U.S. Congress Sends Letter to Colombian President on the Protection of Land Rights Activists

Report
from Washington Office on Latin America
Published on 04 Feb 2013 View Original

U.S. Representatives Henry “Hank” Johnson, James McGovern, George Miller, Sam Farr, Rosa DeLauro, Janice Schakowsky, and Barbara Lee sent a letter to Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos expressing concern over threats faced by Colombian land rights leaders. In particular, the letter refers to the NGO Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz) and activists in the Curvaradó, Jiguamiandó, and Cacarica River Basin communities. The deteriorating security situation of these communities and their leaders merits international concern. WOLA has been monitoring recent developments and will continue to do so until threats subside.

In recent months, these communities have experienced a rise in death threats and harassment. For instance, men believed to be paramilitaries or linked to paramilitaries recently visited Afro-Colombian leader Maria Ligia Chaverra and high-profile activist Enrique Petro. These incidents are often followed up with violence. A number of leaders in the communities of Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó have already been killed due to their activism.

It is believed that the recent escalation in tensions in the Cacarica River Basin communities is linked to the case of Marino López and Operation Genesis—a 2007 joint military-paramilitary offensive that displaced hundreds of Afro-Colombians and led to López’s torture and murder. That case is currently before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).

WOLA urges President Santos to guarantee the protection of the Afro-Colombian leaders and defenders concerned. Furthermore, the Colombian government should implement in full the Constitutional Court rulings 112 and 045 pertaining to the Curvaradó land case and investigate and prosecute those behind the killings and threats. The surveillance of members of Justicia y Paz should also be taken seriously and investigated promptly.