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Colombia

    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 27, 2020

    Can you imagine risking your life to defend land, water and oxygen? That is an everyday reality for courageous community leaders in Colombia who protect natural resources from the economic interests that threaten them. 

    Campesino, Afro-descendent and Indigenous defenders of territory and the environment in Colombia are facing a terrifying increase in threats, attacks and assassinations. Hundreds have been killed in the last two years alone. According to the latest report by Front Line Defenders, Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to defend land, Indigenous territory and the environment.

    As the bloodshed continues, women defenders face the additional threat of sexual violence against them or their daughters. 

    Colombian authorities promise programs to protect defenders and their communities yet fail to implement them. Meanwhile, companies are allowed to proceed with projects that damage the environment, violate rights and fuel violence.

    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. 

    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. 

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