Risking your life on a daily basis comes with the territory of protecting fundamental rights. Human rights defenders always manage to come up with ways of seeing themselves through difficult situations - a lesson to us all.
Unfortunately speaking out may result in facing criminal charges. for instance, the crime of sedition – the incitement of resistance against lawful authority – is increasingly being used to criminalise protesters. Arrests under this charge lead to immediate detention and there is no presumption of innocence. In most of these cases it takes years to prove the innocence of the person, by which time it is often too late and the activist had been silenced. in other cases however, prison is not enough to silence human rights defenders like David Ravelo or Antonio Cerezo who made the most of their new situation in a great example of resilience.
"When you are imprisoned, you become disconnected. Of course you experience feelings of impotence, sadness, melancholy and you have to make a decision do I continue with the negative feelings or do I decide that even in prison I will continue with my human rights work that I was doing outside when I was free. And I went for the latter to continue my human rights work" David Ravelo
David Ravelo (Colombia) and Antonio Cerezo (Mexico) are human rights defenders that were criminalised and imprisoned because of their human rights activities. Their resilience helped them to used their time in prison to support those imprisoned and campaigning about prison conditions. David Ravelo was exonerated of all charges and freed from prison after 10 years and Antonio Cerezo was freed from prison after completing his sentence. Today they continue fighting for human rights. After release from prison he was asked to stand again for the council. As a result of a death threat he went into hiding. In spite of this 2000 people voted for him.
"We have been marked by tragic times. The history of Barrancabermeja and the history of those of us who have resisted here … and we have survived, it’s been a tragic history. I’ve had it very hard. But we are still strong. As the song says, we are still singing, we are still resisting." David Ravelo
In February 2020 Dr Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions visited Mathare informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, as part of an unofficial visit organised by Peace Brigades International. There, She visited the community and meet human rights defenders in Mathare Social Justice Centre.
"It is remarkable that people do not feel powerless, at least not all of them. It is remarkable that this environment does not crush people. And I’m sure there are some people who are crushed by this environment, but those that I’ve met are not, those that I’ve met have found in their environment the seeds for a bigger story. It’s a story about humanity, it’s a story about our common humanity, and it’s a story for social justice." Dr Agnes Callamard
Mayela Hernandez is the legal support coordinator of the migrant shelter, Casa del Migrante de Saltillo, Mexico. Since 2002, the Casa del Migrante de Saltillo has been fighting for the human rights of migrants transiting through Mexico. The humanitarian support that the Casa del Migrante de Saltillo provides to migrants includes medical and psychological care for those who need it, as well as legal assistance with the migratory process and deportation cases.
"In spite of all the bad things that happen to them, they always find this way to smile and never give up" Mayela Hernandez
"Even though they have the leave the families behind at first, they find a thousand ways to try and bring them." Mayela Hernandez
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