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Human Rights Defenders in the Americas

    October 19, 2016

    The brutal murders of two land rights activists in Honduras last night are the latest tragedies in a seemingly unstoppable wave of deadly attacks turning Honduras into a no-go zone for human rights defenders, said Amnesty International.

    José Angel Flores, 64, President of the Movimiento Unificado Campesino, was shot dead by a group of unidentified men in the department of Colón, northern Honduras, in the afternoon of 18 October.

    Another community leader, Silmer Dionisio George, was also shot in the incident and died at a local hospital hours later.

    “Honduras has turned into a ‘no-go zone’ for anyone daring to campaign for the protection of the environment. How many more activists have to be brutally murdered before the authorities take effective action to protect them, or even be willing to talk about this crisis?” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    August 13, 2016

    The release of a Mexican environmental activist, and prisoner of conscience, who was unfairly imprisoned nine months ago in what seems to be punishment for his peaceful activism against illegal logging is a triumph for justice and human rights, Amnesty International said.

    Ildefonso Zamora Baldomero was arrested in November 2015 in the Indigenous Tlahuica community of San Juan Atzingo, 80km south-west of Mexico City. He was accused of participating in a burglary in July 2012.

    The criminal charges against Ildefonso Zamora were based on fabricated evidence. A federal judge decided there was no basis to believe he was responsible of any crime and even doubted the crime even existed.

    “Campaigning against illegal logging is not a crime. Instead of prosecuting environmental activists for their peaceful activities, the Mexican authorities should ensure they are able to carry out their legitimate work without fear of reprisals,” said Carlos Zazueta, Mexico Researcher at Amnesty International.

    May 06, 2016

    By Josefina Salomón, News Writer at Amnesty International

    The armed men who burst into the house of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres on 3 March had a simple plan: find her, kill her, and leave.

    What they didn’t expect, however, is for Gustavo Castro, a human rights activist working with Friends of the Earth Mexico and a close friend of Berta’s, to be in the next room.

    “I was working on a presentation when I heard a loud bang,” said Gustavo, who is now in Mexico. “I thought something had fallen, but when Berta screamed, ‘Who’s there?’, I knew it was bad, that it was the end.”

    When they heard him, one of the armed men rushed to Gustavo’s room. He pointed a gun at his face, shot him and ran.

    May 06, 2016

    By Josefina Salomon, News Writer at Amnesty International

    The armed men who burst into the house of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres on 3 March had a simple plan: find her, kill her, and leave. 

    What they didn’t expect, however, is for Gustavo Castro, a human rights activist working with Friends of the Earth Mexico and a close friend of Berta’s, to be in the next room.

    “I was working on a presentation when I heard a loud bang,” said Gustavo, who is now in Mexico. “I thought something had fallen, but when Berta screamed, ‘Who’s there?’, I knew it was bad, that it was the end.”

    When they heard him, one of the armed men rushed to Gustavo’s room. He pointed a gun at his face, shot him and ran.

    “Everything happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to think,” said Gustavo. “When the hitman arrived, I covered my face. He was three metres away. I moved as he fired, and the bullet passed my ear. He thought he’d killed me. It’s a miracle I survived.”

    May 02, 2016

    The arrest of four suspects in the murder of human rights defender Berta Cáceres in Honduras raise a number of questions on how the investigation is being handled, said Amnesty International today after Berta’s relatives claimed authorities have kept them in the dark regarding any developments in the case.

    “The blatant lack of transparency in the investigation into Berta Cáceres’ tragic murder, including the fact that her family has been systematically kept in the dark regarding any developments and the refusal to question high ranking officials is putting the whole investigation in jeopardy,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “Authorities must urgently inform Berta’s relatives of the steps they are taking to find those responsible and ensure no stone is left unturned in this quest for justice. Anything less will send the message that human rights defenders can be killed and nothing will be done about it.”

    Read more:

    Honduras: Deep failures in investigation into activist’s killing put many at risk (Press release, 8 March 2016)

    April 20, 2016

    By Kathy Price, AI Canada's Latin America campaigner

    It was a killing that could and should have been prevented.

    On numerous occasions, the renowned Lenca Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres had reported receiving death threats as she led David-against-Goliath efforts to stop a big dam project in Honduras that threatened Indigenous lands and rights.  

    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recognized the risks and called on the Honduran government to provide protection measures.

    Yet Berta was gunned down on March 3 in her home in La Esperanza, ironically Spanish for “hope”.

    The pain of losing such a vital, beloved leader was quickly followed by fear. Berta’s tireless efforts had won her the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize.

     

    If someone as celebrated and well-connected as Berta could be murdered at will, then what about others less well-known?

     

    The answer came days later. Community leader Nelson García was shot in the face and killed as he returned from helping victims of a land eviction.

    October 16, 2015

    Venezuela must halt its escalating campaign of attacks and harassment against human rights activists and instead publicly support their crucial and legitimate work, said Amnesty International as the country faces a hearing at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights on Monday 19 October.  

    “Defending human rights in Venezuela has become an increasingly dangerous occupation with activists harassed and attacked for criticizing the authorities,” said Marcos Gómez, Director at Amnesty International Venezuela, who will represent the organization at the hearing.

     In recent weeks, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has publicly criticized the work of human rights organizations and activists. In a televised speech on 21 August he discredited Marino Alvarado, a member of local human rights group Provea, stating his organization was right-wing and questioning its work.

    September 30, 2015

    By Tara Scurr, Campaigner, Business and Human Rights  

     

    One year ago, Alex Neve and I were sitting in the Hotel Continental in Guatemala City, waiting for reporters to turn up for our press conference. We were about to launch a new Amnesty International report on mining and human rights. We’d been warned by our experienced Guatemalan media handler not to expect many reporters to show up. Imagine our delight when our press conference began and we saw that the room was packed with radio, print and TV reporters, NGOs, and human rights defenders from  communities affected by mining. It was standing room only.

    May 08, 2015

    By Gloria Nafziger
    Refugee, Migrants and Country Campaigner, Amnesty International

    I first met Luis and his family shortly after they arrived in Canada sometime in 1993.  He was a writer and human rights activist from Colombia.  Both he and his wife Diana had been targeted in Colombia because of their work in support of human rights.  Shortly after they arrived in Canada they made a refugee claim. We couldn't talk much, because his English was poor and my Spanish was even worse; but from the beginning I considered him to be a compañero. My first vivid memory of Luis is a day in December 2003 when Luis, Diana and their friends from the Mennonite church came to our office to share the good news that just an hour or so earlier their refugee claim had been accepted on the spot at their refugee hearing.  There were many hugs and much happiness.  Luis and Diana began to plan to begin their new lives in Canada and quickly made their application to become permanent residents.

    Free screening of the film DAUGHTER OF THE LAKE.



    At the height of the Peruvian gold rush, Nelida, an Andean woman able to communicate with water spirits, uses her powers to prevent a mining corporation from destroying the body of water she considers her mother.

    A gold deposit valued at billions of dollars lies just beneath Nelida’s lakes and leads farmers and Latin America’s biggest gold producer into conflict.

    Panel discussion to follow, speakers to be announced. Presented by Amnesty International.

    JUST ANNOUNCED: AI Canada Secretary General Alex Neve will be joining the panel!

     

     

     

    Join us for an inspiring panel discussion with:

     

    Luis Fernando García Monroy

    Luis Fernando was shot and seriously injured in 2013 by security guards employed by Tahoe Resources, a Canadian company, at its mine in Santa Rosa, Guatemala. He went on to co-found JODVID (Jovenes en Defensa de la Vida - Youth in Defence of Life), an organization that uses the arts to communicate the importance of protecting the environment from the harms of large-scale industrial activities, including mining.

    Felipe Benítez

    Felipe is a Lenca agro ecologist in Honduras, member of the Lenca Indigenous Council of Gualinga and the coordinator of the Independent Indigenous Lenca Movement of La Paz (MILPAH). Felipe's nephew was killed and other members of MILPAH have suffered violent attacks in response to efforts to defend the right to decision-making about indigenous territory, as well as opposition to hydro-electric projects they believe will have a destructive impact.

    Félix Antonio Molina

    The murder of Honduran Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres on March 2, 2016 was both a tremendous loss and an important call to action around the world. 

    Join us in front of the Honduran Embassy in Ottawa at lunchtime on Wednesday June 15th at which time people around the world will be holding similar actions to demand justice for the murder of Berta Cáceres and the attempted murder of Mexican activist Gustavo Castro; justice and safety for Berta’s organization - the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) - that continues the difficult fight to defend Lenca territory from large-scale hydroelectric and mining projects; and justice for the Honduran people who have been living in a climate of violence, corruption and impunity since the 2009 military-backed coup.

    We will join with many others around the world to demand:

    This forum focuses on the injustice that environmentalists face throughout the world in their fight to preserve the habitats, the environment, air, water and more. This forum will see individuals from Amnesty International, Lawyers Right's Watch Canada and more. We will be looking at specific case studies such as: Guatemala, Colombia, and the Philippines. 

    Light refreshments provided.

    [ Pictured above: The courageous, celebrated, beloved Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was shot dead by gunmen who entered her home in La Esperanza (Spanish for hope), Honduras on March 3. Wounded in the gunfire was Gustavo Castro Soto, an environmental activist from Mexico who had come to work with Berta and the organization she led, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Peoples Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). Take Action here.]

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