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April 16, 2009
10:02 AM

Summit Is Prime Opportunity for President Obama to Promote Human Rights in the Americas

NEW YORK - April 16 - President Barack Obama's first meeting with all heads of state from the Americas is an opportunity to place respect for human rights at the top of the regional agenda, according to Human Rights First, a New York-based international human rights organization.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will both attend the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago from April 17 to 19.

"This Summit allows President Obama to demonstrate, from the start of his administration, that human rights are a priority," said Andrew Hudson, Senior Associate at Human Rights First. "Despite progress in some countries, human rights activists in many parts of the region are still an endangered species."

In Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua, and many other nations, human rights defenders are frequently subject to extra-judicial executions, disappearances, assassination attempts, threats, surveillance, baseless criminal investigations, smear campaigns, and arbitrary detention.   

"President Obama and Secretary Clinton should urge government officials in the region to redouble efforts to support and protect the work of human rights defenders," said Hudson. "Governments must recognize that civil society's efforts to deal with past atrocities and new human rights violations only strengthen democracy and the rule of law."

In February 2009, Human Rights First released In the Dock and Under the Gun: Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia, a comprehensive report that, for the first time, documents the widespread use of trumped-up charges to silence Colombian human rights activists.

Held roughly every four years, the Summit of the Americas brings together leaders of the 34 members of the Organization of American States.

Further information:

Information on recent attacks against human rights defenders in Guatemala

Information on recent attacks against human rights defenders in Colombia


Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.


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