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SPRING 2005

Crisis in Nepal: A Partners Perspective


Interview with Dilli Chaudhary, Backward Society Education (BASE), Nepal By Tanya Chen Following ten years of internal strife in Nepal, King Gyanendra of Nepal declared a state of emergency on February 1st. The country was closed to all outside influences, including phones, internet, and travel. Since then, there has been some loosening of the restrictions, but the situation is still tense. hillsides, and they are facing difficult challenges fending for themselves. Because their husbands have been killed, many of these women are turning to prostitution in order to survive. The Nepalese government does not have any kind of support or positive presence in the hillsides right now. Therefore, there are no services of any kind, including education and health services, so there are a lot of people dying of disease. The schools are being used both by the Maoists and the Nepalese armies as shelters. There are Maoist checkpoints and barriers everywhere, so movement of any kind is very difficult. How has the conflict affected your organization, Backward Society Education (BASE)? BASE is having a very difficult time right now. The Nepalese government has raided our office and killed several of our members because they believe BASE is working with the Maoists. They believe that our members, the indigenous Tharu people, are Maoist. However, the Maoists are against BASE because the Tharu people refuse to side with them. The Maoists have bombed the BASE office 17 times, have raided and stolen a lot of our equipment, and have kidnapped two of our BASE staff members. In light of these challenges, we are working very hard right now. BASE is an independent, nonpartisan organization, and the fact that both the Maoists and the Government cont. on p.2

From the Forefront

Dilli Chaudhary

voices of human rights defenders

Fearing for his safety, Forefront partner Dilli Chaudhary left Nepal to spend time in the United States. During his two month stay, Mr. Chaudhary raised awareness on the crisis and advocated for an increase in humanitarian aid to Nepal by meeting with UN representatives, US senators, US State Department, and various organizations and foundations. In particular, he hopes to shed light on the situation of rural Nepal, emphasizing the vulnerability of civilians who are caught in the crossfire of both government and Maoist forces. Would you please describe the current situation in Nepal? Over 10,000 people a day are crossing the border from Nepal into India, because if these people stay, they are forced to join the Maoist Army. Only senior citizens, women, and small children are left in the

Taking Human Rights Defense in Our Own Hands


By Dulce Fernandes Manuel Barrios (true name withheld) is scared, tired and hungry. For the last couple of days, he and two other men from his village were held in captivity. First by a paramilitary group, and then by the federal police. They were brought from their municipality to San Cristobal de las Casas (Chipas, southern Mexico) and held captive in a "torture house", an unmarked facility used by the federal authorities to hold and interrogate prisoners. As soon as they were transferred to the custody of federal authorities, Manuel insisted they had the right to talk to their families, and to see their lawyer. cont. on p.2
Human Rights Defenders Network, Chiapas, Mexico

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Interview with Dilli Chaudhary


Cont. from page 1 are working against us shows that we are not taking either side. How are you able to continue with your work? BASEs strength lies in its people, and we currently have members and volunteers in every village. We have 27,000 members and volunteers, and 136,000 general members. So with these kinds of numbers, BASE is able to work with the existing grassroots infrastructure that exists in every village. We are able to keep working through the existing indigenous Tharu systems. What role should the international community play in supporting human rights in Nepal? The international community should pressure the Nepalese Government and the Maoists to begin peace talks. Also, more support and aid needs to be given to humanitarian programs in Nepal during this time of crisis, as well as to monitor the human rights situation in Nepal. How has Forefront impacted your work? Forefront is my backbone. When the Maoists threatened to kill me, Forefront helped to make the arrangements to get me out of Nepal. When the Nepalese Government tried to deregister BASE, Forefront worked with the Carter Center, and got former President Jimmy Carter to write a letter to the Nepalese Prime Minister and the King which prevented the deregistration. After the bonded labor release, Forefront held a delegation in Nepal, which helped to convince the government to give five times the amount of land that they were originally willing to give to the freed laborers. After the Forefront delegation, both the bonded labor issue and BASE received a lot more support from international agencies. Also, Forefront has allowed us to make a lot of connections with big agencies such as the American, British, and Danish Embassies, as well as the United Nations International Labor Organization. During crisis situations, Forefront has always provided me with the moral support that I need. Without Forefront, I dont think that I would be successful in my work. Tanya Chen is currently a Communications Intern for Forefront. The full interview is online at: http://www.forefrontleaders.org/ news/latest/interview-with-dilli-chaudhary/

Taking Human Rights Defense in Our Own Hands


Cont. from page 1 It was Manuel's knowledge of the law, that protected them from further abuses by the police. As soon as the three men disappeared, human rights defenders from their village contacted the Human Rights Defenders Network (Red de Defensores Comunitarios de Derechos Humanos), which immediately issued a public statement denouncing their disappearance, and contacted local authorities asking about their whereabouts. The Human Rights Defenders Network is a local non-governmental organization founded by Forefront partner Miguel Angel de los Santos. Miguel Angel, a long time defender of the rights of the indigenous people in Chiapas, founded the Network more than six years ago. This innovative project aims to empower local indigenous people by educating them about their rights and the ways in which they can use the existing legal system to defend themselves. The Network is now composed of more than twenty defenders, each of whom was elected by his/her community to provide human rights and legal defense for their assigned region. When human rights violations occur in their communities, the defenders travel to the sites of the events, interview witnesses, gather information, and transmit the collected information to the Network's office. If someone is arrested - a frequent occurance - the defenders visit their indigenous mates in prison, and provide the initial legal counseling and assistance. The first obstacle to overcome in training the defenders, is fear, for the indigenous defenders must first and foremost gain confidence in themselves, and in their ability to work within a system that has deceived them so often. At the monthly workshops at the Network's office in San Cristobal, the defenders learn about human rights norms, legal procedures, international mechanisms, and relations with the local media. Moreover, They organize training workshops in their villages to provide human rights education to their communities, disseminate information about legal aid, and encourage other indigenous people to become human rights defenders. This process of empowerment results in the strengthening of the autonomy of the indigenous people by providing them, with a sense of their own rights and the knowledge of their ability to defend themselves. Even if this has not stopped systematic human rights violations against the indigenous people in Chiapas, in the case of Manuel Barrios and his village companions, it made all the difference in the world. Dulce Fernandes worked as an intern at Forefronts office in New York in 2003 , and was a volunteer with the Human Rights Defenders Network in Chiapas in Summer 2004.

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Uncovering Evidence: Documenting Human Rights Violations


By Luis Fondebrider The following article are excerpts taken from Uncovering Evidence, The forensic sciences in human rights written by Luis Fondebrider, a Forefront Partner, for a Tactical Notebook published by the New Tactics Project of the Center for Victims of Torture. The New Tactics in Human Rights Tactical Notebook Series contains notebooks in which a human rights practitioner describes an innovative tactic used successfully in advancing human rights. offered support and psychological counseling. As society mobilizes on their behalf, the tragedies of families are included in a collective experience of loss. But where the state itself is responsible for the disappearance, families suffer much greater uncertainty, isolation, anguish and sometimes even public ridicule. Further, families face the very real prospect that those responsible for the disappearance usually state security forces will hide the detained person and may even attempt to eliminate all traces of the body after death.

From the early 1960s to the present, thousands of people around the world have been arrested and tortured. Others As violent periods come to an have been kidnapped and end, authorities are replaced never again seen by their by new officials and victims families. Thousands of bodies families call for investigahave appeared, and continue tions of disappearances and to appear, with signs of gundeaths and for investigations shot wounds, machete of disappearances and wounds, mutilation and other deaths and for trials of reterrible forms of death. In sponsible parties. Truth comhundreds of villages, espemissions either national or cially in remote areas, there international tend to are clandestine mass graves EAAF members working on an archeological exhumation in El Salvador pursue a historical line of containing the bodies of disinquiry, while tribunals are oriented towards the judicial sysappeared persons. Over the years, some graves have been tem. It may also be necessary to establish a reparations proexhumed, but the vast majorities are still undiscovered. In gram. Regardless of the mechanism used, the forensic scicountries like Guatemala, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic ences can play a key role during each step in the search for of Congo and Cambodia, to name only a few notorious cases, the dead and disappeared number in the hundreds of thouthe truth about the dead and disappeared. sands. The scientific documentation of human rights violations is a In most cases, human rights abuse are political in nature, ethnic and religious conflicts deepen the level of complexity. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of these cases is the involvement of governments and of organizations formed or protected by states that carry out policies of kidnapping, torture and executions. While a whole range of armed insurgent groups and movements have also committed these crimes the Sendero Luminos in Peru, for example the responsibility of a government is different, since it is the state which represents legality and is the repository of the legitimate use of force. The effects of violent social processes are catastrophic, not only for victims families, but also for society as a whole. The rupture of the juridical order, the destruction of institutions and the curtailment of freedom of expression are the most well-known aspects of these processes. For the families of disappeared persons, however, the suffering is compounded. From the beginning, the uncertainty about whether a loved one is dead or alive is agonizing. When a disappearance is the result of political violence, isolation is added to this doubt. After an earthquake or a plane crash, for instance, the search for bodies is usually led by the state. In normal times, families turn to state agencies for information and are powerful tool in the fight against impunity and the search for truth and justice. For victims and communities who have lost loved ones and received few real answers from official sources, the possibility of exhuming a grave and finding the remains of a child, or discovering whether a family member was tortured while in prison, can bring some relief to their extended anguish. But science should not be an isolated field of knowledge, known only by experts or prosecutors. Rather, it must serve the victims and provide our global society with the real stories of those who died needlessly. NGOs can use science to pursue their broader mission of promoting and protecting human rights, maximizing the quality of their investigations and bringing solace to victims, relatives and communities. After working in more than 32 countries we have seen that, in spite of amnesties or political calls for reconciliation, what the relatives and communities want is truth, reparation and justice, and to this end, science can play a central role in achieving that. Luis Fondebrider is a Forefront partner and board member. He co-founded EAAF, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team. To view the full tactical notebook, please visit: http:// www.newtactics.org/main.php

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Towards a Global Network of Rights: The Experience of Nepal


By Sushma Joshi Forefront's international network was part of the pressure bloc that eventually halted the Home Minister's order, which would have stripped BASE of its NGO status. Previously, in 1999, security forces burnt shacks that former bonded workers had put up in public land, and later Maoists also attacked BASE's office. Information on both these incidents was first sent, received and publicized via the Internet. Most significantly, Forefront and BASE activists had never met face-toface: their strong relationship developed via email. In 2000, a year after meeting on the Internet, the two parties finally met: Forefront sent an advocacy delegation to Nepal, and BASE's founding director made several trips to the US. Today, detained human rights activists can send out information about their unlawful detention in seconds, activating a giant global machine that will pressure even unwilling governments to release the individuals within a few days. Two human rights activists belonging to COCAP, a network in Nepal, were illegally arrested by the security forces on June 4, 2004. Their detentions raised an outcry over the Internet, and international as well as national petitions forced the government to release the activists within a day. Because of its power - its immediacy, its capability to reach a critical mass on the other side of the world within seconds, and the ease of usage the Internet remains unparalleled as a medium for networking amongst human rights activists. Newer media will arise and be used in activism. For instance, the use of cell-phone text messages was reported as a way activists kept in touch with each other during the protest marches in New York, allowing them to react quickly to police presence and violence. But the Internet will always remain first, primarily for those working on a global level. For an activist detained in a Nepali jail, having a colleague hit "Send" on an email message can mean the difference between life and death. The international community needs to galvanize itself on a local and global level and put its energy and resources on making this new media available to the widest populace, especially those working in civil, political and social rights. Putting the Internet in the hands of a human rights activist, and teaching them how to use it, may become as proverbial as teaching a person to fish for living. Of course technology breaks down, keeps updating and is often imperfect in its application. There is no way a small grassroots organization working with bonded workers in Nepal could keep up with the latest technological updates. But as a media activist who has seen and used the power of the Internet, I believe that people overcome these difficulties with surprising ingenuity.

Sushma Joshi (on left)

Electronic resources, particularly the Internet, have become a lifeline for many human rights activists around the world who otherwise do not have access to global information networks. Human rights activism centers around two kinds of work: the slow, day-to-day work of fighting for reforms on a larger scale, and a quick response to an emergency. In both cases, the Internet proves its effectiveness by linking people, providing information via reliable institutions and networks, and allowing momentum to build Internet for Human Rights in South Asia. The Internet, as a medium of networking and advocacy, had already made important inroads in South Asia as early as in 1996. I saw the first Internet boom as the coordinator of the Global Reproductive Health Forum in South Asia, an exclusively Internet-based project that aimed to create democratic forums of discussion on health and rights over the World Wide Web. Started in 1997 and funded by Harvard University, the South Asia digital networking project was based in Kathmandu with members all over South Asia and in the North. In 2001, I worked with Forefront. By this time, the Internet had become the driving medium behind communications with far-flung corners of the world. The petitions and advocacy appeals I drafted were most likely to be circulated over the Internet. Many of the activists that Forefront worked with did not have reliable or easy access to the Internet, yet in spite of these difficulties, significant data, especially during emergencies, arrived first via the web. For instance, BASE, an organization that works with former bonded workers in Southern Nepal, was accused of harboring Maoist sympathies and almost stripped of its non-profit status by Khum Bahadur Khadga, the then Home Minister of Nepal. On 5 April 2002, two days after The Kathmandu Post reported it, Forefront sent out an Internet petition to the Prime Minister. Forefront's site also allowed activists in the North to send online advocacy letters to key policy-makers. Partnering with the much more well-known Carter Center,

Sushma Joshi is a former intern of Forefront and is currently a consultant with UNDP's Access to Justice program in Nepal and staff writer at the Nation Weekly magazine in Kathmandu.

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Victory for Indigenous Rights in Brazil: The Struggle for Land


By Ryan Burgess For over 30 years, Forefront partner, Joenia Batista de Carvalhos organization, the Conselho Indigena de Roraima (Indigenous Council of Roraima) (CIR) has continued the struggle for their land, the Raposa Serra do Sol (RSS), in Roraima state in Northern Brazil. For several years, CIR has been the leading group in a court case claiming the territory of the indigenous communities in RSS. On April 15th, they were finally victorious. President President Luiz Inncio Lula da Silva announced the demarcation of the RSS. His ratification ends a struggle to officially recognize the 4,317,984 acres of traditional and ancestral land of the 15,000 Macuxi, Ingarik, Wapichana, and Taruepang people who call RSS their home. Ratification of this territory holds great significance for the many Indigenous peoples in Brazil. It guarantees that the Indigenous peoples may maintain their lands, where they may develop physically, culturally, and spiritually; the tensions between the Indigenous peoples and the farmers and landowners should decrease; and it reasserts the Indigenous rights incorporated in Brazils Constitution and the international covenants. The process of demarcation began in 1998 when the then Brazilian Minister of Justice signed the RSS into law with Decree 820. All that remained to complete the recognition was the Presidents signature. During this time, local landowners and state politicians mounted legal challenges against Decree 820, which prevented President Lulas ratification. Last December 2004, the Brazilian Minister of Justice ordered that the Indigenous territory be reduced, a move that would favor commercial interests and farmers, but also went against Article 231 of the Brazilian Constitution, which guarantees these Indigenous lands. Forefront worked with the Rainforest Foundation US to submit a letJoenia Batista de Carvalho shows photos of attacks on indigenous communities in Raposa Serra do Sol to delegates of the fifth World Social Forum.

ter to the Brazilian Embassy to the US and joined a group of other NGOs and Indigenous groups to support the court case pending at the Federal Supreme Court in Brasilia. While the Court suspended all appeals against the demarcation of the Indigenous territory in RSS, President Lula stated that once the court makes its decision, he would then take appropriate action. The Supreme Court in Brazil made this possible with their unanimous decision on April 14, 2005 to dismiss all actions questioning the demarcation of the Indigenous territory. This decision came the day after the Minister of Justice, Mrcio Thomaz Bastos, signed Decree 534/05, ratifying the RSS territory and requiring President Lulas signature. Although Decree 534 excludes the Uiramuta community from demarcation, the ratification of this land was praised by the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) and National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) (two organizations that have been instrumental in leading this cause), as well as by the international community. For the past thirty years, this conflict has been compromised by numerous processes and judicial actions, violent attacks against the communities, and political crises. President Lulas signature on this Decree finally fulfills one of his campaign promisesto ratify the Indigenous territory of Raposa Serra do Sol, and is a great victory for the Indigenous peoples in Roraima. Ryan Burgess is a Program Consultant.

Joenia Batista de Carvalho at the World Social Forum.

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Promoting Bilingual Education: The Case of the Maya-Achi in Guatemala


By Rebecca Arteaga In December Guillermo Chen, the executive director of the Fundacin Nueva Esperanza (New Hope Foundation) in Rabinal, Guatemala, visited the US and Canada to talk about the organizations new successful training program. Under the leadership of Jesus Tecu Osorio and the board of the New Hope Foundation, the organization developed a bi-lingual teaching system for the schools they established in Rabinal. Based on the SAT method developed in Columbia, the system emphasizes a culturally based approach to education including topics on indigenous traditions, agriculture and topics close to the lives of the community. The New Hope Foundation developed the model further to include human rights education. It is the first and only system in Guatemala that includes a bilingual Spanish and Maya Achi language curriculum and that incorporates human rights education. The curriculum aims to preserve Maya Achi indigenous culture and traditions and stresses the importance of reconciliation with the violent past of the country. Jesus sees the education in
Students at the Bilingual School

Maya-Achi native language as a tool to preserve values and culture of the community that was almost wiped out during the Guatemalan civil war in the 1980s. Spanish is an indispensable tool to connect and participate in Guatemalas political and social life. The New Hope Foundation just finished an extensive strategic planning process and hopes to offer the curriculum at their locally based high school and later on at a college level, as well. Hearing about the success of the New Hope Foundation, the Guatemalan Ministry of Education became interested in the curriculum. Jesus and his organization are invited for talks with the Ministry and are also planning to connect with other schools to further expand the curriculum and adapt it to other Indigenous communities in Guatemala. Rebeca Arteaga is Program Associate for Latin America.

Forefront Leads Technical Assistance Delegation to India


By Maryum Saifee In December of 2004, Forefront led a ten-day technical assistance delegation to India and visited the Rescue Foundation. The delegation took place in both Mumbai and New Delhi. The Rescue Foundation works to rescue, rehabilitate, and repatriate minors who have been trafficked from bordering South Asian nations, particularly Nepal, into the brothels of Mumbai, Pune, and Surat. Forefront focused the technical assistance in three key areas: building financial sustainability, strengthening alliances with other NGOs in the region, and providing organizational development. Forefront staff prepared a customized training manual to serve as a guide during the delegation and a reference upon completion of the delegation. Maryum Saifee is Program Associate for the ME and Asia.
Maryum Saifee (center) with rescued survivors

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From the Executive Director


By Sergio Yahni Dear Friends and Supporters, Forefronts Protection program is a lifeline of support for Forefront partners. This year alone, Forefront has worked with partners in Nepal, Brazil, and Guatemala. Forefront has provided different kinds of assistance. In the past, our financial support has helped partners rebuild their offices, and even rebuild their lives in a new country. Our advocacy work has enabled our partners to network with other Forefront partners and non governmental and international organizations so they can make their cases known in the international community. As we read in Dilli Chaudharys interview, his organization would not have survived without the assistance, time and again, of Forefront. Not only has he needed monetary support to rebuild his offices, but also advocacy support to raise awareness about the situation in Nepal and the issues that his community is facing. Dilli has been busy in the United States these past few months and we have been very excited about the prospects he has established and the recognition that he has gotten. We believe his groundwork here will be felt for a long time. Joenia Batista de Carvalho is another example of a partner who has received Forefront advocacy support. Forefront has collaborated with other US-based organizations to help Joenia with her land rights case. We have also supported her work internationally by bringing her to the World Social Forum in Brazil in January this year. I had the opportunity to meet with Joenia there. She has a powerful presence and seemed to have the attention of everyone attending the event. Joenia will be coming to the United States in May to do some advocacy and networking with groups focusing on Indigenous rights. Forefront will be an observer at the trials of an ex-patroller who is accused of murdering the family members of the students in the New Hope Foundation school in Rabinal, Guatemela (profiled on previous page). Forefront has not only provided much needed technical assistance to Jesus Tecu Osorios school, but also been an advocate for Jesus long standing struggle to bring to justice the massacres in Rabinal. In the words of Dilli, Forefront is my backboneWithout [them], I dont think that I would be successful in my work. We hope that you agree with our partners that Forefront is providing a valuable service to the human rights community. We truly appreciate having the opportunity to work with such passionate frontline human rights defenders. Sincerely,

Forefront Executive Director, Sergio Yahni, with partners, Mimi Doretti, Dilli Chaudhary, and Martin Dunn.

Join Forefronts Circle of Supporters


Forefront is committed to providing support and protection to activists defending human rights in their communities. However, Forefront cannot do this work alone. We rely on our circle of supporters to ensure that our work continues. If you choose to make an investment in our work, we pledge to put your gift to good use, boosting the effectiveness of human rights defenders on-the-ground work. $500 enables a human rights defender to participate in our biannual Learning Community a week-long skills-sharing event for Forefront partners. $1,000 supports our Regional Programs by providing leadership development and training through one-on-one coaching to two partners working in Latin America, Africa, Asia or the Middle East. $2,500 supports our Lifeline Fund allowing a human rights activist forced to flee a dangerous situation to re-establish his or her work in exile. $5,000 supports the costs of a Delegation to assist a partner on-the-ground with organizational training or protection.

Please use the enclosed envelope and donation card to send your contribution to Forefront. Alternatively, you may donate online at www.forefrontleaders.org or contact our Development Director, Michele Wray Khateri, by phone (212) 845-5269 or by email wraykhaterim@forefrontleaders.org. We welcome checks, credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover), and donations of stock and securities.

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World Social Forum in Brazil

Inside this issue:


Interview with Dilli Chaudhary....p.1 Human Rights Defenders in Chiapasp.1 Forensic Anthropology...p.3 Human Rights and the Internetp.4 Indigenous Land Rights in Brazil.p.5 Mayan Bilingual Education.....p.6 Delegation to India...p.6 From the Executive Director...p.7

Indigenous peoples from the Americas participate at the opening demonstration of the 5th World Social Forum in January 2005. Forefront Partner Joenia Batista de Carvalho and Forefront Executive Director Sergio Yahni participated at the forum expressing their concerns about human rights in the era of globalization.

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