Colombia: Members of CODHES, COMPROMISO and the Colectivo de Abogados “Alvear Restrepo”

Re: Members of CODHES, COMPROMISO and the Colectivo de Abogados “Alvear Restrepo”

To: Senor Presidente Alvaro Uribe Velez

From: Heather D. Neun

Date: 2006-05-29

On the occasion of your re-election as President, I am writing to condemn the series of recent threats against human rights defenders and organizations in Colombia. In the past few weeks, we have received reports of threats against the members of the following organizations: Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES), Corporación COMPROMISO and the Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” (the Lawyers’ Collective), as well as other Colombian organizations.

We here outline the chronology and content of the threats against each of these organizations.

CODHES (Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento)

We understand that a threat was emailed to CODHES on May 20th by a group calling itself Columbia Libre de Comunistas. The text of the email stated the following: “Ya sabran (sic) ustedes algo mas (sic) de nosotros ahora que continuaremos en el poder…de la mano de la fuerza armada legitima (sic) colombiana limpiando de nuestros campos y ciudades a arrodillados como ustedes. Abstenganse (sic) de venir a seguir jodiendo con su tema de los derechos humanos y al (sic) educacion y las (sic) desigualdadesa (sic) y todo eso que se viven inventando, aquí (sic) lo que tenemos es trabajo que hacer…Limpiar de nuestra tierra a elementos improductivos (sic) como ustedes, (sic) Estan (sic) todos advertidos estas todos bien ubicados…” [“You are going to know something more about us now that we are to continue in power … along with the legitimate Colombian armed forces clearing our countryside and cities of grovellers like you. Stop coming here and fucking around with your issue of human rights, education, inequality, and all those things that you have invented because here what we have is work to do…Clear our land of these unproductive elements…You are all warned, we know where you are.”]

We are also advised that there was a further threat against CODHES emailed on May 24th from an armed group that claimed to be “on the warpath” (“en pie de lucha”) against people who did not want the present government to continue in power.

Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” (the Lawyers’ Collective)

One of the first of this series of menacing emails was sent on May 8, 2006 to the Colectivo de Abogados. The email was sent from an email address that includes the phrase “Columbia Libre” (“Free Colombia”). This is the name used by the paramilitary umbrella organization Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, (AUC), United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia, on its website, the largest of the army-backed paramilitary organisation that is supposedly demobilising. The email was copied to numerous other organizations, including the human rights organization, Plataforma Colombiana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo. The email warned that it would make the international community see that they were nothing but protectors of terrorists and terrorism on a grand scale. The email warned the Colectivo to join “our crusade against terrorism or each one of your members will suffer the full weight of our presence, we are in good standing with the State’s armed forces who always support us” (“nuestra cruzada contra el terrorismo o se atengan a sufrir en cada uno de sus miembros de todo el peso de nuestra presencia, estamos con el favor de las mismas fuerzas armadas estatales que siempre nos apoyan”). The email also referred to the group’s presence in 21 rural and urban areas.

Corporación COMPROMISO

LRWC is also aware of an email sent on May 17, 2006 to Corporación COMPROMISO, an organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in north-east Colombia. The email was copied to other organizations, including Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC), and the human rights organizations Viva la Ciudadanía Bogotá, CODHES and the Colectivo de Abogados.

The email warned the threatened organizations to give up their human rights work and training, which it claimed are a “disfraz de la insurgencia izquierdista” (“a front for the leftist insurgency.”) It went on to state: “ESTAN TODOS ADVERTIDOS no toleramos aquí a supuestos abogaduchos de pacotilla… lideres… defensores de derecho humano… que solo vienen es a ALINEAR al pueblo al pensamiento comunista retrogrado y subversivo de la guerrilla, cuando precisamente hemos logrado limpiar de nuestro territorio a arrodillados e idiotas serviles de tal propósito, NO RESPONDEMOS por la integridad de nadie que venga con tal propósito.” [“YOU ARE ALL WARNED that here we do not tolerate third-rate supposed lawyers … leaders…human rights defenders…that only come to align the people to retrograde communist and subversive guerrilla thought, precisely when we have been able to clean our territories of these grovellers and servile idiots who harbour these intentions, WE WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE for the safety of anyone who comes with such a purpose.”]

The email was sent from the same email address used to send the aforementioned threatening email to the Colectivo de Abogados on May 8th.

LRWC is most concerned about the likelihood that the AUC continues to operate, threatening the work and lives of members of organizations that work to protect and promote human rights in Colombia

LRWC is extremely concerned about these incidents and reminds the Colombian Government of its obligations to protect these organizations and their members pursuant to Article 12 of the Human Rights Defender Declaration adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1998. Article 12 establishes the government’s duty to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by competent authorities of everyone … against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or other arbitrary action…”.

In light of these obligations, LWRC urges the Colombia Government to take immediate and effective action to ensure that CODHES, COMPROMISO and the Colectivo de Abogados, and the other threatened organizations, are able to carry out their legitimate and important work for the defence of human rights, in safety.

LRWC also calls for an immediate investigation of these matters in order to determine who is responsible for these threats. LWRC calls on the Colombian Government to guarantee the safety and security of each of the members of these organizations as well as that of their families.

We request that you advise LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax of the actions that the Government of Colombia is taking to:

1. undertake a full and impartial investigation of the threats, for the results to be made public, and those responsible brought to justice;

2. take immediate and effective action, to ensure that members of these organizations can carry out their legitimate and important work for the defence of human rights in safety;

3. undertake a full and impartial investigation into the links between the armed forces and paramilitary groups, for the results to be made public, and for those responsible for participating in such groups to be brought to justice.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns. LRWC awaits your response.