Press Release #DefenderAQuienDefiende (#DefendWhoDefends)

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Caminando Fronteras

Tangier, August 16, 2017. The association Caminando Fronteras denounces the harassment it has been suffering for years and which has worsened in recent weeks. These facts are emblematic of the vulnerability of human rights defenders on the southern border of Spain and the threats they face.

Unfortunately, such situations of violence are part of the everyday lives of migrants at the border, creating a situation of exception to the rule of law, in which the mere mention of human rights is felt by States to be a threat to their interests. This is precisely what happened in the last few weeks when our colleague Helena Maleno Garzón was threatened in her safety and in her physical and moral integrity following a statement she made on television, in which she stated that "the wound of a policeman on the Ceuta border was not caused by migrant violence, the police officer injured himself by kicking migrants".
From these statements, a campaign of denunciation and criminalization against our colleague was orchestrated on Twitter, as another of many attempts to end her political activities. Far from shrinking in the face of threats, our colleague later gave an interview to the platform "Es racismo" (linked to the Madrid section of SOS Racismo) where she explained the construction of institutional racism at the border with Morocco. Right after, the harassment campaign started again, with profiles threatening our colleague as a woman and an activist, and even calling for rape as a means to push her to silence, while details of her personal everyday life were made public. Threats were repeated and received on her phone, reformulating the same insults as those found on social networks.

The lowpoint of the campaign came on August 15, when the Syndicato Unificado de Policia (SUP – a union of police officers) joined the tweets. Although the "tweets" on the union’s official profile are written in a "correct" form, we insist on the fact that a message thread including calls for hate, racism and violence against migrants and women is not the place for an organization of state officials to take a position. In addition, the SUP preferred to ignore the messages that followed and that directly threatened our colleague, other activists as well as migrants. Subsequently, Helena received a death threat in a private message accompanied by a photograph of a gun and a bullet with the text "I suggest silence or you will die. You bother the authorities".
Facing this situation, Helena Maleno Garzón filed a complaint, compiling all the threats that aimed to end her work of denouncing the violation of rights, and to harm her life. Criminalizing and putting pressure on human rights defenders, particularly at the southern border of Spain, is an old political practice that peers like Moha Gerehou of SOS Racismo, colleagues of the Harraga association (María Antúnez, Rosa Garcia, Nora Driss and Sara Olcina) and José Palazón of Prodein, also suffered.

Consequently, we are forced to denounce these facts beyond the judicial channels solicited, and we call on civil society and the Spanish democratic institutions to #DefenderAQuienDefiende (#DefendWhoDefends). Because under the discourse of protection of the national territory against migrants, lie situations in which people are abused, raped and even murdered in a context of daily racism practised at the control of borders.

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  • Co-signatories

    First signatories : FIDH dans le cadre de l’Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme, Organisation mondiale contre la torture (OMCT) dans le cadre de l’Observatoire pour la Protection des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme, ADESGUIM (Guinea Conakry/ Marruecos), Alianza por la Solidaridad (España), Alternativa antimilitarista MOC València (España), Amycos (España), Andalucía Acoge (España), Asociación Arrímense (España), Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos Andalucía (España), Asociación Apoyo (España), Assemblea de Migrants i Refugiats 2 de Abril (España), Association Alkhaima (Marruecos), Associazione de promozione sociale ‘Todo Cambia’ (Italia), Asociación sin Papeles de Madrid, Campaña CIEsNO y Fin de las Deportaciones (España), Caminando Fronteras (Marruecos/ España), Canarias Libre de CIE (España), Caravana Abriendo Fronteras (España), Caravana Frontera Sur de Nafarroa (España), CaravanoMigranti (Italia), Casa de ma dona (España), CEDSALA (España), Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matias de Cordoba (México), CiesNo Valencia (España), Coalición Internacional Sin Papeles, Colectivo Hourria (España), Comission For European Filipinian Workers (Europa), Conseil des Migrants Subsahariens au Maroc (Marruecos), Coordinadora de Barrios (España), Coordinadora de prevención y denuncia de la Tortura (España), Entrepueblos/ Entrepobles/ Entrepobos/ Herriarte (España), Espacio del Inmigrante (España), France Amérique Latine (Francia), Federación SOS Racismo (España), Fotomovimiento (España), H.I.J.O.S Barcelona (España), HOAC Valencia (España), Inmigrapenal (España), Institucional-RAIN (España), Joves Avançant (España), Jóvenes en Pie (España), Juventud Morada (España), La Terre Pour Tous (Túnez), Marx21 (España), Mesa de Solidaritat amb els immigrants (España), Metromuster (España), Noves Vies (España), Obrim Fronteres (España), Platform of Filipino Migrants Organisations in Europe (Europa), Red Interlavapiés (Madrid), Red Solidària de Acogida (España), Rereguarda (España), San Carlos Borromeo (España), Sindicato Popular de Vendedores Ambulantes (España), SERCADE, Servicio Jesuíta Migrante (España), SOS Racismo Nafarroa (España), SOS Racismo Madrid (España), Tanquem els CIE (España), Transnational Migrant Platform Europe (Europa), Territorio Doméstico, ProDeIn (España), Unitat contra el Feixismo i el Racisme (España), València Acull/València Acoge (España), Veritá e Giustizia per i Nuovi Desaparecidos (Italia), CUP, Stop Mare Mortum, Iridia, Observatorio del Sistema Penal ante la Inmigración (OCSPI), Entreiguales, Tras la Manta, Cooperativa Estatal de Lateros y Manteros, Foro Alternativo de la Inmigración, Migreurop España, Transnational Institute (TNI), Ahora Madrid, Ongi Etorri Errefuxiatuak’ ...

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