President Attacks Human Rights Defenders

News from Colombia | on: Wednesday, 7 May 2008

In the latest in a long line of angry attacks against those working to defend human rights in Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe has again lashed out at human rights NGOs generally and leading Colombian human rights campaigner Ivan Cepeda specifically. His comments, in which he repeatedly accuses and insults the human rights community, have further endangered the lives of numerous brave Colombians that continue to work to try and improve the dire human rights situation in their country. Justice for Colombia has joined other international organisations in unreservedly condemning the President's latest outburst.

Uribe's harshest comments, which were made during a May 6th speech in the city of Monteria, were reserved for Mr Cepeda, the leader of the National Movement of Victims. However, the President also claimed that human rights activists in general were duplicitous, corrupt and actually involved in human rights abuses themselves. He also accused human rights NGOs of attempting to discredit the Colombian government and Mr Cepeda in particular of working in support of criminality and of being a "coward".

As with the President's previous outbursts against human rights defenders, and similar ones against trade unionists and critical journalists, he did not provide any evidence for his accusations accusations that many say Uribe has made to draw press attention away from other issues such as a newly emerging corruption scandal and the ongoing investigations into links between his political allies and paramilitary death squads.

In his latest outburst President Uribe also laments the fact that the international community has expressed concern about the human rights crisis in Colombia and calls on foreign governments not to "take pity on the crocodile tears of these human rights frauds".

Whilst Mr Cepeda has already received numerous death threats for his work to highlight human rights abuses in Colombia, this latest development is certain to put his life in further danger. In March several trade unionists and human rights activists were attacked or killed following comments from Uribe's top adviser criticising their involvement in a human rights day of action held on March 6th.

In response to the President's new outburst some of Colombia's principal civil society organisations have written an open letter to Uribe in which they strongly condemn his comments and ask him to publicly retract the. A full version of the letter, in Spanish, can be seen at:

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