Target: Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia
Goal: Ensure that people and organizations threatened by paramilitary groups are protected from harm.
After years of armed conflict in Colombia, the government has begun a land restitution process aimed at returning lands taken over by multinational corporations and owners with paramilitary associations to their rightful owners. However, violent paramilitary activity remains present, as evidenced by a death threat recently circulated across Colombia. The threat names “dozens of…state officials, journalists, human rights defenders, community leaders and trade unionists,” Amnesty International reports. Sign the petition ensuring that those named in the threats are afforded every protection possible in accordance with their wishes, and demand that the government take serious and long-overdue steps toward dismantling paramilitary groups once and for all.
The death threat was distributed in pamphlet form and “signed by the Atlántico and Magdalena Bloc of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia,” Amnesty reports. It was widely distributed across Colombia and was most likely prompted by the movement of several land restitution cases in the Atlántico and Magdalena Departments. It is only the latest in a series of written paramilitary death threats.
The time for Colombia to root out paramilitary groups is long overdue. In the meantime, however, the government must ensure the safety of its citizens and of human rights defenders. Sign the petition and demand protection for those named in the threats and a full investigation into who is behind them.
Dear President Santos,
The recent and disturbing death threats distributed by the Atlántico and Magdalena Bloc of Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia are the latest in a long line of threats brought against human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, community leaders, and even state officials. This climate of fear and intimidation cannot be allowed to continue. I demand protection for those named in the threats and implore you to launch a full, thorough, and impartial investigation into the threats and the groups behind them.
Colombia’s land restitution process will only be successful if the proceedings are kept free of intimidation and harassment. The presence of paramilitary groups and the proliferation of threats faced by those participating the restitution process constitute major deterrents for others who might be entitled to or benefit from the program. Furthermore, wide scale paramilitary activities such as these death threats are evidence of the fact that Colombia has not done nearly enough to root out paramilitary groups.
Colombia must take action on a large scale to rid itself of paramilitary threats once and for all, but first it must protect those threatened by paramilitaries, ensure that citizens and human rights defenders are safe, and investigate any and all threats made against them.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Martin St-Amant via Wikimedia Commons