Canadian solidarity action instrumental for human rights defender

in Human-right

Norma Cruz is a human rights defender in Guatemala who risks her life to help women victims of violence. And recently thousands of Canadians took part in a new kind of global online solidarity action to help protect Norma's safety. The solidarity action was called a “fax-jam,” and it turned out to be a huge success.

Norma runs a women's rights organization called Fundación Sobrevivientes (Survivors' Foundation) in Guatemala that provides support and legal services to survivors of violence. She also works with the relatives of murdered women to campaign for justice.

Because of her courageous work, Norma has become a target and lives in constant danger.

Since 2009, Norma has received numerous threats to her life and to the lives of her family and her colleagues. Last year, one man was convicted for making phone threats against Norma in 2009. But others who threatened her since then have escaped justice. This situation leaves Norma at great risk of harm and undermines the vital work she leads.

To ensure that the Guatemalan authorities guarantee the safety of Norma Cruz, human rights organization Amnesty International created an online action for anyone anywhere in the world to participate in. People in more than 60 countries, including in Canada, went online to call on Guatemala's Attorney General to conduct a full investigation into all the intimidating threats against Norma Cruz.

The activists' messages were saved and stored and then, on the launch day, the messages were automatically released one by one and sent to the fax machine of Guatemala's Attorney General. Thousands upon thousands of messages were transmitted demanding protection for Norma Cruz.

Just a few days after the start of the “fax-jam” action, Norma Cruz spoke with Amnesty International. The news was good. Norma said the day after people's messages started jamming faxes, Guatemala's Presidential Commission on Human Rights phoned her to check on her security situation. They said that they were checking because they had heard about the Amnesty International campaign—the campaign that thousands of Canadians took part in.

Norma also feels the campaign will play a role in guaranteeing that the Guatemalan authorities continue to provide security to her, her family and other staff at the Fundación Sobrevivientes.

Norma had a message of thanks: “In difficult times for the Fundación Sobrevivientes, this campaign encourages us, strengthens us and reminds us that we are not alone. To support our struggle is to support the struggle of many women in Guatemala and across the world.”

For more information on ways to take action for human rights, contact members@amnesty.ca, phone 1-800-266-3789, or write to Member Services, 312 Laurier Ave East, Suite 200, Ottawa, ON, K1N 1H9.

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Canadian solidarity action instrumental for human rights defender

This article was published on 2012/05/15
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