Amnesty International releases a report within the framework of its new campaign “Brave” calling for the elimination of repressive laws and to ensure the safety of people fighting injustice.
At least 281 human rights defenders in 22 different countries around the world were killed in 2016, according to the briefing ‘Human rights defenders under threat’ released by Amnesty International on 16 May. In 2015, 156 were killed according to evidence from the NGO Front Line Defenders.
The briefing is released to accompany the new global campaign “Brave”, an initiative demanding an end to the attacks against people standing up to injustice. The briefing states that “Community leaders, lawyers, journalists and other human rights defenders are facing unprecedented levels of persecution, intimidation and violence”.
Amnesty International does not only refer to those killed, but also all the smear campaigns against human rights organisations launched in 63 countries; the arrests and detentions for their peaceful work in 68 countries; and the threat and attacks seen in 94 countries.
The use of new technology, mass and targeted surveillance, including online, to threaten and silence activists and to repress peaceful protest are some of the actions denounced in this briefing, which has a whole chapter on conclusions where it makes recommendations for states, and also for international and regional human rights organisations.
The NGO calls on all governments to implement the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 1998, and to abolish repressive laws such as those jeopardizing the freedom of speech.
In the first person
The “Brave” webpage includes a campaign to collect signatures to support human rights defenders in vulnerable situations.
Azza Soliman, from Egypt, faces up to 15 years in prison for her work supporting the rights of women. She co-founded the centre for Egyptian women’s legal assistance and gives literacy lessons. She has been labelled as a “national security threat”, Amnesty International explains. She is accused of slandering Egypt’s image by claiming that women in the country face rape.
Rodrigo Mundaca has faced death threats for protecting access to water in the Chilean province of Petroca and for exposing its illegal extraction by the government. According to the NGO “Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world for human rights defenders working on issues relating to the environment, land and territory”.
Emilsen Manyoma, from Colombia, was the spokesperson of the network Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los Territorios (CONPAZ) (Communities Building Peace in the Territories), which defends the rights of Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples and peasants. On 17th January 2017, she was found dead together with her partner Joe Javier Rodallega. Amnesty International states that “A large part of the horror lived in Colombia for decades is not directly linked to direct combat, but rather to selective attacks on civilians”.