75 year old sister of recognised priest activist killed in vicious targeted attack

News from Colombia | on: Friday, 24 May 2013

Benedicta Joya, a 75 year old peasant farmer who supported the community work of her brother priest, has been killed in a brutal targeted attack in eastern Colombia.

Benedicta was the sister of Elias Joya, a priest who is recognized internationally for his community activism in defence of land rights, the local environment, and particularly in opposition to the mining interests that threaten to destroy the livelihoods of the peasant members of his community. He has also been an active promoter of peace both locally and nationally. As is often the case in Colombia, this work for peace, in favour of the poor, and in resistance to the plans of the dominating national and international economic interests resulted in his receiving death threats on numerous occasions during his 25 years of activism.

In what was a chilling act of calculated murder the body of Benedicta was set on fire after she had been shot and the gunmen used her blood to write on the floor next to her body “guerrillas not welcome”. The classification of social activists as guerrillas, particularly in rural Colombia, is systematic and a strategy used to both discredit their work and justify these horrific crimes. The use of extreme violence has also been a common practice as right-wing paramilitaries with links to the large economic powers in the country seek to both punish and send a message of terror to anyone who dares oppose their interests.

Just last month a periodic report from the Colombian human rights observatory Somos Defensores highlighted that fifteen human rights activists had been killed in the first four months of 2013.

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