Welcome to the inaugural newsletter of the Defender Alert Network. This newsletter, which you will receive four times a year, will update you on the work and situation of activists whom you have supported through our Defender Alerts. Above all, this insider’s look at the international human rights community will tell you about the impact your actions have had on the situations of the brave men and women persecuted for their work in support of human rights.
Events increasingly remind us that we ignore injustice and repression in any part of the world at our peril. Human rights defenders work to promote and protect the basic human rights that we all need. They may be students collecting signatures for a campus petition or lawyers fighting against repressive legislation; some are journalists uncovering government abuses, while others are ordinary women demanding access to basic needs like health care and education. They all play a pivotal role in achieving justice and respect for human rights. At the forefront of these most pressing and urgent issues, human rights defenders are often targeted, threatened, imprisoned or murdered.
With your help, we work to protect and strengthen local human rights defenders, so that the basic human rights that they promote may also be protected and strengthened. I hope you will continue to support Human Rights First and human rights defenders through your participation in the Defender Alert Network and will encourage your friends to join us, too. Together, we can provide human rights defenders with the support they need to make them stronger as they stand up against repression and for human dignity.
With best wishes,
P.S. We want to hear from you! Please send us your feedback about the newsletter. Let us know what you’d like to hear from us. Email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attempts to silence human rights defenders have increased in Zimbabwe as the March 2005 parliamentary elections approach. A new law will soon impose strict registration requirements on journalists and further deter reporting on the escalating human rights crisis. Dozens of women were arrested while marching in protest of the NGO Bill currently before Parliament, which, if passed, would give the government broad new powers to close independent human rights and humanitarian organizations. Church leaders have also condemned the bill, saying that it would eliminate thousands of jobs and prevent critical humanitarian assistance to the poor. Click Here to Take Action»
Cuba: European Union Should Continue Visits to Cuban Defenders
Human Rights First urged the European Union to demonstrate its commitment to human rights in Cuba by continuing its visible support of human rights defenders and applying pressure on the Cuban government to release the 68 dissidents that remain imprisoned from the March 2003 clampdown. Seven of the 75 Cuban dissidents were conditionally released for health reasons this year. In recent months, however, imprisoned human rights defenders like brothers Luis Enrique and Jose Daniel Ferrer are reported to have been subjected to physical abuse by prison officers, underscoring the importance of sustained international pressure. Click Here to Take Action»
Southeast Asia: Counterterrorism and Human Rights
Following the events of September 11, 2001, and the Bali bombing of 2002, Southeast Asian governments began to step up security measures designed to combat terrorism. The effects have ranged from effective police investigations to dangerously broad new laws and military operations that are reversing hard-won advances in human rights and threatening delicate transitions to democracy. As civilian and military officials use the threat of terrorism as a pretext to crack down on government critics, human rights defenders are increasingly facing a barrage of threats, from libel suits to physical attacks and disappearances. More on Indonesia»
Guatemala: Investigations into the break-ins at two human rights organizations are progressing slowly. Human rights defenders in Guatemala continue to be targets of threats and intimidation. More»
Indonesia: The defamation law suit filed against human rights defender Hendardi for his criticism of the government is still pending. The plaintiff, then-intelligence chief Hendropriyono received an honorary promotion in rank before leaving office with the outgoing administration. Click Here to Take Action»
Northern Ireland: The government call for new legislation will further delay an inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane. More»
Russia: A Russian court ruled that the Chechen National Salvation Committee’s press releases about government human rights abuses did not violate an overly broad Russian counterterrorism law. The human rights organization is continuing its work. More»
Sudan: Massive human rights violations continue to occur in western Sudan’s Darfur region. Human rights lawyers Mr. Salih Mahmoud Osman and Mr. Al Bashir were released from detention. More»
Thailand: Prominent human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit’s disappearance remains unresolved. The trial of five police officers indicted on lesser charges with relation to the case is set to open in August 2005. Click Here to Take Action»