rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Impunity for human rights violations must be challenged from Guatemala to the Wet’suwet’en territories

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Photo from Unist'ot'en Camp video posted on Facebook.

The term "impunity” is often used in reports about human rights violations in Latin America, but it should also be more commonly part of our political vocabulary in North America.

The word itself has Latin origins (im poena -- not punished) and has been defined as “Exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action.”

Impunity can refer to organized crime, government officials, the police and military, and corporations committing crimes and offences without being held accountable or brought to justice for them.

Their human rights violations can include criminalization and intimidation, threats, torture, disappearances, forcible displacement, political imprisonment and killings.

For example, Reuters has reported, “Activists and United Nations investigators have accused Mexican security forces of crimes. including murder, torture and disappearances. since the military was sent to tackle its powerful drug cartels in 2007.”

Peace Brigades International-UK has highlighted, “PBI has provided protection to at-risk human rights defenders in [Mexico] since 2000, an experience that has shown us that in the federal states where a security strategy based on militarisation has been implemented, attacks against activists have increased significantly.”

In November 2017, The Guardian reported, “The vast majority of human rights abuses allegedly committed by soldiers waging Mexico’s war on drug gangs go unsolved and unpunished despite reforms letting civilian authorities investigate and prosecute such crimes, [says a study by the Washington Office on Latin America].”

And on January 29, Amnesty International stated, “The Guatemalan Congress will shortly discuss a draft law (Law 5377) which seeks to grant amnesty for serious human rights violations perpetrated during the internal armed conflict” between the military dictatorship and leftist rebel groups supported by the Maya indigenous people.

If passed, they say it would lead to the immediate release of dozens of people convicted of genocide, torture and enforced disappearance, among other crimes.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, says, “The Guatemalan Congress must refrain from continuing discussion of a law that seeks to guarantee impunity for the perpetrators of these atrocities and that violates Guatemala’s international obligations to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes.”

A major technical report on impunity published in 2017 concluded that, “Impunity worsens when there is no respect of the basic rules for social coexistence and where there are large impunity and corruption pacts in the political and economic elites.”

That report ranked countries on their levels of impunity.

It found that, for example, Croatia had a very low level of impunity (measured at 36.01 points), that Guatemala had an intermediate level of impunity (at 62.40 points), and that Mexico had a very high level of impunity (at 69.21 points).

Canada was ranked as "intermediate,” with a measurement of 55.27 points.

In January, APTN reported that the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability had found that Indigenous women accounted for 36 per cent of the estimated 148 women killed in 2018 even though they make up just 4.9 per cent of the population.

Myrna Dawson, the director of the Guelph, Ontario-based centre, commented that, "There is growing recognition of impunity for perpetrators particularly for some victims and in Canada those are indigenous women and girls.”

Furthermore, there are concerns about the level of impunity particularly with respect to police violence against Indigenous peoples and people of colour.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Ontario is "a civilian law enforcement agency which investigates incidents involving police officers where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.” Its reports do not include race-based statistics.

In 2014-15, the SIU opened 266 cases. But Toronto-based writer Andray Domise has highlighted in Maclean’s magazine that, "In the 2014-15 reporting year, 94.9 per cent of officers investigated by the SIU were cleared."

In 2015, Rodney Diverlus, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, told The Toronto Star, “For us to not have [race-based] data is a crucial piece of the puzzle that’s missing to actually hold police accountable and to actually have meaningful discussions about how police can better serve and protect our racialized communities.”

And notably there are concerns about the criminalization of Indigenous peoples and environmentalists by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

A January 2014 RCMP intelligence assessment report concludes, “There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society's reliance on fossil fuels.”

The Globe and Mail has noted, “The report extolls the value of the oil and gas sector to the Canadian economy, and adds that many environmentalists ‘claim’ that climate change is the most serious global environmental threat…”

This gives some context for the RCMP actions against the Wet’suwet’en peoples and their support for Coastal GasLink (CGL) in the initial construction activities of the fracked gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Wet’suwet’en have not given their free, prior and informed consent for the project that crosses their territory as required under the international legal norms outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In Canada Hates Indigenous People, the Unist’ot’en Camp website highlights, “We see daily how RCMP permits CGL to break Canadian laws, while we are threatened with arrest for exercising our rights and title.”

This Unist’ot’en Camp video provides just one example of what they are experiencing.

This ongoing impunity must be challenged.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.