Not a Billion More

One Billion Rising

I was in Delhi on December 17 when tens of thousands marched in solidarity to support a young victim of rape.

On the evening of December 16, this young woman and her friend boarded a bus to return home after watching a movie. Her friend was attacked, while she was assaulted and raped by five men on the bus. Both were then left to die on the side of a busy street. Her injuries were so severe, that she succumbed to them a few weeks later.

Angered by her plight, thousands took to the streets to demand justice and accountability from a system that they think routinely ignores issues around women’s safety. Subsequently, the Indian government showed uncharacteristic speed in apprehending and trying the suspects. And now substantial efforts are under way to overhaul the country’s legal, social, and cultural response to violence against women.

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Faxes Jammed! Guatemalan Government Responds to Our Actions for Norma Cruz

Norma Cruz

Norma Cruz

Earlier this week, we started an exciting new faxjam action – calling on our members and Facebook and Twitter supporters around the world to send a fax to the Attorney General of Guatemala on behalf of human rights defender Norma Cruz.

Last night we spoke to Norma, the leader of the women’s rights organization Fundación Sobrevivientes, who has received repeated death threats because of her work supporting victims of violence against women and calling for those responsible to be prosecuted.

And the news is good – the authorities are really taking notice.

Norma told us that on Tuesday (the day after we started jamming faxes), the Presidential Commission on Human Rights phoned her to check on her security situation. They said that they were checking because they had heard about the Amnesty International campaign – the campaign that you have all been a part of.

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Stop the Death Threats. Defend Norma Cruz.

Norma Cruz

Guatemalan human rights defender Norma Cruz is the director of Fundación Sobrevivientes (c) Amnesty International

Norma Cruz is a Guatemalan human rights defender who has been repeatedly threatened with death because of her work documenting cases of violence against women and fighting for justice. Some of her relatives have even suffered threats and attacks because of her work.

It’s time someone defended Norma.  Through our new Faxjam campaign you can help stand up for Norma and other activists in Guatemala who face constant danger.

Norma Cruz leads an organization called ‘Survivors Foundation’ in Guatemala City that documents violence against women, including the thousands of rapes and killings of women.  Most of the threats that Norma has received have been related to their legal assistance in the case of a girl who was raped in 2004.

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Through Her Work Protecting Victims, One Woman Has Become a Target of Attack Herself

This post is part of our Write for Rights series.

Norma CrizNorma Cruz has been speaking out against domestic violence in Guatemala for many years.  She is the leader of Fundación Sobrevivientes (Survivors’ Foundation), an organization that works to document cases of domestic violence and bring perpetrators to justice.  Because of her work, Norma has received numerous death threats and her life is now in grave danger.

Norma began receiving death treats in 2009. These threats have been text messages to her private phone, and voicemails have been left on her home and office phones. One caller stated: “I want you to drop the case of [man's name], you’ve got eight days to drop the case, otherwise you’ll be in serious trouble, I will give you the head of your daughter or son, you bitch.” Threats like this have also been made to her family and colleagues. These messages began appearing after Fundación Sobrevivientes provided legal assistance to a girl who was raped. In fact, relatives of the same girl have been killed for the support they gave her. Norma has been warned of similar consequences if she does not discontinue her organization’s support of the case.

Since 2009, only one man has been charged with threatening Norma’s life. He has since been released on bail.  To date, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has not reported any further progress on the investigation into the remaining death threats.  No one else has been held accountable. While Guatemalan authorities have provided Norma Cruz, her family and her office with police protection, the threats continue.

Norma Cruz is not the only human right’s defender in Guatemala to be receiving death threats.  In fact, many human rights defenders, trade unionists and grassroots political and social activists are in similar circumstances. Like Norma, their cases are not seriously investigated by Public Prosecutor’s Office. In addition, most do not receive any protection from the state. You can help protect activists like Norma and bolster the rule of law by joining AIUSA’s Global Write-a-thon and pressing governments to do the right thing.

Elizabeth Stitt, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.