Amnesty International (AI) has released a report this week regarding the killing of several human rights defenders and many journalists in the region during the first month of the year 2022.
According to AI, at least 20 human rights defenders and 4 journalists had lost their lives, which would reflect how serious it is to carry out those activities in Latin America.
“The killing of 20 human rights defenders and four journalists in just one month is alarming and paints a frightening picture of what the year may hold for those who speak out for human rights in the Americas if states do not take urgent action to reverse this trend,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“We must build a future where defending human rights in this continent does not mean risking one’s life. It is imperative that states take urgent measures to guarantee a safe and conducive space for the defence of human rights and independent journalism in the region, and that these cease to be lethal activities,” she added.
The killings have occurred in the countries considered the most dangerous for the defense of human rights in previous years: Colombia (13), Brazil and Honduras (3 each). One human rights defender and four journalists have also been killed in Mexico, where reporting is increasingly hazardous.
Of the 20 human rights defenders killed, 18 were involved in activities in favor of access to land and the protection of territories as well as in environmental causes.
“States have an obligation to investigate the killings in a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial manner, and with a primary line of investigation that considers the work of human rights defenders or journalistic work. Eliminating impunity in these cases is crucial to achieving a safe environment for defending human rights and sending a clear message that these acts will not be tolerated,” Guevara-Rosas went on.
In Honduras, the three victims were two indigenours social leaders and one defender of human rights for transgender people.
All 13 human rights defenders killed in Colombia were linked to the territorial defence of indigenous communities as well as of environmental issues. In addition to these murders, thirteen massacres resulting in the deaths of 40 people living in rural areas in Colombia have been reported.
Our region remains the most dangerous for the defence of human rights and independent journalism because human rights defenders and journalists threaten the political and economic interests of a few while states remain apathetic and negligent in the face of the violence they face, AI said in a statement.
Amnesty International had already reported on the failed prevention and protection policies which boil up to an unsafe environment for the protection of human rights defenders in Colombia.
“The protection of Indigenous, campesino and Afro-descendant communities in Colombia is ineffective because it does not address the structural causes of violence and often occurs without the proper participation of those at risk. Defenders of communities at risk are constantly unprotected, and threats, attacks and killings are constant in the country considered the most dangerous in the world for defending human rights,” Guevara-Rosas also pointed out.
In Brazil, the bodies of three members of the same family known for releasing turtle hatchlings and for defending the land and environmental protection were found Jan. 9 in San Francisco do Xingú, in the state of Pará. The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) has stated that the events took place in a context of repeated attacks on environmentalists and human rights defenders.
In Mexico, journalists José Luis Gamboa Arenas, Lourdes Maldonado, Alfonso Margarito Martínez Esquivel and Roberto Toledo were killed in January. Amnesty International believes that journalism can only be practised freely in an environment free from threats, physical, psychological or moral aggression, or other acts of intimidation and harassment, AI said as it called for the Mexican government to take concrete, prompt and effective measures to guarantee the lives and safety of journalists in Mexico, as well as to investigate these killings.
Meanwhile, human rights defender Ana Luisa Garduño was killed Jan. 27 while she was seeking justice for the feminicide of her daughter.
”It is time to act, otherwise lives will continue to be lost, lives that are essential for building an equal and just region where human rights are a reality,” concluded Guevara-Rosas.