South America Newsletter October 2018

Amnesty has issued a new report on public security in Venezuela, the UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution on the crisis and this year’s Embassy Crawl included a stop at the Venezuelan Embassy.  In Colombia, environmental rights defenders continue to face threats, paramilitary groups are extending their presence, peace negotiations with the ELN have come to a standstill and the arrival of large numbers of Venezuelans fleeing their country is exacerbating tensions between the two governments.

Elections are imminent in Brazil and questions are being asked about the human rights credentials of some of the candidates, including the front-runner for President; there is concern about growing violence in Rio and against Afro-descendants; and Amnesty is unimpressed by the slow progress of the investigation into the murder of Marielle Franco, whose partner recently visited AIUK’s offices.  In Peru, a court ruling is imminent on a bid to reverse the presidential pardon granted to ex-President Fujimori; and charges have been dropped against 16 Human Rights Defenders.

In Chile, Human Rights Defender Karine Riquelme has faced further intimidation.  15 countries have signed the regional Escazú Agreement, which seeks to protect environmental rights; and Amnesty has called on all countries in the region to assume their responsibilities towards Venezuelans seeking to escape the crisis in their country.

VENEZUELA

In a new report, This is no way to live: Public security and the right to life in Venezuela, Amnesty has highlighted the responsibility of the Venezuelan state for violations of the right to life and physical integrity of thousands of people.  Amnesty reports that the state is not only failing to guarantee the life and security of the population in the context of alarming levels of insecurity, but it is also implementing repressive measures using military methods, supposedly to tackle crime. The result has been more than 8,200 extrajudicial executions between 2015 and June 2017.

On 27 September, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council passed a resolution to address the unprecedented human rights crisis unfolding in Venezuela. Amnesty has welcomed the resolution.

On 29 September the annual Embassy Crawl, organised by the Lambeth Group, included a stop at the Venezuelan Embassy to raise the case of Geraldine Chacón, a human rights defender, detained in February and conditionally released four months later.  She must register at a local court every 30 days and is not allowed to leave the country. Amnesty is demanding her unconditional freedom and for her case to be formally closed so that she can carry on with her valuable work as a defender of human rights.  Outside the Embassy and in Graham’s absence, David introduced the case to those taking part in the crawl.

COLOMBIA

Amnesty has issued a new Urgent Action concerning environmental rights defenders of the Rios Vivos (Living Rivers) Movement.  On 22 September, two relatives of members of the Rios Vivos Movement were killed in Antioquia, Colombia.  These killings come soon after several other members of the same movement were killed; they are affected by the environmental and human rights impact of the Hidrohituango dam construction.  Please take action by downloading the UA here. Please send copies to HIS EXCELLENCY MR NESTOR OSORIO, Embassy of Colombia, 3 Hans Crescent SW1X 0LN, clondres@cancilleria.gov.co

In a recent public statement, Amnesty continues to be deeply concerned by the expansion of paramilitary groups in the country. “Despite the government’s claims that all paramilitary groups were demobilized, territories formerly dominated by FARC are now controlled by paramilitaries with no measures by the state in place to protect the communities against human rights violations.  There continues to be reports of the collusion by sectors of the security forces with such groups.”

While peace negotiations with the ELN (National Liberation Army) have come to a standstill, Reuters report that Colombia’s new president, Ivan Duque, has insisted that they will only resume once the ELN liberate all their hostages.  At his inauguration, he hinted at other possible conditions and said a decision would be taken in 30 days.  The 30 days were up on 7 September.

The vast migration from Venezuela to Colombia (an estimated 1 million Venezuelans have crossed the border as well as 200,000 Colombians resident in Venezuela) has raised tensions between the two countries.  President Duque deems it “the most outrageous migratory and humanitarian crisis in the region’s recent history,” and accuses Nicolás Maduro of being responsible for this fateful event, “a dictatorship that annihilated liberties.” Under President Santos, Colombia granted two-year residency permits to 400,000 Venezuelans.

BRAZIL

With elections due in Brazil on 7 October, growing attention is being given to the human rights records of the candidates.  An Amazon Watch report states that six prominent politicians, five of whom are standing for re-election, have been accused of serious crimes, including breaches of labour laws (conditions amounting to slavery), infringement of environmental regulations and corruption.  A recent article in the Guardian reports growing mobilisation by women seeking to derail the candidature of the current front-runner for president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has called women idiots, issued taunts about rape and threatened to tighten Brazil’s anti-abortion law.

A press article from Brazil  discusses the federal military intervention in Rio de Janeiro, which  has been in place over seven months.  According to the app, Fogo Cruzado, which allows users to report violent incidents to its community database, in the last seven months the app has recorded more than 5,800 gunfights and shootings throughout the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan region.  That figure represents an almost fifty percent increase over the same seven- month period of 2017 when there were 3,600 incidents reported.  There has been a disturbing rise of deaths resulting from police operations. Just-released data from the Public Security Institute (ISP) showed that this past August there were 175 deaths from police actions, almost six a day. This is an increase of about 150 percent over August 2017

An Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) press release  expresses  deep concern over growing violence against Afro-descendants in Brazil in 2017. The IACHR urges the Brazilian State to put policies, laws and practices into place to prevent and eliminate this discrimination, whether it be direct or indirect, against Afro-descendants.

Amnesty have issued a press release regarding the recent six-month anniversary of the murder of the prominent human rights defender Marielle Franco, regretting the continuing inability and apparent unwillingness of the Brazilian authorities to investigate the case adequately.  On 28 and 29 September, the partner of Marielle Franco, Monica Tereza Benicio, visited the UK as part of a trip to Europe, where she will participate in the Human Rights Defenders World Summit in October in Paris.  Monica visited the AIUK office and met staff and members to talk about the Marielle Franco case and other human rights issues in Brazil.

PERU

On 21 September, Amnesty attended a hearing to review whether the “humanitarian pardon” granted to former President Fujimori last year violates the obligations of the Peruvian state to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for serious human rights violations.  The review was held at the request of the families of the victims of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta cases following a ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  The Court must issue its ruling within 15 days of the hearing.  More information here.

Judicial authorities have put an end to five years of unfounded proceedings against 16 defenders of the territorial and environmental rights of local communities in the area of the Conga mine in the Cajamarca region.  Amnesty has welcomed the news, which enables the defenders to continue their work without fear of reprisal for simply raising their voices.  Details here.

CHILE

Lawyer Karina Riquelme has again been intimidated by Chilean police intelligence agents several times because of her work as a defender of Mapuche Indigenous people rights. She fears for her personal security and feels intimidated.  The deadline for the Urgent Action has been extended.

REGIONAL

Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay, along with seven other Latin American and Caribbean countries, signed the Escazú Agreement at the first opportunity in New York on 27 September.  Three others have signed it since.  The agreement, adopted in San Jose in March, establishes protections for the rights of access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters.  It also imposes specific obligations to protect environmental human rights defenders from threats or attacks; to investigate and punish any aggressions against them; and to guarantee their rights to life and personal integrity, as well as the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, movement, expression and association.  Amnesty has described this as a major victory for the environment and human rights that should inspire the rest of the region to follow suit.  More information here.

In an open letter to regional governments attending an emergency summit in Quito, Amnesty called on Governments across Latin America and the Caribbean to assume their collective responsibility to protect and guarantee the human rights of everyone fleeing Venezuela. More than 2.3 million people have left Venezuela since 2015, equivalent to more than seven percent of the population, according to UN figures. The majority have sought refuge in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.  Details here.

All the best,

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

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