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Rights defenders targeted worldwide, says report

Written by: Staff

Geneva, Mar 22: More than 1,100 human rights defenders in 90 countries like Colombia, China and Russia were targeted for their activism last year and many were murdered, tortured or jailed, a report released today showed.

Repression of activists was particularly high in Asia, led by China, Iran and Nepal, according to the joint report by the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

Belarus and Russia were among those who made it harder to register non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and Mexico and the Democratic Republic of Congo used smear campaigns to discredit rights groups, according to the ''Steadfast in Protest'' report, released in Geneva.

''This year again, the list is long of the women and men who risked everything in order to promote and defend human rights,'' the report said.

It cited a wide variety of repression tactics including assassinations, torture, ill-treatment, death threats, arbitrary arrests and detentions, judicial proceedings and adoption of restrictive legislation.

In all, 1,172 cases of repression were reported. This included some 117 murders or attempted assassinations, 92 cases of ill-treatment or torture, 56 physical attacks and 315 arbitrary detentions.

In Asia, the welfare of defenders deteriorated in Iran, the Philippines and Cambodia, the report found.

''The degree of repression remained such that there was no independent human rights NGO in Burma (Myanmar), Laos, North Korea or Vietnam,'' it said.

''In China, defenders were confronted with a systematic repression of their activities,'' it added.

Colombia, where 47 human rights defenders were killed and 15 others kidnapped or tortured last year, remained among the most dangerous in the world for activists who denounce their government's policy on security and human rights, it said.

The report blamed paramilitaries for most of the executions in Colombia, which also had the most trade union activists assassinated -- 29 during just the first six months, it said.

Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, paid tribute to all defenders in a foreward to the 289-page tome: ''They are the guardians of our fundamental freedoms. Without defenders, human rights would not exist. They are the conscience of the international community forbidding us to avert our eyes.''


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