Lisa Haugaard

Colombia´s National Human Rights Prize: A Celebration of Determination and Spirit

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"I am happy to have this honor,¨ said one of the finalists for Colombia´s second annual National Prize for the Defense of Human Rights in Colombia. "But I am torn, because while I am here, I am thinking about my community, which is still at risk." Despite peace talks, despite the Colombian government´s optimistic picture of an improved Colombia, the war grinds on, and the threats continue from paramilitary groups, army, guerrillas, mining companies, lumber, and palm plantations.

But the prize offers a moment of celebration of the creative, indomitable and collective spirit of Colombia's human rights community.

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Secretary of State Kerry in Colombia: His Check List for a Just and Lasting Peace

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This post first appeared as an op-ed in Colombian newspaper El Espectador on August 11, 2013, as Secretary of State John Kerry met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has a lot of thorny matters on his mind:   who the United States should support in Egypt, should a reluctant United States get involved to any degree in Syria, how to address Russia, where relations are so frayed that the United States actually cancelled a presidential summit.

So Colombia, which is such a reliable partner of the United States, and where President Juan Manuel Santos has shown inspirational leadership in opening peace talks, may seem like an easy stop.

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Secretary Kerry: Don't Make Justice Jump through Hoops!

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You might get the impression from reading the news that everything is much better in Colombia. But what we hear from the ground is that human rights defenders, land rights leaders, union activists, dopa_white_house_rally_2010Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities all remain in danger. And justice is still in peril. 

So as Secretary Kerry makes his first trip to Colombia as head of the State Department this Sunday, let’s give him a piece of our minds and make sure peace, human rights and justice are brought to the forefront of his agenda.

Click here to ask Secretary Kerry to support peace and reinforce human rights in his visit to Colombia!

With his more inclusive discourse, his focus on the Victims’ Law, and actively pursuing peace negotiations, it’s easy to see why the U.S. government would be so easily carried away by the real positives of Juan Manuel Santos’ presidency. There is real hope for change with the government and guerrillas seated at peace talks in Havana, and our government should actively support these peace talks. 

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LAWGEF Testifies before U.S. Congress on Human Rights Situation in Honduras

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Testimony of Lisa Haugaard
Executive Director, Latin America Working Group Education Fund
before the
United States Congress
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

July 25, 2013

 Thank you to the honorable co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Representatives Frank Wolf and Jim McGovern, for hosting this important hearing on the human rights situation in Honduras and for the opportunity to testify today.

The situation of human rights in Honduras is indeed critical.  The June 28, 2009 coup severely undermined the already weak institutions intended to protect the citizenry.  Today, the Honduran state is failing to protect its citizens in the most fundamental ways.  State agents are directly involved in human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and extrajudicial executions.  The government fails to provide effective protection measures for individuals and groups at risk.  The police not only fail to properly investigate crimes, some members are directly implicated in corruption and murder.  And the judicial system is failing to achieve justice for crimes and gross human rights violations.

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Justice Prevails in Guatemala: Ríos Montt Found Guilty

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Kelsey Alford-Jones is the Director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA

“Justice is a right for victims and contributes to rule of law in our country. We believe that for a true peace to exist in Guatemala there must first be justice,” said Guatemalan Judge Yassmin Barrios.  She declared General Efraín Ríos Montt 
guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity on Friday May 10, a day that will be etched forever in Guatemala’s collective memory.

Ríos Montt was convicted of masterminding and overseeing the massacre of 1,771 Ixil Mayans in the department of El Quiché, as well as the forced displacement of 29,000 people, and 1,485 acts of sexual violence and acts of torture during the early 1980s. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison and was ordered into police custody. His director of military intelligence, José Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, was absolved of both crimes...

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