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Colombia

    January 09, 2021
      “We want to raise awareness about the importance of our land, water, trees and all the animals that live there … We are threatened and persecuted for protecting something that benefits all humanity…But we won’t give up.” 

    These are the words that Jani Silva, a courageous woman environment defender in the Amazon region of Colombia, shared at Amnesty Canada’s Sparking Connections online conference in November (watch a video of what Jani said at the conference on our YouTube channel here). Not long after we talked with her, Jani had to flee her home and go into hiding because of dangerous new threats that put her life in danger and reduced state protection. 

    During December’s Write for Rights campaign, more than 9,000 Amnesty Canada supporters raised their voices to demand strengthened, not reduced, protection for Jani and other threatened defenders of her organization, ADISPA.

    October 28, 2020

    By Jani Silva*

    My name is Jani Silva and I’m a campesina, or small-scale farmer, from Colombia. I’m 57 years old and I work in the Perla Amazónica Farming Reserve Area in the southern region of Putumayo. Ever since I was little, I’ve always followed my convictions and always defended what I believe in. This is why I’m fighting to preserve the Amazon and its biodiversity.

    Today I face death threats, for defending our territory, the environment and our way of life. The armed groups in the region want to control our crops, our land and our communities.

    We’ve also faced oil drilling that affects our territory, destroys sensitive biological corridors for the protection of Amazonian species, and has drastically changed the lifestyle of our campesino communities.

    Despite all the obstacles and difficulties that we confront, we’re convinced that our struggle is just and necessary. Humanity must understand that we are all life, that we are water and that to defend the Amazon is to defend the life of present and future generations.

    October 15, 2020

    By Rodrigo Sales, researcher working from Amnesty's South America Regional Office

    The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined the vital importance of the home as a space in which we can evolve and feel safe. It has also, however, highlighted the situation of millions of people for whom their home is, paradoxically, the most insecure place for them.

    This includes people living in some of Colombia’s most natural resource-rich areas. For them, defending their homes has become a lethal activity.

    According to the most recent information from Global Witness, Colombia is the world’s most dangerous country for human rights defenders. For those defending rights to land, territory and the environment, the situation is even worse.

    Their demand is simple: to live in peace in their home. But, for them, that home is not a physical space with a bedroom, a living room and a kitchen; it is their territory, with its rivers, forests, plants and animals.

    October 08, 2020

    The frequent threats, attacks and killings of people defending land, territory and the environment in Colombia have highlighted the government’s failure to address the serious crisis facing the country’s human rights defenders, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

    Why do they want to kill us? The lack of a safe space to defend human rights in Colombia examines the reasons behind the violence against community leaders living in geographically strategic and natural resource-rich areas. The report also analyses the ineffectiveness of the protection measures implemented by the government since the Peace Agreement signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016.

    September 14, 2020

    The highest-level authorities in Colombia must send a clear and strong message that the disproportionate use of force by the National Police is unacceptable, and immediately put a stop to the repression of protests over the death of lawyer Javier Ordoñez, Amnesty International said today, following the verification of at least four incidents of human rights violations committed by police officers, including torture and excessive use of force.

    “We’ve verified video evidence of how Colombia’s National Police tortured lawyer Javier Ordoñez with an electric Taser gun, using excessive and unnecessary force against him,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    “We demand an immediate end to the excessive use of security forces against protestors seeking justice for the death of lawyer Javier Ordoñez. In addition, we urge the authorities to send a strong message of condemnation and carry out prompt, exhaustive, independent and impartial investigations into the human rights violations committed by the Colombian police.”

    August 07, 2020

    Honourable François-Philippe Champagne
    Minister of Foreign Affairs 125 Sussex Drive
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2

    August 4, 2020

    Dear Minister Champagne,

    We write on behalf of Amnesty International Canada and Above Ground to request your immediate assistance with regard to urgent concerns for the safety of human rights defenders who belong to the Rios Vivos movement in Colombia.

    Canada is directly and very seriously implicated in the situation of risk faced by members of Rios Vivos, given that it arises from devastating impacts of the Export Development Canada-financed Hidroituango Dam project on the Cauca River in Colombia.

    The dam has had disastrous consequences for the environment and for communities that depend on it for their livelihoods and food security. There were abundant, credible warnings about these and other negative consequences before EDC approved its financing. The dam has also exacerbated armed conflict and repression against community leaders who have spoken out in defense of their rights. Six leaders have been killed and scores of others have been tortured, forcibly displaced, attacked or threatened with death.

    August 06, 2020

    August 4, 2020

     

    Honourable Mary Ng, MP Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Global Affairs Canada House of Commons  Ottawa, ON  K1A 1A0

     

    Dear Minister Ng,

    We were grateful for the opportunity to meet by phone with members of your staff on July 22. We asked for the call following the unsatisfactory response from Export Development Canada’s President and CEO, Mairead Lavery, to the thousands of emails she received from Amnesty Canada supporters and others. The emails denounced EDC’s 2016 loan to help build the Hidroituango dam in Colombia and called on the agency to provide reparations to the affected communities and advocate for their protection.

    July 23, 2020

    The decision of Colombia’s Ministry of Defense to begin ground-spraying operations in coca plantations in some areas of the country could result in human rights violations in the campesino farming communities that depend on coca for their livelihoods, Amnesty International said today. Moreover, beginning a process of forced eradication of crops could exacerbate the situations of conflict in the country, leaving rural communities in an even more dangerous situation, particularly for social leaders in the country. 

    “Operations to forcibly eradicate coca crops in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic are a death sentence for rural communities,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. “Spraying illicit crops does not only mean robbing rural communities of their only livelihood amid the pandemic, but it could also destroy legal crops, an importance source of food. In addition, these operations expose a population with limited access to health services to contagion.”

    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 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. 

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