Out of almost 300 cases of human rights abuses covered in Amnesty International’s new report, Transforming Pain into Hope: Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, only four have resulted in the conviction of those responsible.
One of the main reasons why violators continue enjoy impunity is that they target precisely those individuals who expose their crimes. The report therefore emphasizes the danger posed to journalists, bloggers, and trade unionists who speak up for human rights.
Just within the relatively small region of Central America, the report highlights four important cases of attacks on freedom of expression that seek to cover up other human rights abuses:
- In March 2012, gunmen assassinated the public relations secretary of the Executive Committee of the National Trade Union of Health Workers, a Guatemalan union that has campaigned against corruption in the nation’s healthcare system.
- In El Salvador, journalists from Radio Victoria have been subjected to repeated death threats since 2008 in response to the station’s investigations into the murder of several anti-mining activists in the local community. The activists have argued that gold mining would pollute the area’s water with cyanide.
- Gilda Silvestrucci is a Honduran journalist who has reported on mining and other human rights issues on her weekly radio program. She is also a member of Journalists for Life and Freedom of Expression. In January 2012, an unidentified caller directed death threats against her and her three children. These threats are backed up by the harsh reality that six Honduran journalists were killed in a two-month period in 2010.
- Dina Meza (pictured) is a well-known journalist who reports on human rights issues for the Defenders Online website and belongs to the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). Since 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called upon the Honduran government to protect her. In February 2012, a death squad threatened to sexually torture and kill her.