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Rapid Response Network
RRN’s team of letter-writers responds to six urgent human rights cases each month to
- protect people living under threat
- demand investigations into human rights crimes
- bring human rights criminals to justice
- ensure that human rights crimes are not happening in the dark.
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March 30, 2021
Wesent letters to the president and attorney general of Colombia about the assassinations of social leaders (as well as other human rights crimes) that occurred during the last week of March. Those killed include: (1) Carlos Andrés Bustos Cortes, a former FARC combatant enrolled in the reincorporation process. Puerto Asis, Putumayo. March 23 2021. (2) Carlos Alberto Vidal, president of SINTRACOS sugar workers union. Flórida, Valle del Cauca Department. March 29 2021. (3) José Santos López, 54-year-old Awá indigenous leader, and Jhon Edwar Martínez, a 22-year-old Awá indigenous man. Tumaco, Nariño Department. March 29 2021. We echo the call by the United Nations Mission in Colombia, urging “the implementation of concrete measures for the comprehensive protection of all communities as well as the strengthening of security guarantees in the territories affected by the violence.”
March 25, 2021
Juan Carlos Cerros Escalante, age 41, was president of the Nueva Granada Board of Trustees and a leader of the local Lenca indigenous community in his hometown of Chinda, Santa Bárbara Department. On March 21, unknown assailants fired 40 shots at him in front of his children as they were returning from his mother’s house in the village of Nueva Granada, municipality of San Antonio in Cortés Department. Juan Carlos Cerros Escalante led Communities United of Chinda, a local group opposing the “El Tornillito” hydroelectric dam that is being constructed by HIDROVOLCÁN (Hidroeléctrica El Volcán Company) in hamlets near the Rio Ulúa. This dam, which will be the second largest in Honduras, will mean the disappearance of ten communities of an indigenous Lenca population because the livestock, crops and houses of these two municipalities would drown, and their inhabitants would be forced to move.
March 24, 2021
For the past few years, residents of El Guapinol have been organizing against the operations of an iron ore mine that is contaminating the Guapinol and San Pedro Rivers, water sources for populations across three departments in northern Honduras. Eight environmental defenders have been held in "pre-trial detention" since September 2019. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stressed that there is no legal reason to hold these eight men in pre-trial detention and that there is no legal reason to prosecute them. The UN Working Group also recommended that those responsible for the illegal detention should be investigated, suggesting that the State is punishing them for exercising their legitimate rights in defending the environment.
March 13, 2021
We wrote to officials in Colombia because of our concern for the safety of church leaders who are speaking out against armed violence. We are especially concerned that Bishop Ruben Dario Jaramillo, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca Department, is receiving death threats. The bishop told a radio journalist on March 3 that he received a death threat via WhatsApp and was warned he could become the victim of a bomb attack. We are concerned that paramilitary organizations are succeeding in seizing control over several districts of Buenaventura because the local security forces are complicit in allowing them to do so. The paramilitary groups are trying to impose their control in the city through fear, various extortionist tactics, and advertising what they call a “social cleansing” in the city. In the process, they are forcibly recruiting youth. The ongoing violence in Buenaventura is a clear example of how impunity for paramilitary actors threatens the true possibility of peace.
March 12, 2021
We urge protection for Wounan Phobur indigenous leader Ricardo Gonzáles Chirimia, a director of the Association of Communities Building Peace in Colombia (CONPAZCOL); he is being threatened in Buenaventura, Colombia. In 2003 paramilitaries forcibly displaced Ricardo Gonzáles Chirimia and his community from Bajo Calima village. In order to preserve their cultural identity, he and many of his indigenous community members temporarily settled in a small area designated by the Community Council del Bajo Calima. Since then they have been waiting for the national government’s Territory Renewal Agency (ART) to designate another site for definitive relocation. We are urging that (1) authorities investigate the threat received by Ricardo Gonzáles Chirimia, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice; (2) the National Protection Unit activate preventative protection measures, in consultation with Ricardo Gonzáles Chirimia, and according to his wishes; and (3) the Territory Renewal Agency (ART) guarantee the definitive relocation of the Wounan Phobur indigenous community as soon as possible.
March 11, 2021
The Department of Antioquia was hardest hit by a wave of violence in February, due mostly to the predominance of the paramilitary group Clan del Golfo (Gulf Clan) in the region. Our letter to the president and attorney general of Colombia includes these incidents of horrific violence: a massacre of five farm workers, assassinations, threats to school teachers, and a 13-year old indigenous boy who lost his leg when he stepped on a landmine. We are urging that authorities in Colombia: (1) take all necessary steps to fully implement the 2016 Peace Accords, (2) immediately finalize the National Commission on Security Guarantees’ public policy for dismantling armed groups and their networks, and (3) strengthen the Special Investigation Unit to identify and prosecute both the material assailants and intellectual authors of attacks on human rights defenders and former combatants.
February 26, 2021
ADISPA is doing critical work to protect the Amazonian Pearl Peasant Reserve Zone (ZRCPA) of Putumayo by promoting reforestation initiatives and denouncing the socio-environmental effects of oil extraction operations. For that reason, powerful groups want them out of the way. The InterChurch Commission of Justice and Peace (CIJP) recently verified a plan by the the armed group Comando de la Frontera (Border Command) to kill or displace members of the Association for the Integral and Sustainable Development of the Amazonian Pearl (ADISPA). During the first weeks of 2021, the Comando de la Frontera visited some of the 700 families who live in the ZRCPA to tell them that ADISPA should disappear, and that no social organization that wants to work in the territory could do so if it disobeys their rules. Because of these ongoing threats, we are urging that authorities in Colombia grant members of ADISPA protection measures, in consultation and in agreement with them.
February 15, 2021
Twenty-six year-old nursing student Keyla Martínez died in police custody on February 7. Arrested the night before for an alleged violation of a COVID-restriction curfew, an autopsy found that she had died from “mechanical asphyxiation” in her jail cell. While police initially reported her death as a suicide, the former director of forensic medicine reports that she suffered torture, strangulation, and possible sexual abuse at the hands of police in jail. The Center for Women’s Rights in Honduras stated, “The femicide of Keyla Martínez is added to the history of abuse of power and disproportionate use of force, that with or without the curfew, are exercised by public functionaries, above all police and military, against the population.” Honduras consistently ranks among the top five nations in the world in femicide. Equally alarming is the high rate of impunity for those who commit these murders. We demand justice for Keyla Martínez. #JusticiaParaKeyla
February 14, 2021
Death threats to María Eugenia Mosquera Riascos are part of a larger context of illegal armed groups intimidating members of the human rights community in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca Department. These armed groups, responsible for forced recruitment of youth, are trying to impose their control in the city through fear, various extortionist tactics, and advertising what they call a “social cleansing” in the city. Maria Eugenia Mosquera Riascos is the legal representative of CONPAZCOL (Association of Communities Building Peace in Colombia) and member of the Roundtable for Access to Justice, Victims, Protection and Memory), which participates in the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee. On January 7, again on January 29 and 30, she received a series of threatening messages on her mobile phone. One threat read: “you have three guys watching you,” and “we are the ones who kill informant toads of those other people.”
February 13, 2021
Police used force to displace 44 campesino (peasant) families from two communities in Francisco Morazan. On the morning of February 5, police dressed in black came to their rural communities and—without presenting a legal eviction order—began a forced eviction that ended in the destruction of all the collective work the families had built for more than 12 years. Homes and community buildings were bulldozed. When Luvy Canales, the families’ legal representative, requested to see a legal eviction order, police detained her. The lands that these families inhabited have been designated as communal (ejido). They are used for subsistence purposes only (growing food, raising animals) by families who do not own their own land. The National Association of Rural Workers (CNTC) has initiated an investigation process into this forced eviction. We are urging that officials in Honduras: 1) instruct INA (Instituto Nacional Agrario) to investigate the legal titles of these disputed lands to establish true ownership/possession and make accommodations for the 44 families; 2) safeguard the life and security of all citizens of Honduras through the execution of a comprehensive and inclusive agrarian policy that protects the most vulnerable.