Surge of Attacks and Threats against Colombian Human Rights Defenders

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From: Your Name <you@example.com>
To: cefranco@presidencia.gov.co,fsantos@presidencia.gov.co,luzhelena.morales@fiscalia.gov.co
Subject: Surge of Attacks and Threats against Colombian Human Rights Defenders

Your Personal Statement

Mr. Carlos Franco
Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos
Calle 7 No 6 - 54
Bogota D.C
Colombia

Dear Mr. Carlos Franco,

I am writing to you to express my deep concern at the surge of attacks and threats against Colombian human rights defenders in recent months. I am particularly troubled that Afro-Colombian and Indigenous leaders, as well as leaders of the internally displaced population and women's groups have been specifically targeted. I urge you to work with the organizations representing these groups to ensure their leaders are adequately protected and to guarantee the protection of all those who have been threatened.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has publicly expressed its concern for human rights defenders in Colombia after these recent attacks and death threats. Its communique cited "threats against human-rights workers and social activists, including displaced leaders working to defend their communities' rights". It also included indigenous, Afro-Colombian and social group leaders as having been targeted, with acts of intimidation against all of them increasing in recent months. Some have been killed and others forced to flee for safety, with many victims' friends and families remaining silent for fear of reprisal attacks.

According to the United Nations, the threats have in large part originated from new illegal armed groups. One particular tactic of intimidation has been the distribution of pamphlets with threats targeting human rights organizations and government agencies. The pamphlets often included specific names of individual leaders or group members, alleged collaborators, as well as actual addresses. The presence of such specific and accurate information has been attributed to alleged leaks from officials within the government directly to the armed groups .

Some of the individuals and organizations recently targeted include:

Estrella Hinestroza Robayo, leader of ASODESS and displaced women's advocate, was killed in Granada Meta, May 20th, 2009.
Vice-Governor Robert Guacheta, CRIC member and a Nasa leader of the Honduras reservation in Morales, Cauca, previously threatened by CEC (Campesinos Embejucados del Cauca), was recently killed May 18th, 2009 despite warning the Colombian state and Pan-American Commission of Human Rights of the threats.
The National Ombudsman Office, targeted by the Black Eagles specifically for its Early Warning System on critical human rights situations, in pamphlets distributed May 2009.
Asociacion de Cabildos Indigenas del Norte del Cauca (ACIN), targeted by CEC, in pamphlets distributed May 2009.
ââ¬Â¢ Senator Piedad Cordoba, threatened by the Black Eagles, in pamphlets distributed May 2009.
ââ¬Â¢ Senator Jesus Piñacue, threatened by CEC, in pamphlets distributed May 2009.
AFRODES executives were threatened on April 29th, 2009, which they have reported to the Attorney-General's office.
Claudia Fernando Ramos Camacho, a teacher in Rio Mina hired by CRIC, was killed April 19th, 2009.
Ana Isabel Gomez Perez, President of Junta de Desplazados del Municipio de los Cordobas (Cordoba) and member of the Committee of Family Victims of Cordoba (Comfavic), was killed April 14th, 2009.
Odulfo Mosquera Orejuela, a local Afro-Colombian leader, was killed in the basin of Cacarica by the FARC, February 10th, 2009.

I urge you to combat this wave of threats and attacks by:

1. Providing protective measures to those individuals and organizations who have received threats, as detailed above, and personally holding meetings with these individuals and groups to listen to their concerns and ensure they are addressed.

2. Meeting with the organizations representing the internally displaced population, especially Afro-Colombian, indigenous and women IDPs to guarantee measures are in place to adequately protect their leaders. These protection programs should be in line with the Constitutional Court recommendations on protection for these groups in Decrees 092 of 2008, 004 of 2009 and 005 of 2009.

3. Ensuring a prompt, impartial and comprehensive investigation into each of these recent killings, attacks and death threats, as well as into allegations that information contained in the threats was leaked by government officials. It is vital that those responsible for these attacks are held responsible.

I very much appreciate your immediate attention to this urgent issue.

Sincerely,


cc.
Vice President Francisco Santos
Vice President of the Republic of Colombia
Cra. 8 No. 7-57
Bogota
Colombia

Dr. Mario Iguaran
Attorney General
Diagonal 22 B No.52-01
Bogota D.C. Colombia


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