Another Guatemalan Union Leader is Dead—Will Two Campesino Activists Be Next?

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Workers Rights = Human Rights

On March 8, two men on motorcycles cut off Carlos Hernández’s pickup truck fired eight 9mm bullets at him, killing him. Hernández was a member of several community organizations and labor groups, including:

  • The Camotán Peasant Farmers Association
  • The New Day Peasant Farmer Coordination
  • The Coordination of Popular, Indigenous, Church, Trade Union and Peasant Organizations of the East (COPISCO)
  • The National Front for the Struggle (FNL)
  • The Executive Committee of the Guatemalan National Trade Union of Health Workers (SNTSG)

You may recall the SNTSG from a blog I wrote in December, about four Central American cases in Amnesty’s Transforming Pain into Hope report about Human Rights Defenders in the Americas. One of the cases featured in that report was that of Luis Ovidio Ortíz Cajas, the Public Relations Secretary of the Executive Committee of the SNTSG. An unknown assailant killed Ortíz Cajas and three other men on March 24, 2012—a little less than one year before this latest killing.

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

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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

Mansour Ossanlu's Temporary Freedom in Iran

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On Thursday June 2, Mansour Ossanlu’s wife stated that he had been granted a four-day medical leave for medical treatment. Amnesty International is unaware of the exact conditions of his release, but some reports suggest that he has been released on bail.

Mansour Ossanlu’s release is only temporary and while it’s welcome that the Iranian authorities have finally recognized his urgent need for rest and medical treatment – itself largely due to the appalling prison conditions in which he has been held – the basic injustice of his detention remains.

Mansour is the leader of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company. He is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for “acts against national security”. The charges stem from his peaceful work to obtain better conditions for workers in Iran and to end discriminatory laws and practices that curtail workers’ rights.

Mansour Ossanlu – and all others still held in Iran for their peaceful trade union activities – should be released permanently and unconditionally.

Shine A Light On Worker's Rights

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On April 4, 1968, shortly before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood with sanitation workers in Memphis to demand human rights, basic respect and collective bargaining to gain a better life. Today, hundreds of thousands of people are taking the same stand—together.

On April 4th people across the country will come together in support of worker’s rights and against the current assault on worker’s rights playing out in various US states.

All workers have a right to organize and to bargain collectively. Amnesty International stands in solidarity with all those seeking to defend collective bargaining rights anywhere these rights are threatened, and on April 4 we urge governors and legislators to protect workers’ rights by rejecting any attempt to limit collective bargaining.

We encourage Amnesty members to join the April 4th events and honor Dr. King’s vision for human rights. To find an event in your area and for more information visit the  We Are One website.  RSVP on Facebook here.

The Attack On US Workers' Rights

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Protesters join forces to kill Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's bill during a rally at the Capital Building on February 18, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mark Hirsch/Getty Images)

Legislation currently working it’s way through several US states would drastically restrict workers’ rights and violate numerous laws.

States including Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee–following Wisconsin’s lead–have recently proposed bills severely limiting the collective bargaining rights of trade union members.

Shane Enright, Amnesty International’s trade union adviser said that, if adopted, these measures would violate international law:

“The US has an obligation to uphold the rights of American workers – including the specific right to organize and bargain collectively.”

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a bill on Friday that undermines the ability of unions in the public sector to protect workers. The legislation also takes away nearly all collective bargaining rights for most public employees, limiting their negotiation rights only to wages.

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Workers Have A Right To Organize

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Protesters join forces to kill Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's bill during a rally at the Capital Building on February 18, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mark Hirsch/Getty Images)

Amnesty International USA is deeply concerned by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages. If enacted, the Governor’s proposal would undermine the ability of unions in the public sector to protect workers, including by limiting workers’ ability to object to work conditions.

Under international law, all workers have a human right to organize and to bargain collectively. These rights are an essential foundation to the realization of other rights, and are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as well as conventions adopted by the International Labor Organization.

Amnesty stands in solidarity with those seeking to defend collective bargaining rights anywhere these rights are threatened, and we urge Governor Walker and Wisconsin legislators to protect workers’ rights by rejecting any attempt to limit collective bargaining. We further call on the Governor to respect the right to peaceful protest and ensure that protesters are not intimidated or subjected to unnecessary or excessive force.