International Human Rights Day Roundup: Brazil, Colombia, US events

A roundup of news and events around International Human Rights Day, today, December 10:

BRAZIL

Some positive news: yesterday,  the country initiated its first human rights trial. Rebecca J. Atencio reports over at Transitional Justice in Brazil:

In a landmark for transitional justice in Brazil, prosecutors yesterday initiated the country’s first criminal trial of an individual state security agent in a federal court in São Paulo. The accused is Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, a retired colonel. … Yesterday’s hearing involved three witnesses who testified about the disappearance of Edgar de Aquino Duarte. Duarte disappeared after being detained at the DOI-CODI and DEOPS torture centers in São Paulo in 1973.

Until now, all attempts in Brazil to try accused dictatorship-era torturers have been blocked by the 1979 Amnesty Law. In 2010, the country’s Supreme Court upheld the interpretation of the law as extending to  state agents who engaged in human rights crimes. Yet there are indications that the Amnesty Law’s protection of accused human rights violators may be crumbling. Brazil’s new Attorney General recently indicated a possible change in interpretation of the controversial law.

COLOMBIA

From the Latin American Working Group (LAWG):

Today on International Human Rights Day, thousands of Colombians will take to the streets in support of the ongoing peace process. Bringing together the voices of victims of violence, women, trade unionists, artists, campesinos, students, intellectuals, indigenous and Afro-descendants, this mobilization aims to promote a peace process that includes a social and human rights agenda.

On International Human Rights Day, share this image to show your solidarity for peace in Colombia!

Colombians will express their support for peace and their continued outrage over the human costs of the war:  forced displacements, widespread massacres, threats against unionists and human rights activists, and the exclusion of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. It’s a demonstration of hope, with Colombians coming together with the dream of creating a lasting peace.

Even with the ongoing peace process, there still is a human rights crisis in Colombia. Displacement continues, with 2,700 people forced from their homes last month just in Buenaventura. Human rights defenders, journalists and union members continue to be harassed and threatened for the work they do. Land restitution under the Victims’ Law continues at a snail’s pace and is jeopardized by the presence of paramilitary successor groups that threaten the safe return of communities.

Here at the LAWG, we believe that in order to build a just and lasting peace, the underlying human rights, economic and social aspects of the conflict must be addressed. This means addressing human rights violations by all parties to the conflict and creating space for civil society participation in the peace process and its implementation. It means there must be truth, and there must be justice.

There’s a long road ahead, but it’s time to say yes to peace.

In DC today, there was a vigil for Colombian victims of human rights violations that featured “an altar with pictures of civilian victims of the Colombian internal armed conflict, and victims of armed actors outside of ‘war zones’; candles to remember these victims; Colombian music; and a reading of victims’ names, with Presentes in response; flyers to distribute containing information about peace and human rights issues in Colombia.”

More of today’s events, via AAAS’ Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights & Law Program:

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY EVENTS

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