Urgent Action: Colombia – July 2012

Thirteen Colombian Human Rights Defenders Targeted in Death Threat

While our Colombian partners continue to face constant attacks on their rights this current action request is no longer applicable. We have left a copy of the content of the letter below so that you can read over it if you wish. Thank you to everyone who took action to support human rights defenders in Colombia. We will continue to keep you informed of their work. Please sign up for our e-bulletin to keep informed.

Update (July 12, 2012): Read a message from Lilia Solano, one of the targeted human rights activists.

Thirteen Colombian human rights defenders received a death threat on July 4 declaring them to be military targets. Among the thirteen are several people with whom CoDev has worked including Yessika Hoyos of the Lawyer’s Collective (CCAJAR) who was in BC in 2010 and with whom several CoDev delegations have met in Colombia, most recently a Canadian teacher delegation in November 2011.

BCGEU lawyer and CoDev Board member, Ken Curry with Lawyer’s Collective (CCAJAR) lawyer and human rights defender, Yessika Hoyos in October 2010.

Colombian human rights defenders face constant threats, surveillance and harassment for their work. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2011 in Colombia, 49 human rights defenders were assassinated and 17 had attempts made on their lives. 140 defenders received death threats.

CoDev directly supports human rights in Colombia through our partner, NOMADESC a human rights organization in southwest Colombia that works closely with communities and organizations facing displacement, violence and threats.

Colombians often tell us that sending a message of concern to the Colombian authorities can make a difference and helps them defend their space to continue to their work.

For additional information about this action we encourage you to read this background summary (PDF).



Juan Manuel Santos, Presidente de la República, Fax: 011 57 1 562 9300


Sr. Angelino Garzón, Vicepresidente de la República, E-mail: contactovicepresidencia@presidencia.gov.co

Dr. Volmar Antonio Pérez Ortiz, Defensor del Pueblo, E-mail: agenda@agenda.gov.co; Fax: 011 571 640 0491

Sr. Germán Vargas Lleras, Ministerio del Interior y de Justicia, Email: german.vargas@mij.gov.co; Fax: 011 57 1 560 4630

Dra. María Paulina Riveros Dueñas, Directora Programa de Derechos Humanos del Ministerio del Interior. E-mail: maria.riveros@mininterior.gov.co

Sr. Eduardo Montealegre Lynett, Fiscal General de la Nación, E-mail: contacto@fiscalia.gov.co ; Fax: 011 571 570 2000

Dr. Alejandro Ordoñez Maldonado, Procurador General de la Nación, E-mail: cap@procuraduria.gov.co; quejas@procuraduria.gov.co; Fax: 011 571 342 9723;

Sr. Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno, Ministro de la Defensa, E-mail: mdn@cable.net.co; Fax: 011;

S.E. Sra. Alicia Victoria Arango Olmos, Misión Permanente de Colombia ante Naciones Unidas en Ginebra, E-mail: donuginebra@cancilleria.gov.co ; mission.colombia@ties.itu.int, Fax: 011 41 22 791 0787

Dra. Clemencia Forero-Ucros, Colombian Ambassador to Canada; E-mail: embajada@embajadacolombia.ca

Hon. Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), Email: diane.ablonczy@parl.gc.ca

Mr. Tim Martin, Canadian Ambassador to Colombia, Email: bgota@international.gc.ca

Dear President Santos,

I am writing today to express my deep concern for the lives and well-being of thirteen human rights defenders who received a death threat on July 4, 2012. The list of people who received the threat includes some of the most high profile and courageous human rights defenders in Colombia, many of whom are well-known to Canadians and some of whom have come to Canada to share stories of their work.

The 13 named in the death threat are, in alphabetical order:

  • Franklin Castañeda, President of the Fundación del Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos – FCSPP (Foundation of the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners);
  • Iván Cepeda, founder of the Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado – MOVICE (National Movement of Victims of State Crimes) and Member of the Colombian Congress;
  • Juan Díaz Chamorro, MOVICE;
  • Piedad Córdoba, former Colombian Senator;
  • Gloria Cuartas, Colombianos y Colombianas por la Paz (Colombians for Peace);
  • Pedro Geney, MOVICE;
  • Soraya Gutiérrez, Colectivo de Abogados Jose Alvear Restrepo -CCAJAR (Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyer’s Collective) and Vice President of the International Human Rights Federation – FIDH;
  • Yessika Hoyos, CCAJAR;
  • Diego Martínez, Executive Secretary of the Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos – CPDH (Permanent Committee for Human Rights Defence);
  • Jeison Paba, CPDH and MOVICE;
  • Aida Quilcué, Elder of the Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca – CRIC (Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca );
  • Lilia Solano, President of Proyecto Justicia y Vida (Project Justice and Life); and
  • José Humberto Torres, FCSSP.

As Canadians we understand that the work of human rights defenders is critical in all societies to uphold the rights of the most vulnerable and to help insure democracy. Yet, we know that in Colombia human rights defenders are too often accused of being terrorists or guerillas and as such are targets for violence. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in 2011, 49 human rights defenders were assassinated in Colombia and 17 suffered attempts on their lives.

I respectfully request that the Colombian government undertake more effective measures to insure that the human rights of all of its citizens are respected, and human rights defenders are free to carry out their work without fear of threat or reprisal.

Specifically, I call on the Colombian authorities to:

  • Adopt immediate measures to guarantee the life, security, physical and psychological integrity of the individuals threatened and everyone who works in those organizations;
  • Undertake an independent, immediate, exhaustive and impartial investigation into the threats with the intention of identifying those responsible and bringing them to justice;
  • Insure the end of all types of aggression, threats, harassment and violence against organizations and individuals who defend human rights in Colombia;
  • Guarantee the full application of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;
  • Guarantee the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in concurrence with the international human rights norms that Colombia has ratified.