To: The Colombian Government, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, the UN Impendent Expert on Minority Issues, the CIDH High Commissioner for Human Rights, the CIDH Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties of Indigenous Comminutes, the CIDH Special Rapporteur on Colombia, and the United States Congress
From: Human Rights Organizations and NASGACC
*Rampant violations of human rights and impunity towards these violations continue. The Colombian government has not taken the necessary measures to investigate and end the hostility towards Afro-descendants, indigenous people and women leaders, who are solely defending their human rights.*
The majority of organizations and people that defend human rights in Colombia are constantly under the treat of death by paramilitary groups like the "Aguilas Negras", "Los Rastrojos, " "Los Rastrojos – Nueva Generacion, ", "Autodefensas Gaitanistas" and others.
Since October 2009, the restructured paramilitary group known as the "Aguilas Negras" has been consistently and repeatedly threatening organizations and people that stand for human rights as well as the internally displaced. The threats are directed, particularly, at organizations comprised of Afro-descendant or indigenous people that have strongly opposed laws and policies of the government that attack their identity and territorial rights. Also are threatened women organizations and women leaders, victims of the violence and internal displacement for which those paramilitary groups are responsible. Likewise, paramilitary groups operating in different areas in the country, threaten on daily basis human rights defenders. The "Aguilas Negras" death threats particularly, advise those who oppose the government's policies to consider themselves dead.
On Friday, June 11th, one more death threat was received electronically by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and other human rights organizations in Colombia. It is the second threat that WOLA has received in a month, and one of the many received by hundreds of organizations and tenths of individuals since 2009. For example, just last May, the "Aguilas Negras" threatened the Community Council of La Toma, municipality of Suarez, Department of Cauca, and a wide number of Afro-descendant and indigenous organizations in the area, all of which were accused of "obstructing the policies of the Colombian government". In the threat the paramilitaries asserted that the government agencies encharged with protecting of the civilians, including the Attorney General's office, could not provide enough resources to prevent the threat from being carried out. The threats are motivated by the battle that some 7, 500 Afro-descendants have fought against thirty-five mining concessions granted by the government, all of which violate their territorial, cultural, economic, and social rights. Additionally, the threats have been extended to include organizations like the Black Communities' Process (PCN) and the Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) because of their work in defending the rights of communities like Suarez.
A direct result of these threats is the recent assassination of community leader Alex Quintero, a key witness into the ongoing investigation of the Alto Naya Massacre that resulted in the death of 100 Afro-descendants and indigenous people and the disappearance of sixty. The Alto Naya Massacre was conducted according to direct orders from a notorious paramilitary leader known as "HH" and in cooperation with the III Brigade of the Colombian army.
Despite numerous calls to the Colombian government from various international organizations like the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Colombian government has refrained from taking action against paramilitary groups, particularly the "Aguilas Negras." As consequences, according to the report issued by the Campaign "We are Defenders, " seven leaders have been assassinated during the present month of June and more than 110 organizations threatened. The report indicates that, so far, 2010 breaks all records in terms of human rights violations.
President Uribe as well as the Minister of Justice and the Interior, the Presidential Office on Human Rights, the Office on Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquera Affairs, the Attorney General's Office, and local authorities have the responsibility of responding immediately and effectively to threats, of guaranteeing the security of those threatened, and of promoting and guaranteeing investigations that will bring those responsible for them to justice.
The fact that these paramilitary factions continue to threaten those identified as "government opposers and obstacles, " indicates that these groups consider themselves to not only be a legitimate voice of the Colombian government and its policies but also that they are protected by the government, evident through its impunity and silence on the matter.
*The organizations and individuals signing this document strongly reject the intimidation attempts and threats that armed groups have made against communities, organizations, and Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders, and women leaders. Additionally, we condemn the government's refusal to take action to defend democracy. We demand the following:*
From the Colombian government, we, again, demand:
- An immediate public condemnation of the threats made and assassinations committed by paramilitary groups as well as a public statement supporting and recognizing the work of human rights organizations and defenders in improving democracy.
- The initiation of an effective investigation to identify and bring before justice those responsible for the threats.
- The establishment of an effective process that would dismantle these groups.
From the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, and the UN Impendent Expert on Minority Issues as well as the CIDH High Commissioner for Human Rights, the CIDH Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties of Indigenous Communities, and the CIDH Special Rapporteur on Colombia, we demand:
- That they urge the Colombian government to take the necessary actions to condemn the actions of paramilitary groups against communities, organizations, and Afro-descendant, indigenous and women leaders, and against Colombian democracy.
- That they urge the Colombian government to diminish the factors that generate risks for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, leaders, and organizations. To this effect, the Colombian government should fulfill its obligations under Decrees 004 and 005, issued in 2009; heed the recommendations put forth by the CIDH as well as by the Special Rapporteur's of the United Nations, and the UN Human Rights Commission on the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
From the United States Congress, we demand:
- An independent investigation into weather Colombia has, in fact, effectively met international human rights standards, particularly in terms of its treatment of Afro-descendent and Indigenous groups and communities.
- That they withhold certifying Colombia as having met international human rights standards until the above described investigation is completed.
- That they encourage the Department of State to withhold any foreign aid assistance until the above described investigation proves that international human rights standards have been met, and until an investigation into the threats against human rights defenders has been initiated.
- AFRODES USA
- Corporacion Sisma Mujer
- ASO MANOS NEGRAS
- Comisi�n Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz
- Afrocolombia New York
- Otras Colombias
- Colectivo Colmena
To sign on, contact Charo Mina Rojas at email@example.com with your name or that of your organization.