By Sauro Scarpelli, Campaign Manager of the Individuals at Risk team, Amnesty International
Norma Cruz is a human rights defender who received 47 death threats via text messages sent to her mobile phone. As the leader of women’s rights organization Survivors’ Foundation (Fundación Sobrevivientes) in Guatemala she receives repeated threats for simply doing her work to support victims of violence against women and for pursuing prosecutions against those responsible for committing the crimes.
At Amnesty International we are celebrating our 50th birthday and since our inception, we have been fighting for freedom of expression. It was our first campaign and unfortunately 50 years later, despite a very different world, those defending human rights continue to be silenced, imprisoned and threatened with violence in new and different forms.
In our 50th year we are continuing our struggle for freedom of expression by campaigning with Norma Cruz.
So far, thousands of people wrote letters to the Attorney General in Guatemala asking for the start of a full and impartial investigation on the threats Norma received since 2008.
The government of Guatemala listened to these calls from activists around the world and in September 2011 one of the people who made death threats against Norma Cruz was convicted.
Shortly after this positive development, Norma wrote to us to say that thanks to our letters there was much greater media attention on her case which forced the government of Guatemala to give her more protection.
The global pressure is clearly working locally.
But there is more to do. There still hasn’t been any advance or investigation into the threats Norma received in 2010.
To achieve this, we need to step up the pressure on the Guatemalan authorities to effectively investigate and prosecute those responsible for threatening her. A positive result in these cases would create a precedent for future investigations into threats against human rights defenders, and would be a step in the right direction towards guaranteeing Norma Cruz’s safety so that she can continue her vital work in support of victims of violence against women.
That’s why Amnesty International is kicking off the year with an exciting new fax action for freedom of expression on 23 January.
Use your voice to fight for freedom of expression!