International organisations reject violent attacks and threats against Afro-Colombian and Indigenous leaders

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Brussels/London, 13 May 2019. ABColombia, alongside more than 25 European and international organisations and networks, signed a public statement rejecting the murder attempt against leaders from Afro-Colombian collectives in Northern Cauca: ACONC, PCN and ASOM. The statement also highlights international concerns about threats against the Indigenous human rights organisation Fuerza de Mujeres Wayúu in La Guajira.

In an international statement, international civil society organisations have condemned the violence against ethnic human rights defenders in Northern Cauca and La Guajira. These attacks and threats are directed against leaders with significant international recognition and support, such as Francia Márquez (Goldman Award Winner 2018), Jakeline Romero from the Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu and members of the Indigenous organisation ACIN.

…On 5 May, leaders from the Association of Community Councils of Northern Cauca (Asociación de Consejos Comunitarios del Norte del Cauca – ACONC), the Black Communities Process (Proceso de Comunidades Negras – PCN) and the Association of Women of African Descent from Northern Cauca (Asociación de mujeres afrodescendientes del Norte del Cauca – ASOM), were the victims of an attempted murder and massacre when guns and a grenade were fired in the village of Lomitas, in the municipality of Santander de Quilichao, Cauca department.

(…) In the attack several leaders were affected, including Francia Márquez, Víctor Hugo Moreno, Carlos Rosero, Clemencia Carabalí and Sofia Garzón resulting in two men from the protection mechanisms being wounded. Subsequently, Mr. Moreno received an anonymous death threat on his phone, in which he was informed that “what happened on Saturday is just the beginning and it will end in the extermination of you all.”


International statement condemning attacks and threats against Afro-Colombian and Indigenous leaders (13 May 2019)

Increasing violence against Human Rights Defenders

In addition, on 29 April 2019, members of ABColombia partner organisation Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu in La Guajira received death threats from a group identifying itself as Águilas Negras – Bloque Capital D.C. Members of the Wayuu community have also reported the presence of strangers in their shelters and hanging around their homes at night.

These attacks and threats against high-profile ethnic social leaders are taking place in a context of excessive violence against Human Rights Defenders in Colombia. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Women in Colombia have publicly rejected the attack on defenders in Cauca and urged the Colombian Government to protect, respect and acknowledge the important work of human rights defenders.

…According to Colombian NGO Somos Defensores, 2018 was the most violent year for human rights defenders (…) with 805 acts of aggression, including 155 killings. The OHCHR 2018 annual report highlights in particular the vulnerability of Indigenous and Afro-descendant leaders and of those who defend territorial and environmental rights. It should be noted that, in addition, the percentage of attacks against women defenders increased by 63.7% in 2018. The majority of these attacks remain in impunity while the Comprehensive Programme of Guarantees for Women Leaders and Human Rights Defenders, agreed between women’s organisations and the previous government, has not been implemented.

The measures foreseen in the Peace Agreement for the dismantling of paramilitary successor groups, such as the National Commission for Security Guarantees, the Special Unit in the Prosecutor’s Office, the Early Warning System and the Elite Police Corps, have not been implemented or only partially, or do not have enough political and financial support from the current government.

International statement condemning attacks and threats against Afro-Colombian and Indigenous leaders (13 May 2019)

Background: The Minga Nacional

The Afro-Colombian social leaders who were attacked on 5 May were attending a meeting to prepare dialogues with the Colombian Government related to the agreements with the Indigenous Minga Nacional, a countrywide social protest during which smear campaigns and acts of defamation were promoted against the protest and its members.

In 2017, Emilse Paz, an Indigenous leader and peace activist from the Nasa Indigenous women’s network Tejido Mujer ACIN in Northern Cauca, took part in an international women’s conference organised by ABColombia in London. ABColombia is extremely concerned about the serious threats Emilse Paz and other ethnic leaders in Northern Cauca have been exposed to due to their work as Indigenous rights defenders, and in particular in the context of the Minga Nacional.


Recommendations

More than 25 European organisations, including ABColombia, have asked the international community to urge the Colombian Government to:

1. Guarantee physical and psychological integrity and provide effective and comprehensive guarantees of individual and collective security for all the leaders and members of the organisations ACONC, ASOM, PCN and Fuerza de Mujeres Wayúu, as well as for all people who work for peace and co-existence in the country.

2. Carry out immediately a thorough and impartial investigation into the attacks and threats to clarify the facts, identify not only the material authors – last week one presumed material author was captured by authorities, but also the intellectual authors responsible, and bring them to justice.

3. Prioritise work to dismantle the criminal structures that are behind these attacks and threats, especially paramilitary successor groups, responsible for the majority of attacks.

4. Resume dialogue with human rights organisations as part of the National Guarantees Process, for the construction of a protection policy with a differential approach, including progress made in this process with previous governments, and to move forward the investigations into threats against and killings of human rights defenders.

5.  Make progress in implementing collective protection measures and protection measures for human rights defenders in rural areas, as included in the Peace Agreement, with the participation of organisations and communities, respecting existing self-protection mechanisms, and with a gender and ethnic perspective.

In addition, and in compliance with the European Guidelines for Defenders, we request that the International Community visit the territories and offices of the organisations of those who have been attacked and threatened, as well as publicly and forcefully rejecting the actions against them.

International statement condemning attacks and threats against Afro-Colombian and Indigenous leaders (13 May 2019)

You can download the full public statement in English or Spanish:


Please write to your MP and ask them to sign EDM #2232

On 26 March 2019, Early Day Motion (EDM) 2232 was tabled in the UK Parliament, calling for a debate on the effective implementation of the Peace Accord and the protection of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia. Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for Human Rights Defenders, and communities continue to suffer the impacts of the ongoing armed conflict. Please write to your MP and encourage them to sign EDM 2232. You can find a template for a letter/email here.