South America Newsletter March 2019

This month we have two petitions for you to sign, one on the human rights crisis in Venezuela and the other on abortion rights in Argentina. We report on the ongoing crisis in Venezuela, the continuing HR violations in Colombia and on police killings and gender based murders in Brazil. We have good news from Peru, where the Supreme Court has ruled that Fujimori’s pardon has no legal effect.


From 31 January to 17 February, Amnesty undertook a research mission in Venezuela, gathering more than 50 testimonies and documenting 15 emblematic cases, including some of serious human rights violations and crimes under international law. The evidence indicates that the state authorities carried out selective extrajudicial executions as a method of social control against people who participated. The more impoverished areas were particularly affected and stigmatised.  Victims were later presented as “criminals” killed in clashes with the authorities.

The full findings of this investigation will soon be released in a public report.  Meanwhile, you can find out more at these links:

Full Amnesty statement and recommendations

10 things you need to know about the crisis

Q & A on the crisis

We have written to the FCO calling on the British Government to participate in international efforts to prevent an escalation of the conflict; to ensure that any external action does not violate the principles of international law and prevents further suffering or violations of rights in the country; and to support the different national actors in creating the conditions that allow the enjoyment of human rights.   Graham will meet the Head of the FCO’s Latin American Department this Thursday to discuss the UK’s response.

You can support these efforts by signing this petition asking the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Venezuela.


The ELN (National Liberation Army) claimed responsibility for the car bombing at Bogota’s Police Academy that killed 21 people and injured a further 70 on 17 January. This is a reminder that the Peace Process with the FARC did not end the civil war in Colombia. President Duque announced that he has reactivated an order to detain the 10 FLN peace negotiators currently residing in Cuba. Negotiations with the ELN have been frozen for the last several months, as the FLN will not agree to free its captives, which is a precondition for the Colombian government.

The Colombian NGO Somos Defensores (We are Defenders), reports (in Spanish) that in the first half of 2018 77 Human Rights Defenders were killed, an increase of 26 (51%) on the corresponding period of 2017. 3 of the killings are attributed to paramilitaries, 6 to the state’s security forces, 4 to the ELN and 5 to dissident FARC. The authors of the remaining 51 killings are unknown. Community leaders continued to suffer most (51) while 12 of the killings were indigenous leaders.

Over two years after Colombia ratified a peace deal celebrated for its focus on gender equity, Afro-Colombian women face an increasing threat of violence without access to justice. According to a report on Colombia’s compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) released in February, Colombia violates the Convention’s protections for ethnic minorities. The Victims Registry Unit documented 24,576 cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2017. Only 5% of the perpetrators have been brought to trial. Colombia Peace Monitoring’s full report can be read here.

The UN Verification Mission in Colombia published its recent report on the Peace Process, covering all the clauses of the agreement. The task ahead is enormous and a detailed analysis sheds light on both the achievements and the challenges faced by the Colombian authorities and other actors. You can download it here.


Amnesty has called on the Argentine authorities to be held accountable for putting at grave risk the life of an 11-year-old pregnant rape survivor and divulging confidential medical information. The girl was admitted into hospital in January, bearing the child of her grandmother’s partner who had sexually abused her. Both the girl and her mother requested an abortion, which is legal in Argentina in such cases, but the authorities repeatedly refused to practise an abortion, effectively forcing the girl to carry the pregnancy to term.

You can stand in solidarity with the people campaigning for access to safe and legal abortion in Argentina by signing this petition.

Even though the implementation of Sexual Education has been mandatory in all schools in Argentina since 2006, many young people around the country still have no access to basic knowledge of their sexual rights. Find out more here.

An attack that badly injured Argentina’s chief rabbi has raised concerns about anti-Semitism in the country.


The Special Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice has confirmed an earlier ruling that the pardon granted to former President Fujimori has no legal effect.   Amnesty has welcomed the decision, which it said represented the closure that victims of the crimes against humanity and serious human rights under Fujimori’s presidency had been waiting for and recognised the historic struggle of the families who have been defending their rights to truth, justice and reparation for decades.


 An IACHR press release reports concern about the alarming prevalence of gender-based murders of women in Brazil, taking into consideration that at least 126 women have been murdered in the country since the beginning of the year. The Commission calls on the Brazilian State to implement comprehensive strategies to prevent these acts, fulfil its obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible, as well as to offer protection and comprehensive reparation to all victims.

The Commission notes with concern that in most cases, the murdered women had previously denounced their aggressors, faced serious acts of domestic violence, or suffered previous attacks or attempted homicides.

A Rio Times article reports  that researchers from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) warned  of the possibility of aggravation of chronic diseases in the population of Brumadinho and its surroundings due to the rupture of the Córrego do Feijão mine. Although mining giant Vale has stated that the mud which buried many houses and plantations in Brumadinho was only composed of silica, analyses of the water of the Paraopeba River four days following after the mud slide revealed indexes of mercury twenty-one times above the acceptable levels. The analysis also shows that nickel, lead, cadmium and zinc were also present on January 26th, one day after the disaster, at one of the monitoring points

Amnesty International questions the actions of military police which resulted in thirteen deaths in the communities of Fallet and Fogueteiro, in the Central Region of Rio. ‘The military police claim that it was received with gunfire upon entering the area and that the deaths were due to confrontations (with police). Amnesty International state: it is only through a detailed, impartial and independent investigation that it is possible to determine the exact circumstances of each of these deaths.’ The relatives of the dead men stated that the youths were in a house and were executed by the military police, instead of being arrested and taken to the police station.

AI states that in Rio State, in 2018, there were 1,532 registered cases of people killed by the police in service. This is significant increase over the previous year, when police killed 1,127 people.

Human Rights Watch report that a new bill unveiled on February 4 could spur an increase in unjustifiable killings by police. Under the legislative proposal, a judge could suspend the sentences of people who claimed self-defense at trial but were still convicted of homicides and other crimes if the judge determines that they acted out of “excusable fear, surprise, or intense emotion.” Police officers often justify extrajudicial executions by falsely contending that they acted in self-defense after criminals shot at them, Human Rights Watch research shows.

All the best,

South America Team – Richard Crosfield (Colombia), David Palmer (Brazil) and Graham Minter (rest of South America).