Target: President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia
Goal: Ensure the safety of trade unions and human rights groups that have been receiving death threats.
Two human rights advocacy groups and a trade union in the Colombian coastal city of Cali have received death threats purporting to be from a paramilitary organization. The death threats were left under the door of the Trade Union Confederation (CUT), the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee (CSPP), and the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) and were signed by the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, also known as Los Urabeños. The death threats mentioned members of all three organizations by name and warned that those associating with the people mentioned would also be killed.
Nineteen human rights activists have been killed in Colombia in the first quarter of this year, according to Colombian NGO Somos Defensores. In most of those cases, the perpetrators have not been identified. However, many paramilitary groups operating in Colombia have a record of targeting human rights activists, advocates for the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, and leaders in those communities. Members of groups advocating for peasant farmers, trade unionists, and other groups advocating for land rights have also been targeted.
If there continue to be no consequences for acts of violence and intimidation, and no protection given to the victims, then the murders will continue unabated. Therefore, it is critical that the individuals responsible be identified and brought to justice. Furthermore, given a history of ties between paramilitary organizations and Colombian state military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies investigations into these matters must be independent and transparent. Sign our petition and ask President Santos to do everything in his power to protect human rights advocates and trade unionists, and ask him ensure that those responsible for these threats are brought to justice.
Dear President Santos
I was alarmed to hear of the death threats received by CUT, CSPP, and MOVICE recently, threats that claim to be from the paramilitary organization, the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, also known as Los Urabeños. I urge you to give these groups the protection they need and call for them to continue working without fear of reprisals. Furthermore, I urge you to open an independent, impartial and transparent investigation into these threats, to publish the results of the investigation, and to bring those responsible to justice.
It is impossible to have freedom of speech, conscience, and expression in an environment wherein exercising those rights results in threats and violence. Under the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, your government has an obligation to protect those advocating for human rights. Considering the campaign of intimidation and violence pursued by paramilitary organizations against human rights advocates– a campaign that has left 19 dead in the first quarter of this year alone– I urge you to do everything in your power to dismantle these paramilitary groups. Furthermore, I urge you to identify and sever any links between the Colombian armed forces and law enforcement and these groups.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office