarca, Colombia, shared her experience of Cajamarca’s recent popular consultation on mining, in which 98 percent of residents who turned out voted to ban AngloGold Ashanti’s planned La Colosa gold mine. Throughout the week, Camila called on the UK to support popular consultations, even as Colombia’s Central government seeks to restrict them.

“We are living in a mining dictatorship”, says Camila. “Our government needs to stop pushing mining and recognise the constitutional right of citizens to participate in popular consultations on the future of their territories. If Colombia is to have peace we must have environmental justice.”

Filipino human rights defender and Coordinator of Kalikasan PNE, Enteng Bautista, shared the violence environmental defenders opposing mining operations face in the Philippines as a result of mining interests, including those of British companies.

“The real risks are for those in the communities themselves”, says Enteng. “In the province of Batangas, Canadian and British mining interests are aiming to open large open cast gold mine operations near the town of Lobo. The local community strongly opposes the mine, which threatens an environmental disaster for farmers and fishing communities. Since August this year three local anti-mining activists have been killed and five environmental defenders were illegally arrested in Batangas.”

Resource speculation

The delegation of frontline defenders also took the opportunity while they were in London to share the alternatives to contested mining-based development, both in their territories and globally.

Alice Kazimura from the Buliisa Women’s Development Association, Uganda, joined campaigners via video link to share her community’s experiences of resisting the operations of Tullow Oil, an Anglo-Irish oil company registered on London’s Alternative Investment Market.

Alice’s community, Kakindo, is developing alternatives to the extractive mining-for-development model pushed by governments worldwide. “We are promoting alternative sources of energy, such as solar energy, so that we reduce dependence on fossil fuels and the need to extract more oil and gas”, says Alice.

“We have also been having practical women’s exchanges and experience sharing on the methods used for agro-ecological farming. These are farming methodologies suitable for a small piece of land and we are doing economic activities like weaving, which bring women together…creating safe spaces for women to deliberate on their own issues and do women’s movement building.”

Finite planet

The delegation of frontline defenders and their UK allies repeatedly stressed that minerals and metals are finite, so a future beyond extractivism is inevitable.

Rather than looking to a future of increased extraction to satisfy the minority economic interests behind extractive projects and over consumption in economically richer countries, we need to challenge an economic growth model that drives needless resource speculation, inequality, injustice, forced migration and climate change.

This journey starts, in part, by bringing the nexus of extractive power to account in safe havens like London. “We are here (in London) and wherever the mining companies go, we will go, to tell them we are against extractivism”, says Camila Mendéz.

“Through this visit we sent a clear message to global mining industry: when people come together in defence of their land and environment, there is nothing that can stop them. We cannot have infinite economic growth on a finite planet, there are many alternatives to the current development model, and we must explore them and implement them now!”

These Authors

Hannibal Rhoades is Communications and Advocacy Coordinator at The Gaia Foundation, a UK-based organisation working internationally to support indigenous and local communities to revive their knowledge, livelihoods and healthy ecosystems. Tatiana Garavito is a racial justice activist, an intersectional feminist and a co-founder of Organising for Change. Sebastian Ordoñez is the senior international programmes officer for War on Want.