Threats against Indigenous Human Rights Defenders in La Guajira, Colombia

On 9 May 2019, ABColombia, together with 10 other British and Irish non-governmental and lawyers’ organisations, sent a joint letter to the President of Colombia, Ivan Duque Marquez, to express concerns regarding the recent serious threats against members of the Indigenous human rights organisation Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu and other ethnic organisations and Human Rights Defenders in the department of La Guajira. You can download the full letter in Spanish.

On 29 April 2019, Fuerza Mujeres Wayuu received death threats from a group identifying itself as Águilas Negras – Bloque Capital D.C. The following leaders were listed as particular targets: Karmen Ramírez, Miguel Iván Ramírez, Jakeline Romero, Deris Paz, Luis Misael Socarra and Dulcy Cotes. Moreover, members of the Wayúu community have reported the presence of strangers in their shelters and hanging around their homes at night.

In light of the long history of threats made against social leaders in La Guajira, and given that Colombia continues to be the most dangerous country in the world for human rights defenders, ABColombia is extremely concerned about the safety of Wayuu communities and of the Indigenous and Afro-Colombian community leaders targeted with these recent threats and intimidation.

[…] In spite of protection measures ordered by the national level for the collective protection scheme of Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu, the local authorities and competent institutions have not assumed their responsibility in monitoring the risk that the social leaders are facing, and have not taken the necessary steps in relation to investigation and implementation of protection measures with a differential approach. This has exposed the community to a situation of high vulnerability

The undersigning organisations are extremely concerned about the security of Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu, the leaders of the Wayuu People and the Afro-Colombian and campesino communities who live around the coal mines in La Guajira. Their protection is essential for them to be able to continue with their vital work protecting the rights of the communities. Based on this, we respectfully make the following recommendations to the Government of Colombia:

> strengthen the protection schemes for the threatened social leaders, communities and organisations; we also believe that it is very important that collective protection schemes are prioritised.

> insist that the local authorities comply with their institutional responsibilities in relation to the collective protection measures;

> investigate and sanction, as promptly as possible, the material and intellectual authors of the threats and attacks, as well as those benefitting from threats and attacks, to ensure that these crimes do not remain in impunity;

> implement and carry out, as soon as possible and in consultation with the Wayuu People, ensuring their active participation, the monitoring of the Ethnic Safeguarding Plans, which were ordered by the Constitutional Court in Sentence T-025 and Auto 004 of 2009;

> ensure that authorities take effective measures to dismantle illegal armed groups and guarantee the protection of the Wayuu People, the Afro-descendant communities and the campesino population in La Guajira. […]

The letter was signed by 11 British and Irish organisations: ABColombia, CAFOD, Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group, Christian Aid, Coal Action Network, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Latin America Solidarity Centre, Leigh Day, London Mining Network, Stop Blood Coal Ireland and War on Want.

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.