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Human Rights Defenders in the Americas

    July 31, 2018

    In response to the killing by armed individuals of nine people, among them Frederman Quintero, social leader and president of a Community Action Committee, in the municipality of El Tarra in the Catatumbo region, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International said:

    “The situation in Catatumbo is a reflection of the ongoing violence across Colombia. Targeted and collective killings are a reminder of the worst moments of the armed conflict. The authorities must take immediate measures to protect civilians and urgently respond to this critical situation.”

    “Human rights are being violated constantly in this border region of the country, and the state has not ensured a comprehensive presence in order to protect civilians from the ongoing violence. The Colombian authorities must commit to investigating these events in a timely and impartial manner to guarantee that impunity does not prevail.”

    June 11, 2018

    Guatemalan authorities must take immediate and effective measures to protect human rights defenders and launch thorough, impartial and independent investigations into all attacks against them, Amnesty International said today, following the killing of seven human rights defenders in the space of a month.

    “Guatemala’s brave human rights defenders are being killed with impunity on a terrifyingly regular basis. The authorities must take urgent action to protect them from these savage and calculated attacks before more lives are lost,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “Instead of stigmatizing and insulting those who dedicate their lives to the defence of their land and the environment, the authorities must publicly recognize the importance of their work and ensure that those responsible for the attacks against them are brought to justice.”

    The seven people killed in the last four weeks were all involved in defending their communities’ land, territory or the environment, and they were all members of the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA) or the Altiplano Campesino Committee (CCDA).

    April 13, 2018

    Brazilian authorities must prioritize solving the killing of human rights defender Marielle Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes, and bring all those responsible to justice, Amnesty International said today on the one-month anniversary of her assassination.

    “Society needs to know who killed Marielle and why. Every day that this case remains unsolved the level of risk and uncertainty surrounding human rights defenders grows worse,” said Jurema Werneck, executive director at Amnesty International Brazil.

    “If the State fails to bring the culprits to justice it sends a message that human rights defenders can be killed with impunity. The authorities must make clear that this is not the case and move swiftly to investigate those who killed Marielle and those who ordered her death.”

    January 18, 2018
    Gathering sugar cane in field

    Ronal David Barillas Díaz was gunned down on January 9th in Guatemala.

    December 01, 2017

    Last month, Amnesty International Canada's Tara Scurr and Kathy Price joined a delegation of Amnesty colleagues from Spain, Sweden, Mexico and the United States for a research and solidarity mission to Guatemala and Honduras. Tara reports from their meetings with human rights defenders and officials in Guatemala.  

    Fortified with strong, sweet coffee after a pre-dawn flight from Honduras to Guatemala, our delegation listened intently as a full room of international and Guatemalan civil society organizations methodically unpacked the situation facing human rights defenders in Guatemala. 

    September 20, 2017
    DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

    Guatemala is a country rich in minerals such as gold, silver and iron. Companies both inside and outside the country want those riches. 

    Sometimes the companies don’t ask permission before they start taking the minerals. Sometimes their operations destroy the forests and farmland, and pollute the rivers.

    Defenders of water and land need help to protect their right to a healthy environment. 

    One person they can count on is Rafael Maldonado. He runs an organization called CALAS (the Centre for Environmental, Social and Legal Action).

    But not everyone respects the important work that Rafael and members of CALAS do. 

    They have been threatened in social media posts and in newspaper articles. The threats said they would be killed if they continue their work. 

    They have been threatened at work too, and even at home. Last November, someone shot and killed a man who worked at CALAS. And last April, someone fired shots outside Rafael’s house. 

    August 01, 2017
      The dramatic increase in illegal use of force, scores of arbitrary detentions and the killing of at least 10 people, among other worrying attacks against the people of Venezuela recorded this weekend, confirm a consistent pattern of deteriorating human rights in the country, said Amnesty International.   “President Maduro and his government appear to be living in a parallel universe,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.   “The authorities cannot continue to ignore the tension and violence and should respond to the urgent needs of the entire population, including those who do not agree with the government.”   “The use of lethal force in Venezuela must stop immediately. The authorities must carry out impartial investigations in civil courts into all acts of violence, regardless of who is responsible. Immediate action must be taken to put an end to arbitrary detentions, killings and other serious human rights violations.”  
    August 01, 2017
      The seizure of two opposition leaders in Caracas late last night is a telling sign that the Maduro administration is desperate to silence all forms of criticism as the political and humanitarian crisis in the country approaches breaking point, Amnesty International said.   “The Maduro administration is sending a terrifying message to all people in Venezuela: dissent will not be tolerated in any form,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.   In the early hours of the morning, officers from the Venezuelan intelligence services took Leopoldo López, leader of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, and Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas from their homes without a warrant. Both men had been transferred to house arrest on health grounds.   “The clock is ticking fast and time is running out for authorities in Venezuela to make a decisive U-turn when it comes to their approach to free expression. The alternative is simply too frightening.”  
    July 28, 2017
      The security plan announced ahead of the elections for the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela this Sunday is laying the groundwork for a new wave of mass human rights violations, said Amnesty International.   “Venezuela's ban on protests will do nothing but worsen an already incredibly volatile situation,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.    “Instead of trying to silence the increasing popular anger, authorities must find workable solutions to people's very reasonable demands. Continuing to punish dissenting voices will only sink the country into an even deeper crisis."   The Venezuelan government’s security plan also includes provisions – such as the deployment of military personnel and experts to deal with electoral and military crimes – which are likely to facilitate a new wave of human rights violations.   Since protests began on 4 April, more than 100 people have been killed and more than 1,400 injured, according to official sources.  
    June 09, 2017
    Lolita Chavez Guatemala Indigenous defenders

    Maya-K’iche human rights defender Lolita Chavez is known to Canadians for her determined and principled stance on the right of Indigenous peoples to determine what happens in their territories. Lolita has spoken to Canadian leaders, investors and the public about the ways in which the Guatemalan government has failed to protect Indigenous peoples and how this leaves them exposed to abuses by corporate actors, such as mining, hydro-electric or logging interests. Most people in the region rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods and are concerned that these industrial activities would destroy sources of water needed for irrigation and drinking. Lolita organized a community referendum on resource development in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Quiche department and residents overwhelmingly voted ‘NO’ to any form of industrial development on their lands.

    May 04, 2017

    Tweet

    In a landmark decision for environmental defenders in Peru, a Supreme Court ruling on 3 May 2017 marked an end of the trial for land invasion against human rights defender Máxima Acuña Atalaya.

    #MaximaAcuna has prevailed in her struggle against criminalization! https://t.co/WaiaKEc6N7

    — Alex Neve (@AlexNeveAmnesty) May 4, 2017

    What happened?

    In August 2011, peasant farmer and human rights defender, Máxima Acuña Atalaya, and members of her family were accused of land invasion.

    After almost five years of proceedings in relation to the unfounded criminal charges of land invasion, the Supreme Court of Justice has ruled that there was no reason to pursue the groundless trial of Máxima.

    April 12, 2017

    The decision of the Peruvian Supreme Court to postpone the ruling on the case against human rights defender Máxima Acuña is the latest attempt by the authorities to obstruct her legitimate work to defend the environment, said Amnesty International.

    The Peruvian Supreme Court was due to issue a decision today on the spurious charges of land invasion against Máxima Acuña Atalaya. The ruling was postponed until 3 May after the tribunal informed that some of the judges had not had enough time to reach a decision.

    “The case against Máxima is a cowardly attempt by the authorities in Peru to stop her activism to defend human rights and the environment and send a message to other activists,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

    “Effectively forcing her to travel all the way to Lima at her own expense just to be told that the hearing was postponed looks like yet another trick to continue to punish her and her family.”

    “Instead of continuing to harass Máxima and her family with baseless accusations, authorities in Peru must ensure human rights defenders can carry out their work without fear of reprisals.”

    April 07, 2017

    Photo credit: frontlinedefenders.org

    On the night of 3 April, unidentified people situated in front of human rights defender Rafael Maldonado’s house in Guatemala City, shot at a car nearby. Although he was unharmed, the defender believes the incident was intended to intimidate him and he is concerned for his safety. 

     

    On 3 April, around 9:20 pm, unidentified people stood in front of human rights defender Rafael Maldonado’s house in Guatemala City. The fired several shots at a car located on the other side of a park that is in front of his home. Rafael Maldonado did not suffer any injuries. However, representatives from the Guatemalan Centre for Environmental, Social and Legal Action (Centro de Acción Legal, Ambiental y Social de Guatemala, CALAS) told Amnesty International that this incident has contributed to his increased emotional distress.

    March 15, 2017

    Máxima Acuña has a huge fight ahead of her to ensure that the four lagoons near her community are protected from mining contamination. US mining giant Newmont, and its Peruvian partner, Buenaventura, want to use those lagoons for their proposed Conga mine. Currently, development of the mine is on hold because of fierce community opposition. But the companies, through their subsidiary Yanacocha, aren’t giving up.

    This December, Amnesty members around the world took action for Máxima Acuña and her family in a campaign called, “Maxima is Not Alone” which called on Peru’s Minister of the Interior to protect Máxima and her family from years of abuse. 

    Máxima had this message for Amnesty members: “Thank you to everyone around the world who has stood by my side, worried about the risks I face. I ask that you help me find justice so that I can live in peace and tranquility”. 

    Another way Amnesty members can take action is to call on Canadian investors to use their economic clout to support the important and necessary work of human rights defenders like Máxima. 

    February 27, 2017

    Released: Monday 27 February 2017, 00:01 GMT

    The scandalous lack of an effective investigation to find those responsible for ordering the brutal killing of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres sends a terrifying message to the hundreds of people who dare to speak out against the powerful, said Amnesty International on the first anniversary of the killing on 2 March.

    “Berta’s tragic murder illustrates the woeful state of human rights in Honduras. The message is clear: if your human rights work disturbs those with power, you will be killed,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.  

    “The scandalously poor investigation into Berta’s murder, which has so far failed to identify those responsible for ordering her killing and the lack of an effective mechanism to protect witnesses and other human rights defenders, shows the Honduran authorities’ lack of interest in securing justice.

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