Colombia: Government must guarantee protections for organisations and social leaders from paramilitary threats

Press release
en es fr

FIDH calls on Colombian authorities to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Colombian civil society in the context of the upsurge in paramilitary attacks in recent months.

For example, several of the participants of the 15 April public hearing, "Persistence of paramilitary activity: sustainable peace is not possible without guarantees", have since received threats. This hearing, held at the National Congress of Bogota, was called for by Congress representative Alirio Uribe Muñoz and Senator Iván Cepeda Castro. Also noteworthy were the “armed strikes” on 1 and 2 April 2016 by the Úsuga Clan, or Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (ACG) [a Colombian self-defence group] in several regions around the country, which resulted in six persons dead, and numerous threats and acts of violence. Incidents such as these heighten our fear of retaliation against persons and organisations who denounce the actions of these groups.

“On the verge of a final peace agreement, Colombian civil society must have the necessary guarantees to be able to publicly denounce serious acts - such as the persistence of paramilitary activities in Columbia - without fearing for their lives, their integrity, or that of the groups or communities they represent,”

stated Karim Lahidjim, FIDH President.

The annual report of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia and the 2015 general report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights again pointed out that: "…the violence deriving from the lack of complete, effective dismantling of the armed structures of paramilitary groups continues to severely impact the rights of the Colombian people.” Nonetheless, the Colombian State continues to insist that the paramilitary groups have been dismantled.

However, the state of affairs in several regions - such as the department of Sucre - contradicts that statement. Various groups, such as the AGC, the Rastrojos and the Águilas Negras, are reported to have been active in the department in recent years, and are said to be responsible for the following acts: the murder of Alex Miguel Arrieta in 2008; the burning of 10 ranches in 2011; the murder of Éder Verbel Rocha, member of MOVICE Sucre, in March 2011; and the attack that nearly cost the life of Finca la Europa Vice-President Andrés Narváez on 12 June 2014. On 1 April 2016, the President of the Peasant Farmers Association on the La Europa hacienda, Argemiro Lara, a leader in human rights defence and property restitution, received a number of threatening text messages signed by the Águilas Negras. Six days later, on 7 April, men dressed in black rode through several parts of the property on high-performance motorcycles, intimidating the population.

Thus, we seek protection [1] for the following social organisations in particular, which were either organisers or participants of the 15 April hearing mentioned above: Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz [Inter-Ecclesiastical Commission for Justice and Peace] (Bajo Atrato, San José de Apartadó, Buenaventura and other cases handled by the Commission); ACASA (San José de Apartado); AHERAMIGUA (Bajo Cauca and northeast Antioquia); CREDHOS (central Magdalena); ASCAMCAT (Catatumbo); Red de derechos humanos Francisco Isaias Cifuentes [Francisco Isaias Cifuentes Human Rights Network] (southwest: Cauca, Nariño and Valle); Caguán Vive (San Vicente del Caguán); Red de Derechos Humanos del Putumayo [Putumayo Human Rights Network] (Putumayo); DHOC (eastern Colombia); Unión Patriótica (UP) [Patriotic Union]; ASODECAS; Proceso de Restitución de Tierras de la Finca La Europa [Process for the Restitution of Property on La Europa Hacienda] and MOVICE, Sucre chapter; Asociación Colombiana de Estudiantes Universitarios (ACEU)[Colombian Association of University Students]; Federación de Estudiantes Universitarios (FEU) [Federation of University Students]; Asociación Nacional de Zonas de Reserva Campesina (ANZORC) [National Association of Farming Preserve Areas]; Coordinación Agrominera, Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (CPDH) [Farming and Mining Coordination, Standing Committee for the Defence of Human Rights]; Fundación por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos [Foundation for the Defence of Human Rights] and DIH del Oriente Colombiano (DHOC) [Human Rights Defence in Eastern Colombia]; Movimiento Político y Social Marcha Patriótica – Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos [Political Movement and Social Patriotic March – National Committee for Human Rights].

Read more