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Colombia

    May 28, 2020

    Since March 14, some 9,000 activists and supporters of Amnesty Canada sent email messages to Export Development Canada’s CEO and Canada’s International Trade Minister demanding remedy for the harm caused by a disastrous big dam project that Canada helped finance in Colombia. This action was developed in coordination with Rios Vivos (Spanish for Living Rivers), a coalition whose members have been threatened and attacked – with six leaders killed – as they continue to speak out against the impacts of the dam on the environment vital to their health and livelihoods. 

    "How heartening it is to learn that there has been so much action in Canada,” said Rios Vivos spokesperson Isabel Zuleta, pictured above giving a presentation during last November's visit to Canada. “I will share your activism with our members so they can take strength from it in these hard times.”

    May 05, 2020

    Members of the ASEINPOME community gather in solidarity, 2018. Their community had been attacked in May of that year.  Photo credit: https://corporacionclaretiana.org

    DOWNLOAD PDF OF UA 70/20 HERE

    On 24 April, at around 11 am an unknown individual entered the Indigenous community of ASEINPOME. The community is in the Meta Region (central Colombia). The individual set one house on fire. For the past two weeks, two high-cylinder motorcycles have been riding around the community. These two incidents followed an earlier one on 12 April when the human rights group Corporación Claretiana Norman Perez Bello reported that two unknown and armed men were present near the community. Amnesty International urges the authorities to investigate all these incidents, to identify the attackers and stop them from further threatening the Indigenous community. 

    The ASEINPOME settlement has increasingly been facing security incidents since the COVID-19 quarantine started, as unknown and armed people have been observed prowling the premises. 

    May 01, 2020

    Jani Silva (right)  

    Photo via www.justiciaypazcolombia.com/seguimientos-a-lideresa-jani-silva/

    DOWNLOAD PDF OF UA 67 HERE

    On 17 April, at around 2:30pm, Jani Silva heard 6 gunshots at less than 30 metres from her residence in Puerto Asís in Putumayo, southwestern Colombia. On 22 April, she again heard three gunshots at less than 50 meters from her residence and noise from the movement of people and a motorcycle around her house. 

    These two incidents occurred after a confidential source provided information to the Inter-Church Commission for Truth and Peace (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz) on 26 March about a plan to kill Jani Silva. Amnesty International urges the Ministry of Interior to provide appropriate protection to her.

    Jani Silva is a human rights defender active with the Association for the Integral and Sustainable Development of the Amazon Pearl (ADISPA). The Association advocates for peace and the environment in Putumayo.

    April 17, 2020

    In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Colombia must urgently take appropriate measures to guarantee the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including their rights to health, water and food, Amnesty International said today. These measures must be coordinated with each Indigenous community, respecting their right to autonomy.

    In the context of the health emergency declared because of COVID-19 and the “State of Economic, Social and Ecological Emergency” throughout the country, President Iván Duque stated that the authorities would deliver food and money to the most vulnerable people. The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for the delivery of food to Indigenous, Black, Raizal, Palenquero, Afro-Colombian and Roma communities; Community Action Boards; community leaders; and human rights defenders.

    However, three weeks after the quarantine was imposed, Indigenous communities in the departments of Casanare, Vichada and Meta informed Amnesty International that they have received no support from government authorities, despite their strict compliance with the isolation measures.

    March 26, 2020

    The Colombian state must not use measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to weaken or withdraw protection for human rights defenders and social leaders, Amnesty International said today.

    “Colombia is one of the world’s most lethal countries for human rights defenders and social leaders and, in the context of COVID-19, they now face even greater risks. Due to the restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic, state protection measures have been weakened, they can no longer keep moving from one location to another for their safety, and their attackers know that public security forces are focusing on issues related to the pandemic,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    “The Colombian authorities cannot let human rights defenders suffer attacks and threats. The state must maintain its protection schemes and must generate collective protection strategies for communities at risk, while implementing preventive measures to contain COVID-19.”

    March 24, 2020

    In response to the protest organized on 21 March by people deprived of their liberty in several Colombian prisons, who were calling for efficient measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which resulted in at least 23 deaths and 83 people being injured in Bogota’s “La Modelo” Medium Security Prison and Penitentiary, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

    “In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that confronts us, there are growing concerns about the precarious situation of people deprived of their liberty across the Americas. In Colombia, overcrowded prisons make it impossible to isolate people who may have contracted the virus. In addition, limited access to health services and hygiene products, and the lack of constant water supplies, increase the risks of exposure to infection and affect recovery conditions.”

    March 09, 2020

    It’s an all too familiar story. The damming of a river made possible with millions of dollars of public money from Canada. It’s the story of life-changing impacts on the local ecology and on communities who rely on the river for their survival. It’s also the story of their courageous struggle to defend environmental human rights amid deadly attack. Most of all, it’s a story that cries out for attention in both Canada and Colombia in these times of climate emergency.

    The massive HidroItuango dam cuts across the Cauca River in a region of Colombia hard hit by decades of armed conflict and horrendous human rights violations. 

    Dam construction in June 2018 - Photo: Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images

    The dam was promoted as a feat of engineering that would generate nearly a fifth of Colombia’s energy needs. 

    March 04, 2020

    Isabel Zuleta via wikidata.org

    DOWNLOAD THE PDF HERE
     

    Isabel Zuleta cares deeply about the Cauca River and all the life it sustains in her homeland of Colombia. 

    The river used to be full of fish. It provided both food and income for many families who rely on fishing to survive. 

    But that all changed when the government approved the construction of a huge dam. The dam turned a running river into a pool of still water to create electricity. 

    The dam stopped fish from swimming up the river to lay their eggs and reproduce. It upset the ecology of the river which means it changed how the plants and organisms relate to the river. The dam affected all the life that depends on a running river.

    Isabel joined with other people in a movement called Ríos Vivos, which is Spanish for ‘Living Rivers’. 

    Together, they started speaking out against the dam. They organized rallies and campaigns to defend their right to a healthy environment.

    Doing so takes courage. Leaders of Ríos Vivos have been killed. So have their relatives. 

    March 03, 2020

    The decision by the Constitutional Court of Colombia not to take action to decriminalize abortion represents a missed opportunity for the realization of the sexual and reproductive rights of women and other people who can become pregnant in the country, said Amnesty International.

    “By failing to take this historic opportunity to move towards the decriminalization of abortion in Colombia, the Constitutional Court has turned its back on women and their struggle to end the cycle of violence and the control mechanisms of which they have been the victims. Amnesty International regrets the Court’s decision to continue restricting women’s sexual and reproductive rights instead of setting a positive example for the region,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    January 08, 2020

    Leyner Palacios accepting the World Prize for Pluralism, November 2017. Photo via youtube.com

    DOWNLOAD PDF OF UA 169a HERE

    Human rights defender Leyner Palacios has been vocal about the presence of illegal armed groups in the territories of Bojayá communities, western Colombia. (See UA posted December 2 and titled Colombia: Thousands in need of urgent protection.) 

    On 31 December 2019, 300 members of the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia arrived in the community of Pogue and placed it and three other communities of Bojayá under forced confinement. On 3 January 2020, the AGC threatened Leyner Palacios and gave him two hours to leave the territory of Bojayá or they would kill him. Amnesty International urges the Colombian government to take immediate action to guarantee his protection.

    Please send a letter or email to the president.

    December 02, 2019

    The graffiti reads "The children of Bojayá want peace".  Photo by Raul Arboleda/AFP via Getty Images, 12 November 2019

    DOWNLOAD PDF OF UA 169/19 HERE

    Amnesty International is concerned about the forced confinement of 2,250 persons, including indigenous and afro-Colombian communities, in Bojayá, Chocó (western Colombia) who are under siege by the guerrilla National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) and the paramilitary Gaitanistas Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, AGC), groups that are denying them access to food and basic healthcare services. 

    On 17 November, the ombudsman's office reported that the armed groups threatened social leaders who oppose their presence in the zone. The ELN and the AGC are sustaining hostilities in the region and have even deployed landmines in the few areas with telephone coverage. This restricts the communities’ access to healthcare, food, water and communication. 

    October 31, 2019

    Luz Marina Arteaga via Twitter

    DOWNLOAD PDF OF UA 142/19 HERE

    On 2 October, neighbours informed Luz Marina Arteaga, a defender for the rights of rural communities in the Meta department, in central Colombia, that her house is under continuous surveillance from two unknown men. Three days later, unknown men asked in the village for her whereabouts. 

    Seven months ago, Luz Marina was forced to leave her home due to a death threat. On 16 April 2019, Luz Marina received the death threat in a phone call from the commander of the paramilitary group known as “Los Rastrojos”. On 20 April 2019, she requested protection from the National Protection Unit (UNP) but is yet to receive it. Due to the high risk of the threat and persecution for Luz Marina in her hometown, she was forced to leave. She would like to return home, but fears for her life due to the recent events. 

    Please send an email or letter to the director of the National Protection Unit.

    May 06, 2019

    Amnesty International sent an open letter to the heads of state of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay today in response to their recent statement on the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights.

    In the letter, Amnesty International affirmed that the system must be safeguarded and that it deeply regrets that the governments of the aforementioned countries want to make the operation of the inter-American regional mechanism subservient to their own interests, in a way that threatens the rights of victims of human rights violations.

    “From Puerto Rico to Honduras and Venezuela, last week we witnessed with alarm the repressive responses to the demands of citizens who express themselves through protest. All countries in the region have to remember that they have a shared obligation to protect human rights,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    December 05, 2018

    Colombia’s Constitutional Court must urgently analyze the recent sentence delivered by a local judge in Apartadó against Germán Graciano Posso, the legal representative of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community, and must above all guarantee the rights of victims of grave human rights violations, Amnesty International said today.

    Germán Graciano, a renowned human rights defender, is facing charges brought by the Colombian army’s 17th Brigade. The charges were brought against him because he has denounced both nationally and internationally the presence of paramilitary groups in his community’s territory as well as the inaction of the Colombian state, which has neither investigated effectively nor taken adequate measures to protect his community.

    November 15, 2018

    The Embera, Wounaan and Zenú Indigenous Peoples of the department of Chocó have begun a peaceful demonstration in Bogotá, called the Minga* for Life (Minga por la Vida), to demand a high-level roundtable discussion with the national government. In light of their demands, the Colombian authorities must guarantee their right to peaceful protest and undertake to comply fully with the Peace Agreement signed two years ago, Amnesty International said today.

    “The Indigenous Peoples of Chocó have historically borne the brunt of the brutal violence of the armed conflict in Colombia and, today, this violence has intensified with the reorganization of armed groups, such as the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) and paramilitary groups, in their ancestral territories. Every day, thousands of people and communities are being forcibly displaced; the government of President Duque must take decisive measures and immediate action to protect them,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

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