Human Rights Defenders in Colombia: Peace Cannot Be Built without Guarantees
International Civil Society Organizations express their concern and rejection for the killings of social leaders and human rights defenders in Colombia: peace cannot be built without guarantees
Bogotá – Brussels, March 22, 2016. The signing International Civil Society Organizations express their concern and rejection for the recent killings and the increasing threats against social leaders and human rights defenders in several regions of Colombia.
During the last three weeks, Marisela Tombe, rural leader (February 28, El Tambo, Cauca), Willar Alexander Oime Alarco, indigenous leader (March 2, Popayan, Cauca), Nando Perez, land restitution leader (March 2, Palmitos, Sucre), Klaus Zapata, grassroots journalist and activist of the Colombian Communist Youth (March 6, Soacha, Cundinamarca), William Castillo, founder of the Association of Agro ecological and Mining Fraternities of Guamoco – Aheramigua (March 7, El Bagre, Antioquia), Gil de Jesus Salgado, member of the Farmer Association of Arauca – ACA (March 10, Arauquita, Arauca) and James Balanta, Afrocolombian leader (March 16, Caloto, Cauca), were gunned down. Also, on March 10, Milton Escobar, bodyguard of human rights defender Martin Sandoval, member of the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights – CPDH, was killed, and on March 11, in Santa Rosa del Sur, department of Bolivar, Sharon Dariana Marmol Tellez, 14 years-old daughter of Evelio Marmol, member of the Agro-mining Federation of Sur de Bolivar – Fedeagromisbol and director of the Agro-mining Association of San Juan, was found dead.
In March, the National Movement for Victims of State Crimes – MOVICE, sections Sucre and Atlantico, and the Victims Associations of Mapiripan, Meta, among others, were threatened. The use of massive threats against human rights defenders continued to increase in 2015, as 400 of them received 27 pamphlets signed by paramilitary groups. Since the beginning of 2016, at least 26 threats against the Colombian social movement have been denounced.
These serious facts, linked to an increase in reports of presence and territorial control by paramilitary groups in several regions of the country, and to an increase of “social cleansing” operations by these groups, show the lack of guarantees to exercise the defense of human and land rights in Colombia. Also, this situation compromises the viability of the implementation of the peace agreement that the FARC guerrilla and the Colombian government could reach.
In this context, and considering a 99.96% of impunity in cases of attacks against human rights defenders in Colombia, we urge the Colombian authorities to:
– Take all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life and the right to personal integrity of human rights defenders in Colombia;
– Take all necessary measures to conduct thorough investigations, prosecute and sanction those responsible for committing and masterminding these crimes;
– Establish and implement guarantees for non-repetition, aimed at effectively and permanently dismantling paramilitary and criminal groups in all regions of Colombia, as well as the political and economic structures that support them. Ensure the depuration of the armed forces and the implementation of institutional reforms, in particular of the armed forces and of the administration of Justice.
– Publicly reject physical attacks, threats, slander and accusations against human rights defenders, as well as support and promote their fundamental role in building a stable and long-lasting peace.
We also request the international community, and in particular the European Union – in accordance with the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders – as well as the European Union Special Envoy to the Colombian Peace Process, to maintain its advocacy and monitoring work on the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia, both during the negotiations and after the signing of a final peace agreement.
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