Target: Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia
Goal: Investigate mass death threats against more than 80 human rights workers, and provide protection to those singled out
On the eve of Colombia’s Human Rights Day, more than 80 human rights activists, victim advocates, trade unionists, and parliamentarian staffers received emails threatening them with an ultimatum: cease their human rights work within fifteen days or be killed. Sign this petition to demand that the government address this severe and large-scale threat and protect those targeted.
The threatening mass email was signed by the Black Eagles, a right-wing paramilitary group associated with drug trafficking and other criminal activity. Amnesty International reports that recipients were told that they would be “finish[ed] off one by one,” and that the senders knew where they and their families lived. They were also told to “stop bothering with your fake politics, stop f—–g about with your story of human rights defenders.” The email additionally included invitations to the funerals of three still-living Afro-descendent community activists. The date of the “funerals” was ten days from the date the email was sent.
Although they have been officially disbanded by the government, paramilitary groups have continued to operate for years, largely without impunity for. These latest threats against human rights workers are an urgent reminder that the government must step up to ensure that paramilitary groups are disbanded for good and their members brought to justice. In the meantime, however, the government must ensure the safety of the threatened activists by providing them with necessary protections.
Dear President Santos,
I am writing to express my deep concern over the threats received by more than 80 human rights defenders via email on September 8, 2014. The threatening emails, which were signed by the Black Eagles Capital Bloc, constitute a serious and credible threat to the safety of their recipients. I demand protection for those targeted by the Black Eagles and demand that the government launch a full investigation into the case. I demand that those responsible be brought to justice and that Colombia step up its efforts to disband paramilitary groups in accordance with multiple United Nations recommendations.
Those threatened by the email include human rights activists, victim advocates, trade unionists, and parliamentarian staffers concerned with human rights issues. Each recipient’s life has been threatened, but three Afro-descendent activists were singled out by the Black Eagles, which invited all of the email’s recipients to the still-living activists’ impending funerals on September 18. The highly specific and violent nature of these threats puts each of the 80 recipients in grave danger, and I demand that they be provided with government protection in accordance with their wishes.
According to international human rights standards, countries have an obligation to protect their human rights defenders. The current situation in Colombia has escalated to an unacceptable point. I urge you to make immediate improvements to Colombia’s human rights agenda, to actively disband paramilitary groups and prosecute their members, and to ensure that those who fight for others’ rights are protected from harm.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Martin St-Amant via Wikimedia Commons