MAC: Mines and Communities

"End the onslaught against human rights defenders!"

Published by MAC on 2018-03-16
Source: Amnesty International, Guardian

From Philippines to Mexico, big corporations are increasing persecution

A week ago, we highlighted  that Victoria Tauli-Corpus, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Rights, has been named  a "terrorist" among a group of more than 600 fellow Philippine citizens (See: Dirty Duterte cites UN official as "terrorist" ).

Now, Amnesty International has added its voice to the growing international clamour that she - and other human rights defenders in the country - should be immediately freed from prosecution and persecution.

This demand follows not on the heels of a Business and Human Rights report stating that those who challenge big corporations "are being killed, assaulted, harassed and suppressed in growing numbers" - including women and men striving against mining entities and projects.

Philippines: Onslaught against human rights defenders must end


Index: ASA 35/8068/2018

15 March 2018

The Philippine government must immediately halt its latest wave of

dangerous attacks on human rights defenders and international
institutions, Amnesty International said today. Human rights defenders -
among them two UN human rights experts - must be guaranteed protection
in the country and be allowed to carry out their work freely.

On 21 February 2018, the Department of Justice filed a petition to the
Manila Regional Trial Court against over 650 individuals, seeking to
designate them as “terrorists” under the Human Security Act of 2007
(Republic Act 9372), also known as the anti-terrorism law. Among those
listed are human rights defenders including the UN Special Rapporteur on
the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a
Philippine national. The Special Rapporteur had recently spoken out
against the government, criticizing the displacement of Indigenous
Peoples during military operations in the south of the country.

Under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United
Nations of 1946, UN experts have immunity from legal proceedings of
every kind undertaken in the course of their mandated work. Amnesty
International is concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the UN
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as the
other individuals mentioned in the government’s petition, who include
members of prominent human rights organization Karapatan, and former
representatives to UN expert bodies on indigenous peoples. The
organisation calls on the Philippine authorities to ensure their safety
and end all attacks on activists, human rights defenders and political
dissenters in the Philippines.

In recent days, President Duterte has also launched a further attack on
UN Special Rapporteur on summary, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings,
Agnes Callamard. The UN expert has been seeking to visit the Philippines
in order to investigate the killings of thousands of Filipinos, the vast
majority of them from poor and marginalised backgrounds, in the
government’s deadly anti-drug campaign, which in Amnesty International’s
view may amount to crimes against humanity. Amnesty International raised
further concerns about the treatment of UN experts at the UN Human
Rights Council on 14 March 2018.

In a speech to government officials on 7 March 2018, President Duterte
also made racist remarks about Prosecutor of the International Criminal
Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda. The ICC opened a preliminary examination on
the Philippines ‘war on drugs’ in February 2018. On 14 March 2018,
President Duterte announced that the Philippines intended to withdraw
its ratification of the Court’s Statute. However, the ICC will continue
to have jurisdiction to examine and prosecute alleged crimes relating to
investigations started prior to the date on which the withdrawal takes
effect, that is, a year after it is formally presented.

In the past weeks, the President has been reported in the media to have
given direct orders to police not to cooperate with UN Special
Procedures mandate holders that may visit the country, and also
threatened to throw “to the crocodiles” international investigators that
may probe human rights violations if they visited the Philippines.

These vicious attacks on human rights defenders are taking place amidst
greater international scrutiny of the Philippines. Amnesty International
reiterates its call on the Philippine authorities to allow UN Special
Procedures and other international human rights investigators access
into the country, to investigate alleged human rights violations. The
organisation also calls on the Human Rights Council to open a UN led
investigation to ensure an end to extrajudicial executions in the ‘war
on drugs’, and to establish accountability.

'Attacks and killings': human rights activists at growing risk, study claims

Research shows 34% rise in attacks against campaigners defending land, environment and labour rights in the face of corporate activity

Annie Kelly


9 March 2018

Human rights defenders who challenge big corporations are being killed, assaulted, harassed and suppressed in growing numbers, researchers have claimed.

A survey by the Business and Human Rights Resource Center recorded a 34% global rise in attacks against human rights activists last year, including 120 alleged murders and hundreds of other cases involving threats, assaults and intimidation. The number of incidents were found to have risen sharply, with 388 attacks recorded in 2017 compared with 290 the previous year.

The research focused on attacks against activists involved in protests against corporate activities. Victims included unionists, protests, whistleblowers and indigenous communities.

Land rights defenders and activists linked to the mining, agribusiness and renewable energy sectors were found to be in greatest danger. The researchers also highlighted an increased risk to lawyers, and to members of human rights and environmental civil society organisations working for corporate accountability.

In 42% of harassment cases, judicial intimidation was used in an attempt to suppress protests against business activities. This included arbitrary detention, criminalisation and aggressive lawsuits.

The Business and Human Rights Center found that companies involved in mining, agriculture, energy and construction – particularly those headquartered in the UK, US, China, Canada and France – were the most likely to use legal means in an attempt to prevent human rights protests.

“Our research highlights that companies do play a significant role in attacks on human rights defenders – the first time that this data has been systematically collected,” said Ana Zbona from the Business and Human Rights Resource Center.

The researchers found that human rights defenders raising concerns about business operations are often criminalised on fabricated charges. Documented cases include activists accused of being involved in assassinations in Guatemala, arson attacks in Chile, and fraud and tax evasion in Turkmenistan, Russia and Azerbaijan.

“Judicial harassment deters communities, workers and activists from speaking out against corporate abuse. Legal harassment often forms part of a broader campaign which can include physical attacks and killings,” said Zbona.

“Impunity from the state and the declining strength of unions has a big role to play, as well as a growing competition for natural resources that is only gaining pace.”

Although attacks occurred in every region across the world, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines – which collectively accounted for 212 of all incidents – were identified as the countries where attacks were most probable.

Last week, the International Council on Mining and Metals acknowledged that attacks on human rights defenders were on the increase and called on relevant government authorities to take action.

“Defenders continue to face harassment and fear for their safety when they speak out,” the council said in a statement. “This is deeply concerning for companies that are committed to human rights, openness and transparency. While we may not always agree with positions taken by human rights defenders, ICMM recognises freedom of expression and assembly as fundamental human rights.”

Last month, a report by Frontline Defenders said that in 2017 there was a “well resourced and coordinated strategy of defamation, criminalisation and violence deployed to intimidate, marginalise and silence human rights defenders”.

The group received reports on the murder of 312 rights defenders in 27 countries.

“In 2017 the alarming rise in attacks is just a continuation of what has become a very open and very aggressive attack on civil society and anyone who advocates against or challenges corporate power,” said Katie Redford, director of EarthRights International, a civil society group that provides legal assistance to human and environmental rights activists.

* On 24 January 2018, Quintin Salgado, a labour activist and leader of the Los Mineros workers union, was attacked and killed by unknown assailants. Salgado had been working with striking miners at the Media Luna mine in Guerrero, Mexico, owned by Canadian mining company Torex Gold. Workers have been striking since November 2017 in an effort to secure better working conditions and the right to freedom of association. Salgado, a former worker at the mine, was the third person involved in the strikes to be killed. In a statement following the murder, Torex Gold said: “The Company has no way of knowing who was behind the killing. It is our understanding that Mr Salgado was well known to authorities and that the investigation continues. It is truly sad that Los Mineros and their supporting unions have chosen to exploit these human tragedies to further their political agendas.”

* On 9 January, Ronald David Barillas, a member of the Xinca indigenous parliament, was killed in Santa Rosa, Guatemala. Barillas, a vocal critic of the sugar agroindustry, had opposed the Escobal mining project, owned by Canadian firm Tahoe Resources. In a statement, the mining company said: “As an open, transparent and law abiding company, we will cooperate with authorities as requested. We are committed to the search for truth, strengthening the rule of law, and the fight against impunity in Guatemala … We recognise human rights activists are particularly vulnerable to violence and persecution. We denounce any attempts by others to threaten, frighten, or attack members of community activism groups or human rights organisations.”

* Prosecutors in Cambodia are seeking criminal charges and pre-trial detention for three prominent human rights defenders, Moeun Tola, Pa Nguon Teang and Buddhist monk Venerable But Buntenh. If convicted, they face up to three years in prison.

* Last month, palm oil company Socfin and its Cameroonian subsidiary Socapalm began defamation proceedings in Paris against two NGOs, Sherpa and ReAct, and French media outlets Mediapart, L’Obs and Le Point, over reporting of protests by farmers living near plantations run by the two companies. Socfin is part-owned by French conglomerate Bolloré, one of the world’s largest companies. Sherpa claims that, collectively, Socfin and Bolloré have launched more than 20 defamation suits against 40 journalists, NGOs and media organisations since 2009.


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