THE UNDERSIGNED CANADIAN ORGANIZATIONS, DENOUNCE BEFORE THE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY:
On that day, riot police assisted by the GRP (a police rapid-response tactical unit) attacked the protesters for four hours using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. Some protesters responded by throwing rocks at police. Helicopters circled the area, and a military unit was deployed in armored vehicles. Twenty five people were injured by rubber bullets, and 18 hurt by pepper spray. Thirty were treated in the Suchitoto hospital for their injuries, over 80 people were treated by first aid organizations, and many others were cared for by local residents.
Some of the detainees were arrested at the demonstration, but four of them – the CRIPDES leadership and their driver – were stopped and arrested on their way to Suchitoto. All were taken by helicopter to Cojutepeque, and in mid flight some were threatened with being thrown out the helicopter. At a hearing before a Special Tribunal for Acts of Terrorism on July 7, 2007, Judge Ana Lucila Fuentes de Paz dismissed the charges against one of the accused whose arrest had been videotaped, noting that “to be in favor of the freedom of a person is not a crime, nor is advocating for it with the authorities.”
However, while noting that “establishing the origin, family, occupation and residence is an insufficient basis” given the severity of the charges she ordered preventative detention under the Anti-Terrorist Law for 3 months of the other 13 detainees despite the lack of evidence. Laying terrorist-related charges leading to the incarceration of these 13 activists for engaging in political protest is a political effort by the government to intimidate, coerce and silence any dissent against its policies.
In view of these facts, we express our solidarity with the victims of this repression and their families. We affirm the right, which is protected in the Constitution of El Salvador and in international human rights law, to demonstrate peacefully against government abuses policies, including in the defense of water as a public resource. We reject the use of special or anti-terrorist laws to intimidate the public and restrict democratic civil rights, and we call upon the international community to express its solidarity with the political prisoners and to speak out against this act of repression against the Salvadorean people.
For these reasons, we urgently call upon the international community and Canadian and Salvadorean society to demand and support:
1. The immediate release of the detainees; respect for their physical and moral integrity, and assurances that constitutional process will be followed.
2. That the Salvadoran government respect the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, assembly, movement and association. The demonstration in Suchitoto was no more than the legitimate exercise of constitutional freedom.
4. That the Salvadorean government and the Supreme Court of Justice uphold the independence of the judiciary and do not permit any political interference with the judicial system, nor the use of inappropriate laws for political ends.
5. That the United Nations and the Group of Countries who sported the Peace Accords, to verify the current state of respect for the Accords, particularly the role of the National Civilian Police and the Armed Forces in upholding the rule of law and internal order.
6. That the United Nations undertake an independent and impartial investigation of the events in El Salvador, which by criminalizing legitimate and legal expressions of social discontent place political stability and the construction of democracy at risk.
As Canadian organizations and institutions that have been supporting the process of democratization in El Salvador, and that more generally embrace democratic principles founded in social justice, respect for human rights and environmental and economic justice, we reiterate our dismay at these events and support the right of the population to attempt to influence government policy by organizing and demonstrating publicly. Any restriction of the free exercise of those rights is a serious violation of fundamental human rights and a dangerous reversal of the democratization process started with the signing of the Peace Accords.
Canada July, 2007
Alerta Minera Canadá/MiningWatch Canada
Asociación Salvadoreña Canadiense de Ottawa y Región de la Capital Nacional (ASCORCAN)
Asociación Salvadoreña Canadiense, Toronto (ASALCA)
Café Justicia - Canada
Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace
Canadian Hispanic Congress (Congreso Hispano Canadiense)
Casa Maíz, Toronto
Casa Salvador Allende Cultural Society-Toronto
Centre de Developpement Salvadorien (CEDESAL)
Centre For Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children,
Comité Cuáquero para los Refugiados
Grupo de Apoyo a los Pueblos de las Américas (GAPA)
Guatemala Community Network, Toronto (GCN)
Horizons of Friendship/ Horizontes de Amistad
KAIROS Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Kitchener-Waterloo Mayan Project
Latin American Canadian Solidarity Association, London (LACASA)
London-Guatemala Solidarity Committee
Mennonite New Life Centre, Toronto
Ontario Council for International Cooperation
Ottawa Fair Trade Network
The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (Nova Scotia)
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) - Le Syndicat Canadien de la Fonction Publique (SCFP)
The Canadian Union of Public Employees - CUPE 3907
The Social Justice Committee, Montreal
The United Church of Canada
Tzijolaj-Cross Cultural Communications, Ottawa
Radio Carleton 93.1 CKCU - Punto de Encuentro, Ottawa
Red Ciudadana Salvadoreña en el Exterior
Scalabrini Centre for Migrants and Refugees, Montreal
YouTube video of the events in Suchitoto