Excmo. Sr. Presidente Iván Duque Márquez, President of the Republic of Colombia
Sr. Fiscal General Néstor Humberto Martínez Neira, Attorney General of Colombia
March 22, 2019
We, are deeply distressed about the assassination of LGBTI rights defender Liliana Holguín, age 40, and her nephew (unnamed), on February 26 as they were traveling by motorbike from Guáramo to Caucasia in the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia Department. Persons on another motorbike approached them and fired several gunshots, killing them both.
Liliana was a member of the LGBTI Committee of Caucasia, which campaigns against discrimination and in defense of equal rights. In addition to organizing empowerment and equality workshops, she also coordinated support for victims of forced displacement, which has affected many communities in Bajo Cauca.
Despite the signing of the 2016 peace agreements, paramilitaries and other armed groups remain highly active in the Bajo Cauca region, particularly in drug trafficking. Criminal organizations (bandas criminales such as Los Urabeños, El Clan del Golfo, and Los Paisas) often coerce members of vulnerable communities to handle illicit drugs for them or risk being killed. When LGBTI leaders are assassinated, authorities too often ignore or overlook the political nature of their killings. Instead, they attempt to link the murders to involvement in illicit activity. Putting forth this narrative (“they must have been smuggling drugs for the bandas criminales ) serves the interest of the assassins by providing them with a cover.
Since 2016 approximately 500 social activists have been murdered throughout Colombia, including LGBTI advocates, trade unionists, environmental defenders, and community leaders. In the majority of cases, nobody has been arrested or charged. LGBTI activists in Bajo Cauca are particularly at risk; they have been repeatedly named in threats circulated in pamphlets by paramilitaries.
Liliana Holguín was a visible member of the LGBTI activist community in Bajo Cauca. Therefore, her death should be treated as a political assassination. Liliana became the eighth LGBTI rights leader killed in Caucasia municipality since 2018.
We strongly urge that you
- conduct a prompt, independent, effective and impartial investigation into the murders of Lilian Holguin and her nephew
- work to dismantle paramilitaries and other bandas criminales organizations operating in the Bajo Cauca
- guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders, including LGBTI activists, are able carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
Brian J. Stefan Szittai
Francisco Santos Calderón, Ambassador of Colombia to the US ~ via fax: 202.232.8643 and email
Rebecca Daley, Human Rights Officer, US Embassy in Colombia ~ via email
Ryan Reid and Christine Russell, Desk Officers for Colombia, US State Dept ~ via email
Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli, Rapporteur for Colombia and Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ~ via email, US mail
Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ~ via email, US mail
Flávia Piovesan, Rapporteur on the Rights of LGTBI Persons, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ~ via email, US mail
US Senators Brown & Portman and US Representatives Beatty, Fudge, Gibbs, Gonzalez, Johnson, Jordan, Joyce, Kaptur, Latta, Ryan ~ via email