Concerns about death threats against Colombia Human Rights Defenders: Letter sent to Irish Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister

ABColombia members would like to thank the Irish Government and the Irish Embassy in Bogota, for their active engagement with communities and Human Rights defenders in Colombia. Knowing of the key role that Ireland has played in supporting the Colombian peace process, I am writing you to raise concerns regarding the threats and attacks against human rights defenders and the high levels of violence in Chocó, particularly in Bajo Atrato, and in the collective territories of the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities in Jiguamiandó and Curbaradó. The continuing violence against leaders and communities poses a serious obstacle to the implementation of the Peace Accord.

In particular, we would like to share our deep concerns about the repeated threats against members of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (CIJP), a church-based human rights organisation and partner of Christian Aid, PBI Ireland and ABColombia, with more than 31 years of experience of working to expose human rights violations in the conflict regions of Colombia.

The CIJP is a beneficiary of special protection measures from both the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the Colombian State. Various members of this organisation have been harassed by neo-paramilitary groups and serious threats made against their lives.

Carlos Fernandez from CIJP, who visited Ireland in September 2018 and met with the Foreign Affairs Latin America Desk and the Human Rights Unit, as well as, with members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Eamon Gilmore, has received a series of warnings linked to his work protecting the Nasa Indigenous People’s rights in Putumayo. The latest was a death threat which he received on 26 June 2019. Additionally, on 19 May 2019, soldiers threatened to shoot Fernandez and his bodyguard provided by the State’s National Protection Unit.

The Executive Secretary of the CIJP, Danilo Rueda was harassed and threatened by neo-paramilitary groups shortly after he returned from a European Speaking tour highlighting the situation of human rights in the region.

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