The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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


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

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

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

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.