Colombian Human Rights Defender dies under controversial circumstances

March 4, 2013

Colombian human rights defender Angélica Bello died on 16 February in controversial circumstancesFor years Angélica Bello, a human rights defender from Colombia, rarely spent a day alone – that would have been, simply, too dangerous. A number of threats against her because of her job helping the many survivors of sexual violence – women caught up in Colombia’s long-running armed conflict – meant that it was too dangerous for the 45-year-old mother of four to travel alone. In 2000, two of her daughters were kidnapped and kept as sexual slaves by paramilitaries, and were only released after Angélica personally intervened.

In November 2009, she herself became the victim of sexual abuse, allegedly committed by paramilitaries in retaliation for her human rights work. The attack followed a string of threats she had been receiving. These threats and attacks forced her to move within the country several times. By early 2010, the wave of threats and attacks against Angélica was so worrying that she requested protection measures from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, a regional human rights institution. In April 2011, the Colombian authorities provided her with two armed security guards and a bullet-proof car. But none of that was enough to protect her effectively because Angélica died last Saturday 16 February at 10:50pm at her home Codazzi, in North Colombia.

According to some local media reports, she shot herself with one of her bodyguard’s guns. Authorities say they are investigating the incident, after several human rights organizations questioned whether Angélica would have committed suicide. Only a few days before her death, she had been threatened and told to leave the area where she lived.

Angélica was well known in Colombia. In 2006, she founded the National Foundation for the Defence of Women’s Human Rights (Fundación Nacional Defensora de los Derechos Humanos de la Mujer, FUNDHEFEM). She worked to protect some of the thousands of women survivors of sexual violence in the context of Colombia’s long and bloody armed conflict. “Being a woman human rights activist in Colombia is like being a kamikaze in Iraq,” she told an Amnesty International team in late 2011.

Recalling the sexual abuse she suffered in 2009 as retaliation for her work defending other women, she said: “I was very scared. When the men abused me, beat me, the first thing they warned me was not to report it. They said that I should look at them very well, in the face, because I could see them again at any moment.” In 2010, a group of men followed and attacked one of her daughters, who had gone to the capital Bogotá to register at a university. Angélica had the courage to report the threats and sexual abuse to the authorities but little was done to investigate the case and bring those responsible to justice.Amnesty-Internationa

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have denounced how, in the long-running internal armed conflict in Colombia, the warring parties have targeted women human rights defenders and social activists with threats, rape and killings in a bid to silence them. Amnesty International urges the Colombian authorities to carry out a prompt and independent investigation into the death of Angélica Bello to establish all the facts about the incident, to ensure that human rights defenders in Colombia are able to carry out their jobs without fear of reprisals.

For the full text and a reference to a video of Angelica Bello:

2 Responses to “Colombian Human Rights Defender dies under controversial circumstances”

  1. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism
    or copyright violation? My website has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do you know any methods to help prevent content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate

    • Hans Thoolen Says:

      I am sure that your can copyright your posts but enforcing it would be a practical problem. In my case – information on HRDs – I want things to circulate as wide as possible, so it is not an issue, best Hans

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