South American Newsletter March 2018


The latest newsletter from the South America Team:-


We have good news from Brazil, Venezuela and Peru. However, the security situation in Rio de Janeiro continues to deteriorate, while the number of Human Rights Defenders killed in Colombia in 2017 has risen by 32% and other victims of the ongoing conflict in Colombia continue to accumulate as well. Please continue to write in response to recent Urgent Actions on Brazil and Colombia. The film Women of the Venezuelan Chaos will be showing in London March 13 and 15. We hope to see you there.


At least 14 people were shot dead and another nine were injured at a party in the city of Fortaleza, Ceará State, on 27 January. Media reports that were confirmed by the Secretary of Public Security state that this event is the biggest mass killing in the history of Ceará state, though the total number of victims could be higher, according to people living in the area. Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action on 31 January, calling on the authorities to ensure a prompt and thorough investigation into the killings. You can find it here.

President Michel Temer on 16 February signed a decree which put the military in charge of security in Rio de Janeiro amid a continued deterioration in security. Although the army has operated there during the last year, as well as during the Olympics and World Cup, this will put them in charge of the city’s police force — the first time Brazil has taken such a decision since the end of the military dictatorship. The director of Amnesty International Brazil stated that the actions of the army in the Rio de Janeiro have already aggravated human rights violations. For the Huffington Post’s account, click here.

An investigation revealed that more than one in ten of Brazil’s high-ranking politicians received campaign donations from companies linked to modern-day slavery. President Temer was amongst the 51 politicians. Brazilian law stipulates that four conditions are used to categorise ‘slave-like labour’, and include being forced to work and degrading conditions that put workers’ health or dignity at risk. To read The Guardian’s account, click here.

Good news. The Supreme Court issued a ruling that pregnant women, mothers of children up to 12 years of age and of people with disabilities, accused of non-violent crimes, should not be held in pre-trial detention. Instead, they should await trial under house arrest. Although a positive step, Human Rights Watch reported that the ruling highlights the country’s overuse of pre-trial detention, in violation of human rights law. Their assessment can be found here


Amnesty UK is partnering with Human Rights Watch for the presentation of the film Women of the Venezuelan Chaos, as part of this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival.  The film will be showing at The Barbican in London on March 13 and 15 and there will be a Q&A session with the filmmaker following the film.  Details of the event are here.

Good news. Prisoner of conscience Villca Fernández, the subject of an Urgent Action in December, finally received medical care after having been denied urgently needed medical treatment since June 2017. Since 26 January 2018, prison authorities have transferred Villca Fernández to a military hospital on several occasions for continued treatment.  Details here.

On 8 February 2018, the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that a preliminary examination was being opened into the human rights situation in Venezuela. While Amnesty welcomes any move by the ICC to open a preliminary examination in relation to any state party to the Rome Statute where there are grounds for believing that crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction may have been or are being committed, it has decided not to make a public statement on the decision for the moment.  It will continue to monitor and evaluate the actions of the ICC.   A preliminary examination does not constitute a criminal investigation as such, but only an evaluation that will enable the Prosecutor to conclude, at a future point, whether there are grounds to request that the ICC open a criminal investigation.  More details here.


More good news. On 19 February, Court B of the National Criminal Court of Peru decided that the pardon granted to Alberto Fujimori by President Kuczynski on 24 December did not grant him immunity from the trial for his alleged responsibility for the murders of six people in the town of Pativilca, considered crimes against humanity.  Amnesty commented that the decision not to apply the pardon to this case constitutes an important advance in the fight against impunity for the crimes that occurred in Pativilca and reinforces the obligation of the Peruvian state to guarantee the right of victims to truth, justice and reparation.  Details here.


While carrying out operations against the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Colombian Security Forces bombed near the Wounaan Indigenous reservation of Chagpien Tordó in Chocó, injuring a minor. Nearby communities are currently forcibly displaced as fear of new operations threaten the population. Amnesty has issued an Urgent Action demanding the authorities ensure urgent humanitarian aid and integral attention is provided to the forcedly displaced and confined communities in Chocó; to prevent forced displacements; and that civilians are not to drawn into the armed conflict. Please take action here.

The Colombian NGO Somos Defensores has reported a 32% increase in the killings of Human Rights Defenders in 2017, with a further 18 killed in January 2018. The total of 106 HRDs killed is almost one-third of the total number of HRDs killed in the world.

Amnesty is undertaking an audit of the National Protection Unit, as it has been shown not to be effective in protecting HRDs. Amnesty also calls for collective protection measures to be taken for rural communities at risk, as whole communities are still being forcibly displaced due to the perilous situation in their region.

The Colombian Unit for the Victims’ Assistance and Reparation recorded a total 8.5 million victims for the five-decade duration of the armed conflict. This included 7.2 million victims of forced displacement, 363,000 victims of threats, 23,000 victims of sexual offences, 168,000 victims of enforced disappearance, and 11,000 victims of anti-personnel mines. Crimes against 31,047 victims of the armed conflict were recorded for the first time between January and October 2017. The Government estimated that by 2013 220,000 people had been killed in the conflict.

Parliamentary elections are to take place 11 March and Presidential elections 27 May. Opinion polls suggest that President Santos’s party (Social Party of National Unity) will be the main loser and that the former President Uribe’s party (Democratic Centre), which opposed the peace negotiations with the FARC, will be the main winner of the parliamentary elections. President Santos is ineligible to run for a third Presidential term. There are 13 presidential candidates and no single candidate has a commanding lead in the opinion polls at the moment.

Please download Amnesty International’s Annual Report for 2017/18 here for a summary of AI’s main concerns in the region.