Monday, July 10, 2017

Human Rights Colloquium

Well, most of my early days here so far have been spent partly in recovering from the travel and getting some basic things squared away.  However, on Thursday evening last, I attended a colloquium on human rights and the right to protest at the nearby Hotel Meliá. 

The colloquium was hosted by the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (Association For Human Rights, APRODEH), which has been one of the leading defenders of human rights in Peru for many years, including right through the internal war years of the 1980s and 1990s. The colloquium featured a panel of speakers from human and civil rights organizations from Peru, Mexico, and Colombia.

The similarity of the challenges faced by critics of governments across the continent in trying to exercise their right to social protest was striking; as was the similarity with the challenges faced by critics in the USA.

Across the continent, members of civil society wishing to exercise their right to public protest -a right enshrined in international law and in the constitution and legislation of every nation- face an ever increasing set of obstacles.  On one end, there has been a trend toward requiring previous notice of the intent to protest, the requirement that time, place, and manner of protest be pre-approved by the government, and holding organizers responsible for the actions of any and every individual who attends.  On the other end, there is the tendency to view critics and protesters as an "internal enemy" of the state, and thus to use heavy-handed responses to protests.  Particularly after 2001 there has also been a trend toward applying anti-terrorism legislation to social protest situations, thus turning many activities that are part and parcel of street protests, and which had not previously been considered illegal in and of themselves or aren't illegal outside the context of a protest, into criminal offenses meriting prison terms.

 Needless to say, it was an interesting event, with much to reflect on.

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