South America Newsletter April 2017

 

The latest newsletter from the South America Team at AIUK – Ellie May (Brazil), Richard Crosfield (Colombia), Graham Minter (Rest of South America):-

“We have 3 urgent actions, 2 from Colombia and another from Argentina. Authorities in both countries respond well to written actions, so please continue sending letters. They work! We have good news from Argentina and Venezuela. And those of you who can make it, please come to St Paul’s Cathedral to highlight the predicament of Peruvian human rights defender Máxima Acuña. We will be there from 8.30 to 12.00 on 11 April.

Colombia

The incidence of the killing of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) as well as paramilitary incursions into Humanitarian Zones and rural communities has increased in recent months. Paramilitary groups are occupying land that the FARC have withdrawn from to take control of cocaine and marijuana production, illegal mining and other economic activities.

Amnesty has issued 4 Urgent Actions on behalf of communities under threat since 3 February. Please continue to take action on behalf of the communities of the Jiguamiandó river basin, click here to download the UA. Military forces, whether they be from the Government or other contestants in the ongoing conflict, are supposed to be committed to respecting the limits of Humanitarian Zones.

The UN High Commissioner for HR (UNHCHR) in Colombia issued his report 17 March. It is a damning document, taking to task the Colombian authorities for their lack of action to prevent HR abuses and permitting impunity. In one analysis the report shows that paramilitaries are responsible for 75% of HRD killings in 2016, various rebel groups for 14% and ‘private actors’ for 10%.

Forced displacements continue. The UNHCHR reported 13,864 people forcibly displaced in 2016. A further 399 residents of Peña Azul were ejected from their homes in March by paramilitaries. Please write on their behalf. You can download the UA here. 6.9 million Colombians have been forcibly displaced during the conflict and although procedures were put in place to restore land to their rightful owners in 2012, only 2.5% of such claims have been processed.

Human Rights Watch report that on 25 March 5 members of the Afro-descendant community of Carra in the Choco province were killed, according to villagers, by members of the rebel National Liberation Army (ELN). The ELN deny their involvement. The ELN are in peace negotiations with the Colombian authorities. Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities have suffered disproportionately from the increased violence over the past year.

In a positive move, the final accord with the FARC does not allow any form of amnesty or pardon for sexual crimes. However, Colombia’s Constitutional Court has defined sexual violence as ‘a habitual, extensive, systematic and invisible practice in the context of the Colombian armed conflict.’ The vast majority of such crimes go unreported due to threats to victims, witnesses and others related to denouncing these crimes.

Although there are major logistical failings in the new areas reserved for demobilised FARC members (no buildings, very restricted medical and social facilities), demobilisation seems to have got off to a good start.

Richard gave a briefing on Colombia to the FCO and members of the Prevent Sexual Violence Initiative’s mission to Colombia. The UK supports the UNHCHR, is financing local NGOs and the UK embassy forms part of the Group of 8 embassies working for human rights in the country. Communication with the embassy is good.

Peru

Amnesty has issued a public statement expressing its concern about the inappropriate use of the justice system to bring a criminal prosecution for land invasion against the human rights defender Máxima Acuña and stigmatize her with the objective of discrediting her and denying the legitimacy of her work.

The Supreme Court of Justice is currently considering an appeal by the public prosecutor for annulment of a 2014 court ruling, which dismissed the case against Máxima Acuña and members of her family on the grounds of a lack of evidence.  You can read the statement here.

Máxima Acuña will feature in an event at St Paul’s Cathedral between 8:30am and 9:30am on 11 April, when Amnesty members and supporters will gather on the cathedral steps for a press launch to mark the installation there of Mark Wallinger’s sculpture Ecce Homo.  Ten of the Amnesty participants will be wearing t-shirts with the names of people on whose behalf Amnesty is campaigning, including Máxima Acuña.

Argentina

For some years, the ChañaralWichí community from Salta province have been trying to resist the private sector’s advances on their territory.  Now three members of the community, Martín Acosta, Dalmacio Acosta and Demetrio Campos,face trial for defending their territory. The legal proceedings violate their right to defence and access to justice.

The three Indigenous defenders are facing criminal charges for threats and damages brought against them by a landowner who is seeking to occupy the land where the community have traditionally lived.  Although an oral trial scheduled for 20 March was suspended, the legal proceedings remain open.  Through the Urgent Action here, you can urge the Argentine authorities to guarantee due process, access to justice and the right to defence.

GOOD NEWS.  All charges have finally been dropped against Belén, who spent 29 months in prison for having a miscarriage and was initially sentenced to 9 years.  Belén was released from prison last August pending these further legal proceedings that have absolved her completely.

Venezuela

MORE GOOD NEWS.  Retired general Raúl Isaías Baduel, who has been detained in the Venezuelan military prison Ramo Verde since 12 January, has finally been allowed to meet his lawyer and his family after being held incommunicado since 21 January, and has been brought before a relevant court of law. Raúl Isaías Baduel, who is openly critical of the current government, has been charged with “crimes against the integrity, sovereignty and liberty of the nation”.  Details here.

Brazil

Amnesty’s annual report on Brazil highlights the concern for police impunity for extrajudicial killings, noting:

‘Most cases of killings by the police remained unpunished. Twenty years after the unlawful killing of a two-year-old during a military police operation in 1996 in the favela of Acari, Rio de Janeiro city, no one had been held to account. On 15 April the statute of limitations for the crime expired.
In October the first public hearing with regard to the killings of 26 people during police operations in the favela Nova Brasília, Rio de Janeiro city, in October 1994 and May 1995 was held before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The killings had yet to be investigated and nobody had been brought to justice.’

We have no recent updates from AI Brazil, whose Director has resigned, but as soon as we do, we’ll let you know.

Vacancy for Brazil Country Coordinator.

We have a vacancy in our team for a Brazil Country Coordinator. We welcome applications. To apply and learn more about work as a Country Coordinator, please click here. If you would like to discuss this with us, please contact us.

 

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