Killings of Human Rights Defenders

Press conference denouncing murder of community defenders

Last week Dania and I attended a somber press conference denouncing the recent murders of three community leaders who were defending the rights of  campesinos (family farmers) and indigenous Mayans in Guatemala.

Increasingly, community leaders, organizers and activists in Guatemala are coming under attack for defending their land, culture, and the environment.

The Guatemalan government, instead of guaranteeing these rights, has placed human rights defenders at greater risk by openly disparaging their work and their organizations.

Here are some additional resources:

U.N. Human Rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says human rights defenders in the country are operating within a climate of fear, harassment and intimidation.

“We call on the authorities to promptly investigate these murders and other attacks and threats against human rights defenders, and to ensure that those found responsible are held accountable. We also urge the State to adopt all necessary measures to ensure a safe, enabling environment for human rights defenders to be able to carry out their work free from threats and attacks,” she said.

Human Rights Defenders Killed in Guatemala, by Lisa Schlein of the VOA (article, English)

“We call on the Government to address these issues as part of its efforts to strengthen the rule of law, the protection of the rights to freedom of expression and judicial independence, and the fight against impunity and corruption. We trust that the Government will honor its commitment to advance with the adoption of a Public Policy on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, with the participation of civil society at local and national levels. We also reiterate the High Commissioner’s call for the Government to strengthen the inter-institutional Unit on Analysis of patterns of attacks against human rights defenders”.

Press briefing notes on Guatemala, by Ravina Shamdasani – Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (English)

“There is a ongoing policy of repression, intimidation and violence directed at indigenous communities and peasant famers. Illegal, clandestine security groups are being armed and financed by powerful sectors that are fomenting land grabs, impunity and corruption in the region.”

Ante el Desalojo de Dirigentes Comunitarios, by Civil Society organizations (Press release, Español).

 

A new beginning!

Co-directors Dania and RobIt is with tremendous pleasure that we announce the inauguration of our organization, the Human Rights Defenders Project! Our passion and purpose is to serve and support human rights defenders in Guatemala. We hope that you will join us and help us to build this dream together.

¡Con gran placer anunciamos la inauguración de nuestra organización, The Human Rights Defenders Project! Nuestra pasión y propósito es servir y apoyar a defensoras y defensores de los derechos humanos de Guatemala. ¡Esperamos que ustedes se nos unan para construir este sueño juntos!

– Dania Rodríguez & Rob Mercatante –

Council stands with human rights defenders

Michel Forst - UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

From The International Service for Human Rights:

The Human Rights Council has united to adopt a consensus resolution on the protection of human rights defenders. The resolution, extending the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur, comes at a time when the work of defenders has never been more important nor more threatened.

The UN Human Rights Council – the world’s peak human rights body – has today adopted a resolution which affirms the vital and legitimate work of human rights defenders and extends the mandate of a UN expert tasked to support and protect them.

‘Through this resolution the Council has sent an important signal that human rights work is legitimate, and that human rights defenders must be respected and protected by States and non-state actors,’ said ISHR’s Director of Human Rights Council Advocacy, Michael Ineichen.

Source: Council unites to stand with human rights defenders | ISHR

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016

The U.S. State Department has just released its annual report documenting the human rights situation of countries around the world.

Unfortunately, the current Secretary of State has decided to downplay the importance of this yearly event, revealing the Trump administration’s apparent disregard for human rights observance and reporting.

Nonprofit Quarterly writes:

Given that the 41st annual Human Rights Reports were issued by the Trump administration, the rollout naturally included some controversy, which centered on the decision by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not to hold an official unveiling.

Critics argued that his absence gave the report less attention, as Reuters reported, with only an anonymous U.S. official answering reporters’ questions by phone instead of the usual press conference.

The administration’s commitment to human rights was already under fire, after news recently emerged that the U.S. is considering leaving the United Nations’ Human Rights Council under new Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

The 2016 U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices for Guatemala, with a fairly conservative analysis of the human rights situation, states that:

Local human rights NGO Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders reported 14 killings of human rights defenders through November 30, compared with 12 killings in all of 2015. The NGO also reported 205 attacks against human rights defenders through October, compared with 493 attacks in all of 2015.

According to various human rights NGOs, many of the attacks related to land disputes and exploitation of natural resources.

Here is the Guatemala 2016 Human Rights Report:

GUATEMALA 2016 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT