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    Amnesty International points fingers at human rights development in the Americas

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    Henriette Jacobsen, TheCostaRicaNews.com

    Harassment of indigenous people, violence against women, and killings of journalists in the Americas. Those are some of the concerns Amnesty International has raised in a newly released report on human rights on the continent.

    According to the study, three groups in particular are experiencing increasing human rights abuses in the Americas: indigenous people, women and journalists. Statistics from Costa Rica were not included in the report.

    Indigenous people seen as an impediment to economic growth

    The past year, indigenous peoples in the Americas have become gradually more vocal in defense of their rights. Expansion of agricultural and extractive industries and infrastructure development projects such as roads into traditional indigenous lands represented a significant and growing threat to indigenous peoples. In many countries indigenous peoples are still seen as standing in the way of commercial interests and therefore threatened, harassed, forcibly evicted, and killed. Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendent communities were disproportionately represented among those living in poverty.

    Though states in the Americas voted in favor of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, by the end of 2010 none had enacted legislation.

    Sexually abused women’s rights neglected

    Violence against women and girls, including sexual violence, remained widespread and most survivors were denied access to justice and redress. States in the region have introduced legislation to combat gender-based violence. However in practice laws were seldom applied and investigations and prosecutions were rare, the human rights organization concludes. Women in certain parts of Guatemala and Mexico were at particular risk of being raped or killed. In countries such as Guatemala and Nicaragua, failing justice systems helped perpetuate impunity for gender-based violence and so contributed to a climate where such violence proliferated.

    “The lack of resources available to investigate and prosecute these crimes raised questions about official willingness to address violence against women,” states Amnesty International.

    Many of those subjected to gender-based violence were girls under the age of 18. In October, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child requested that Nicaragua takes urgent action to eradicate sexual violence against children. There has been increasing evidence of widespread sexual abuse of girls and teenagers in the country.

    Laws banning abortion in all circumstances also continued to deny women and girls in El Salvador, Chile and Nicaragua their right to sexual and reproductive health.

    Limited freedom of speech for media workers

    During 2010, almost 400 media workers were threatened or attacked, and at least 13 journalists were killed by unidentified assailants. Mexico accounted for more than half of these deaths, followed by Honduras, Colombia and Brazil. Only Asia recorded more killings of journalists than the Americas last year.

    Amnesty International speculates that in many cases the journalists were killed because they were trying to uncover corruption or to expose the links between officials and criminal networks.

    A significant number of TV and radio stations were also forced to close temporarily in 2010. In the Dominican Republic for example at least seven TV and radio stations had their transmission signal blocked or were forced to close temporarily in the run-up to the country’s May elections. In Cuba, journalists continued to be arbitrarily detained and all media remained under state control.

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