Amnesty Slams Heavy Crackdowns on Protest in Americas

Global rights group condemns growing “criminalization of dissent” in region as security forces violate demonstrators’ rights

Published by Anadolu Agency Feb 25

Amnesty International, the human rights watchdog, on Wednesday decried endemic rates of impunity and heavier crackdowns on public protest in the Americas last year.

“In country after country, people took to the streets to protest against repressive state practices,” the London-based NGO said in its annual report.

“The demonstrations were a very public challenge to high levels of impunity and corruption and to economic policies that privilege the few.”

The rights group singled out Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and the United States as at the forefront of human rights abuses that took place “against the backdrop of an erosion of democratic space and continuing criminalization of dissent.”

Growing violence showed an “increasingly militarized response to social and political challenges” as security forces flouted international standards for the use of force to protect public order.

Venezuela was the “setting for widespread human rights violations,” with at least 43 people killed and 870 injured during mass protests, and thousands arrested. Arbitrary detentions and torture abounded, according to AI.

Wednesday’s report was released just hours after the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old schoolboy by Venezuelan police during a protest that left the country reeling.

Kluiberth Roa was shot in the head Tuesday during violent clashes between security forces and protesting students.

Police claim protesters attempted to steal officers’ motorcycles and that shots were fired to scare them off.

Some witnesses, however, allege the police officer who fired the fatal shot did so at near-point-blank range.

President Nicolás Maduro condemned the 14-year-old’s killing, telling a political rally that “armed repression is prohibited” in Venezuela, despite the recent passing of a resolution that allowed security forces to use lethal force to control protests, NTN24 reported.

Maduro reiterated his belief that Venezuela was being targeted, economically and politically, by a U.S.-backed opposition who are actively planning to overthrow his government.

Mexico was shaken by the high-profile case of 43 missing and believed murdered students in Iguala, amid more than 22,000 people who remained abducted, forcibly disappeared or missing.

A teacher’s protest Tuesday in Acapulco claimed the life of one demonstrator who was demanding wages for support staff who hadn’t been paid in weeks.

Demonstrations as Brazil prepared to host the World Cup were often violent and abusive, with military police indiscriminately firing tear gas and rubber bullets at those who posed no threat, said AI.

In the U.S., a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer responsible for fatally shooting unarmed black teen Michael Brown set off protests where the police response served to intimidate demonstrators exercising their right to peaceful assembly.

During the first nine months of 2014 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 40 killings of human rights defenders in the region.

While states have ratified most international human rights treaties, the catalog of violations underscore that “respect for human rights remains elusive for many throughout the region,” AI concluded

Ben Tavener contributed to this report from São Paolo 

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