Posts Tagged ‘Colombia’

Insight into correspondence between NGOs and UK Foreign office about Colombia

January 31, 2018

On 30 January 2018 IRIN reported that on 20 December 2017, ABColombia (a joint advocacy project on Colombia for CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, SCIAF and Trócaire) sent a letter to Sir Alan Duncan, UK Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, expressing concerns regarding the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia. In the letter, ABColombia asked the Minister to ensure a statement is made at the UN Security Council regarding the extremely high levels of killings of Colombian HRDs and that the UK strongly requests the Colombian Government to officially invite Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, to Colombia. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/06/latin-america-philippines-most-dangerous-places-for-human-rights-defenders/]

In his response from 17 January 2018, Minister Sir Alan Duncan wrote:

[…] I share your concern about the increasing violence against human rights defenders in Colombia. As you mention in your letter, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has confirmed that 73 social leaders were killed last year. It is verifying a further 11 cases. A disproportionate number of those killed are linked to disputes concerning land restitution. Some also appear to have been targeted for speaking out for the rights of local and indigenous communities. Please be assured that our Embassy in Bogota continues to monitor the situation on the ground closely.

As you know, Colombia is designated a Human Rights Priority Country by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and protection of human rights defenders is a priority focus for our work. I regularly raise violence against human rights defenders during my meetings with Colombian Ministers and the Colombian Ambassador […]

https://reliefweb.int/report/colombia/violence-against-human-rights-defenders-correspondence-fco

Read the letter that ABColombia sent and the full response by Minister Alan Duncan

How photographer Tom Laffay sees human rights defenders in Colombia

January 20, 2018

While studying at the College of Charleston, Tom Laffay’s political consciousness came not from the classroom but in the fields while working alongside Mexican migrant laborers on a farm in North Carolina. “How they were living in the shadows made me want to know where they came from,” says the St. Ignatius High School alum.
With a background in Latin American studies and photojournalism, Laffay moved to Nicaragua in 2011 and Bogota, Colombia, in 2016. “I’ve never liked the idea of parachute journalism,” says the 28-year-old Laffay, whose work has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic and Al Jazeera. “I get really invested in a place.” Laffay’s latest project Defender, a portrait of human rights defenders under threat for their work in Columbia, is part of the Cleveland Print Room’s Anthropocene group exhibit, running 19 January to 23 February 2018.

Tom Laffay Defender 2

Cleveland Magazine talked with Laffay about the perilous work of defenders intent on protecting their native environment:

Q: In 2016, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia signed a peace agreement. Since then, nearly 200 indigenous leaders, environmental activists, LBGTQ leaders and lawyers have been murdered in Columbia. Why?
A:  It’s open season on human rights defenders in Columbia, who are being killed with impunity for documenting blatant oil contamination by companies using water in fuel extraction. With the rebels demobilizing, the country is open for business in areas they couldn’t be involved with before.   

Q: Are you in danger for your associations with the local activists?
A:
There are a lot of extremely talented and brave journalists here. I definitely take precautions and I make calculated risks. You have to really trust the people you’re with. I make sure I’m always in touch with the legal collective I work with and they always know where I’m going to be.

Q: What do you want people to take away from this exhibit?
A: 
These are men and women defending their communities and environment, and their rewards are arbitrary arrests, fake judicial processes and death. The landscape has become so dominated by the oil industry. … Oil extraction comes first and communities are a distant second. ..

https://clevelandmagazine.com/entertainment/museums-galleries/articles/tom-laffay-s-artistic-defense

Front Line’s 2017 report confirms worst expectation: over 300 HRDs killed

January 5, 2018

At the end of last year I published the post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/31/2017-a-year-to-forget-for-human-rights-defenders-but-dont-forget-the-human-rights-defenders/, and now – 3 January 2018 – Front Line Defenders has published its 2017 report which confirms this impression.

Front Line Defenders said female human rights defenders in particular are increasingly reporting “hyper-sexualised smear campaigns and defamation” which aim to limit their activism by eroding local support networks. File photograph: Getty Images

Front Line Defenders said female human rights defenders in particular are increasingly reporting “hyper-sexualised smear campaigns and defamation” which aim to limit their activism by eroding local support networks. File photograph: Getty Images

There were 312 human rights defenders killed in 27 countries last year, according to the new report. Two-thirds of those killed were activists working on issues of land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights, while 80 per cent of killings took place in just four countriesBrazil, Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines. Front Line Defenders said the number of killings remained “truly shocking”, while the “weak response of both national governments and the international community gives little hope that this will change in the short term”. The report outlined that in 84 per cent of killings the defender had previously received a threat.

Andrew Anderson, executive director of Front Line Defenders, said “we know that those killings, in many cases were preventable”. “When we analyse those killings, in 84 per cent, the defendant had previously received a threat, and that highlights if there had been effective action taken by the police or other authorities, there could have been something done to prevent that killing happening.” Mr Anderson added: “These are not random killings of people in crossfire – This is the targeted elimination of people who are working to defend the rights of the most vulnerable.

Front Line Defenders said female human rights defenders in particular are increasingly reporting “hyper-sexualised smear campaigns and defamation” which aim to limit their activism by eroding local support networks.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/resource-publication/annual-report-human-rights-defenders-risk-2017

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/over-300-human-rights-activists-killed-in-2017-says-report-1.3345060

 

Colombia: 2017 marks one year of peace effort but human rights defenders still suffer

December 31, 2017

The Bogotá Post of 24 November 2017 summarizes the situation in the following rather factual manner: “One year since the signing of the peace agreement with the FARC, and – as was to be expected – there have been a number of ups and downs in post-conflict Colombia. But while there are plenty of challenges, there are also a lot of people throughout the country working to address them.”  Re the killing of activists it says:  “The October protest violence in Tumaco was a reminder of the ongoing turbulence in the troubled region, which has the highest amount of coca production in the country. It highlighted both the issues surrounding forced coca eradication and the increased presence of armed groups and paramilitary activities as rival gangs compete to fill the vacuum left by the FARC. CINEP, a peace NGO, identified the presence of Clan Úsuga, Clan del Golfo, Clan Pacífico, La Empresa, Gaitanistas, Gente del Orden, Cártel de Sinaloa and Guerrillas Unidas del Pacífico in the region this year. A number of national and international NGOs have expressed serious concern about the killings of social activists and community leaders. On November 17 the UNHCR expressed growing concern about the increase in murders and threats. According to their figures, there have been 78 deaths this year and 13 suspected murders. In addition, at least 1,500 people have been displaced by threats and violence in 2017, although the report says the number may be higher because people are afraid to report abuses.

What’s being done? A landmark constitutional reform to prohibit neo-paramilitarism has been approved by congress, and recent military strikes targeting these groups have been successful in capturing some of their most influential leaders. Although steps to indict those responsible for killing social leaders have been made (54 indictments so far, according to President Santos), more long-term measures are needed. To that end, the government has established a national commission for security guarantees, but it has been slow to respond to the increasing dangers in affected regions.”

TeleSur reported on 21 December that “earlier today a community leader in Puerto Colombia, Putumayo was murdered along with his eight-year-old daughter. Pablo Oviedo was walking with his daughter and both were ambushed by a group and shot multiple times. The two were rushed to San Francisco de Asis Hospital in Puerto de Asis and declared dead.

Oviedo’s two brothers who are involved in the Human Rights Network in southern Colombia were also declared missing. The tragic death of father and daughter occurred hours after Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas had participated in security council meeting with the purpose of addressing the violence in the southwestern city of Mocoa. Social leaders present at the meeting wore masks to cover their faces in an attempt to avoid being swept away in the wave of violence.”

At least the UK Parliament took notice with “Early day motion 718”: ‘That this House notes with concern the increased risks faced by human rights defenders and community leaders in Colombia since the signing of the peace agreement with the FARC, and in particular the recent killings of land restitution leaders, Mario Castaño Bravo and Hernán Bedoya; is deeply disturbed that according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 78 defenders have been killed in the first 11 months of this year; further notes the vital importance of the work of human rights defenders in Colombia, and elsewhere; and calls on the Government to strengthen its efforts, bilaterally and through the EU, to protect human rights defenders and civil society leaders in Colombia, and to support and monitor the implementation of the peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC.”

http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22215&LangID=E

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/15/jorge-molano-from-colombia-laureate-of-2015-lawyers-for-lawyers-award/

and

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/06/latin-america-philippines-most-dangerous-places-for-human-rights-defenders/

———

https://thebogotapost.com/2017/12/04/pieces-of-peace/

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Murder-of-Colombian-Social-Leader-Highlights-UN-Condemnation-20171221-0020.html

http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/718

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-human-rights-casualties/colombia-rights-activists-facing-danger-u-n-says-idUSKBN1EE2TQ

Bartolome de las Casas, an award specially for indigenous peoples

July 14, 2017

portada

Photo: Leader of Peru’s Ashaninka indigenous people, Ruth Buendia, was handed over the Bartolome de las Casas Prize from the Government of Spain. ANDINA/Difusión

Granted already in 2014, King Felipe VI of Spain presented the 23rd Bartolome de las Casas Award on Tuesday 4 July to Ruth Buendia, for her leadership skills as chairwoman of the Central Ashaninka del Rio Ene (CARE), a local organization in Peru that gathers 17 indigenous communities and works to defend the rights of the Ashaninka people in the Ene River Valley.the award honors her significant contribution to human and sustainable development, as well as her environmental protection work.  The jury acknowledged Buendia’s efforts to provide access to public health and education services across the communities. Also, she managed to stop the construction of the Patizipatango hydroelectric dam, which prevented arable lands of 10 communities from being flooded.

In 2014, Buendia received also the Goldman Environmental Prize, dubbed the Green Nobel Prize, which recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/

The Bartolome de las Casas Award was also granted to Colombia‘s Fundacion Caminos de Identidad —FUCAI (Roads to Identity Foundation) for its constant work strengthening identity and autonomy of indigenous peoples in different fields: education, food sovereignty, family, childhood and youth.

Nobel Peace Prize 2016 has strong peace content

October 8, 2016

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 is very much a traditional and clear ‘peace’ award. The news can be found in all mainstream media. So for the record, and in the words of the Norwegian Nobel Committee: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end…” That the referendum rejected the proposal does not diminish the serious effort made (and perhaps shows the risk of calling referendums where ‘anger’ of different kinds tends to favor any response that has a NO element in it).

For last year’s see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/more-on-the-tunisian-winners-of-the-nobel-peace-prize/

Source: The Nobel Peace Prize 2016 – Press Release

Role of Human Rights Defenders critical for post-accord justice in Colombia says Mary Lawlor

July 12, 2016

Mary Lawlor has only  just announced her departure (see announcement published yesterday) and already an article on Colombia of 11 July 2016 shows what insights we may miss in the future. The link between the peace process and the role of human rights defenders in Colombia was referred to in earlier posts [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/human-rights-defenders-squeezed-by-geo-politics-the-cases-of-colombia-iran-and-cuba/]  Mary Lawlor here welcomes the agreement as historic, offering the Colombian people an opportunity to make a break with the endemic violence of the past. The direct reference to the protection of human rights defenders in the peace agreement is one more reason to celebrate. Here the piece in full:

Human Rights Defenders Critical for Post-Accord Justice in Colombia

Read the rest of this entry »

Runners up for Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders 2016 announced

May 11, 2016

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped has announced that the finalists for its 2016 award are human rights defenders from Azerbaijan, Burma/Myanmar, Colombia, Honduras, Palestine, and Tanzania. For more information on the annual Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Riskhttp://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/front-line-defenders-award.

 

 

The 6 finalists for 2016 are Read the rest of this entry »

Alarming criminalisation of human rights defenders in Latin America

February 27, 2016

The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of the extraction of natural resources and megaprojects is becoming a very worrisome phenomenon in Latin America, denounces the Observatory in a report published today in Mexico. Entitled “The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of industrial projects: a regional phenomenon in Latin America”, this document points to the role of businesses, civil servants, public prosecutors, judges, and the State. The report issued by OMCT and FIDH (in the context of their Observatory for Human Rights Defenders) on 25 February 2016 describes the specific cases of human rights defenders criminalized in eight Latin American countries (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru).

 

The report especially stresses two core issues common to all the countries studied: Read the rest of this entry »

Assassination of human rights defenders proceed in Honduras, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and the Philippines

January 29, 2016

On 30 November I referred to the systematic killing of human rights defenders in 2015 [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/closing-civil-society-space-a-euphemism-for-killing-human-rights-defenders/] and mentioned the annual report by Front Line for 2015 listing Latin America and the Philippines as the most dangerous places [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/latin-america-philippines-most-dangerous-places-for-human-rights-defenders/]. If further illustration is needed, here some short summaries of cases of killing human rights defenders as reported by Front Line over the last few months:Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

Honduras: Killing of LGTBI rights defender Paola Barraza. On 24 January 2016, human rights defender Ms Paola Barraza was assassinated by unknown attackers in front of her house in the neighbourhood of Lempira, in Comayaguela. Paola Barraza, a trans woman, was a member of the board of directors of Asociación LGTB Arcoíris (LGTB Rainbow Association). The human rights defender was at home when  unknown persons knocked at her door and called her outside. When Paola Barraza answered the door she was fired upon five times. She died at the scene as a result of her wounds.  Paola Barraza was previously attacked in connection with her LGTBI rights work on 15 August 2015  [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/29495] Between 23 June 2015 and 31 August 2015, three other LGTBI rights defenders working in country were killed https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/29495.
Read the rest of this entry »