Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie

Transforming pain into hope : Human Rights Defendres in the Americas

7 December 2012

CONTENTS


1. Introduction .............................................................................................................5
2. International law and standards..................................................................................8
3. Human rights defenders – the concept ......................................................................12
Who is a human rights defender?...............................................................................12
Why recognition matters ...........................................................................................14
4. Types of attacks on human rights defenders...............................................................17
Death threats, killings, abductions and enforced disappearances ..................................17
Gender-based violence against women defenders ........................................................20
Punished for exercising the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful
assembly ................................................................................................................22

Stigmatization and attacks on reputation....................................................................25
5. Defenders most at risk: land, territory and natural resources ........................................28
Armed conflict – Colombia........................................................................................29
Land disputes .........................................................................................................31
Mega-projects..........................................................................................................33
6. Defenders most at risk: sex, gender, and sexuality ......................................................39
Sexual and reproductive rights ..................................................................................39
Gender-based violence against women .......................................................................40
Attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people................................42
7. Defenders most at risk: migrants’ rights.....................................................................45
8. Defenders most at risk: fighting impunity ..................................................................48
9. Defenders most at risk: journalists, bloggers and trade unionists ..................................51
10. Protection for human rights defenders.....................................................................55

 

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Abstarcts on Colombia

 

THE JOSÉ ALVEAR RESTREPO LAWYERS’ COLLECTIVE, COLOMBIA


“[False allegations which] discredit [a defender] have terrible effects on every aspect of life…
Respect from state officials is more important that any bullet-proof vest”.
Reinaldo Villalba, human rights lawyer and member of Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo
In October 2011, the Attorney General announced that she would investigate claims that some victims of the
Mapiripán massacre, in which dozens of people were killed and forcibly disappeared by paramilitaries in
collusion with the army in July 1997, had not died and that the families of these “false victims” had,
nevertheless, claimed and received financial compensation from the state. The investigation was opened
following a statement by Mariela Contreras in which she revealed that her son, who had supposedly been
killed in Mapiripán, was actually alive. Mariela Contreras, who was represented by the José Alvear Restrepo
Lawyers’ Collective (Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo, CCAJAR), which also acted as the legal
representative for other victims of Mapiripán, had received compensation from the state.
Following these allegations, the Procurator General accused CCAJAR of acting like a “criminal gang”, while
President Juan Manuel Santos reportedly said: “There are shadowy economic interests using this system
making a mockery of it in order to profit from state resources... What we could not imagine was that they should

have recommended people who were not victims to lie and pass themselves off as such. What greater
act of corruption can there be?” In other statements, President Santos also called into question the work of the
Inter-American Human Rights System. In these statements the government did not mention that Mariela
Contreras’ testimony in her original claim was endorsed by the Office of the Attorney General, and not by
CCAJAR. In the Mapiripán case, the Inter-American Human Rights Court has called on the state to clarify
exactly who the victims were, as part of its obligation to fully and impartially investigate the massacre.
Such accusations against CCAJAR were clearly part of a campaign to discredit its work and that of other
organizations that have tirelessly campaigned against impunity for members of the security forces implicated
in human rights violations. For years, members of CCAJAR have been subjected to illegal surveillance, wiretapping,
harassment and death threats. These latest high-profile criticisms have generated further
intimidation, surveillance and harassment of CCAJAR members.

 

MANUEL RUÍZ AND SAMIR DE JESÚS RUÍZ, COLOMBIA


The body of Manuel Ruíz was found on 27 March 2012 in the El Carmen del Darién Municipality, Chocó
Department. On 28 March, the body of his 15-year-old son, Samir de Jesús Ruíz, was found nearby, bearing
signs of torture. According to witnesses, both had been abducted by paramilitaries a few days earlier. Manuel
Ruíz managed to telephone his family to tell them they had been forced out of the vehicle they were travelling
in and that their abductors were demanding a large sum of money for their release. Before their abduction,
they had been approached by paramilitaries and accused of being guerrillas, and then stopped again briefly
by police.
Manuel Ruíz and his son were members of the Afro-descendent and Afro-mestizo community of Apartadocito in
the Curvaradó River Basin, Chocó Department. Their killing occurred just before Manuel Ruíz was due to guide
a government inspection of an area known as Los Piscingos. The inspection was connected with a court order,
issued on 7 March 2012, that a census of the area be carried out to help determine the rightful owners of land.
The family of Manuel Ruíz and others had been displaced from Los Piscingos in a joint military-paramilitary
operation in the area in 1996. Following the abduction and killing of Manuel Ruíz and his son, the family left
Apartadocito fearing for their safety. At the time of writing, no one had been brought to justice for the killings.
The Apartadocito community council is part of the body which governs the collective land holding of
Curvaradó.52 Since the 1990s, paramilitaries, either acting alone or in collusion with the armed forces, have
been responsible for killings, death threats and the forced displacement of Afro-descendent and Indigenous
communities living in the Jiguamiandó and Curvaradó River Basins and the Indigenous resguardo
(reservation) of Urada-Jiguamiandó. As a means to guarantee their safety, members of the Afro-descendent
communities of Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó created Humanitarian Zones to assert their rights as civilians not
to be drawn into the conflict. The communities have sought to defend their land rights and prevent the
expansion of illegal African palm plantations and other economic activities within their territory. Many of their
members have been threatened and killed as a result.

 

NATIONAL MOVEMENT OF VICTIMS OF STATE CRIMES, COLOMBIA


In July 2012, the paramilitary organization Anti-Land Restitution Army sent an email naming 13 people it
described as “military targets”, including human rights defenders and politicians. The death threat read: “13
guerrillas disguised as human rights defenders, 13 military targets.” 54 It continued: “Our army has clear
instructions to kill these bastards who want to take away the land from well-to-do citizens to give it to
guerrillas like them. You are warned and informed since we have you fully identified, as well as your
[protection] schemes”. Many of those named in the death threat have supported land restitution claims and
work in areas where people have claimed the return of their lands.

Several of those named in the threat had also participated in a protest organized by National Movement of
Victims of State Crimes (Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado, MOVICE) on 6 March 2012
calling for the implementation of an effective and comprehensive process for the restitution and restoration of
lands violently seized by all parties to the conflict.
Members of MOVICE across Colombia have suffered a number of attacks. For example, the MOVICE branch in
Sucre Department was formed in 2006 and since then has witnessed over 100 instances of intimidation,
threats or attacks against its members in an attempt to stop them from carrying out their legitimate work.
These include surveillance, the theft of confidential and sensitive information, death threats, the misuse of
the justice system and killings. One of the latest incidents was on 11 March 2012 when Hernando José Verbel
Ocón suffered an attempt on his life in San Onofre Municipality, Sucre Department. Hernando José Verbel Ocón
reported this attempt on his life to the judicial and investigative police (SIJIN). On 23 March 2011, Eder Verbel
Rocha, the father of Hernando José Verbel Ocón, was killed by paramilitaries, and in January 2012, Eder Verbel
Rocha's brother, who witnessed the killing, received death threats. At the time of writing, they were not
receiving protection measures from the state. Two paramilitaries who allegedly shot at the brothers are in
detention pending trial. However, investigations into who ordered these killings have not produced any results.
MOVICE is a coalition of more than 200 Colombian human rights, social and political organizations that
campaigns for truth, justice and reparation for victims of human rights violations committed by the security
forces, either acting alone or in collusion with paramilitary groups, during the armed conflict. Its work has
been instrumental in documenting and publicly exposing many cases of killings and enforced disappearance
carried out by the security forces and paramilitary groups.

 

POPULAR WOMEN’S ORGANIZATION, COLOMBIA


The Popular Women’s Organization (Organización Femenina Popular, OFP) has been working to promote
women’s human rights in Colombia for 40 years and has been working with women survivors of human rights
violations to support them in their fight for justice, truth and reparation. On 13 September 2012, Gloria
Amparo Suárez, the legal representative of the OFP in Barrancabermeja, Santander Department, Colombia,
received a threatening phone call. She was told that she had 72 hours to leave the city. The man who called
her also said: “Tell your boss Yolanda she has 48 hours to leave the city”. Yolanda Becerra is the director of
the OFP. On 14 March 2012, a man approached María Iluminada Ortiz Moscote, another member of the OFP, in
front of her home in Barrancabermeja and accused her of being a police informant. He also told her pointing a
finger at her head: “Tell them I am a paramilitary to fill your head with lead so that you see what a
paramilitary is”. Many other members of OFP have been intimidated and attacked. In the last decade, three
members of the organization have been killed. No one has been brought to justice for the threats. OFP
members are now receiving limited protection measures.

Author: 
amnesty.ca

Source: 

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