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Colombia

    February 07, 2017

    A spike in the number of human rights activists killed in the last month highlights the continuing dangers faced by those exposing ongoing abuses, said Amnesty International today as the much-delayed talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) get under way in Ecuador.

    The organization is calling on the government to immediately provide effective protection to at-risk human rights defenders after at least 10 were killed in January alone; nearly double last year’s monthly average.

    “The peace process in Colombia is a bright light at the end of a long and dark tunnel that has already brought some tangible benefits to many Colombians. However, unless the killings of activists stop, this will leave an indelible stain on any resulting peace accord,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “These brave activists are being silenced by powerful local and regional economic and political interests, as well as various armed groups, including paramilitaries, for defending their rights or exposing the country’s tragic reality.”

    December 01, 2016

    The ratification of the peace agreement marks the beginning of a new and hopeful chapter in Colombia’s history, but the real hard work starts now, Amnesty International said today.

    Last night, Congress ratified a revised version of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after the original deal was rejected by a referendum on 2 October.

    The ratification paves the way for the FARC to begin to demobilize and disarm in a process to be implemented over six months.

    The revised agreement offers more clarity on a number of issues, such as on how the sanctions imposed on those responsible for crimes under international law will work. It also forces the FARC to hand over their assets, which could boost the right of victims to reparation. But the agreement remains flawed in terms of guarantees on victims’ rights.

    October 07, 2016

    Today’s awarding of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos underscores the expectation that Colombians will persevere in their search for peace with justice, Amnesty International said.

    “Millions of Colombians still demand peace and justice. Today’s announcement honours not only the initiative taken by President Santos and his government, but many others both within Colombia and beyond who are seeking a path to peace with justice,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    “We hope today’s announcement will embolden the parties to continue efforts to reach a definitive peace agreement that ensures the right of victims to truth, justice and reparation and brings an end to the human rights violations that have marked the armed conflict.

    October 02, 2016

    The rejection of the peace agreement in today’s plebiscite in Colombia is a missed opportunity for the country to finally move away from its tragic 50-year-long war, said Amnesty International.

    “Today will go down in history as the day Colombia turned its back to what could have been an end to a 50-year long conflict that devastated millions of lives,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “Although imperfect, the agreement represented a concrete way forward for peace and justice. The uncertainly this vote brings could place millions of Colombians, particularly those from vulnerable groups such as Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities at  greater risk of suffering human rights violations.”

    “It’s imperative that Colombia does not walk away from this project and that the country continues to move towards the long awaited peace millions are longing for.”

    Read more:

    Colombia: Historic peace deal must ensure justice and an end to human rights abuses (News, 26 September 2016)

    September 26, 2016

     Released 2300 GMT 26 September 2016

    The success of an historic peace deal between the Colombian government and the country’s largest guerilla group, which was officially signed today in Cartagena, rests on the Colombian authorities’ ability to ensure truth, justice and reparation for the millions of victims of the more than 50 year-long conflict, said Amnesty International.

    The peace agreement will still need to be ratified via a plebiscite, to be held on 2 October.

    “Today will rightly be a day of celebration in Colombia. The authorities must now guarantee this historic achievement is not undermined by ensuring that all those responsible for the despicable crimes under international law inflicted on millions of people over half a century face justice,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “The crimes of those who carried out, ordered or benefited from these abuses, including those in business and politics, cannot and must not be brushed off with the stroke of a pen.”

    September 12, 2016

    The authorities must take immediate and effective action to once and for all put an end to the spate of recent killings of human rights defenders and social and community activists, said Amnesty international today as yet another activist was killed yesterday.

    On 11 September, Néstor Iván Martínez, a member of the Afro-descendant Community Council (Consejo Comunitario) of La Sierra, El Cruce and La Estación, and a leader of the People’s Congress (Congreso de los Pueblos) social movement, was shot dead by unknown assailants in a rural part of Chiriguaná Municipality in the department of Cesar. Néstor Iván Martínez had been active in environmental and land rights campaigns in Cesar, and had also campaigned against mining activities in the region.

    On 29 August, three leaders of the NGO Integration Committee of the Colombian Massif (Comité de Integración del Macizo Colombiano, CIMA), Joel Meneses, Nereo Meneses Guzmán and Ariel Sotelo, were stopped in the vehicle they were travelling in and shot dead by a group of armed men in Almaguer municipality in the department of Cauca.

    June 23, 2016

    The agreement on a definitive bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, signed today in Cuba by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is an historic step in efforts towards signing a peace deal between the two sides, Amnesty International said today.

    However, the agreement will only come fully into force after a peace deal is signed, most likely in the next few months. Nevertheless, today’s announcement brings ever closer the prospect of an end to a 50-year-old conflict marked by crimes under international law and serious human rights violations and abuses and by the failure to bring to justice those suspected of criminal responsibility in such crimes.

    The agreement sets out the mechanisms by which the FARC will demobilize and disarm- to be completed within 180 days after the signing of a peace agreement – as well as the steps the authorities will take to guarantee the security of FARC combatants during their demobilization, including measures to combat paramilitary groups (referred to as criminal gangs by the government), which continue to operate despite their supposed demobilization a decade ago.

    June 06, 2016

    The Colombian authorities must ensure that the security forces, in particular the ESMAD anti-riot police, refrain from using disproportionate and excessive force against demonstrators, Amnesty International said today as a nationwide protest by rural communities enters its second week.

    According to local social and human rights organizations, at least 179 demonstrators have been injured and three Indigenous protestors killed since Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities began a national mobilization on 30 May. There are also reports that members of the security forces have been injured.

    The demonstrators are protesting at what they argue is the Colombian government’s failure to comply with numerous agreements on a range of rural issues. These include agrarian reform; education; health; free, prior and informed consent; and mining.

    The security forces have a duty to guarantee public order but this must not be used as an excuse to ignore international standards on the use of force by the security forces.

    June 02, 2016
    Kimy Pernia Domicó

    By Kathy Price, Colombia campaigner with Amnesty International Canada

    June 2nd is a day of painful remembering for me. I will never forget the phone call 15 years ago that delivered heart-stopping news. Embera Katío indigenous leader Kimy Pernía Domicó had been abducted by paramilitaries in northern Colombia. He was never seen again, despite courageous efforts by his people to find and rescue him.

    Kimy won many friends in Canada. I feel honoured to be among them.

    Two years before he was disappeared, Kimy travelled from his rainforest home to our nation's capital to testify to a committee of MPs charged with oversight of foreign affairs. He told them about the devastating impact of a hydroelectric megaproject, built with financing from Canada’s Export Development Corporation.

    The dam had flooded the land and food crops of Embera Katío communities. Fish stocks had disappeared bringing hunger and disease. Kimy's young grandchild was among the sick.

    May 27, 2016

    The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group must immediately and unconditionally release two journalists and a cameraman that are believed to be hostages and must ensure that the three are treated humanely at all times, Amnesty International said today.

    Colombian-Spanish journalist Salud Hernández-Mora was last seen in the northern region of Catatumbo on 21 May, while Colombian journalist Diego D'Pablos and cameraman Carlos Melo disappeared two days later in the same region.

    This is a clear violation of international humanitarian law and risks undermining recent efforts to start peace talks with the ELN, the country’s second largest guerrilla group.

    The Colombian authorities must take all necessary measures to locate their whereabouts and to secure their release without jeopardizing their safety

    April 11, 2016

     

    The numbers are staggering. Some six million people have been forced to flee their homes in Colombia during decades of armed conflict characterized by horrendous human rights violations against civilians.

    In the process, at least 8 million hectares of land have been abandoned or misappropriated.

    At the same time, Colombian authorities have granted licences to mining and other companies looking to exploit these lands and their natural resources, failing to guarantee the internationally-recognized right of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples to decision-making about their territory without fear of harm.

    March 30, 2016

    Justice for the many victims of human rights abuses and violations amid Colombia’s five-decade armed conflict must lie at the heart of peace talks announced today between the government and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN), Amnesty International said.

    The government and the ELN, the country’s second largest guerrilla group, said that official peace negotiations between the two sides are soon to begin in Ecuador.

    The country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) are expected to sign a peace agreement with the government in the coming weeks or months after more than three years of talks.

    “The talks between the ELN and the government, coupled with an imminent peace deal with the FARC, bring hope that more than half a century of conflict in Colombia might soon be over,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    December 17, 2015

    Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice yesterday overturned the conviction of retired colonel Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega for his role in crimes under international law. In 2010, Plazas Vega had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the crime of enforced disappearance.

    Twelve people were forcibly disappeared following an assault by the security forces on the Palace of Justice in Bogotá in November 1985 after the M-19 guerrilla group had taken hostage those inside. Some 100 people died in the assault, including 11 Supreme Court judges.

    The Colombian authorities must now redouble efforts to ensure that the whole truth about what happened during the assault on the Palace of Justice comes out and that all those responsible are identified and brought to justice before the ordinary civilian courts.

    November 04, 2015

    Released Wednesday 4 November 2015, 00:01 Mexico (05:01 GMT)

    The Colombian government must prioritize the right of Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities to decide how their land is developed above companies’ desire to exploit those territories for profit, said Amnesty International in a new report today.

    Access to and use of Colombia’s resource-rich land is one of the most critical issues in the peace negotiations between the government and the guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), currently taking place in Havana, Cuba. Many of those who have been forced off their homes due to the armed conflict are looking for ways to return to and reclaim their lands.

    September 29, 2015

    By Kathy Price,  Colombia campaigner with Amnesty International Canada

    It was great news, the kind of news that underscores how incredibly important our activism is.

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