Friday, October 09, 2009

The following appeal is from the American human rights group Human Rights First. It's about the refusal of the US government to grant Principe Gabriel Gonzalez, a Colombian human rights activist, a visa to visit the USA.
U.S. Government Leaves Award-Winning Colombian Activist in Visa Limbo:‏

Principe Gabriel Gonzalez, like many human rights activists in Colombia, has been harassed by his own government. Baseless criminal charges, imprisonment, stigmatization as a "terrorist"-these are unfortunately an all-too-common experience for human rights defenders in Colombia.

Principe Gabriel Gonzalez has suffered false charges and imprisonment for defending human rights in Colombia.

Now, Human Rights First is honoring him for his courageous work-but the U.S. government has so far failed to grant him a visa to accept the award in person.
Sign our petition today to urge them to allow Gonzalez to visit the U.S.

Gonzalez has endured these challenges to continue his critical work fighting for justice for victims of the conflict in Colombia - and this is why Human Rights First has chosen him as the recipient of our annual human rights award. But Gonzalez may not be able to come to New York this month to accept the award - not because the Colombian government will not let him leave Colombia, but because the U.S. government has not granted him a visa to enter the United States.

We are asking for your help to remove Gonzalez from the bureaucratic limbo he has been in for the last four months. Sign our petition today to urge U.S. government officials to grant Gonzalez a visa.

Gonzalez's case illustrates the predicament activists face when they are falsely accused of being terrorists as a result of their work in support of human rights. In an ironic and sad twist of fate, his advocacy fighting for the rights of prisoners landed him in jail in Colombia and now threatens to bar him from entry to the United States. His visa is being held up apparently because of the false charges lodged against him by the Colombian authorities-despite U.S. agreement that those charges amount to nothing.

In a report earlier this year, Human Rights First exposed how Colombian prosecutors routinely use trumped-up charges to stigmatize and silence human rights activists. Fortunately, we have achieved real progress in a number of the cases we documented, including the release of over a dozen activists who were unjustly detained and the opening of an investigation into a prosecutor involved in one of the cases.

By honoring Gonzalez with this prestigious award, we are recognizing his courage and dedication to the pursuit of justice as well as the broader movement to advance human rights in Colombia. Join Human Rights First in standing up for Gonzalez and for the scores of human rights defenders who face baseless criminal charges in Colombia!

Andrew Hudson
Manager, Human Rights Defenders program
The Petition
Please go to THIS LINK to sign the following petition to the US authorities.
We urge you to approve the visa application for Colombian activist Principe Gabriel Gonzalez so that he can accept Human Rights First’s award in New York on October 22, 2009.

It has been over four months since he first applied for his visa and he has received no explanation for the unreasonable delay. I understand that the U.S. government may have concerns about the criminal investigation against him. However, the State Department and numerous United Nations bodies have agreed that those charges are specious. The State Department has supported Gonzalez’s fight against the trumped-up criminal charges that may now prevent him from entering the United States. In addition to receiving Human Rights First’s award he would meet with policymakers in Washington to better inform U.S. policy vis-√†-vis Colombia.

Gonzalez’s case is just one example of a larger problem in Colombia where activists are subjected to baseless charges intended to stigmatize and silence them. Earlier this year, Human Rights First released a report In the Dock and Under the Gun: Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia, that documented the widespread and systemic nature of the problem. Last month, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders led an extensive visit to Colombia, meeting with Gonzalez and decrying the problem of unfounded criminal proceedings against Colombian activists.

Refusing a visa to Gonzalez sends the wrong message to the Colombian authorities and undercuts U.S. policy to support Colombian human rights defenders who are under attack.
Please grant Gonzalez a visa. He deserves the recognition the award would afford him and granting the visa would demonstrate that the United States is standing by its policy of supporting human rights and the rule of law in Colombia.

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