Colombian Human Rights Activist Detained in Miami

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 30 June 2008

Colombia's largest human rights group, the Permanent Committee for Human Rights (CPDH), has denounced the detention of one of their leading members in the United States as he travelled to Washington DC to attend proceedings of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

Dr Athemay Sterling, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Politics at the University of Cali, and a senior member of the CPDH, was detained at Miami airport in Florida on June 30th where immigration officers arbitrarily cancelled the visa that the US Embassy in Colombia had granted to him.

Dr Sterling, has been the victim of numerous attacks and threats in Colombia due to his human rights work. The most recent incident, on June 6th, occurred in Cali when members of the DAS secret police detained his colleague Elvira Bohada, an investigator working for the University of Cali, and demanded information on Dr Sterling's work, whereabouts and human rights activities. Following this, on June 19th, an attempt was made to kill Dr Sterling also in the city of Cali.

Dr Sterling, a former peace advisor to the Governor of Vale del Cauca region, is acting on behalf of several victims of the violence in Colombia who have cases pending at the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. As of writing Dr Sterling remained detained at the Krome detention centre in Miami, bearing detainee number 88834966.

International organisations including the Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) have condemned his treatment and called for him to be released immediately.

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