Category Archives: human rights

Researchers find ‘evidence of genocide’ against Rohingya

Genocide photoCardinal Tagle, president of Caritas International, visits Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, Dec. 3, 2018. Credit:Caritas Bangladesh

By Courtney Grogan

Chittagong, Bangladesh, (CNA/EWTN News).- As new evidence emerges of atrocities committed in Burma’s Rakhine state, the president of Caritas International visited Monday a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.

In 2017 the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group, faced a sharp increase in state-sponsored violence in Burma, also known as Myanmar. The violence reached levels that led the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, and are living in refugee camps, many of which are located in a swampy sort of “buffer zone” along the border between the two countries.

Researchers with the Public International Law and Policy Group, contracted by the U.S. State Department to investigate Burma’s treatment of the Rohingya, found “reasonable grounds to believe that genocide was committed against the Rohingya,” in a report published Dec. 3.

The researchers interviewed more than 1,000 refugees, who shared their experiences of “mass shootings, aerial bombardments, gang rapes and severe beatings, torture and burning” by Burma’s armed forces.

Seventy percent of the Rohingya interviewed had witnessed their homes or villages being destroyed and 80 percent witnessed the killing of a family member, friend, or personal acquaintance.

Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila visited Kutupalong refugee camp, more than 100 miles south of Chittagong, Dec. 3, describing it as “a cry to the whole world for a better politics based on compassion and solidarity.”

“When will we learn our lessons and be able to stop a crisis of this magnitude happening again? How as an international community and a human family can we get back to the basics of dignity, care and compassion?” continued Tagle.

The Filipino cardinal is the president of Caritas International, a group that has served the Rohingya refugee population since the crisis began. Caritas has helped nearly 500,000 refugees by providing shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene, and living supplies.

“The situation of refugees from Myanmar was heartbreaking for me when I came first, but I’m seeing things improve,” Tagle said. “We wish for a permanent solution for these people who are stateless and helpless. It is our responsibility to be with them. We want them to have a happy life.”

Tagle found particular hope in seeing the efforts of the Caritas Bangladesh volunteers and staff to help the refugees during the Advent season.

“Here I am this first week of Advent with a people waiting for a future,” Tagle said. “For us Advent is waiting not for something but for someone. Jesus, who was born poor, who became a refugee but who never stops loving. I hope this message coming from this camp will encourage all of us never to get tired of loving.”

Bangladesh and Burma have agreed to a repatriation program which began last month, but few if any Rohingya have chosen to return to their homeland.

The Burmese government refused to use the term Rohingya, and considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They have been denied citizenship and numerous other rights since a controversial law was enacted in 1982.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/researchers-find-evidence-of-genocide-against-rohingya-30581

The Woman at the Heart of Sustainable Development

sustainable photo

Posted by Odile Ntakirutimana

“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”

All over the world, gender inequality makes and keeps women poor, depriving them of basic rights and opportunities for well-being.The root of this discrimination is in the way of considering women as nonexistent on their own as full human beings but as always attached to someone else: a daughter or a wife to someone.

In Africa, and in most patriarchal systems, women have been considered as entitled to no rights or to fewer rights than men. Popular beliefs in some cultures still consider them as having no right to own property in general and land in particular. If a woman hopes to someday inherit family property, the law may deprive her of an equal share, or social convention may simply favor her male relatives.

It is not uncommon in Africa to see a man take over a property of his deceased brother or uncle when the deceased has left descendants that are mainly or only girls. For many women therefore, access to land is not a guaranteed right and the consequences are even harsher for rural and unmarried or divorced women who cannot survive without land as it is their only source of income for themselves and their families.

Land is a very important natural resource and it is at the heart of human social activity in Africa. The inequalities in women’s rights to land affect their self-esteem and potential contribution to the welfare of the society; yet they are the primary producers of food, the ones in charge of working the earth, maintaining seed stores, harvesting fruit, obtaining water and safeguarding the harvest.

Many communities in African countries rely on subsistent farming as their source of livelihood. Women comprise on average of 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, and over 50 per cent in parts of Asia and Africa.Research from the International Food Policy Research Institute has found that equalizing women’s status would lower child malnutrition by 13 percent (13.4 million children) in South Asia and by 3 percent (1.7 million children) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Experimental work suggests that increasing resources controlled by women promotes increased agricultural productivity.It is therefore a paradox that only 20 per cent of landowners globally are women.

The majority of women in developing countries face situations of discrimination at the hand of the national authorities and the international community. The European Union recognizes “in words” that women’s equal access to land helps guarantee the respect of fundamental human rights, including the rights to adequate food, shelter, non-discrimination and equality; the right not to be evicted; and the right to effective remedy, etc.

However big companies from the same EU and other wealthy countries are responsible of various human rights violations affecting women particularly in depriving them from accessing and using their land. This happens in the conclusion of large-scale land deals for commercial agriculture. The main goal of investment in land becomes then about providing food and energy for wealthier countries using the land and water of the poor. It stands to reason therefore that large-scale land deals exacerbate poor conditions of women access to land and ownership or further limit poor rural women’s opportunities for income generation.

Women have a right to equal access to all avenues to end poverty. Gender justice is not only a matter of social equity, but is also central to poverty reduction. While it is an established fact that the socio-cultural context of Africa undermines women’s right and access to land for food production and livelihood; large scale land acquisitions that are promoted in the name of “rural development” are extinguishing a candle that was already weak.

In Africa, a woman is a string that binds the family together. Therefore, land deals that take resources away from women do not only reduce the welfare of women but also participate in the disruption of the entire family system. It becomes imperative for private and international investors in Africa, who conclude land deals with local governments to consider the right of women to the land as an integral and essential part of their social responsibility to the community.

Furthermore, if they are genuinely motivated by sustainable development of communities, the profits of their investments are shared with those who are deprived to make way for their investments. Finally, African national Governments urgently need to bridge gaps between their existing programs that target gender equality and how they are applied in reality. The end of poverty cannot be achieved without ending gender-based discrimination.

http://aefjn.org/en/the-woman-at-the-heart-of-sustainable-development/

SEPHOS in Koudiadiène: a Paradox of Development

AEFJN photo

Posted by José Luis Gutiérrez Aranda

The 12 km road from Thiès to the commune of Cherif Lo (Senegal) is well paved and adorned with little villages on both sides of the road. Quite noticeable as well on approaching Koudiadiène are the grooves and depressions on the asphalt left by the trucks of great tonnage that ply the road daily. The crossroad of he village of Koudidiène is full of large trucks, merchants on the side of the road, women who weave in groups, young people who cross the road from one side to another going and coming to the secondary school and people waiting for the arrival of public transport that takes them to the city of Thiès.

During our visit to Koudiadiène; either to the religious communities, the medical dispensary or private homes of families, we soon discovered a common element: the dust from the mining site of SEPHOS are found on the tables, chairs, shelves, kitchen utensils, windows, books, trees, cars… The Sisters who work in assured us that they clean the dust every day in the morning and that in the evening everything is covered again by a whitish layer of dust from the mines. The glassy eyes of our interlocutors, the continuous clearing of their voices and the irritation of the throat is common for all its inhabitants. Myself, after spending a few hours in the area I begin to feel the throat irritation. “It is the dust of the mine” my guide told me when I requested to go to a pharmacy … This throat sensation would be my lot during the week-long visit in Koudiadiène and immediately it disappeared the same day I left to Dakar.

The representatives of the mining company SEPHOS deny that the dust comes from the mine and rather attributed it to the desert that is more than 100 kilometers away. However, the company fails to explain why other populations in the same region are not invaded by dust.

In the agreement reached between the mining company SEPHOS (of Spanish capital) and the villagers of Koudiadiène, in May 2017, Mr. Nolasco on behalf of the SEPHOS committed to a non-written agreement to a set of commitments with the population of Koudiadiène. This commitment would be based on the obligation of foreign companies to compensate for the damage caused to local populations with part of their profits and not based on a charity grant. Given the alleged toxicity of the dust, such concessions would alleviate the damage caused by the dust from the mine to the people who live in the surrounding areas of the mine.

Among these commitments, there were three specific actions related to the health and welfare of the population. SEPHOS would undertake simple measures that would reduce the emission of dust caused by the extraction of the mineral, such as covering the mineral with tarpaulins during the drying process, installing dust retention screens in the process of screening the mineral, as well as watering and repairing the access road to the mine through which large trucks ply and children walk go to school every day. Mr. Nolasco also committed himself to certain concessions such as donations of medicines to the dispensary of Koudiadiène and letting the use of the ambulance of the mine in case of health emergencies.

The dispensary of Koudiadiène mainly serves the district of Cherif Lo and its doors are open to the people as they come. The dispensary keeps strict records of the cases it encounters. As the graph shows, there has been a progression of cases treated in relation to skin, cough and throat and eye infections in the recent years. This data confirm what we have been able to observe in the village.

Given the claim of the company that the dust that accumulates in the village comes from the desert, AEFJN and REDES decided to take a sample of the dust and analyze it in a laboratory to find out the probable source of the dust. This sample was taken following the precise instructions of a mining engineer who accompanied us on our trip. The dust followed the recommended chain of custody so that its composition was not altered and has been analyzed in the laboratory of a recognized Spanish public university.

Among the first conclusions we have obtained is that the minerals found in the sample are not part of the composition of the sand that is normally found in the desert. On the contrary, the minerals found in the analyzed sample of dust (Sodium, Magnesium, Aluminum, Silicon, Phosphorus, Sulfur, Potassium, Titanium, Chromium or Manganese) are more typical of a mining quarry than of desert sand. Moreover, five of these minerals are found in a high concentration that are considered harmful to health. These are Magnesium, Aluminum, Phosphorus, Potassium and Iron.

If the sample of dust analyzed determines that it is not desert dust; If the dust is found only in the villas that surround the mine; If the dust analysis confirm the harmful concentration of five minerals for human health; If there has been an increasing number of cases registered in the dispensary of Koudiadiène; If those diseases are the same suffered by the workers of the mine … Then we consider that the security measures carried out by the company are clearly insufficient. That the mining activity is causing the emission of dust that affects the people of Koudiadiène and that dust is harmful to health.

The compensatory measures for local communities affected by mining companies in Africa cannot be left to the good will of the companies. Compensations must obey mandatory measures that are effective, transparent and verifiable by civil society. Otherwise the compensations will be lost or will be mere gestures of beneficence, or truncated by corruption. The EU cannot remain passive by the behavior of its companies and must demand from them the same ethical and legal behavior when they operate abroad.

The case of Koudiadiène is the case of a small company that operates a non-relevant mineral in a region of an African country. It is a small but paradigmatic example of the behavior of European companies operating in developing countries, especially in Africa. The EU must commit itself to the sustainability of the planet and look for long-term solutions that do not only look for their economic benefits but also prioritize the sustainability of natural resources. The EU has the obligation to be more demanding in its Transparency Directives, in the respect of human rights and, of course, to seriously commit itself to the initiative of the binding treaty of United Nations Business and Human Rights.

http://aefjn.org/en/sephos-in-koudiadiene-a-bad-paradigmatic-example/

 

End of Hondurans’ protected status endangers 57,000 immigrants, advocates say

by Maria Benvento
NCR

 

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People hold a Honduran flag while sitting on the border fence between Mexico and the United States, April 29, in Tijuana, Mexico. (CNS/Jorge Duenes, Reuters)

 

May 9, 2018: Catholic groups who are tracking the current situation in Honduras said the Trump administration’s May 4 decision to terminate the country’s temporary protected status and send back 57,000 immigrants disregards extremely dangerous conditions in the Central American country.

“You could not look at those conditions and make that judgment call. That’s not what was primary in their decision, in my opinion,” said Jean Stokan, justice coordinator of the Institute Justice Team for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. “There’s absolutely no conditions to go back … it’s a furnace of violence.”

When Honduras’ status last came up for review six months earlier, advocates for its extension cited gang violence, displacement, lack of housing and jobs, disease outbreaks and subsequent natural disasters that have made the country unsafe and impeded recovery from the hurricane that prompted its designation.

Since then, conditions have worsened after a highly contested November election led to widespread civil unrest; dozens of protesters were killed, hundreds were injured and thousands were jailed after demonstrations were met with violence from military police, said Stokan.

Stokan most recently visited Honduras in late January as part of an ecumenical delegation to observe and accompany the protesters and faith leaders who had been threatened, such as Jesuit Fr. Ismael “Melo” Moreno Coto. She witnessed militarization and instability and heard about extreme gang violence from Sisters of Mercy in the country.

Lawrence Couch, director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who also have sisters and affiliates in the country, was part of the same delegation. Couch said he saw “chaos and unrest” and “widespread discontent” in the country. “It was in this context that President [Donald] Trump has chosen to send back 57,000 Hondurans.”

Hondurans have been covered under temporary protected status, which grants them work authorization and protection from deportation, since early 1999, shortly after Hurricane Mitch devastated the country in October 1998. The hurricane left one fifth of the population homeless, killed over 5,600 and destroyed infrastructure.

By law, the Department of Homeland Security is required to review conditions and renew a country’s temporary protected status in six-, 12- or 18-month increments as many times as necessary if dangerous conditions persist.

“The disruption of living conditions in Honduras from Hurricane Mitch … has decreased to a degree that it should no longer be regarded as substantial,” said a May 4 statement from Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. “Thus, as required under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”

But many advocates said the opposite was true. “As CLINIC laid out along with 640 different interfaith organizations, we believe that under the law the secretary was compelled to extend TPS for Honduras for 18 months,” said Lisa Parisio, an advocacy attorney for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC.

“The TPS program is designed to protect people from being returned to harm,” the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said in a May 8 statement. “That is precisely what Hondurans will face if they are forced to return.”

A May 4 statement from Alianza Americas, a network of immigrant organizations, pointed out that this January, the State Department warned that Honduras was unsafe for travel due to “violent crime and gang activity.” The determination that Hondurans can return “runs counter to both the haunting realities in Honduras and to Americans’ purported values of decency, compassion and humanity.”

Advocates who urged extension also noted effects on the approximately 53,000 U.S. citizen children of Honduran protected status holders, who could be separated from parents who don’t want to bring them to a dangerous country, and noted that status holders have jobs, businesses and homes that tie them to U.S. communities.

To be eligible for temporary protected status, immigrants must have continuously resided in the U.S. since their country was designated as protected. That means any Honduran immigrants who are covered by the status have been living in the U.S. since Jan. 5, 1999 — over 19 years.

These deep U.S. roots could put temporary protected status holders in even more danger when they are required to return to Honduras Jan. 5, 2020, Parisio said. Returners with few connections in Honduras, who are perceived to have “American wealth” and U.S. relatives, “would be prime targets for those looking to extort and do harm to them.”

Expelling the status holders could also further destabilize Honduras because one in six Hondurans depend on remittances sent from the U.S., Parisio added, resulting in “more people coming to the U.S. border seeking safety.”

Exacerbating problems in Honduras, then refusing to help those who flee from them, is a pattern in U.S. policy, said Stokan.

“It isn’t just that people are fleeing poverty or they’re fleeing violence, or even that they’re fleeing political chaos,” she said. “How did U.S. policies contribute to those very conditions of why there is violence?”

 “Of course we need borders. Of course we need to prevent criminals from coming in, but we’re talking about families that are fleeing a country that’s on fire.”
—Jean Stokan

Stokan pointed out that the U.S. recognized Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s government after a coup in which he took power in 2009, and again recognized the election results in 2017 despite suspicious circumstances.

Also concerning for Stokan are Trump’s disparaging comments about migrants who come to the U.S. seeking refuge, including a mostly Honduran caravan that recently traveled to the U.S. border to seek asylum.

“This is not about protecting U.S. people from some threat,” Stokan said. “Of course we need borders. Of course we need to prevent criminals from coming in, but we’re talking about families that are fleeing a country that’s on fire.”

This kind of rhetoric and action from Trump and his administration contributes to suspicions that temporary protected status decisions are being made on the basis of anti-immigrant sentiment rather than an analysis of country conditions.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to it that I can tell besides this anti-immigrant posture,” said Couch.

Honduras had received 18-month extensions each time its status came up for review under both Democratic and Republic administrations until the Trump administration disrupted that pattern six months ago. Then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke declined to make a renewal decision, resulting in an automatic 6-month extension.

Some advocates theorized that Duke recognized dangerous county conditions but was pressured by the Trump administration to end the status.

The Trump administration has also terminated the status for Nicaragua, Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti and Nepal, affecting about 310,540 people, while only extending it for 7,070 migrants from South Sudan and Syria. Decisions for 1,250 Somalian and Yemeni migrants are expected this July.

In many of its press releases announcing cancellations, although not in the most recent, the administration has called on Congress to legislate a pathway to legal status for temporary protected status holders, a call that advocates echo even as they doubt its sincerity.

“It’s fine to say that; weigh in and help make that happen,” said Stokan. She suggests advocates take a three-pronged approach to supporting temporary protected status holders: promoting legislative solutions, addressing root causes of migrants, and helping recipients regularize their status through other means if possible.

Advocates also called for a return to more welcoming values.

“To show a total disregard for the welfare of these people after they’ve been in our country for so long is unforgiveable,” Couch said. “We were built on welcoming people, trusting people.” To suddenly think of foreigners as evil or detrimental people who must be expelled is “not who we are as a people and we have to get beyond this current administration and get back to our values.”

[Maria Benevento is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is mbenevento@ncronline.org.]

Source: https://www.ncronline.org/news/justice/end-hondurans-protected-status-endangers-57000-immigrants-advocates-say

 

 

After More Than a Decade, Rights of Indigenous Peoples Not Fully Realized

By Miroslav Lajcák (President of the UN General Assembly)

 

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A UN press conference on indigenous peoples. Credit: UN Photo

 

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 18 2018 (IPS) – First, I want to talk about how we got here.

It was nearly 100 years ago, when indigenous peoples first asserted their rights, on the international stage. But, they did not see much progress. At least until 1982 – when the first Working Group on Indigenous Populations was established.

And, in 2007, the rights of indigenous peoples were, finally, set out in an international instrument.

Let us be clear here. Rights are not aspirational. They are not ideals. They are not best-case scenarios. They are minimum standards. They are non-negotiable. And, they must be respected, and promoted.

Yet, here we are. More than a decade after the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted. And the fact is, these rights are not being realized.

That is not to say that there has been no progress. In fact, we heard many success stories, during yesterday’s opening of the Permanent Forum.

But, they are not enough.

Which is why, as my second point, I want to say that we need to do much more.

Last September, the General Assembly gave my office a new mandate. It requested that I organise informal interactive hearings – to look at how indigenous peoples can better participate at the United Nations.

So, that is why we are all sitting here. But, before we launch into our discussions, I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

I know that many of you were disappointed, with the General Assembly’s decision last year. After two years of talking, many of you wanted more than these interactive hearings.

We cannot gloss over this. And that is why I want to address it – from the outset. But I must also say this: Things may be moving slowly. But they are still moving.

When our predecessors formed the first indigenous working group, in 1982, their chances were slim. Many doubted whether an international instrument could be adopted. And, frankly, it took longer than it should have. But, it still happened.

So, we need to acknowledge the challenges, and frustrations. We cannot sweep them under the rug.

But we also cannot let them take away from the opportunities we have, in front of us.

And that brings me to my third point, on our discussions today.

This is your hearing. So, please be blunt. Please be concrete. Please be innovative.

Like I have said, we should not pretend that everything is perfect. Major problems persist – particularly at the national level. And, we need to draw attention to them. Today, however, we have a very specific mandate. And that is, to explore how we can carve out more space, for indigenous peoples, on the international stage.

That is why I ask you to focus on the future of our work, here, at the United Nations. And to try to come up with as many ideas and proposals as possible.

In particular, we should look at the following questions:

Which venues and forums are most suitable?

What modalities should govern participation?

What kind of participants should be selected?

And how will this selection happen?

We should also try to form a broader vision. This will allow us to better advise the General Assembly’s ongoing process to enhance indigenous peoples’ participation.

Finally, next steps.

As you know, this is our very first informal, interactive hearing. There will be two further hearings – next year, and the year after.

Then – during what we call the 75th Session of the General Assembly – negotiations between governments will start up again.

Turning back to today, the immediate outcome of our hearing will be a President’s Summary. But, I am confident that the longer-term outcome will be yet another step, in the direction of change.

So, this is where I will conclude. My main job, now, is to listen.

 

Nicaragua abandons social security changes after dozens killed in riots

with Nicaragua
A security guard outside a supermarket after protests against the Nicaraguan government’s social security reforms, which have now been dropped. Photograph: Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian
Source: Associated Press
22 April 2018

 

President Daniel Ortega says changes implemented on 16 April have been cancelled.

Nicaragua’s president has withdrawn changes to the social security system that triggered deadly protests and looting.

President Daniel Ortega said in a message to the nation that the social security board of directors had cancelled the changes implemented on 16 April. The overhaul was intended to shore up Nicaragua’s troubled social security system by both reducing benefits and increasing taxes.

The changes touched off protests across the Central American nation that escalated into clashes with police as well as looting. The demonstrations appeared to expand to include broader anti-government grievances.

Human rights groups said at least 26 people were killed in several days of clashes. Dozens of shops in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua were looted during unrest that extended into Sunday.

Unlike his appearance on Saturday with the police chief, Ortega announced the cancellation of the overhaul accompanied by business executives who account for about 130,000 jobs and millions of dollars in exports.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis said at the Vatican that he was “very worried” about the situation in Nicaragua and echoed the call of local bishops for an end to all violence.

Images broadcast by local news media showed looted shops in the capital’s sprawling Oriental Market district and at least one Walmart.

Police apparently did not intervene on Sunday, in contrast to what had been a strong response to earlier demonstrations in which dozens were injured or arrested.

“We are seeing social chaos in Nicaragua provoked by the absence of government leadership, and the crisis has been combined with poverty, and that in any society is a time bomb,” sociologist and analyst Cirilo Otero said.

Ortega had said on Saturday he was willing to negotiate on the social security overhaul, but said the talks would be only with business leaders.

He seemed to try to justify the tough response against protesters by the government and allied groups, accusing demonstrators, most of them university students, of being manipulated by unspecified “minority” political interests and of being infiltrated by gangsters.

Nicaragua has been one of the more stable countries in Central America, largely avoiding the turmoil caused by gang violence or political upheaval that has at times plagued Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in recent years.

But top Nicaraguan business lobby COSEP has backed peaceful protests against the government, and said it would not enter talks with Ortega to review the social security plan until he had ended police repression and restored freedom of expression.

A former Marxist guerrilla and Cold War antagonist of the United States, Ortega has presided over a period of stable growth with a blend of socialist policies and capitalism.

But critics accuse Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, of trying to establish a family dictatorship. The country remains one of the poorest in the Americas.

Priest campaigning for Brazil’s Amazon arrested for sex crimes and extortion

Karla Mendes

March 29, 2018 | RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A Brazilian priest who risked his life campaigning for the landless has been arrested for sexual harassment and extortion but his lawyer said the charges are a ruse to stop his work.

Jose Amaro Lopes de Sousa, known as Padre Amaro, is regarded as the successor to American nun and environmental activist Dorothy Stang, who was murdered in 2005, an emblematic case for the many conflicts over land use in resource-rich Brazil.

A police statement said that Amaro was arrested on Tuesday in the city of Anapu in northern Para state, home to a vast Amazon rainforest reserve, following a court order and eight months of investigations.

“For us, there is no doubt that behind this investigation there is a ranchers’ conspiracy aiming to make Padre Amaro’s work unfeasible,” the priest’s lawyer, Jose Batista Afonso, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Wednesday.

“Padre Amaro personifies nun Dorothy’s work … He has been receiving death threats for a long time.”

Stang often criticized cattle ranchers for seizing land illegally and destroying the rainforest, highlighting tensions between farmers and environmentalists in the top global beef exporter. Local landowners were jailed for ordering her death.

The ranchers’ union in Anapu said they had nothing to do with Amaro’s arrest, adding that about 400 police reports, including videos and witness testimonies, support the charges.

“(Amaro) held meetings in the dead of night, encouraging people to invade land and then had an illegal trade in these invaded lands,” Silverio Albano Fernandes, head of Anapu’s ranchers union, said by phone.

“He was making profit from these sales as he kept a percentage. Everybody knows it here.”

London-based campaign group Global Witness said that Brazil was the world’s most dangerous nation for land rights activists in 2016, with about 50 people killed.

About a dozen land activists have been murdered since 2005 in Anapu, where Amaro is based, according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), set up by the Catholic Church to combat violence against the rural poor.

Amaro’s opponents could not kill him because of the international outcry following Stang’s shooting, and because some are still in jail, said Afonso, who works for CPT.

“Of course, the way chosen to try to nullify the priest’s work would be different,” he said.

Afonso said he will file for habeas corpus, which requires Amaro be brought to court and released unless lawful grounds can be shown for his detention.

“We hope the arrest will be revoked,” he said.


Reporting by Karla Mendes; Editing by Katy Migiro; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-landrights-arrests/priest-campaigning-for-brazils-amazon-arrested-for-sex-crimes-and-extortion-idUSKBN1H52H6

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