New Report On Human Rights Defenders Has Dismal Findings
By Erin Siegal
December 10, 2012

A report published Friday by Amnesty International shows that threats to human rights defenders, activists, and journalists are increasing as their tormentors are emboldened by impunity.

The study looked at 300 cases of intimidation from state security forces, paramilitary groups and organized crime syndicates. Of the 300, only four cases ended in criminal convictions for those directly involved in making attacks or threats. It says:

"The vast majority of cases analyzed for this report involve attacks on the lives of human rights defenders. Killings, attempted killings and abductions are widespread in the region. Attacks are usually preceded by death threats or other acts of harassment and intimidation....

Abductions and enforced disappearances have been increasingly used to silence defenders in the past few years in the region. In most of the cases of abduction and enforced disappearances documented by Amnesty International between 2010 and 2012, the whereabouts of defenders remained unknown at the time of writing. Those searching for the disappeared have themselves suffered further intimidation. In few cases, the bodies of defenders have been found, usually with visible signs of torture.

Death threats are perhaps the most common method used to try to silence human rights defenders..."

During the past two years, the report alleges, the situation in the Americas has deteriorated. The 74-page report looked at cases from 2010 through September 2012.

In Honduras, for example, between March and April 2011, six journalists were killed by unknown assailants. In Mexico, in July 2012, journalist Lydia Cacho was forced to flee her home after receiving death threats. Cacho has reported extensively on state and business involvement in child pornography rings.

Those most in danger of being targeted are people working on issues related to land and natural resources; women's and LBGT rights; abuses against migrants; trade unionists; and journalists.