Lisa Haugaard

Killings of Human Rights Defenders Increase in Colombia: What Is Going Wrong?


"What is going wrong in Colombia?" asks the coalition of human rights defenders in Colombia. The government of Juan Manuel Santos last year invested time and funding in mechanisms to protect communities and people at risk, among them human rights defenders. 

And yet, in 2012, every five days a defender was assassinated in Colombia, and every 20 hours one defender was attacked. In 2012, 357 men and women in Colombia were attacked for their work as human rights defenders, according to Somos Defensores ("We Are Defenders"), which maintains a unified database of attacks against human rights defenders. Sixty-nine defenders were assassinated, a jump from 49 assassinations in 2011. Indeed, this is the highest number of aggressions against defenders registered by the database in the last ten years, and a 49 percent increase since 2011. The attacks include: 202 threats, 69 assassinations, 50 assaults, 26 arbitrary detentions, 5 forced disappearances, 1 arbitrary use of the penal system, 3 robberies of information, and 1 case of sexual violence...

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Most of Us Used to Be Them: Family Tales of Immigration


President Obama's words as he discussed principles for immigration reform struck a deep chord. Some of us at the Latin America Working Group office decided to reflect on our families' paths to the United States.

Here's what he said:

When we talk about that in the abstract, it’s easy sometimes for the discussion to take on a feeling of “us” versus “them.”  And when that happens, a lot of folks forget that most of “us” used to be “them.”  We forget that.

It’s really important for us to remember our history.  Unless you’re one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from someplace else.  Somebody brought you...

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Colombian Peace Process Advances


As Colombia's peace process advances, here are some words to live by.

“We can't condemn Colombians to
another one hundred years of solitude and violence.”
--Enrique Santos Calderón, former editor of El Tiempo, brother of President Juan Manuel Santos

“It's one thing that the victims aren't present at the table in Havana, and it's another thing to ignore their voice, deny their rights.  A peace without victims will have neither political nor moral legitimacy.”
--Senator Juan Fernando Cristo

"The dialogue for ending the armed conflict should be a moment in which sectors of Colombian society that have been marginalized, discriminated against and excluded have an opportunity to effectively present their demands, needs and rights that have long been neglected."
--Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos...

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Let’s Talk about What We Can Do to Halt the Flow of Assault Weapons into Mexico


As we continue our national conversation about gun violence in the aftermath of the Newtown elementary school shootings, let's also consider a plea from our neighbors in Mexico. One hundred thousand people -- yes, 100,000 people -- have been killed in the violence that has devastated Mexico in the last six years. Twenty-five thousand people have disappeared. Seven thousand bodies lie unidentified in morgues.

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Ten New Year's Resolutions for U.S. Policy Towards Latin America


U.S. policy towards our Latin American neighbors is, as usual, in need of a few New Year's resolutions. Here goes:

  1. Ban assault weapons. Three months before the murders of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, 110 victims of violence and advocates from Mexico traveled across the United States calling on us to take action to stop the violence that has claimed over 100,000 lives in Mexico during the last six years. They asked us to ban the assault weapons that arm Mexico's brutal cartels. Some70 percent of assault weapons and other firearms used by criminal gangs in Mexico come from the United States. The United States should reinstate and tighten the assault weapon ban and enforce the ban on the import of assault weapons into our country, which are then smuggled into Mexico. Do it for Newtown. Do it for Aurora. Do it for Mexico's mothers and fathers who have lost their children to senseless violence.
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Unraveling Justice: Military Jurisdiction Expanded in Colombia

On December 11, the day after International Human Rights Day, the Colombian Congress approved a justice “reform” bill that will likely result in many gross human rights violations by members of the military being tried in military courts—and remaining in impunity.  The bill, along with a separate ruling by the Council of State, unravels the reforms put in place after the “false positives” scandal in which over 3,000 civilians were killed by soldiers.

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Celebrating Colombia's Defenders: First National Human Rights Prize


We are often telling you about the dangers faced by Colombian human rights defenders—the email death threats and terrifying phone calls, the funeral wreaths labeled with their names sent to their homes, the trade unionist or land rights activist shot dead.


But there is also much to celebrate in the creativity, bravery and dedication of Colombia's human rights community.  And celebrate they did in September 2012, as Colombian civil society leaders and the international agencies coalition DIAL (Inter-Agency Dialogue on Colombia) launched Colombia's first national human rights prize.

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