Colombia: PBI quarterly newsletter no. 13 - Dec 2009

News and Press Release
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This year a climate of fear and intimidation in many communities registered a little higher than what we are used to», stated the representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia (OACNUDH), Christian Salazar, at the PBI event commemorating 15 years in Colombia. Different human rights defenders and organisations -such as the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó- received death threats from paramilitary groups. Furthermore, according to the Centre for Research and Popular Education (CINEP), there has been an increase in social intolerance and collective threats made through pamphlets and principally directed at persons who live or work in marginalised areas.

The international community responded to this grave situation faced by the social movement in Colombia. The United Nations sent four rapporteurs on the issues of arbitrary, summary and extrajudicial executions; the rights of indigenous persons; the situation of human rights defenders; and the independence of judges and lawyers, respectively. These visits demonstrate international concern for the human rights situation in Colombia. Moreover, they represent an opportunity to highlight the situation experienced in the country and to impact and improve the policies of the Colombia government. Likewise, national and international coalitions launched a campaign for the defence of human rights, which highlights impunity, the misuse of State intelligence, and stigmatisation and unfounded criminal proceedings faced by persons from different social organisations.

Meanwhile, after a long and exhausting process to demonstrate their innocence -a process yet to end for Andrés Gil-, human rights defenders, such as Andrés Gil and Miguel Huepa from the Peasant Farmers' Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC), regained their freedom and returned to their work to support the well-being of their communities. Conversely, other human rights defenders, such as Carmelo Agámez from the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE), are still in jail awaiting a fair trial.