Threats and harassment against members of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz

On 28 February 2014, human rights defenders Ms Janeth Hernández and Mr Abilio Peña were followed by unknown men on a motorbike during the afternoon.

That same day, before midday, a note was left in the postbox of human rights defender Mr Danilo Rueda, threatening him with death. On 27 February 2014, during the night-time, human rights defender Mr José Rocamora was followed by three men as he left his place of residence.

All four human rights defenders are members of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz – CIJP (Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace), with Danilo Rueda being the national co-ordinator. The CIJP is a church-based NGO which works to expose human rights violations committed by state security forces and paramilitaries in conflict zones in Colombia. Owing to this work, several members of the CIJP have been subjected to death threats and harassment in the past.

On 28 February, Janeth Hernández and Abilio Peña were in the city of Bogotá when the persons in charge of their security plan warned that they were being followed. The men fled when they realised the bodyguards were about to confront them. On that same day, the threat left by a man and a woman in Danilo Rueda’s postbox made reference to the human rights defender dying like his father. The night before, José Rocamora, when he realised he was being followed, managed to enter a nearby building where neighbours have confirmed he was being followed. The men waited outside the building for thirty minutes. Meanwhile, the human rights defender’s personal computer, which contained sensitive information including research into the prison system, cultural questions and young people in several conflict zones, was stolen. Nothing of value was taken.

The incidents follow a separate incident on 16 February 2014, which took place while Danilo Rueda was in another city visiting family and being interviewed in relation to a recent decision by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights to sanction the Colombian state for the forced displacement and killing of Marino López. That day, the family of Danilo Rueda received a warning letter which stated the following: “Tell your brother to be careful. He has been very careless in his family visit. They are not joking. They are paying attention. I do not participate in this badness. That he take care”. During this period of supposed rest, Colombia’s Unidad Nacional de Protección – UNP (National Protection Unit) had not responded to a request to facilitate the human rights defender’s protection scheme in that city.

The CIJP accompanies afro-descendants and indigenous communities and organisations who live around Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó to peacefully reclaim their land and affirm their rights. At the end of the 1990s, paramilitaries and state security forces occupied the land and expelled the communities with the aim of growing palm-oil as a commercial crop. Powerful mining interests also developed operations in these areas. Despite repeated orders from the Constitutional Court, the lands have not been restituted to the communities, and those who have returned to their lands suffer threats and killings as a result. Their work for the human rights of these communities, particularly against impunity in emblematic cases, has made the members of the CIJP the target of threats and attacks as well.

Front Line Defenders is concerned that such threats are repeatedly made against human rights defenders in Colombia, and are met with impunity in most cases. Front Line Defenders considers that threats and harassment detailed above are directly related to the peaceful and legitimate work of the CIJP. For more information on this case, please see previous urgent appeals issued by Front Line Defenders on 15 February 2011 and 20 May 2011.

Front Line Defenders