South America Newsletter February 2015

Below is the latest update from our South American coordinators – Ian McGarr (Colombia); Richard Crosfield (Brazil); Graham Minter (Rest of South America). Our group been specialising on South American actions for most of our existance – sadly, despite successes, there are always more to follow.


Good news! The National Truth Commission’s final report (December 2014) marks an historic step in Brazil’s efforts to obtain justice for crimes against humanity and other violations during the military dictatorship that took power five decades ago. The commission spent two years investigating the thousands of cases of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other violations dating back to the period of military rule in Brazil from 1964-1985. For Amnesty’s press release read here.
We brief both the Brazilian Embassy and the Brazil desk at the FCO on Amnesty’s concerns for human rights in Brazil. In the case of the Brazilian embassy, we ask them for specific actions to be taken by the authorities. And we carry on asking them until we get a reply.
We have again been in touch with the Brazilian embassy to get answers to our appeals on behalf of the four casefiles that are active at the International Secretariat. They include Laísa Santos Sampaio (death threats, protection, illegal logging) and Alexandre Anderson de Souza (death threats, protection, unsolved murders, damage to the environment), which have been adopted by AIUK groups. And Jorge Lázaro Nunes (Black homicide, police ‘disappearance’, death threats, protection) and the Guaraní Apika community (Land rights, death threats, protection) that have not yet been adopted by AIUK. The Embassy have promised to get answers to our appeals. We have also provided the embassy with recent AI reports on Brazil.
We provided both the Brazil desk at the FCO and the British Embassy in Brasilia with the latest reports on Brazil – Amnesty’s submission to the EU-Brazil Human Rights Dialogue (April 2014 attached) and the final report on the No Foul Play Brazil! campaign that coincided with the World Cup. Both the FCO and the British embassy have said how much they appreciate receiving Amnesty reports on Brazil. These help the FCO prepare for meetings with the Brazilian Government where human rights is part of the agenda.


The Colombian government has signed trade agreements with the European Union and is seeking financial support from the EU for its peace process. Amnesty campaigns to keep human rights at the heart of the process. As a result contacts made by the Newcastle Amnesty group, Ian has briefed Jude Kirton-Darling and her group of 20 MEPs on military jurisdiction over crimes committed by members of the Colombian armed forces and land restitution in Colombia. He has arranged for the group to have further briefings with the Europe Office of Amnesty in Brussels.
Ian prepared a briefing to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for AI UK to send to Nick Clegg when we learned at short notice that he was meeting the President of Colombia during his visit to London. Ian met the UK Ambassador to Colombia Lindsay Appleby in the summer and will meet again in February as part of a delegation of NGOs. There will be a separate meeting with Amnesty to brief the FCO on the deteriorating situation in La Toma, Colombia. [An Urgent Action was issued on this last year]. The UK Embassy undertook to monitor events over the Christmas period. The FCO also assists by facilitating contact with the Embassy in Bogotá to help us follow the progress of the Manizales court case against army officers concerning “false positives”.
MPs ask questions in Parliament on behalf of Amnesty. Here is the written answer Nick Clegg gave to a question asked by Kerry McCarthy (MP for Bristol East) in January 2015: “I discussed sexual violence against women when I met President Santos in November this year. I commended the leading role that the President had played in tackling sexual violence, including the recently announced day to commemorate Victims of Sexual Violence in Colombia. The prevention of sexual violence in conflict continues to form a core part of the British Embassy’s human rights work, and the Embassy in Bogotá is funding three related projects in 2014-15”.


This month Graham called on the Foreign Office’s Bolivia desk officer, Matthew Bailey, with the Regional Campaigner from the AI International Secretariat, Monica Costa, to brief him about our main concerns over human rights in Bolivia: weaknesses in the justice system; truth, justice and reparation for victims of the human rights violations committed by the military regimes of the 70s and 80s; sexual and reproductive rights; prison conditions; and rights of indigenous peoples.
Matthew undertook to pass on our concerns to the British Embassy in Bolivia. He said the Embassy was already active in some of these areas and was funding several projects with a human rights content, including prison reform and women’s rights, as well as improving citizen security, disabled peoples’ rights, prevention of torture and conflict prevention.
In welcoming the British Government’s attention to torture prevention, we urged them to continue to press for the establishment of a truly independent anti-torture body. We also sought the UK’s support for international efforts to persuade the Bolivian Government to give more priority to the victims of past military regimes.


We are very grateful to those groups that have volunteered to work on the case of Daniel Quintero. Following approval by AIUK’s Case Management Group, a casefile is under preparation and we shall be in touch with those groups again as soon as it is ready. Quote from a conversation with Daniel Quintero regarding how he has felt being part of Write for Rights 2014: “[AI’s campaign] has been more than a blessing; more than luck; more than support. I felt shielded with you. This is amazing. I had a great time during the holidays and a lot of that is thanks to you. There are really no words to express the gratitude for what you do.

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Currently active Urgent Actions
Colombia: Dozens threatened by paramilitaries. Read more here.
Colombia: Land restitution process sparks more threats. More information.
Colombia: Harassed for fighting sexual violence. Take action.
Ecuador: Environmental activists charged with rebellion. Read here.

Puru: New (since newsletter published) Urgent Action relating to a family suffering police haracement. Take Action – copy link below into browser…