Intervention Required in Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, Defenders and Labor Cases

The Inter-Ecclesiastic Justice and Peace Commission (Justicia y Paz) reported that on September 2, 15 paramilitaries dressed as civilians carrying weapons were seen on the road communicating Mutatá with Pavarandó. Justicia y Paz received information that they murdered on August 29. However, he victim has yet to be identified.

Dear All,

Today we write to ask that you intervene in the following human rights situations:

Seven Indigenous Women Murdered in Recent Months (Cauca)

The Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) publicly condemned the fact that in 2016 seven indigenous women were murdered. On September 6, Cecilia Coicue was killed with a sharp weapon while in her territory. This occurred after the announcement that a Normalization Transitory Point, as per the agreement between the National Government and the FARC guerillas, will be formed in this area. Ms. Coicue was also involved with the Association of Farm Workers of the Farmer Reserve Zone, the National Agriculture Trade Union, the Popular Union Process, and the Patriotic March Social and Political Movement. On August 28, Ninfa Mosquera died in the Tacueyo reserve after being shot in the head. ACIN also condemns other murders, threats, and forced disappearances that took place in indigenous communities this year.

Report Finds that 65 Extrajudicial Executions Occurred in 2015

The NGO coalition Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination (CCEEUU) reported that extrajudicial killings continue to take place in Colombia. They document that at least 65 cases of alleged extrajudicial executions occurred in 2015. This is very worrisome given that it indicates that state agents are committing abuses against civilians outside of the realm of the internal armed conflict and in spite of developments concerning the peace process.

Three Human Rights Defenders Killed in Cauca

On August 29, the Colombian NGO Massif Integration Committee (CIMA) reported that three of its members- Joel Meneses Menses, Nereo Meneses Guzmán, and Ariel Sotelo- were shot dead near Bolívar and Almaguer municipalities. All three were prominent community leaders who defended farmers and indigenous rights. Armed men dressed in military uniforms intercepted their vehicles in Almaguer municipality. They ordered these leaders to them to turn off their cellphones, took them to the place known as Monte Oscuro, and proceeded to kill them.

Extrajudicial Killings and Threats Reported in Cauca

According to the Red Cifuentes (RedDHFIC) multiple human rights violations targeting trade unionists and politicians took place early this month. On September 4, three people- Libio Antonio Álvarez Moncayo, Martha Irene Moncayo, and Salvador Acosta- were killed and a fourth injured after eight armed men attacked the Álvarez’s household. The next day, men to attempted break-in to Edwin Solis’ house but were unsuccessful. This is problematic because Mr. Solis has received death threats in the past. Also on September 4, the San José la Laguna community, who filed land claim over their territory, was approached by members of the army stationed in the area. The military men raided these communities’ homes and claimed to find materials linking them to illegal armed groups and rifle cartridges. The community denies that these allegations are true. Further, they claim that the soldiers stole a motor from a machine located on the property. On September 2, a man claiming to be a part of the military approached a farmer asking about La Margarita ranch. He stated to be looking for a guerrilla leader. Afterwards, armed men arrived at La Margarita and intimidated its inhabitants.

Afro-Colombian Defender and Community Leader Murdered (Cesar)

On September 11, Néstor Iván Martínez, spokesperson for the Interlocution Commission of the Congress of South Bolivar and Central Cesar (CISBCSC) was murdered. Armed men arrived at the home of Mr. Martínez’s brother, tied him and his wife up until Mr. Martínez came to the house. When he arrived they shot twice in the head. Mr. Martínez formed part of the Sierra Community Council for Afro-Colombian communities and has led campaigns defending from mining and environmental damage. In the past, members of the Interlocution Commission received death threat pamphlets.

32 Afro-Colombians Become Victims of an Armed Ambush (Cauca)

According to the Association of Afro-Colombian Community Councils in Cauca (COCOCAUCA) 32 persons fell victim to an armed ambush on September 10. During a boat ride from Guapi to Buenaventura, three men with firearms stood up, and proceeded to steal everyone’s belongings. They then demanded that all the passengers take off their clothes and jump into the water. Once this occurred they escaped. Among the 32 victims were 5 children below the age of 5, a woman over the age of 90, and a person with disabilities.

Human Rights Defender Threatened at Knifepoint (Bogotá)

On September 2, Blanca Nubia Díaz, a defender of Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and rural women’s rights, was threatened at knifepoint upon leaving a store in Bogotá. The National Movement for Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) reported that after a memorial event in Bogotá to commemorate forced disappearances in Colombia, a well-dressed man in a suit intimidated Ms. Díaz with a knife. He pulled off a pin she had on her jacket, and said, “if you keep messing around, we are going to cut you up.” This is not the first time Ms. Díaz is victim of these types of aggressions.

San José de Apartadó Peace Community Intimidated by Paramilitaries (Antioquia)

On September 7, a new group of paramilitaries arrived near the San José de Apartadó Peace Community. They proceed to intimidate households, a school, and community leaders and stated that “they were there to stay and that more men are coming.” They later interrupted class at the Arenas Altas School and intimidated the children and indicated that over a thousand men were coming to control the area. The men were wearing uniforms with armed bands with the letters AGC (Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia). Later that day, they detained several persons and stole their cellphones. On September 8, military troops entered Arenas Altas, an area that forms part of the Peace Community, thus violating the community’s rules that prohibit any armed actor from entering the designated peace community’s areas. Later on, they proceeded to Vereda el Porvenir at the same time warning that they would continue to be in the region. On September 9, several inhabitants of la Terquerita, in the San José area, were harassed by paramilitaries. On September 10 the Mayor of Apartadó, Eliecer Arteaga, denied that the presence of paramilitaries in the area.

Threats Continue for Agro-Mining Association (Bolivar)

On September 2, the Guamocó Agro-Mining Association (AHERAMIGUA) reportedly received new paramilitary death threat against Mauricio Sanchez. A former member contacted current community leader, Jairo Rodríguez, and recommended he leave the Association because paramilitaries are offering money in exchange for his life. This source states that paramilitaries had not yet killed Mr. Sanchez only because they have not identified him. AHERAMIGUA reports that paramilitaries continue to exert an influence over the region’s ports. Paramilitaries are constantly harassing locals and urging them identify Association members.

Paramilitaries Displace 30 People in Meta

The Corporación Claretiana reported that on August 27-29, paramilitaries forcibly displaced over 18 families in Puerto Gaitán, Meta. Persons were forced to flee as a result of threats, a homicide attempt, intimidation and persecution. Those responsible for these acts are men that form part of paramilitary groups that are rearming in the area. The Corporacion believes that the lack of response from the public forces operating in this area allows for these men to operate with impunity. In July, farmers traveled from Puerto Gaitán to Villavicencio to denounce an attempted murder. Upon returning, they were relentlessly persecuted, their crops were destroyed with heavy machinery and their ranches were burned down. They were left with no other alternative but to flee.

Afro-Colombian Leader Suspiciously Followed at Airport (Bogotá)

On September 7, Afro-Colombian leader, John Jairo Mena, was followed by a suspicious individual at the El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá. When Mr. Mena confronted the man, he responded that he had confused Mr. Mena with another person.

Paramilitaries Continue “Social Cleansing” Operations (Chocó)

The Inter-Ecclesiastic Justice and Peace Commission (Justicia y Paz) reported that on September 2, 15 paramilitaries dressed as civilians carrying weapons were seen on the road communicating Mutatá with Pavarandó. Justicia y Paz received information that they murdered on August 29. However, he victim has yet to be identified. These paramilitaries, who self-identify as AGC are roaming freely around the area.

Paramilitary Presence Threatens Afro-Colombian Communities (Chocó)

On September 6, the Inter-Ecclesiastic Justice and Peace Commission (Justicia y Paz) reported that over 150 uniformed paramilitaries who are self-denominated members of the AGC are mobilizing throughout the Cacarica River region. They have established permanent points of control and begun to impose curfews on the residents.

Information Stolen from Human Rights Defense Organization’s Hard Drive (Santander)

On September 2, a hard drive containing human rights cases was stolen from the offices of Foundation Progress (Fundación Progresar). In the drive was sensitive information on abuses committed by illegal and legal state actors including the public security forces for the past 15 years. Information about victims, witnesses, and strategy was also in the drive. This situation places the lives Progresar staff, witnesses and victims at risk.

Military Bases Affecting Local Communities’ Water Supply (Valle del Cauca)

Justice and Dignity Corporation reported that new military bases in Miranda, Corinto and Caloto municipalities are gravely affecting local families’ water supply. Detergents and waste from these bases has contaminated aqueducts. This is affecting the local communities, as well as, leading to deforestation in the area.

Mass Firing at Company Enrages Trade Unionists

The Central Workers Union (CUT) rejects the July mass firing of Colombian Institute of Rural Development (INCODER) employees. Mistreatment and threats issued against workers is also condemned. Currently, only 60 workers remain in Bogotá and another 50 in the regions. On August 22, union leaders were unjustly fired. The union is demanding the reincorporation of the 500 workers fired on July 26.

Biofilm S.A. Engaged in Anti-Union Activities (Cartagena)

SINTRABIOFILM, the trade union for the company Biofilm S.A reported that the company continues to violate workers’ right to due process. Also that Biofilm is engaged in a “witch-hunt” that includes sanctions and dismissals of trade unionists. Despite four recent court decisions ruling against Biofilm, and Labor Ministry’s imposition of a fine, the company is not changing its conduct towards workers.

National Trade Union Resolution Demanding Government Action

On September 1, SINALTRAINAL, a food workers union, issued a statement containing several complaints. In it they state that the doctors at the San Andrés Ese II Nivel Hospital has not paid them for 8 months and that the national government is not providing the hospital with adequate resources. Community members protesting lack of medical care were met with violent repression at the hands of the police. The police have shot at demonstrators. Afro-Colombian leader, Naimen Agustín Lara, was murdered as a result. In July, one of Lara’s family members, Yeraldin Lara Bitta was attacked by an unknown man. SINALTRAINAL urges the Colombian government to investigate and punish those responsible for this murder and attack and that the rights of hospital workers’ are upheld.

Afro-Colombian Leader’s Lives at Risk

WOLA is concerned about the safety and security of Francia Márquez of the Black Communities Process (PCN) and Bernardo Cuero Bravo of the Association for Internally Displaced Persons (AFRODES). Recent incidents indicate that the authorities are not properly protecting both persons. We urge U.S. and Colombian authorities to remedy these two situations.

In closing, we bring to your attention the following statement by the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN):

ACSN Condemns Racist Death Threats against Afro-Colombian Peace Advocate
September 9, 2016

On September 3, in a forum organized by the Democratic Center on the peace plebiscite in Buenaventura, social leader, rapper, and Afro-Colombian leader Leonard Martin Renteria Vallecilla, exercised his right to free speech and gave an impassioned speech in favor of “Yes” to the peace plebiscite. Mr. Renteria Vallecilla, a survivor of war and violence where his family has suffered attacks and murders, advocated respectfully for a more inclusive society where different opinions are respected. Unbeknown to Mr. Renteria Vallecilla, his presentation was filmed by promoters of the “No” vote at this event, where former President, and now Senator, of Colombia Alvaro Uribe was present.

A video of Mr. Renteria Vallecilla’s presentation went viral on social media including on Facebook and WhatsApp. Immediately he was bombarded with death threats and racist comments via telephone for expressing his opinion. On Facebook persons posted his whereabouts so that others could cause him harm. These threats include racist derogatory remarks including “negro SOB” and warnings that he would soon face his death. Mr. Renteria Vallecilla’s colleague was followed by men in motorcycles who made signals of shooting a gun at her. It is particularly problematic that several members of the Central Democratic Party stated from their Twitter and Facebook accounts that Mr. Renteria Vallecilla was being supported by guerrilla and the so-called “castro-chavismo”. Others blogged that Mr. Renteria Vallecilla is part, or has been part, of an armed group. These types of labels put him in great risk, given the highly polarized and violent situation in Colombia.

Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN) strongly condemns the threats, intimidation that Mr. Renteria Vallecilla is experiencing. We call on the U.S. and Colombian authorities to immediately provide Mr. Renteria Vallecilla, his family and members of his organization, Asociacion Cultural Rostros Urbanos, with all the protective measures necessary to guarantee their safety. The Colombian authorities must publicly condemn these attacks and take action to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these actions.

Since this incident Mr. Vallecilla was forced to flee Buenaventura. We ask that you please take action to guarantee the safety and security of Mr. Vallecilla and all the persons mentioned in the above cases.

For further information, please contact us at or (202) 797-2171

September 14, 2016

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