On 10 September 2020, Yury Korzun, a miner from Belarusian city of Salihorsk chained himself to a piece of equipment 300 meters below the surface. Belarusians commented it happened because “another person has handcuffed himself to the presidential chair”.
Atziri Elizabeth Ávila López is a woman human rights defender and journalist from Oaxaca, Mexico working with Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional del Feminicidio (OCNF) (The National Citizen’s Observatory on Femicide), a citizen’s network made up of 43 organisations. The work of OCNF is aimed at contributing to the guaranteed rights of women to a life free of violence. As well as her work with OCNF, Atziri is also a member of the Advisory Council of the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in Mexico.
In mid-February 2020, as the coronavirus outbreak led to cities and counties across China imposing strict lockdown, a mother surnamed Wang and her two young children, with luggage in tow, walked for almost five hours in an attempt to return to their hometown in a neighbouring county after she was beaten by her abusive ex-husband.
With at least ten rural workers and leaders killed in 2019 and increased violence against human rights defenders, fuelled by hate speech from the highest levels, there seems to be little to celebrate in the State of Para on Human Rights Day 2019. This 9 December, Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator, Ivi Oliveira, accompanied one of our partners in Brazil at the reception ceremony of the Medal Paulo Frota by the Legislative Assembly of Para (ALEPA), which recognised individuals and organisations for their work in defence of human rights in the state.
In the coming weeks, Pablo López Alavéz, an activist from a tiny village in southern Mexico, will learn his fate. The decision from a federal court may affect the fate of a part of the forest in the mountains of Oaxaca that he calls home. And some people hope it will also affect the future of land and environment defenders across Mexico.
“If you drive 40 miles inland from Recife you go back in time 150 years.” Those were the words of a human rights defender from the Pastoral Land Commission in Pernambuco, Brazil, as he tried to explain the lawless brutality with which landowners managed their sugar cane plantations. The reach of the state is weak and the level of corruption and abuse of power is high.
Guatemala draws a wide variety of visitors; backpackers, eco-tourists, chocolate and coffee aficionados and even Star Wars fans exploring the Mayan temple featured in the very first movie.
If you Google “Livingston, Guatemala”, your computer screen will fill with stunning pictures of pristine beaches, river and waterfalls landscapes and a colourful town that blends African and indigenous cultures, offering a unique Central American experience.
Santiago Maldonado disappeared while protesting for the right to land. Not for his own, since he was born into a prosperous family in the province of Buenos Aires. Two years ago, on the 1st of August 2017, he was protesting for the right of the Mapuche people to a piece of Argentinian Patagonia.
Sitting in Minsk following a few days of meetings with human rights defenders and others in Belarus led me to reflect on where Europe stands with Eastern Europe. Recent criticism of Tánaiste Simon Coveney promoting trade with Russia in spite of sanctions is only one symptom of a broader weakness and lack of strategy at EU level.
Over the past 11 years I’ve led workshops for human rights defenders at risk in Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Middle East, and East and Central Europe. Many of the HRDs trained at those workshops on Risk Analysis and Protection Planning reported stigmatisation, online abuse, threats and attacks. But earlier this year I received a call for help from a much closer source.