Posts Tagged ‘Colombia’

Norwegian Human Rights Fund seeks Country Director Colombia

September 10, 2019

The Norwegian Human Rights Fund is looking for a country director in Colombia., which is a newly created post.  Deadline for applications: September 17th, 2019.

Duration: 3 years with possibility of extension

Duty station: Bogota, Colombia. Travel inside the country and follow-up of grants/grantees will be an important part of the work. International travels will also be required.

The tasks include, but are not limited to

  • Lead the process of establishing a team in Colombia (initially 4-5 people) and set up an office.
  • Lead the strategy process for the NHRF for its Colombia work, including fundraising and communication work in line with the NHRF overall strategies.
  • Liaisons with and reporting to donors
  • Work dynamically with the grantees, and develop work, capacity building and follow-up based on needs and the situation on the ground.
  • Conduct risk assessments and risk reduction measures for the NHRF and its grantees.

Official qualifications (must have)

  • Master’s degree in social science, law, economics, or relevant field (can be compensated with long relevant leadership experience in funds mechanism).
  • Fluent in Spanish and Norwegian (might also be another Scandinavian language), good level of English needed.
  • Proven leadership experience, including leading a team/staff (min. 3-5 years)
  • Experience in working with civil society, grant making and funding mechanisms to civil society, including capacity building and networking.
  • Experience in handling donors and funds including from the Norwegian/Nordic governments.
  • Experience from Colombia, and possibly the region, when it comes to civil society and human rights defense/work.
  • Results-oriented and experience with Learning, monitoring and evaluation (LME) processes, previous work with Theories of Change is an advantage.

Please send your CV and a letter to sandra.petersen@nhrf.no

https://nhrf.no/article/2019/new-position-country-director-colombia?fbclid=IwAR2rNP4fbvZ6qlDkpQuXhKDcqYeILNzhkSjg2RIsh5ii-Hl0vLXtTmlyewY

Award for human rights defenders by PBI UK to Kenyan and Colombian defenders

June 23, 2019

Kenyan social justice activist Naomi Barasa and Colombian human rights lawyer Daniel Prado have won the first annual Henry Brooke Awards for Human Rights Defenders, created in 2018 by PBI UK and pro bono legal network the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk.

These awards are in honour of the life and legacy of Sir Henry Brooke – barrister at Fountain Court Chambers, founder of the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk and patron of PBI UK – who passed away in January 2018. They are presented annually to defenders who encapsulate the qualities Sir Henry most admired and reflected in his own life: selflessness, courage, and commitment to seeking justice for the oppressed and the marginalised. The award winners were selected by a panel of leading figures from the UK legal and human rights communities. For more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/henry-brooke-awards-for-human-rights-defenders

Naomi Barasa was selected for the award in recognition of her remarkable determination and commitment to grassroots human rights work in the most disadvantaged social circumstances. Born in an informal settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi, Naomi was a close witness to street violence, police brutality, impunity and the overwhelming inequality of the slums. Her journey as a human rights defender has embedded her in the struggle to improve living conditions for Nairobi’s 2.5 million slum dwellers. Naomi was instrumental in the campaign that led to the passage of the Sexual Offences Act in 2006, and has acted as Campaigns Manager for the Right to Adequate Housing with Amnesty International since 2009. She has contributed to the adoption of legislation such as the Housing Bill 2011, the Evictions and Resettlement Bill and the Slum Upgrading & Prevention Policy. What motivates her work, she says, is “the resilience of the suffering people and the desire to see a different world. A world that has a mathematics of justice, not of inequality.

Daniel Prado was selected as an example of a lawyer who has defied huge personal risk in order to pursue justice for the victims of human rights violations, oppose impunity and defend the rights of marginalised communities against powerful interests. He began his career by providing legal support to the family members of victims of enforced disappearance in the early 1990s and currently works with the Colombian NGO the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP). Among other emblematic cases, Daniel represents victims of paramilitarism in the case of Los Doce Apóstoles (The Twelve Apostles), in which Santiago Uribe, brother of former President and Senator Alvaro Uribe Velez, stands accused of creating paramilitary groups responsible for more than 500 murders. Daniel’s involvement in this and other high-profile cases has seen him exposed to death threats, harassment and a public campaign of defamation and slander. Speaking of his work, he has said: “The risks in Colombia are unstoppable. I have taken many cases that have had consequences for a lot of people… we live in a constant state of anxiety about what can happen to us.

PBI provides security and advocacy support to both Naomi Barasa and Daniel Prado, to help mitigate the risks they face as a result of their human rights work.

 

 

Three award-winning Colombian human rights defenders on a European tour to raise awareness

May 29, 2019

Three award-winning Colombian human rights defenders visited the Lutheran World Federation on 27-28 May as part of a European tour to raise awareness of the dangers and difficulties faced by so many people working for justice and peace in the country today. According to the Somos Defensores network which monitors attacks against human rights defenders, 2018 was one of the worst years ever for these activists and social leaders in Colombia, with over 800 attacks and 155 murders reported. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/26/somos-defensores-in-colombia-publishes-annual-report-2018-worst-ever/]

The three are recipients of the 2018 National Human Rights Defenders award, presented by the Church of Sweden and the Swedish faith-based organization Diakonia, with the support of the Swedish government. Its goal is to draw international attention to struggles of those working for human rights, especially those located in isolated, grassroots communities/

Germán Graciano Posso, legal representative of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community in the northwest of Colombia, shared stories of over 300 members and supporters of his community who have been murdered in the past two decades. The small farming community of some 600 people was founded in 1997 at the height of the conflict between the government and members of the two main guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN)… Germán said he and the community “had high hopes with the country’s peace process that everything would change for the better” but that has not happened. The paramilitary presence has been growing in the past months, he said, and young people continue to be recruited into their ranks, an issue that has been acknowledged by the Ombudsman office.

Dolis Estela Valencia is a leading member of the Black and Afro-Descendant Community Council of Alto Mira y Fronteras in Tumaco, on the Pacific coast close to the border with Ecuador. The Council represents 42 local communities, working to support the Afro-Colombian people whose collective land rights were recognized by the government in 1993. Despite that legal recognition, Dolis shared her experience of death threats, forced displacements and assassinations of those struggling to defend their land and livelihoods Farmers in this community are trying to grow cocoa beans, bananas and other traditional crops instead of the coca leaves that drive Colombia’s lucrative drug trafficking industry. Her community is included in the government program for the substitution of illegal crops as part of the peace accords.

Genaro de Jesús Graciano is legal representative of a socio-environmental organization, Movimiento Ríos Vivos in Antioquia which includes 15 grassroots communities affected by the giant Ituango hydroelectric dam project. Plans for the 220-meter high dam across the Cauca river were completed a decade ago and construction began in 2011, but Genaro said the project –one of the largest of its kind in Latin America – has been flawed from the start…Genaro and his organization have filed official complaints and requests for compensation from the construction company and shareholders, the Empresas Públicas de Medellin and the regional Government of Antioquia. Besides, the national environment authority (ANLA) has issued official warnings about the dangers of this project which have been disregarded. In the meantime, 5 environmental leaders have been killed, while many others have been the targets of death threats, discrimination and exclusion from public debates about the future of the dam.

As well as sharing stories during an encounter at LWF headquarters and meeting UN special rapporteurs in Geneva, Germán, Dolis and Genaro were also visiting Berlin, Stockholm and Uppsala as part of the 16 to 29 May European tour. A fourth prize winner, 78-year-old community leader Maria Ligia Chaverra, was unable to take part in the tour because of health reasons. All of them underline the importance of the Human Rights Defenders prize in shining a much-needed spotlight on their stories and bringing international attention to the plight of their communities.

https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/dangerous-task-defending-human-rights-colombia

Even a human rights lawyer working for the government in Colombia is not safe

May 24, 2019

That the problems in Colombia are huge you wil all know. A good, lenghty report by Ted Piccone at Brookings from March 2019 gives an overview of the myriad issues including the continuing killing of human rights defenders: “..While these legal and political skirmishes play out, one critical element of the peace accords is tragically failing—the protection of human rights defenders, leaders of social movements, and political opposition figures. The official protection system, which is central to the non-recurrence features of the accord, is operating but unable to defend these leaders effectively from attacks perpetrated by a collection of armed groups (including remnants of paramilitary units demobilized in an earlier peace agreement), drug traffickers, and other violent actors intent on disrupting the peace process. The numbers are chilling: As of the end of 2018, the United Nations has received reports of the murder of 454 human rights defenders and social leaders since the signing of the peace agreement, and of the 163 murders they have verified, 110 occurred in 2018. The United Nations has also verified the murder of 85 former FARC-EP members. These ongoing attacks, and the relatively high rates of impunity, underscore the fearsome challenge of building peace in the midst of so much conflict and violence.” [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/26/somos-defensores-in-colombia-publishes-annual-report-2018-worst-ever/]

All this is underlined by the recent killing of a human rights lawyer reported on 24 May 2019. Paula Andrea Rosero Ordóñez, 47, was shot dead at close range by two hitmen, according to a police report. What makes it even more shocking is that this has happened to a lawyer working as a representative of the public ministry in Nariño, a department in south-west Colombia, Rosero asked for extra protection from the government in 2016 after receiving death threats.

Is Colombia’s fragile peace breaking apart?

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/human-rights-lawyer-shot-dead-in-colombia-/5070380.article

Misconceptions about indigenous peoples and their defenders explained

May 22, 2019

In a piece of 21 May 2019, called “4 common misconceptions about indigenous peoples and local communities explained”, Lai Sanders of the Rights and Resources Initiative points to common misconceptions re indigenous peoples who have a ‘juggernaut role’ in the global fight against climate change. Why are they conspicuously absent from many national and international agendas, as well as from societal discourse at large? At the recent UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, six indigenous activists and leaders from across the world spoke to the often unrecognized and under-appreciated contributions made by their communities for the betterment of society, and to address some of the most widespread and harmful misconceptions about Indigenous Peoples and local communities. The following interviews (excerpts) come with beautiful portrait pictures.

..

Indigenous Peoples and local communities customarily own over 50 percent of the world’s land, yet only have secure legal rights to 10 percent. “One of the most generalized misconceptions is that society, especially decision-makers, sees us as a people almost without rights,” says Levi Sucre, head of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB) and an indigenous native of Costa Rica

Rayanne Maximo Franca. Photo: Rights and Resources Initiative

Rayanne Maximo Franca left her community at 17 to attend college in Brasilia, where she was one of a handful of indigenous students. Now 27, she is a seasoned organizer with the Indigenous Youth Network of Brazil and a representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus. “Every day, being indigenous in a society that is so prejudiced, so racist, so discriminatory,” she says, “the fact that people affirm themselves as indigenous—in the society we live in today—is already an act of activism. It is already an act of self-defense.”

For Emberá activist Dayana Urzola Domicó, youth coordinator for the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) the erasure of indigenous identities and narratives from mainstream culture is also a major issue. “… we are not those Indigenous Peoples who look beautiful in museums. We are not of the past. All those things that are articulated in the care of Mother Earth, of you as a person, your territory, your thought, your law of origin—those things are still alive. We are still here.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, coordinator of the Indigenous Women and Peoples Association of Chad describes how Mbororo pastoralist communities, who are indigenous to Chad, use their nomadic lifestyles to conserve the natural environment: “We use one place to stay for two days, and another place for three days. That allows the natural resources to get regenerated in the natural way.”

Joan Carling, co-convener of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development, grew up in the mountains of the Philippines’ Cordillera region, where she spent her childhood playing in the forests. An indigenous Kankanaey, she has fought at the forefront of environmental justice for two decades. “Indigenous Peoples have been engaging in the climate change process because we believe we have something to contribute,” she says. “We have the solutions. We have the resilience. We have the knowledge that has been accumulated through time. Our elders know how to read the rivers, the behavior of animals. They use this to predict what’s happening in the environment.”

This traditional knowledge, explains Maximo Franca, is what has kept the world’s remaining forests standing. “It maintains biodiversity, it maintains the fauna, the flora, the animals… everything that the nature has, we are maintaining. And we are countering climate change.

..The struggle to dispel a particularly harmful narrative—that Indigenous Peoples are blindly opposed to development projects, or an impediment to economic progress—is a universal one. “The biggest misconception about Indigenous Peoples is that we are anti-development,” says Carling. “That comes from the western view of development, that mining, dams, agribusiness are good for the people. But look: It has caused a lot of inequality. It is unsustainable. It has severely destroyed nature. It has severely polluted our lands and resources.

…Echoes Sucre on environmentally destructive projects: “In the short term, it looks like a development; but in the medium and long term, it will be the destruction of humanity.”

2017 and 2018 have been among the deadliest years on record for environmental defenders, particularly indigenous and community activists, who are increasingly being targeted, harassed, criminalized, and even murdered for defending their lands from exploitation. “They are not fighting for their ego, or to get economic benefits,” says Ibrahim. “They are fighting for the identity, the survival of the peoples—the protection of the planet.

For Rukka Sombolinggi, the head of AMAN, the largest indigenous organization in Indonesia and the world, learning about the struggles of indigenous communities outside her own was like “baptism by fire,” she recalls. “Twenty years ago, I realized that Indigenous Peoples were facing criminalization. Land grabbings were happening everywhere. The eviction of Indigenous Peoples—from protected areas, from national parks, from protected forests, from wildlife sanctuaries—took place in Indonesia. Today, that is still happening.”

For Carling, the issue of criminalization is deeply personal: less than a year ago, she was falsely labeled a terrorist by the Philippine government alongside hundreds of other human rights activists. Though her name was later struck from the list, the threat remains.

….

Increasingly, governments, multilateral institutions, and other important stakeholders are heeding the urgent call to action to protect those who defend the world’s forests and lands. New campaigns, projects, and funds are underway to support initiatives to strengthen Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ rights to their lands. And the next generation of young indigenous leaders is joining the fight: “In Colombia, there is so much conflict that you have two options,” says Urzola Domicó. “One is that they kill your family and you are left without anything, and you die with your family. And the other option is that you go out and see how to defend your people, your nation.”

Winners of the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize

May 13, 2019

This year is the 30th anniversary of the Goldman Environmental Prize which honors grassroots environmental heroes from six continental regions: Europe, Asia, North America, Central and South America, Africa, and island nations. For more more on this and other awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/goldman-environmental-prize .This year’s winners are Alfred Brownell from Liberia, Bayarjargal Agvaantseren from Mongolia, Ana Colovic Lesoska from North Macedonia, Jacqueline Evans from the Cook Islands, Alberto Curamil from Chile, and Linda Garcia from the United States. The winners were honored at the San Francisco Opera House in California, U.S., on 29 April 2019

https://news.mongabay.com/2019/04/meet-the-winners-of-the-2019-goldman-environmental-prize/

Goldman Prize winner survives armed attack on Afro-Colombian social leaders

Right-wing Nationalism Undermines Human Rights work by UN

May 12, 2019

Under the title “Rise of Right-wing Nationalism Undermines Human Rights Worldwide”

The rise of right-wing nationalism and the proliferation of authoritarian governments have undermined human rights in several countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. As a result, some of the international human rights experts – designated as UN Rapporteurs – have either been politically ostracized, denied permission to visit countries on “fact-finding missions” or threatened with expulsion, along with the suspension of work permits.

The Philippines government, a vociferously authoritarian regime, has renewed allegations against Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/02/duterte-there-is-no-war-on-human-rights-defenders-only-on-criminals/]

…Anna-Karin Holmlund, Senior UN Advocate at Amnesty International, told IPS “We have witnessed several deeply worrying personal attacks by UN Member States against the independent experts, including personal attacks, threats of prosecution, public agitation and physical violence in the past year”…

Meanwhile, the Government of Burundi has closed down the UN Human Rights Office triggering a protest from Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Commissioner in Geneva. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/final-step-burundi-closes-down-un-office/ ]

And under the Trump administration, the US has ceased to cooperate with some of the UN Rapporteurs, and specifically an investigation on the plight of migrants on the Mexican border where some of them have been sexually assaulted—abuses which have remained unreported and unprosecuted. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/16/us-ngos-react-furiously-to-visa-restrictions-imposed-on-icc-investigators-by-trump-administration/]

The government of Myanmar has barred a UN expert from visiting the country to probe the status of Rohingya refugees.

In March, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, postponed an official visit to Morocco because the government “has not been able to ensure a programme of work in accordance with the needs of the mandate and the terms of reference for country visits by special procedures.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/21/special-rapporteur-diego-garcia-sayan-not-swayed-by-moroccan-assurances-for-his-visit/]

Referring to the situation in Colombia, Robert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said May 10: “We are alarmed by the strikingly high number of human rights defenders being killed, harassed and threatened in Colombia, and by the fact that this terrible trend seems to be worsening”…

And last month, Israel revoked the work permit for Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch, prompting a protest from the United Nations……According to a report in the New York Times March 10, Leilana Farha, the UN Special Envoy for Housing was “shocked” to discover that some of the Egyptians she interviewed in Cairo’s poor areas “had suffered reprisals for talking to her.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/18/israel-deportation-of-human-rights-watchs-staff-member-again-on-the-table/%5D

..

Urmila Bhoola of South Africa, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, told IPS she has visited Niger, Belgium, Nigeria, El Salvador, Mauritania, Paraguay and, lastly Italy, in October 2018. She pointed out that “country visits are only conducted upon invitation from governments”. “I have issued requests for country-visits to many countries but due to the mandate’s name and focus, member states are often reluctant to invite the mandate on contemporary forms of slavery, to conduct a visit”. In this sense, she pointed out, member states may not openly refuse a visit but may not reply to country visit requests….

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/05/rise-right-wing-nationalism-undermines-human-rights-worldwide/

 

“Somos Defensores” in Colombia publishes annual report 2018: worst ever

April 26, 2019

On 23 April 2019 the annual report by “Somos Defensores” in Colombia reveals increase in attacks against human rights defenders in 2018

Attacks against HRDs Colombia

Unfortunately, 2018 was the worst year for human rights defenders, as shown by the data. They recorded the highest aggression figures that have been presented since the beginning of the Information System in 2009. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/28/2018-latin-america-still-the-graveyard-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

That is, not counting the amount of cases that for different reasons are not included, since we start from accepting the existence of underreporting, which means that the level of violence is much higher than we can imagine…Despite the evident crisis of human rights and the urgent need for intervention to protect the lives of everyone, and in particular, human rights defenders, the current Government of Iván Duque has opted to take opposing positions to its duty to offer guarantees and has left aside the difficult situation that defenders are going through; dedicating his efforts, instead, to putting other issues at the center, such as the orange economy…

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/20/human-rights-defenders-in-latin-america-under-constant-attack/

Read the full post here

Human Rights Defenders in Latin America under constant attack

February 20, 2019

Some 50 human rights defenders from Latin America held a meeting at the Journalists Club in Mexico City to exchange strategies and analyse the challenges they face in the most lethal region for activists. Special rapporteurs on indigenous peoples, displaced persons and freedom of expression attended the meeting. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Some 50 human rights defenders from Latin America held a meeting at the Journalists Club in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

We’re in a very difficult situation. There is militarisation at a regional level, and gender-based violence. We are at risk, we cannot silence that,Aura Lolita Chávez, an indigenous woman from Guatemala. (Chávez was a finalist for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2017, and winner of the Ignacio Ellacuría Prize of the Basque Agency for Development Cooperation that same year). She has received death threats and attacks that forced her to seek refuge in Spain in 2017.

Latin America, the most lethal region for human rights defenders according to different reports, especially activists involved in defending land rights and the environment. Some 50 activists from Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, the United States and Uruguay participated in the International Meeting of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in Mexico City from 15-18 February under the slogan “Defending does not mean forgetting.”

Guests at the meeting were United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz from the Philippines; UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Cecilia Jiménez-Damary from the Philippines; and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza from Uruguay.

The human rights defenders identified common threats such as interference by mining and oil companies in indigenous territories, government campaigns against activists, judicial persecution, gender-based violence, and polarised societies that often fail to recognise the defence of human rights.

Evelia Bahena, an activist from the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, told IPS about “the suffering and destruction” at the hands of “companies that make profits at the cost of the lives of others.”

A number of reports have focused on the plight of human rights defenders in the region. In the report “At what cost? Irresponsible Business and the Murder of Land and Environment Defenders 2017”, published in July 2018, the international organisation Global Witness stated that of the total of 201 murders of human rights defenders in the world in 2017, 60 percent happened in Latin America. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/global-witness-report-2018-on-environmental-defenders-bad-but-2017-was-worse/]

Brazil recorded the highest number of homicides of activists of any country, 57. In Mexico, the number was 15, five times more than the year before, while Nicaragua recorded the highest murder rate of activists relative to its population, with four killings, according to the British-based organisation.

The “Global Analysis 2018”, produced by the international organisation Front Line Defenders, also depicts a grim outlook, counting 321 human rights defenders killed in 27 countries, nine more than in 2017. Of that total, 77 percent involved defenders of the land, the environment and indigenous people. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/]

For Ana María Rodríguez, a representative of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, difficult conditions persist in her country, where 20 human rights activists have been murdered so far in 2019. “There are delays and non-compliance with the peace agreement,” which have contributed to the defencelessness of human rights activists, according to the lawyer.

The rapporteurs present at the meeting, on unofficial visits to Mexico, listened to the accounts given by activists and recalled that governments in the region have international obligations to respect, such as guaranteeing the rights of indigenous people, displaced persons and journalists, as well as protecting human rights defenders…In her October report on Mexico, the special rapporteur criticised the violation of rights of indigenous people, especially the right to prior consultation on energy, land or tourism projects in their territories. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/16/human-rights-defenders-journalists-in-mexico-in-1919-2-killed-2-released/]

For his part, Lanza, the IACHR special rapporteur, said the recommendations of the joint report released in June 2018 with David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, should be the starting point for the measures to be adopted by the Mexican government.,,

María Ruth Sanabria: 40 years of taking risks as human rights defender in Colombia

January 20, 2019

The Lutheran World Federation published on 18 January a profile of Colombia HRD María Ruth Sanabria: “40 years of taking risks to defend the rights of others“.

María Ruth Sanabria, Colombian human rights defender. Photo: LWF Colombia
María Ruth Sanabria, Colombian human rights defender. Photo: LWF Colombia

Despite continued threats on her life, María Ruth Sanabria remains undeterred in the struggle for the rights of marginalized people. This includes a project called “Towards the territorialization of peace through women’s bodies, voices and words,” supported by The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Ever since she was young, Sanabria always felt drawn to dealing with “the pain of others,” and describes this characteristic as the essence of a true human rights defender. Looking back at more than 40 years of advocacy work, she remembers the people who lost their lives because of their work as human rights defenders, a task that is becoming increasingly dangerous in Colombia. Sanabria is gravely concerned about the prevailing discrimination and attacks against human rights’ defenders in her country. She has been the target of attempts against her life. And, she is not the only one. According to the Piedra en el Zapato [A pebble in your shoe] report published by the organization Somos Defensores [We Are Advocates] in 2017, there were more than 500 attacks against human rights’ defenders, leading to 106 murders, 370 threats, 23 arbitrary detentions, nine case of legal prosecution and two instances of theft of sensitive information. [see also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/28/2018-latin-america-still-the-graveyard-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

She was aged only 17, when she first became involved in the peasants’ struggle for land rights in San Alberto, a small village in the northern department of Cesar. She later became acquainted with the Indupalma’s Union of palm tree workers, many of who were persecuted and killed during the 1984 economic liberalization crisis, and the subsequent paramilitary attacks.

Following the murder of her husband, a peasant leader, in the early 1990s, and a series of threats against her, Sanabria fled San Alberto in 1994, and sought refuge in Arauquita town in the northeastern department of Arauca. She recalls arriving there with her four children, four boxes and 10,000 Colombian pesos (USD 3).

Fleeing meant she not only had to leave behind a major part of her life, but she also had to gain recognition as a woman leader and advocate in an unfamiliar environment. Gradually, she began to participate in political fora via the Unión Patriótica party, which saw 3,500 of its members murdered during the second half of the 1990s.

In 2001, she met Armando, her partner, who is also a human rights advocate. Together, they formed the Arauquita’s section of the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights – Arauca Chapter (CPDH). The threats from armed groups resumed, and there were new attempts against her life again, which forced her to seek refuge in Argentina in September 2006. She returned in 2007 only to witness the vicious attacks that paramilitary forces meted on peasant leaders and human rights advocates.

Her contact with the LWF started with a meeting involving its office in Colombia, CPDH and the Arauca Peasant Association (ACA), where joint work was initiated. The strong bond of trust that was established then is still going strong. Thanks to the LWF, “the CPDH was able to open its first offices in Arauquita and Fortul, although the latter was dismantled after the conflict took a turn for the worse,” she says. The office also acted as a center for workshops, which previously had been held under trees, in slums, and in the streets. “The people from the Lutheran World Federation have always been there for us through the toughest of times,” Sanabria concludes.

https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/maria-ruth-sanabria-40-years-taking-risks-defend-rights-others