South America Newsletter March 2017

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

This month, you can read about our South American coordinator’s petition hand-in, asking for the Venezuelan opposition leader to be released. They have Urgent Actions on behalf of a Venezuelan transgender lawyer, an Argentinian social leader, the Asháninka Meantari community in Peru and two for Colombia, including the Peace Community. The Brazilian Coordinator has also submitted information to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ahead of the next UN Periodic Review on Brazil taking place early May.
Finally, this month also sees the release of Amnesty’s global Annual Report.  Amnesty hailed 2016 as the year of “us against them”, with leaders singling out groups of people as a threat to national interests. All South American countries have their own reports. You will find links to each under each country section for reference and all other South American countries with a report listed at the end of the newsletter.

Venezuela

On 17 February Graham Minter joined a small group of AIUK staff on a visit to the Venezuelan Embassy to deliver over 2000 petition signatures calling for the release of the opposition leader Leopoldo López. You can read Graham’s blog reporting the experience here.
You will find an Urgent Action on behalf of a transgender lawyer Samantha Seijas. On 31 January he and his daughter were beaten about the head and face by police officers from the Aragua Police Force when they visited a police station opposite their home to file a complaint.  The police officers uttered derogatory phrases referring to Samantha’s gender identity and one of them threatened Samantha by saying “pray to God that I don’t find you out alone at night”. The Aragua Police Force has a history of excessive use of force and fears exist for the safety of both father and daughter. View Amnesty’s Annual Report for Venezuela.

Peru

If you haven’t yet taken action in support of the Asháninka Meantari community, who have been displaced from their community by about 60 unidentified armed individuals, please watch out for an update in the next few days with a revised message for the Peruvian authorities.  When the Asháninka Self-Defence Committees arrived at the land to exercise the community’s rights, they found that 11 of the invaders were still there. They took the individuals to a local town after the 11 had promised publicly to leave the area and not to return. However, the community have not returned to their lands as they fear that the remaining armed individuals may still be there, or may return and act on the death threats that they previously made.

View Amnesty’s Report for Peru.

Argentina

There is still time to take action on the Urgent Action calling for the release of the social leader Milagro Sala, who has been arbitrarily detained.

View Amnesty’s Report for Argentina

Colombia

Amnesty launched its Annual Report amid little sign that the peace agreement between the FARC rebels and the government has reduced human rights abuses in Colombia. Human Rights defenders are more in jeopardy from paramilitaries than before. Please see the link to the report on Colombia. Please give it as wide a circulation as possible.

In a positive move, the National Director for Human Rights visited the Peace Community of San Jose Apartado on 16 February and the following day the military captured three paramilitaries. However the Community is still at risk from paramilitaries in the area and the Urgent Action we sent you on behalf of the Peace Community of San Jose Apartado, is still valid. Please continue to take action, the UA can be downloaded here. Please write by 17 March.

In another Urgent Action, a group of paramilitaries entered the Humanitarian Zone of Nueva Esperanza en Dios in the Cacarica river basin in north-west Colombia looking for several individuals whom they claimed were on a death list. Please download the UA here. Please write by 27 March.

Tele Sur reports that the Prosecutor General’s Office announced that for the first time private companies will be charged with crimes against humanity as part of the justice system put in place as Colombia makes its transition to peace.  Around 200 local and international companies, which employed or paid paramilitaries, are liable for prosecution. You can read the full article here.

For a thorough analysis of the task ahead to end the conflict between FARC and government, including disarmament, rebel concentration, compensation to victims and demining the countryside, a good place to start is Colombia Peace.

Richard was in Mexico to visit Amnesty’s new Americas Regional Office, and he is in contact with the new Colombia researcher and campaigner now based in Lima. The handover from London appears to be going well.

View Amnesty’s Report for Colombia

Brazil

Last month, Amnesty submitted information to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council for the meeting of its 27th session on 1-12 May 2017. This is to review the human rights situation in 14 countries. The ultimate objective of the UPR is to achieve an improvement of the human rights situation on the ground.

Amnesty International has made submissions of information for 13 of the countries in which we set out our key human rights concerns and recommendations for action. Brazil is one of these countries and you can view our submission on Brazil here.

The human rights concerns for Brazil are varied and there is a lot of work to be done. They range from: harassment and killings of human rights defenders; attacks against Indigenous communities; excessive use of force and unlawful killings by law enforcement officials; torture and ill-treatment during arrest, interrogation and detention; degrading prison conditions; restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. We will report back with updates when we can.
View Amnesty’s Report for Brazil

If you would care to view Annual Reports for other South American Countries, you can do so below:

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