Con el reciente asesinato de un líder social, la cifra llega a 200 entre 2016 y lo que va corrido de 2017. Fiscalía trabaja en esclarecimiento de casos.
A comienzos de la semana pasada fue asesinado en el municipio de Caloto (Cauca), Jair Mera. Se trata del integrante de la comunidad indígena Huellas y hermano de la exconsejera de la Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca (Acin), Luz Eida Julicué Gómez. Su homicidio se produjo a manos de sicarios que le propinaron varios disparos. Lo paradójico del hecho es que, según la Red de Derechos Humanos del Suroccidente Colombiano, el hecho ocurrió a menos de 200 metros de la estación de policía y cerca de una base militar.
De esta manera, aumentó el doloroso listado de asesinatos de defensores de derechos humanos en Colombia, que entre el año 2016 y lo que va corrido de 2017 llegó a 200 homicidios. Una cifra que se consolidó luego de cruzar los reportes oficiales de la Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU), el movimiento político Marcha Patriótica, la organización Cumbre Nacional Agraria y la Defensoría del Pueblo, quienes vienen reportando sus informes a la Fiscalía General de la Nación, con el propósito de que esclarezca el origen de los asesinatos y aplique justicia para evitar la impunidad.
Con estos reportes, las denuncias en los despachos judiciales, las audiencias públicas, el clamor de las víctimas y los requerimientos de organismos de derechos humanos en Colombia y en el exterior, el fiscal Néstor Humberto Martínez, junto con la vicefiscal María Paulina Riveros, diseñaron la primera estrategia de priorización para la investigación y judicialización de agresiones contra defensores de derechos humanos, líderes sociales, políticos y comunales. Su aplicación se empezó a ejecutar y se mantendrá como política institucional hasta el año 2020.
ILOILO CITY — Unidentified armed men gunned down two members of a human rights fact-finding mission and wounded another in Bayawan City in Negros Occidental on Tuesday afternoon.
The fatalities were identified as Elisa Badayos, a 59-year-old Negros Oriental coordinator of the human rights group Karapatan, and Eleuterio Moises, a village watchman and a member of Mantapi Ebwan Farmers Association.
Carmen Matarlo, 22, was wounded in the shoulder and was in stable condition as of 9:30 p.m.
Elisa Badayos was the wife of former labour leader and desaparecido Jimmy Badayos.
In a phone interview, SPO2 Archer Birjes, investigator of the Bayawan City Police Station, said the victims were in a habal-habal (a modified motorcycle) when they were fired at by at least two men at Barangay Nangka around 3:40 p.m.
The three victims were taken to the Bayawan District Hospital where physicians pronounced Badayos and Moises dead on arrival.
Matarlo was later taken to Dumaguete City, the provincial capital of Negros Oriental, which is about 106 kilometers from Bayawan City.
Badayos had a gunshot wound in the head, while Moises was hit in the armpit.
Police recovered empty shells from a .45-caliber pistol at the site of the incident
Investigators were still determining the identities of the gunmen and the motive of the attack.
According to Birjes, the victims dropped by the Bayawan City Police Station before noon to coordinate with the police that they were going to Nangka to see the village chief, according to Birjes.
But in a statement, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said the victims went to the police station to report an earlier incident wherein armed men tried to stop them from entering Hacienda San Ramon in Barangay Nangka where they would be conducting a fact-finding mission.
Patrick Torres, executive director of the Cebu-based Farmers Development Center and a member of the fact-finding mission, said they were on the last day of their four-day activity when the attack happened.
The three victims separated from the 30-person contingent to go to Nangka to interview farmers who reportedly had been harassed by security guards of a land claimant involved in a land dispute.
He said the attack prompted concerns over the security and safety of the other participants who belong to human rights organisations and groups of women, workers and youth in Cebu and Negros Oriental.
The fact-finding mission was conducted to investigate reported cases of killings, harassment and other human rights violations in several towns in Negros Oriental.
Torres said nine members of farmers groups and militant organisations had been killed this year in Negros Oriental. These include eight in Guihulngan City alone.
The killings in Guihulngan happened after the July 21 attack of New People’s Army rebels on the Guihulgan City Police Station, during which six police officers, including the chief of police, died and three others were wounded.
Karapatan condemned the attack.
“The attack on human rights defenders are becoming more rampant, more brutal, more fearless,” Palabay said in a statement. “The perpetrators know they will be dealt with impunity, as human rights have lost force and meaning especially under this regime. Fact-finding missions are a mechanism for human rights organizations to confirm reports of abuses, and this incident has only proven how fascism works to outrightly kill those who dare to question.” /atm
The latest wave of killings in the state of Baja California has resulted in the shooting dead of the state’s Human Rights Ombudsman, Silvestre de la Toba Camacho, and his 20 year old son Fernando, as they were driving through the city centre on the evening of Monday 20 November.
As they passed an intersection in the city centre several gunmen opened fire on the Ombudsman’s car, causing it to swerve violently and crash into a building. The Ombudsman and his son were declared dead on the scene while his wife and daughter were seriously injured and taken to hospital.
In a prepared statement, national ombudsman Luis Raúl González Pérez condemned the attack on de la Toba and his family. “The CNDH [the National Human Rights Commission] reports that it has issued preventative measures in order to guarantee the safety of Mr. de la Toba’s family and that of all the staff of the state agency . . . ” said González.
Via the video link below you can access an interview with Silvestre de la Toba Camacho, from April 2017, during which he was asked about the level of violence in Baja California Sur and the killing of journalist Max Rodriguez.
The killing of De la Toba is the first assassination of a human rights ombudsman since the post was created more than 25 years ago in a bid to improve safeguards for Mexican citizens. Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, issued a statement on this latest killing. “I condemn the killing of Silvestre de la Toba Camacho in the strongest possible terms, and am equally outraged by the assault on his family.” “I call on the state and federal authorities to ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted and the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
In January 2017, following his first ever official visit to the country, during which he met more that 800 HRDs, the Special Rapporteur stated “The situation of human rights defenders in Mexico is conditioned by the criminalisation of their activities through the deliberate misuse of criminal law and the manipulation of the state’s punitive power by both State and non-State actors, to hinder and even prevent the legitimate activities of defenders to promote and protect human rights,”
Speaking from Dublin, Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders said, “The killing of Silvestre de la Toba Camacho did not come out of the blue. It is directly attributable to the culpable negligence of the government of Mexico and its failure over years to take effective action to protect HRDs or to bring the perpetrators of attacks against them to justice. Instead it has engaged in smear campaigns and covert surveillance to obstruct their work and undermine their credibility, thereby putting their lives directly at risk”.
In the last week alone 35 people have been killed in Baja California. Most of these killings took place in La Paz and Los Cabos. Interior Secretary Álvaro de la Peña Angulo acknowledged in a public statement that violence has indeed spiked in Baja California Sur, quoting data from the state Attorney General’s office that indicated that between May and November 2017 there were 376 homicides, 123 of which took place in October alone.
Experts cite various reasons for the rise in killings, including the chaos that has ensued as rivals battle for the turf formerly controlled by fallen drug cartel leaders such as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Several factions are said to be engaged in bloody competition for the fractured empire of the former head of the Sinaloa cartel, now jailed in New York on various charges.
“When pursuing their various “wars” on drugs and “wars” on terror, the U.S. and the governments it supports in these “wars” are apt to overlook human rights abuses committed by the militaries and police forces upon which they rely. A new report details how this has played out in the Mexican military”.
MEXICO CITY – A study published Tuesday by the advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) has revealed the woeful inadequacy of the Mexican government in pursuing cases of human rights violations committed by soldiers against civilians — in spite of recent reforms that allow such cases to be heard by civilian, rather than military, courts. According to its website, WOLA is “a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas.”
WOLA’s report, titled “Overlooking Justice: Human Rights Violations Committed by Mexican Soldiers Against Civilians are Met with Impunity,” examined data made available by Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR). The data showed clearly that the vast majority of investigations, even those in which abundant evidence exists to show proof of wrongdoing, fail to result in punishments for those accused of abuses of human rights, such as extrajudicial killings, torture, kidnappings and the use of excessive force. In all, only 16 of the 505 criminal investigations PGR launched between 2012 and 2016 ended with a conviction.
Furthermore, of those 505 cases, only two involved commanding officers — with the vast majority examining the conduct of rank-and-file soldiers, many of whom claim to have been following the orders of their superiors. WOLA cited this trend as a strong indication that Mexico’s military leadership operates with relative impunity.
At 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 8 September, Community Judge Celedonia Zalazar Point was murdered along with her husband, Tito José González Bendles, while they were at home in the community of Tungla in the remote territory of Prinzu Awala of the Municipality of Prinzapolka. It seems that the day before they had received a warning from a stranger.
According to the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN), Celedonia Zalazar was the substitute judge for the indigenous territory and her murder, carried out with firearms, could be related to a dispute over territorial property between settlers and indigenous people.
Celedonia Zalazar is the second defender of indigenous territory murdered in the Caribbean Coast. In November of 2016 Bernicia Dixon Peranta was shot dead along with members of her family. It is estimated that the conflict over land in the North Caribbean has so far caused 50 deaths, 3 disappearances, 80 injured people and hundreds of displaced persons, in a context of total impunity and omission on the part of the Nicaraguan State.
Human rights organisation IM-Defensoras issued a statement in which they said “we regret and condemn this crime and given the clear evidence of systematic discrimination against indigenous people in the justice system, often shown by the failure to investigate cases in which indigenous people are victims, we demand that the Nicaraguan authorities carry out an effective, expeditious and unprejudiced investigation, so that justice is done. This case should not become yet another example of the prevailing climate of impunity…Finally, we call on international human rights organisations and bodies to remain vigilant about the grave situation facing the indigenous communities of the Caribbean Coast”.
We are happy with peace, but they are killing us. The movement of human rights defenders is on high alert because of the significant increase in the murder of social leaders since peace was signed with the FARC. The authorities are not taking strong action to protect the lives of these activists or to carry out effective investigations to identify those responsible for the killings and as a result the killings continue unabated. This wave of deaths can not only destabilise the peace process but risks destabilising the whole country if it is not acted on right now. Figures for the period January – June 2017 below.
Between January and June 2017, the Colombian Human Rights Defenders Reporting System (SIADDHH) recorded a total of 335 individual attacks against defenders who were targeted in 225 threats, 51 murders, 32 attacks, 18 arbitrary detentions and 9 cases of prosecution. The increase in attacks against human rights defenders during the first half of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016, was up by 6%, going from 314 to 335.
Of these 335 attacks, 76% of the targets were male and 24% of the targets were female. The trend identified in our 2016 Annual Report, “Against the Ropes” regarding the increase in attacks against the life and physical integrity of defenders, is reflected in the current pattern of homicides and attacks. Since the signing of the peace accords in September 2016 until June 2017, 82 human rights defenders have been murdered and more than 50 have been victims of attempted killings.
Killings of HRDs in general have increased increased by 31% while killings of women human rights defenders increased compared to 2016 with a total of 7 in this period. The defenders most affected by this crime are community, peasant and Afro-descendant leaders in rural areas. Of particular concern is the practice of disappearance of the victims prior to killings in several recorded cases, as well as the use of extremely brutal torture in cases such as in that of José Yimer Cartagena in Córdoba who was stabbed 32 times and had his nails removed and his tongue torn out. An equally extreme case was that of Edenis Barrera in Casanare who was raped, impaled with branches and suffered stab wounds in different parts of her body. with sharp arms.
Among the alleged perpetrators of the 335 attacks reported by SIADDHH, we note that the paramilitaries are implicated with assumed responsibility in 197 cases (59%), unknown actors in 107 cases (32%), state agents in 30 cases (9%), And guerrillas in 1 case (0.1%)
In relation to the political context, the report states that despite innumerable announcements, commitments and statements by the national government and entities of the Colombian state related to the protection and prevention of aggression against human rights defenders in Colombia, the figures present a compelling picture of a very different reality. For example the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation is finally taking action but not at the pace needed to address the issue; there have been historic breakthroughs but these cannot keep pace with the volume of cases that are recorded on a daily basis.
While it is important to acknowledge that progress has been made in some cases, (cases which historically would have simply ended up in a file) it is still the case that violence against human rights defenders, while acknowledged by the state Is still far from being completely under control. It would be better if the Attorney General could use his position to produce concrete results to show who is behind this violence.
On the other hand the report points out how the issue of violence against defenders has been well and repeatedly flagged. At least 5 reports by state agencies, civil society organisations and academic institutions have identified the dangers faced by social leaders and human rights defenders. What is the government doing with these warnings? Why are the attacks not prevented? It is time for the government to PREVENT these killings and stop promising high-level special committees and committees for the protection of hard-working activists.
“Acúzate” (Wake Up) as this report is called, is a call not to lose hope that achieving peace ( a historic commitment of the human rights movement), in Colombia is possible but is also a call on all sides to ensure that human rights defenders don’t lose their lives in the process. This warning also refers to the forthcoming elections, since in previous years there has been evidence of higher levels of territorial violence in election periods. Hopefully, on this occasion, this trend will not be repeated.
“Agúzate” is also a strong message from Colombian civil society and the human rights movement to the entities of the Government and Colombian State to take without delay, substantive policies, aimed at generating the necessary guarantees for the exercise of social leadership and the defense of human rights. For example, to give impetus and strength to the National Security Guarantees Commission, created to design public policy related to the dismantling of paramilitarism and similar groups, or to the Attorney General’s Office to investigate in depth all cases, and not cherry pick only those that are seen as having the best chance of success.
“AGUZATE” They are killing us
The complete figures of the System of Information of violence against human rights defenders in Colombia SIADDHH for the period January-June 2017 and other periods can be consulted at www.somosdefensores.org
P.S. In September 2017 we will publish 3 special reports on the most important issues faced by defenders and how to confront them.
STOP WARS – Stop the War on Defenders (…) Coming soon.
On the morning of Wednesday 9 August, the body of Idaly Castillo Narváez was found among coffee bushes in vereda Bella Vista in the province of Cauca. Idaly had been strangled and the body also showed signs of torture and sexual abuse.
Idaly Castillo Narváez was vice president of the local Junta de Acción and was also an active member of the local victims’ group the “Mesa de Participación de Víctimas del Municipio”. While the authorities have sent a technical team to carry out an investigation there is no immediate evidence to explain the circumstances of the killing.
This week Colombian NGO Somos Defensores will launch its new report, covering the period January June 2017, and which documents the killing of 51 HRDs since the start of the year.
Nidio Dávila was a member of Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos de Nariño (Astracan) which works to protect the rights of peasant farmers and which, under Article 4 of the peace process, is active in promoting the substitution of coca production with other crops. Nidio was also part of the National Coordination of Cultivators of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana, Coccam, and the political and social movement Marcha Patriotica in Nariño.
Nidio attended the last meeting of the Association on Sunday 6 August. About 80 members of the local peasant community attended the meeting which discussed the substitution programme which Nidio actively supported. That same day members of paramilitary group Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) took Nidio from his house. Initially they demanded that he pay a tax but he refused. He was then taken to the neighbouring town of El Cable where he was shot dead in front of the community and his body was dumped in the river Verde. The body was recovered from the river the next day in Vereda San Rafael.
According to witnesses, the killing was the work of paramilitary forces, members of the AGC who wanted to intimidate the community. They believe that this killing was a way of sending a message to the community that they should not take part in, or support, the coca substitution programme. The AGC have held two meetings with peasants in the area at which, in addition to issuing threats, they said that they were there to impose a tax on coca dealers. They also promised to raise the price of coca leaf as a way of attracting new producers into the business.
This is an area which has traditionally had extensive coca production and the community is divided between those who think that there is no alternative to cooperating with the AGC and those who support the substitution programme but do not have confidence in the ability or commitment of the government to following through on the programme by protecting the community.
Next week Colombian human rights ngo Programa Somos Defensores will launch a new report, entitled Agúzate, which documents the killing of human rights defenders in Colombia for the period January – June 2017.
The report highlights the fact that despite the peace process and despite the fact that overall levels of violence have decreased, the number of targeted killings of human rights defenders has actually increased.
The report documents the fact that since January 2017, 51 HRDs have been killed up to the end of June. This figure represents a 30% increase over the same period last year. The response of the Colombian government to date has been to maintain the position that these are isolated incidents rather than part of a consistent pattern of paramilitary activity. The basic premise of the report is that given the failure of the state to take action, the only option is for HRDs to organise to protect each other.
Somos Defensores has produced a short video to promote the report which paraphrases the words of a popular song to state – “Wake up – they’re watching us – they’re listening – they’re hunting and killing us”.
Please distribute this video as widely as possible to create awareness of the forthcoming report. Please do what you can by sending it to your media contacts and partner organisations.