Paramilitaries have sent a death threat by email to a human rights organization based in the city of Bucaramanga, in the department of Santander. Amnesty International believes its staff are in danger.
The email was sent on May 17th, 2006 to the Corporación “COMPROMISO”, which works to promote and protect human rights in the north-east of Colombia. It was copied to the indigenous organization Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC), the trade union Unión Sindical Obrera, and also to the human rights organizations Viva la Ciudadanía Bogotá, Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES) and the Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo”.
The email was sent from the same email address used to send a threatening email to the Colectivo de Abogados on May 8th, 2006. The email address includes the words Colombia Libre (“Free Colombia”) which is the name used by the paramilitary umbrella organization Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, (AUC), United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia, on its website. This is the largest of the army-backed paramilitary organisation that are supposedly demobilising. (See UA 131/06, AMR 23/022/2006, 12 May 2006.)
The email calls on NGOs to join the “nuevo proceso para favorecer la democracia en nuestra sagrada patria” (“new process to favour democracy in our sacred homeland.”) The email warns the threatened organizations to give up their human rights work and training, which they claim are a “disfraz de la insurgencia izquierdista” (“a front for the leftist insurgency.”)
The email suggests that the AUC is still operating and continues to threaten the work and lives of members of NGOs that promote and protect human rights in Colombia.
Colombia’s army-backed paramilitary groups have officially been demobilising, in a government-sponsored process that will supposedly be completed this year. It appears that many paramilitary groups have not demobilized at all, but are continuing to operate under new names.
Human rights organizations are frequently labelled as guerrilla collaborators or supporters by the security forces and their paramilitary allies. As a result they often suffer disappearances, killings or torture at the hands of army-backed paramilitary groups, or members of the security forces. Armed opposition groups have also threatened or killed human rights defenders they consider to be siding with the enemy.
Letter by Heather Neun sent on May 29, 2006