At the beginning of July 2018, the UK Parliament expressed its grave concerns regarding the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Colombia by tabling an Early Day Motion (EDM) outlining the precarious human rights situation in Colombia, and highlighting in particular the risks faced by HRDs. HRDs carry out a fundamental role in the construction of peace and democracy in Colombia. Threats and attacks against them undermine the peace process as a whole.
Another EDM was tabled in the same month recgonising the important work undertaken HRDs globally, whose lives are frequently at risk because they defend the rights of others.
On 6 July 2018 Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, member of the International Development Committee, tabled EDM 1492 on Human Rights in Colombia. The EDM raises concerns about the state of human rights in Colombia, paying special attention to the level of violence committed against HRDs. The EDM also calls for justice and investigation into HRD killings. Colombia is the most dangerous country for HRDs in the world. According to the Colombian Ombudsman, 330 HRDs were killed between 1 January 2016 and 26 July 2018. In 2017, every third HRD that was killed worldwide was Colombian.
EDM 1492 was tabled at the same time as a spike in HRD killings in Colombia occurred in the first week of July, which saw 9 HRDs killed over only four days. The EDM reads:
That this House recognises the invaluable contribution Colombian human rights lawyers make to advocate for victims’ rights, justice, truth, and accountability within the context of the armed conflict; supports the Peace Agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC, as signed in Havana, Cuba in November 2016; welcomes and encourages further steps to be taken by both State and non-state actors that honour the spirit of Peace Agreement and that support a legal, political, and social transition towards a sustainable peace; raises concern about reports of increased violence against human rights defenders and their families and calls for swift, thorough and impartial investigations into crimes committed against human rights defenders; is further concerned regarding the lack of progress in the investigation into the 2016 assassination of Eduardo Andres Martinez Castellanos, brother of threatened human rights lawyer Rommel Duran Castellanos and the serious threats that Rommel Duran Castellanos continues to receive due to his human rights legal practice.
Please encourage your MP to sign this EDM. The Colombian Caravana of Lawyers has prepared a sample letter for this, which you can access here.
On 4 July 2018 Tom Brake MP, tabled EDM 1487 on a Nobel Peace Prize Nomination for the global community of HRDs. This EDM recognises the sacrifice made by many HRDs, and supports the nomination of HRDs for the Nobel Peace Prize. The EDM reads:
That this House welcomes the announcement of the nomination of the global community of human rights defenders for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their contribution to defending fundamental freedoms, building pluralistic democracies, providing access to justice and upholding the rule of law; applauds the work of human rights defenders around the world; expresses grave concern that in many countries human rights defenders engaged in their work face harassment, attacks, intimidation, insecurity, forced disappearance and even extra-judicial killing; and encourages the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to give this nomination serious consideration.
HRDs are vital actors in strengthening the rule of law in Colombia. Acting as representatives of the communities that are most vulnerable to Human Rights violations, they play a vital role in the process of implementing peace in Colombia.
Please encourage your MP to sign this EDM. ABColombia observer organisation PBI has prepared a draft email that you can download here. It is essential to highlight the critical situation faced on a daily basis by HRDs and their families in Colombia, and to provide them with safe spaces to carry out their work.