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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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June 19, 2020
The human rights association Proceso Social de Garantías para la Labor de las y los Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Antioquia (Social Process of Guarantees for the Work of the Human Rights Defenders of Antioquia) has warned authorities in Colombia about a grave threat to the inhabitants in and around Ituango, Antioquia. A few weeks ago, the AGC paramilitaries began implementing their strategy Operación Mil, surrounding Ituango with 1,000 armed forces in order to take complete control of the urban and rural areas. The AGC has been mobilizing paramilitary units from the departments of Chocó and Córdoba to implement this plan. It is feared that they are also engaging in forced child recruitment to supplement their forces. The threats of violence are real. On June 6, armed persons committed a massacre of several persons in the Quebrada del Medio rural zone of Ituango. The victims include: Camilo Sucerquia Durango, the 15-year-old son of an ex-FARC combatant; Carlos Barrera, age 17; William Pérez, a truck driver; and at least two unnamed persons. It is worth noting that this massacre occurred just one day after members of the Social Process of Guarantees for the Work of Human Rights Defenders held a meeting with the Mesa Territorial de Garantías (Territorial Roundtable of Guarantees) with high level government officials, such as the Vice-Minister of the Interior. The human rights defenders left the meeting disappointed in what they described as responses from the officials that were “ambiguous” and reflected “institutional negligence, bureaucratic incompetence, [and] dangerous inaction.”
June 11, 2020
We sent letters to officials in Honduras regarding attacks on civil liberties being carried out by security forces in Honduras under the guise of health emergency protections. The military and militarized police forces have increased arbitrary detentions and physical assaults, resulting in at least one killing. Marvin Rolando Alvarado Santiago (Cortés Dept.) was shot and killed on April 24 at a military police checkpoint. Oscar Machado and Eduardo Vásquez (Valle Dept.) were attacked on April 24 by los TIGRES with kicks and tear gas. Miguel Padilla and Yoni Duarte (Olancho Dept.) were illegally detained by military police on May 7, then transferred to a prison and tortured. César Arnulfo Blandón Merlo (El Paraíso Dept.) was beaten on May 9 by Preventative Police, breaking one of his hands. Heydi Mareli and her brother Wilmer Roberto Amaya Rubio (Olancho Dept.) were arbitrarily detained on May 20 and assaulted with punches, kicks, slaps and insults by nine Preventative Police agents. We are urging that the above incidents be investigated and that authorities end all forms of aggression, threats and harassment against the people of Honduras, especially human rights defenders, during and after this health emergency.
May 26, 2020
Because she is an outspoken defender of the environment and territorial rights in Putumayo (Amazon Basin), Jani Rita Silva has been subjected to intimidation, surveillance and death threats. In March, the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIPJ) reported that an anonymous informant told them of a plan to assassinate her. After an investigative visit to the Amazon Pearl Peasant Reserve Zone earlier this month (May 2020), representatives of CIJP reported that the military is conducting illegal surveillance on the environmental defender (as well as against staff of CIJP). Jani Rita Silva is the legal representative of the Association for the Integral and Sustainable Development of the Amazon Pearl (ADISPA). As such, she has denounced the oil extraction operations of the multinational company Amerisur, whose partners include Houston-based Occidental Petroleum.
May 25, 2020
The militarization of drug eradication in Colombia is resulting in violence and death. The Colombian government is feeling the pressure from Washington, so they're deploying their army onto coca plantations where they are facing resistance from campesinos. Since March, the Colombian army has been conducting forced eradication operations in the Catatumbo region of Norte de Santander Department. On May 18 they opened fire on unarmed rural workers who were protesting these activities, killing Emerito Digno Buenida Martínez, age 44, and injuring Miguel Hernández León, Juan José Orozco, and Jimmy Alberto González. The murder of Emerito Buendía Martínez comes just weeks after Colombian security forces (also in the Catatumbo region) killed Alejandro Carvajal, age 20, in his home on March 26. Alejandro was the nephew of a well-known community leader and had been working in crop substitution programs to replace illegal crops with traditional alternatives. We urge that the government of Colombia put an immediate end to forced crop eradication and allow the voluntary substitution program to proceed according to the Peace Accords of 2016.
May 24, 2020
Unknown individuals raided and vandalized the house of human rights lawyer Esteban Emanuel Celada Flores while he was at work. This is the third raid on his home in less than five months. Esteban Celada has filed at least six complaints before the Public Ministry for multiple attacks against him since 2016. While filing complaints he has experienced intimidating attitudes from members of the Public Ministry. The intimidating content as well as the continuous and systemic nature of the attacks have left a harmful psychological impact on Esteban Celada. No advances have been made on the investigations, nor have protection measures been implemented to safeguard his life and integrity. When he filed a complaint with the the Public Ministry's Crime Unit against Human Rights Activists of this recent incident (April 22), he was told that due to COVID-19 the Unit was lacking the resources to immediately assess the crime scene.
May 23, 2020
The body of Edwin Noel Flores Sacaza, a young Garífuna man, was discovered on the afternoon of May 1 inside a container on the property of the Ensenada thermoelectric plant, where he worked as a security guard. Residents of Sambo Creek are awaiting autopsy reports that might reveal the cause of death and clarify how Edwin ended up inside the container, where he may have suffocated to death. There are many doubts among the members of the community about what happened, how the investigations will be carried out, and how justice will be administered. Concerns are intensified because of the increase of killings of Garífuna people over the past year, especially of women Garífuna leaders of territorial defense. The thermoelectric plant itself is also cause for concern. Garífuna communities in the region face health risks from being exposed to plant emissions from Bunker C (Fuel #6), banned in several countries because it is considered highly toxic.
May 12, 2020
Agricultural union member Hamilton Gasca Ortega, age 33, was assassinated in his home along with his sons Robert Gasca and Kevin Gasca. Another massacre of a family occurred at the home of Alvaro Narváez Daza, president of his local community action board. Armed men broke into his home in southern Cauca and killed him, his wife, his son, and his teenage granddaughter. The same day, a former community action board president, Uenseslao Guerrero de la Cruz, was gunned down in the streets. The first few months of 2020 saw the highest rate of murders of social activists since the peace agreement was signed in Colombia in November 2016: on average, one social leader is killed every other day.
May 1, 2020
We are deeply concerned about attacks on rural community leaders in Cauca Department. This is part of a wave of violence that continues to impact many regions of Colombia. Since January 1 more than 60 social leaders have been assassinated across the country. In a period of just one week, these four social leaders were assassinated in Cauca: Teodomiro Sotelo Anacona, Andrés Andrelio Cacimanca Burbano, Mario Chilhueso, and Hugo de Jesús Giraldo López. We urge the president and attorney general of Colombia to: 1- carry out transparent and thorough investigations into the assassinations listed above, publish the results, and bring the perpetrators to justice; 2- provide protection measures to members of the organizations listed above, in strict accordance with the wishes of their local leaders; 3- demilitarize the rural areas of Cauca because of the military’s complicity in the armed violence, forced displacement, and targeting of rural social leaders.
April 26, 2020
On April 12, journalist Eder Narváez Sierra reported on two killings in Caucasia, Antioquia. The following day, he received text messages from a person claiming to be the commander of the paramilitary organization Los Caparrapos. The commander took credit for the killings. He also threatened that if Eder Narváez Sierra did not heed the warning “not to talk so much…the only news that will be heard in the coming days is that they killed the NP guy.” (Eder Narváez Sierra is the founder and editor of the local news website NP Noticias.) We are urging authorities to: 1- thoroughly investigate the death threats made against Eder Narváez Sierra, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice,and 2- instruct the National Protection Unit (UNP) to assess the level of risk to Eder Narváez Sierra, and, in direct consultation with him, implement the necessary measures to safeguard his life and integrity. We call on the government of Colombia to be resolute in their commitment to protect freedom of the press and the safety of journalists.
April 5, 2020
We are heartbroken and outraged over the assassination of Carlota Isabel Salinas Pérez, an active member of the Popular Women's Organization of Colombia (OFP, Organización Femenina Popular), at her home in San Pablo, Bolívar Department, on March 24. We are equally dismayed by the police’s smear campaign against the victim and OFP. During the initial stages of the murder investigation, police have tried to pressure OFP members to downplay or deny her active role in their organization and as a community leader in general. Furthermore, police have started a social media stigmatization campaign against OFP and Carlota Isabel Salinas Pérez, suggesting that criminal ties were the motive for her murder. This is an insult to Carlota, her family, and to OFP. Hundreds of social leaders are killed each year in Colombia. We demand that the government carry out a thorough, open, and impartial investigation into the assassination of Carlota Isabel Salinas Pérez, using as the first investigative hypothesis her work as a social leader. #NoMasFeminicidios #NiUnaMas