Help Commemorate 4 Important Human Rights Anniversaries at the AGM!

More than 10,000 Catholics gathered to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the assassination of of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a prominent human rights defender who was murdered during the Salvadorean civil war (Photo Credit: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images).

More than 10,000 Catholics gathered to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the assassination of of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a prominent human rights defender who was murdered during the Salvadorean civil war (Photo Credit: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images).

On Friday, March 22, Salvadoran torture survivor Carlos Mauricio will address the opening ceremony at Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) to commemorate four important anniversaries for El Salvador and the international human rights movement.

  1. On March 15, 1993, the United Nations Truth Commission issued its report on human rights abuses committed during the civil war in El Salvador (1980-1991). Unlike many other truth commissions, this international body identified the names of those found responsible when it established that there was “overwhelming evidence.”
  2. The Salvadoran government protected these individuals from prosecution and further investigation by quickly passing a second amnesty law on March 20, 1993. The 1992 amnesty law already protected anyone not named by the Truth Commission. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for these laws to be overturned, a position supported by several rulings by the Inter-American Human Rights Court.
  3. These events occurred just before another important milestone for El Salvador, the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero, an outspoken human rights defender, on March 24, 1980. The Truth Commission Report identified death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson as the individual who ordered Romero’s death. The 1993 amnesty law protected D’Aubuisson for the rest of his life.
  4. In recognition of the importance of Archbishop Romero’s role standing up for justice in El Salvador and as an inspiration for human rights defenders throughout the world, the United Nations declared that International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims would be held on anniversary of his death, starting on March 24, 2011.


10 Absurd and Unjust Arrests of 2012

Check out our list of 10 absurd arrests and sentences of the year. You might be surprised to learn what can get you thrown in jail in a few places around the world, and how harsh the sentences are once you’re there.

belarus teddy bears fly over minsk

Bears being dropped. Photo via Studio Total

1. Posting photos of teddy bears.

Anton Suryapin of Belarus spent more than a month in detention after posting photos of teddy bears being dropped from an airplane. The bears were part of a stunt by a Swedish advertising company calling for freedom of expression in Belarus. Anton is charged of “organizing illegal migration” simply because he was the first upload photos of the teddy bears, and still faces a prison sentence of up to seven years.

2. Tweeting.

After allegedly “publicly insulting the King” on Twitter, a Bahraini man had his six-month prison sentence upheld on appeal, while three others are serving four-month prison sentences. Article 214 of Bahrain’s penal code makes it a crime to offend the King.

3. Opposing the death penalty.


Freedom of Expression Under Attack in Central America: Four Cases From New AI Report

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: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why is El Salvador Cruelly Punishing Women Who Need Medical Help?

Ireland is not the only nation with strict abortion laws that cost women their lives.

Since 1998, El Salvador has had a total ban on abortions, under any circumstances. In March of this year, Salvadoran police arrested a woman (“Mery”) when she sought medical treatment after a clandestine abortion. The medical providers reported her to the police—as required by law. In addition to the physical complications associated with the abortion, she showed clear signs of emotional distress and panic.

Instead of providing “Mery” with counseling, the authorities sentenced her to two years in El Salvador’s violent, overcrowded prison system. Her emotional state deteriorated and she tried to kill herself in September 2012. Prison authorities responded by handcuffing “Mery” to a bed in a psychiatric hospital and placing an armed guard in her room. Amnesty is especially concerned because she has been cut off from both the psychological help she needs as well as legal counsel.


Salvadorian Journalists And Anti-Mining Activists Under Attack

By Larry Ladutke, Legislative Coordinator

Residents of the Salvadorean town of Ilobasco protest against the explotation of the Canadian mining corporation Pacific Rim ©Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Amnesty issued an urgent action calling on the Salvadoran government to protect journalists at Radio Victoria, a community station in rural Cabañas, and to fully investigate threats against them from a self-proclaimed death squad (grupo de extermino).

Unfortunately, this was not Amnesty’s first urgent action concerning Radio Victoria. In the summer of 2009, journalists were threatened after calling for justice in the abduction, torture, and murder of anti-mining activist Gustavo Marcelo Rivera.

While the police were quick to blame Rivera’s death on youth gangs (mareros), Radio Victoria and others believed that he was killed in retaliation for his leadership in the movement against Pacific Rim’s plan to mine gold in the area. Rivera and other activists argued that these operations would divert water from poor farmers, poison the water supply with cyanide, and fail to produce economic development. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights echoed Amnesty’s call for a thorough investigation and protective measures.