Colombia - paramilitaries threaten trade unionists, human rights defenders

Amnesty International (Canada) has issued an urgent request regarding death threats made against activists in Colombia.

Ottawa (19 Jan. 2015) — Amnesty International (Canada) is calling for supporters to send letters to the President of Colombia urging him to provide protection for the threatened individuals.

Under attack are dozens of human rights defenders, as well as trade unionists and land restitution claimants who have been threatened by the Black Eagles paramilitary group in Northern Colombia. The paramilitary group has also labelled the targeted individuals and organizations as guerrillas.

Trade unionists, human rights organizations and others declared military targets

According to Amnesty, on January 11, a pamphlet from the paramilitary group Black Eagles Northern Bloc Atlantic Coast reached the homes of a trade unionist and a women human rights defender in Atlántico Department, Northern Colombia. In the pamphlet, “human rights organizations, trade unionists, land claimants, victims’ advisors […] those who make human rights reports” are declared military targets.

The pamphlet warns, “start leaving the country or hiding like rats, because we are going to finish you off one by one.”

40 individuals targeted

Amnesty reports that the death threat, which named around 40 individuals, including human rights defenders, trade unionists, land claimants, as well as a state official working on land restitution and a priest, also named several human rights organizations.

Those named in the death threat have been involved in the land restitution process and on issues relating to the peace process in the departments of Sucre, Bolivar, Cesar and Atlántico. Those threatened include Juan Martínez, one of the leaders of the El Tamarindo community, a group of peasant farmers in Atlántico Department, as well as members of the Atlántico and Sucre branches of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes.

Urgent call for letters

Amnesty has issued an urgent request regarding death threats made against activists in Colombia. 

It makes some suggestions for your letter

  • Start with Dear President Santos and a sentence about yourself, such as where you are writing from, to make your message unique
  • Express your concern for the people who have been threatened and provide a detail or two to identify them, such as the origin or date of the threat, or mention of what groups they are from
  • Urge him to immediately provide effective protection for them, in accordance with their wishes and needs

You can also call for a full and impartial investigation into the death threats, ask for the results to be published and bring to those responsible to justice. You can also remind his government to fulfil their obligation to protect human rights defenders, as set out in the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Your letter can be sent by regular mail or fax to: 

Juan Manuel Santos

Presidente de la República

Palacio de Nariño, Carrera 8 No.7-26

Bogotá, Colombia

Fax:   011 57 1 596 0631

More information:

Amnesty International - Take Action Now

National Union on Colombia

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