CALOTO, Colombia — 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 >
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 >
“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
Since 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 >
On 27 September 2009, human rights defender Adolfo Ich Chamán was brutally killed. Seven years later, his wife Angélica Choc is still struggling for justice.
Adolfo Ich Chamán was a respected Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader and the President of the Community of La Uníon in the El Estor region of Guatemala. Before being killed, Adolfo was leading his community in the struggle against a Canadian mining company destroying their territory. He was speaking out against the human rights violations committed by the company and the negative impact of the mine in his community.
By Renata Oliveira, Former Front Line Defenders Research & Training Fellow for the Americas
At the end of April, my last activity with Front Line Defenders was to accompany Brazilian human rights defender and indigenous leader Tonico Benites to Brussels. Tonico had the chance to meet with several policymakers and diplomats to discuss the challenges faced by indigenous persons in Brazil, particularly his group, the Guarani-Kaiowás. As a Brazilian who comes from a state that has practically decimated its native population, I thought I already knew how bad the situation was. However, Tonico’s first-hand testimony about the persecution of his people shocked me.
According to the Brazilian Committee of Human Rights Defenders, at least 24 human rights defenders (HRDs) have been killed in the first four months of 2016. This places Brazil at the top of the list of killings of HRDs reported to Front Line Defenders this year. The Committee, formed by several NGOs and civil society representatives, has denounced this escalation of violence to the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation of American States (OAS), highlighting the fact that that violence against HRDs includes death threats, harassment, stigmatisation, the undue use of the judicial system against HRDs, surveillance and even murder.
In the evening of 24 January 2016, Paola Barraza’s heard voices outside her home calling to her. When she opened the door, a group of men shot her five times. She died shortly after as a result of her wounds.
Paola Barraza is a trans woman and member of Arcoíris, an organisation which works for the lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex (LGTBI) community in Honduras. This was not the first time Paola was attacked; in August 2015 unknown men had already tried to kill her. She was shot numerous times and she was seriously injured as a result of the attack.