Colombia: Armed group threatens human rights defender
Leyner Palacios accepting the World Prize for Pluralism, November 2017. Photo via youtube.com
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.
- Start with Dear President and a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
- Express concern that Bojayá human rights defender Leyner Palacios received death threats on 3 January.
- Seek guarantees of his safety.
Iván Duque Márquez
President of Colombia
c/ Minister of Interior
Carrera 8 No. 7-26, Bogotá, Colombia
Salutation: Your Excellency
His Excellency Federico Eduardo Hoyos Salazar
Ambassador for Colombia
360 Albert Street, Suite 1002
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7X7
Fax: 613 230 4416
Phone: 613 230 3760
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne
Minister of Foreign Affairs
111 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Postage: None required
Fax: 613 996 9607
Phone: 613 992 5234
Leyner Palacios is a survivor of the Bojayá massacre perpetrated in 2002. He has since become an important social leader and was the promoter of the Act of Recognition of Responsibility in which the FARC apologized to the communities of the municipality of Bojayá. For this work, he has received several recognitions, the most recent being the "World Prize for Pluralism" of the World Centre for Pluralism of Canada.
Because of his work, he has received several threats from illegal armed groups.
- In June 2018, Palacios was in a workshop in the Puerto Conto community in the municipality of Bojayá when an unknown man approached the community and asked a boy to identify Leyner Palacios. Denied the information, the man left the community.
- On 18 July 2018, Leyner Palacios received a phone call in which a man told him to "stop bothering with this tale of peace” and that if he didn't get out, they would kill him. Palacios denounced this fact on 19 July 2018 at the departmental police of Chocó, an entity that would be in charge of processing the complaint with the Attorney General's Office. That same day he went to the Ombudsman's Office where he filled out a form to be sent to the UNP.
- On 6 August 2018, he again received a phone call in which a man told him "you are going to die".
The Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities of all Chocó State, especially those from Bojayá, had been facing serious human rights violations through many years of conflict in Colombia, including forced displacement and mass killings at the hands of guerrilla, paramilitary groups and the army.
On 18 October 2019, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action as the Colombian Office of the Ombudsman raised an alert that the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) were still operating in Bojayá, placing at least 2,250 people from indigenous and afro-descendant communities under forced confinement and life-threatening risk.
On 31 December 2019, the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace denounced that 300 members of the AGC arrived at the communities of Pogue, Corazón de Jesús, Loma de Bojayá and Cuia, in Bojayá, and placed them under forced confinement, threatening them to kill them if they made a public complaint. Some villagers who were able to escape from confinement declared that the members of the AGC were giving gifts to the children, trying to recruit them. Furthermore, on 3 January 2020, Leyner Palacios was threatened to leave the community or be killed.
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