LONDON - A new report by the London-based international human rights group, Amnesty International, says human rights defenders across the Americas, including the Caribbean, are facing “escalating levels of intimidation, harassment and attacks” at the hands of state security forces, paramilitary groups and organized crime.
Amnesty International said 2012 has been a “good and a bad year for human rights”.
In an overview of human rights trends and events around the world, during the past 12 months, it noted that on January 30, Haiti dropped the case against former leader Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was accused of torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions between 1971 and 1986.
On March 8, Amnesty International said 21 people were killed in Jamaica in what it described as “a wave of police shootings over six days, bringing the total to 45 since the beginning of the year”.
The human rights group also noted that on March 27, the Cuban government’s “crackdown against dissidents” increased during the Pope’s visit.
From December 7-16, the human rights group said hundreds of thousands of people will be writing letters, sending messages and taking action online as part of an “Amnesty International Day of Action” to mark International Human Rights Day.
In a report titled “Transforming Pain into Hope: Human Rights Defenders in the Americas”, Amnesty International said it is based on around 300 cases of intimidation, harassment, attacks and killings of human rights defenders in more than a dozen countries primarily between January 2010 and September 2012.
“Human rights defenders are systematically harassed, attacked and subjected to unfounded criminal charges in almost every country in the Americas to prevent them from speaking out for the rights of the most marginalized,” said Nancy Tapias-Torrado, the group’s Americas researcher.
She said, throughout the Americas, human rights defenders have been publicly condemned as “illegal, illegitimate, unscrupulous or even immoral”.
Tapias-Torrado said they have been accused of being criminals, corrupt, liars, troublemakers or subversives, defending criminals and of supporting guerrilla groups, noting that such public criticisms have been voiced by government officials, as well as non-state actors.
“Men and women who work to protect human rights are also targeted, as they are seen by powerful political and economic interests as an obstacle to major development projects,” Tapias-Torrado said.
She said those particularly targeted include people working on issues related to land and natural resources; the rights of women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, abuses against migrants, as well as those working to ensure justice for human rights abuses, plus journalists, bloggers and trade unionists.