Displaced Afro-Colombian Community Organization Threatened

We have recently received the attached urgent action from our partner NOMADESC regarding a disturbing attack on COPDICONC, an organization of Afro-Colombian communities from Nariño and southern Cauca, many of whom have been forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands. NOMADESC works closely with COPDICONC collaborating on human rights education, defence and accompaniment. In October 2010, a CoDev-led BC labour delegation met with COPDICONC leaders and members in their office in Cali. We heard stories of the violence and suffering that had driven them from their lands to Cali. We heard their proud history as the last bastion of the Palenque el Castigo, one of the many communities of resistance formed by escaped slaves during colonial times in Colombia. We admired their strength and their dignity.

Take Action now to help protect the lives and human rights of these courageous people. On July 13 of this year, COPDICONC’s office in Cali was forcibly entered by three armed men. COPDICONC Administrative Assistant, Angela Maria Perea Valencia and Legal Representative, Jose Iris Arco Velasquez who were in the office were searched, threatened and had their mouths taped shut and their faces covered. They were told they would be killed unless they revealed which guerrilla group they belonged to. The armed men demanded to know the whereabouts of COPDICONC President, Maria Antonia Amaya who they said they were coming to kill. Before they left, the men stole computer equipment and several USB memory sticks that contained all of the records of human rights violations the Council has been documenting in order to publicise the situation of the victims of the armed conflict and forced displacement. The information will likely put many people’s lives at greater risk.

This attack against COPDICONC takes place against a backdrop of continued threats and violence against human rights organizations and indigenous and afro-Colombian community leaders in the southwest region of Colombia where NOMADESC works. CoDev is asking that our Canadian Partners and members write a message to Colombian authorities to help protect the lives and human rights of these courageous people.

CoDev Colombia Delegation, Oct 2010

COPDICONC representatives meeting with October 2010 BC labour tour including Kay Sinclair, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President; Darryl Walker, BCGEU President; Colleen Jones, BCGEU Vice-President; Ken Curry, BCGEU Labour lawyer and Barbara Wood, CoDev Executive Director. Also in the photo is Berenice Celeyta, NOMADESC Coordinator. (Berson Photo)

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