Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia: In the Dock and Under the Gun
(2009) / ISBN: 978-0-9799975-6-3 / 64 pp.
In a criminal justice system plagued by impunity, the tenacity with which Colombian prosecutors pursue human rights defenders for supposed crimes is striking. While corruption and arbitrary actions are a systemic problem throughout the judicial system, those who peacefully promote human rights are singled out for particular intimidation through baseless investigations and prosecutions. Unfounded charges are often widely publicized, undermining the credibility of defenders and marking them as targets for physical attack, usually by paramilitary groups. The spurious charges usually allege that the defenders are terrorists.
The report identifies patterns and trends and provides recommendations to the Colombian authorities and United States government in order to address this serious problem. It also contains a table summarizing original research from over 32 cases of unfounded prosecutions against defenders.
Los defensores de derechos humanos acusados sin fundamento: Presos y señalados en Colombia
(2009) / ISBN: 978-0-9799975-7-0 / 70 pp.
En espanol, formato HTML
En un sistema de justicia penal destacado por sus niveles de impunidad, la tenacidad de los fiscales Colombianos que persiguen casos en contra de los defensores de derechos humanos es impresionante. Si bien hay problemas sistemáticos de corrupción y acciones arbitrarias en el sistema judicial, se están abriendo casos en contra de los que defienden los derechos humanos de una manera particular; se les intimida con investigaciones y procesos penales sin fundamento. Además, se hacen muy públicos los cargos sin fundamento, lo que mina la credibilidad de los defensores y los señala como blancos de ataques, frecuentemente por parte de grupos paramilitares. Por lo general son acusados de rebelión y pertenencia a las organizaciones guerrilleras.
El informe contiene un análisis de 32 casos de investigaciones infundadas. Los casos presentes permiten la identificación de los temas comunes y un análisis de ellos para revelar las raíces del problema y posibles políticas para resolverlo.
President Suharto’s fall from power in 1998 ushered in a period of reformasi, or political reform. But democratization has been met with resistance from many of those in power. After September 11, 2001, rising military influence in Indonesia was reinforced by an international environment that emphasizes security concerns at the expense of rights and freedoms. These convergent forces contributed to renewed conflict in the province of Aceh, antiterrorism legislation that reversed hard-won safeguards, and continued attacks on human rights defenders.
Patrick Finucane was a highly effective human rights lawyer who gained international recognition in the 1980s for representing people arrested under Northern Ireland’s antiterrorism laws. On February 12, 1989, masked gunmen broke into his Belfast home and shot him 14 times in front of his wife and three children. Although the Ulster Defense Association, a loyalist paramilitary group, claimed responsibility for the killing, strong evidence has emerged linking three separate U.K. intelligence agencies to the murder. Despite this, the results of the official investigations into the case have remained largely classified, and no one has ever been successfully prosecuted for the killing. With Beyond Collusion, Human Rights First provides a comprehensive account of the Finucane case on the 14th anniversary of his murder. Drawing on Lawyers Committee’s investigative missions to Northern Ireland, the report pieces together the extensive evidence of state involvement that has emerged in the many years since the killing.
The political prisoners of today “… are in the same situation as the dissidents from Soviet days. Just as Mr. Putin carries on the traditions of his KGB predecessors, they stand up bravely to repression.” — Dr. Yelena Bonner, human rights activist
“If they keep up these methods of so-called ‘anti-terrorism’, I think the problem will spread right through the region … the Russians are creating terrorists.” — Timur Akiev, Memorial, Russian human rights organization
Human rights defenders and other nonviolent critics of the government face growing repression in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The New Dissidents questions the Russian government’s justification of ever increasing constraints on its nonviolent critics, including human rights defenders, as necessary in the fight against terrorism.
Losing Ground: Human Rights Defenders and
Counterterrorism in Thailand
(2006) / $10 / ISBN: 0-9753150-7-2 / 34 pp.
“Since Thaksin became Prime Minister how many of us have been killed? This is government by force, not democracy. Defending our rights, we started with a small issue and began to fight, and found big men behind it.” — Chair of a community organization in Nakhon Ratchasima province
Thailand emerged as a leader in democracy and human rights in Southeast Asia in the 1990s. But respect for human rights has lost considerable ground over the last five years. Reverting to authoritarianism and a growing disregard for human rights, the government has allowed human rights defenders to become increasingly subject to violence and harassment. Defenders under threat include grassroots activists targeted by local elites for pursuing economic and social justice, as well as those persecuted for their criticism of abuses by the state, especially in the conflict-ridden southern provinces. In the south, where a violent insurgency and the government response to it has claimed more than a thousand lives, human rights defenders play an important role in addressing detentions, torture, disappearances, and other human rights violations.
Over the last five years, Southeast Asian governments contended with a genuine threat from terrorists and insurgents in ways that often exacerbated existing conflicts and undermined respect for human rights and the rule of law. A global emphasis on security, often with insufficient regard to human rights, as well as the goodwill gained by the Thai authorities from cooperation on counterterrorism, largely insulated Thailand from criticism for its human rights violations and has encouraged authoritarian trends.
“A threat to the constitutional order” is what President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan took to calling his non-violent critics and political opponents early on in his fourteen year presidency – sending many of them to jail. After deadly bombings in Tashkent in 1999, the Karimov government capitalized on public fear of the threat of terrorism and religious extremism to undermine and discredit their critics. Those who objected to Karimov’s authoritarian practices and exposed the government’s violations of human rights were accused of giving aid and comfort to terrorists.
The September 11 attacks on the United States of America and the U.S. government’s declaration of a “global war on terrorism” were an opportunity for the Karimov government to evade international condemnation of its widespread violations of human rights. The Karimov government formed a strategic partnership with the U.S. government and, ever more confident that its treatment of non-violent dissidents would be overlooked by its global allies, stepped up repression of independent civil society and human rights defenders.
The Karimov government’s suppression of human rights defenders is one of the most extreme case studies of the misuse of legitimate concerns over security to undermine respect for basic rights and freedoms and to persecute those who seek to promote human rights. This counterproductive policy has contributed to an escalation in political violence, instability and violations of human rights.