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Children’s Rights

Women’s Human Rights


Human Rights Defenders

The international community took important actions in 2000 aimed at protecting those who are risking their lives to fight for human rights. During its annual session, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights voted to establish the post of a special representative of the secretary-general on the situation of human rights defenders. After a worldwide search, in August, the secretary-general appointed Hina Jilani, a Pakistani human rights lawyer (and a human rights monitor honored by Human Rights Watch in 1991 at our annual monitors' celebration) for the post. The special representative will be able to press for the implementation of the 1998 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and intervene in cases of threats to and harassment of human rights defenders worldwide.

Five humanitarian workers were murdered in 2000 while aiding refugees. In West Timor, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staff Samson Aregahegn, Carlos Caceres, and Pero Simun were killed on September 6. In Guinea, UNHCR head of office Mensah Kpognon was killed on September 17. In Burundi, Brother Antoine Bargiggia of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) was killed on October 3. Their tragic deaths prompted a global protest and highlighted the dangers for humanitarian workers world wide. The murders also posed a serious threat to the protection of refugees as UNHCR responded by withdrawing all staff from West Timor and the border areas of Guinea, leaving refugees there almost completely unprotected. The Jesuit Refugee Service continued to serve refugees in Burundi.

Indonesia experienced the loss of human rights defenders Sukardi and Jafar Siddiq Hamzah in the year 2000. Sukardi, a volunteer for the local environmental and human rights group based in Aceh, the Bamboo Thicket Institute (Yayasan Rumpun Bambu Indonesia), "disappeared" on January 31. Sukardi's body was found naked and bullet-riddled on February 1. Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, the founder and director of the New York-based rights group, the International Forum for Aceh, vanished on August 5, while on a visit to Medan, Indonesia. Jafar, one of Aceh's most accomplished human rights advocates, was found dead with his body showing signs of torture in an unmarked grave on September 3.

Some fifty miles outside Nairobi, Fr. John Kaiser, a well-known human rights activist in Kenya, was murdered during the night of August 24, 2000. Father Kaiser, a Catholic parish priest in the Rift Valley area and a U.S. citizen, worked in Kenya for thirty-six years and was an outspoken human rights activist. In 1999, the Law Society of Kenya had honored Father Kaiser with its annual human rights award.

In Colombia, four human rights defenders were killed and three "disappeared" in the year 2000. On July 11, Elizabeth Cañas, a member of the Association of Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared (Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos-Colombia ASFADDES), was shot and killed in Barrancabermeja. Angel Quintero and Claudia Patricia Monsalve, also ASFADDES members, were "disappeared" in Medellín, Antioquia, on October 6. Indigenous activist Jairo Bedoya Hoyos, a member of the Antioquia Indigenous Organization (Organización Indígena de Antioquia, OIA) who worked on human rights issues, was "disappeared" on March 2. Demetrio Playonero, a displaced person and human rights leader was murdered apparently by paramilitaries on March 3. In May, Jesús Ramiro Zapata, the only remaining member of the Segovia Human Rights Committee, was killed near Segovia. Government prosecutor Margarita María Pulgarín Trujillo, part of a team investigating cases linking paramilitaries to the army and regional drug traffickers, was murdered in Medellín on April 3.

In Haiti, Jean Dominique, the director of Radio Haiti-Inter and one of Haiti's most prominent radio journalists, was shot to death the morning of April 3. Forced into exile in 1980 for his opposition to the Jean-Claude Duvalier regime, Dominique was a strong proponent of the free press and Haiti's struggle for democracy.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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