“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.
A few days before my friend Fatima* boarded a plane back to Bahrain last month, she sent me an blank email with no subject line. Attached was a PDF file labelled “RISKS.” It listed nearly twenty dates on which she had been threatened, harassed, interrogated, banned from travel, or watched her brothers be thrown in prison in retaliation for her human rights work.
Le Dinh Luong is a Vietnamese HRD who advocated on behalf of victims of the 2016 Formosa factory pollution incident, which resulted in the loss of livelihood and sometimes life of thousands of Vietnamese fishermen and farmers. In August, he was found guilty of "carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” and sentenced to 20 years in prison, with an extra 5 years of house arrest afterward.
The European Union is currently developing Guidelines on the Right to Water. Human rights defenders protecting their communities’ access to water around the world face lethal risks for their work, and their expertise must be central to the EU’s proposed Guidelines.
A guest blog by Afro-Brazilian HRD Heloisa Helena Costa Berto, from correspondence to Front Line Defenders Americas Protection Coordinator (published at request of the HRD, translated from Portuguese)
Good morning, I know you have nothing to do with this, but I have to express myself. I need to make a complaint about how public bodies treat people who thinks differently. I am looking for rights, not only mine, but for a community, defending and denouncing injustices.
Palestinian HRDs Endure Israeli Military Assault on Land Day
The Israeli military is nearly 24 hours into a violent assault on tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians and human rights defenders demanding the return of their land in Gaza. Twenty-four hours or 70 years, depending on how you're counting.
Niober had been planning and looking forward to this trip for months. It took him almost two days to reach Havana international airport from his town in Guantanamo, Cuba, but he still arrived well before his flight. He'd budgeted in plenty of time, knowing security is tight and checkpoints are common across the island. At the airport, just before the final security line, an officer from the Ministry of Interior quietly took him to a side. The officer told Niober he could not board the plane.