World, Americas

Asylum, protests crackdown Americas in 2019: Amnesty

Central America, US fight migration flow, gun violence, while protests take its toll on Latin America

Beyza Binnur Donmez   | 28.02.2020
Asylum, protests crackdown Americas in 2019: Amnesty

ANKARA 

Human Rights watchdog Amnesty International has said states across the Americas clamped down on the right to protest and seek asylum along 2019 in its recent report.

"Inequality, corruption, violence, environmental degradation, impunity and the weakening of institutions continued to be a common reality across the Americas, resulting in daily human rights violations for millions of people," the annual report, published on Thursday, said.

Talking on the report, Erika Guevara-Rosas, the Americas director at Amnesty International, said 2019 brought a "renewed assault on human rights across much of the Americas, with intolerant and increasingly authoritarian leaders turning to ever-more violent tactics to stop people from protesting or seeking safety in another country."

Guevara-Rosas stressed that the world also witnessed a stand-up young people who demand change all over the region, triggering broader demonstrations on a massive scale.

"Their bravery in the face of vicious state repression gives us hope and shows that future generations will not be bullied," she said.

She emphasized the fight for human rights is "as urgent as ever" in the region with yet more social unrest, political instability and environmental destruction looming in 2020.

Protests

The Amnesty's report said the protesters and human rights defenders faced "rampant violence and state repression" in countries like Venezuela, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Haiti, Chile and Colombia last year.

It added the authorities responded with "repressive and often increasingly militarized tactics instead of establishing mechanisms to promote dialogue and address the protesters' concerns".

In total, at least 210 people died violently due to protests across the Americas: 83 in Haiti, 47 in Venezuela, 35 in Bolivia, 31 in Chile, eight in Ecuador and six in Honduras, according to the data of the watchdog.

Rising violence

Calling Latin America "once again the world’s most dangerous region for human rights defenders", the report showed Colombia as the most "lethal country" for human rights defenders, suffering at least 106 killings, mostly of Indigenous, Afro-descendant and campesino leaders, as its internal armed conflict continued to rage.

While Central American country Mexico founded as "one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists," with at least 10 killings in 2019. It also suffered a record number of homicides.

In the northern part of the continent, Amnesty International showed the gun violence as "the biggest" remaining human rights concern "with too many guns and insufficient laws to keep track of them and keep them out of the hands of people who intend harm."

It said that a new rule announced by the Donald Trump administration in January has made it "far easier to export assault rifles, 3-D printed guns, ammunition and other weapons abroad to spread rampant gun violence beyond U.S. borders, particularly to other countries in the Americas."

Also in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro signed a series of decrees and executive orders that, among other concerning outcomes, "relax regulation on the possession and carrying of firearms."

Migration crisis

The report said the governments took "aggressive stances" against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, especially against nearly 4.8 million Venezuelans who have fled their country's economic and political crises.

" ... but Peru, Ecuador and Chile responded by imposing restrictive new entry requirements and unlawfully turning away Venezuelans in need of international protection," it added.

Amnesty International also accused the U.S. government of "misusing the justice system to harass migrants' rights defenders, unlawfully detaining children fleeing situations of violence as well as implementing new measures and policies to attack and massively restrict access to asylum, in violation of its obligations under international law."

It said that following the Trump administration's threats to impose new trade tariffs, Mexico not only agreed to receive and host forcibly returned asylum seekers under the Migrant Protection Protocols, but also deployed troops to stop Central Americans from making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Impunity, environment and gender-based violence -- despite some progress -- are among major concerns for the Americas, according to the report.

"Environmental concerns continued to rise across the Americas, with the Trump administration formally announcing its intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement, while severe environmental crises in the Amazon affected Indigenous Peoples in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador," it said.

"Anti-environmental policies" of Bolsonaro fueled devastating wildfires in the Amazon, the report said, and accused the president of failing to protect indigenous peoples from "the illegal logging and cattle farming behind land seizures."

"Having taken office at the start of 2019, president Bolsonaro swiftly put his wider anti-human rights rhetoric into practice through a number of administrative and legislative measures that threaten the rights of everyone in the country," the report also said, adding: "Meanwhile, the emblematic 2018 killing of the human rights defender Marielle Franco remains unsolved."

Amnesty International also evaluated the Escazu Agreement, a regional treaty on environmental rights, signed by 22 Latin American and Caribbean countries as a "ground-breaking" and "positive" agreement.

"As we enter a new decade, we cannot afford for the governments of the Americas to keep repeating the mistakes of the past. Instead of restricting people’s hard-fought rights, they must build upon them and work towards creating a region where everyone can live in freedom and safety," Guevara-Rosas said.

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