Colombian Human Rights Activists Threatened for Denouncing Army Killings

News from Colombia | on: Sunday, 26 April 2009

Three leading human rights activists in the Colombian region of Huila have received death threats telling them they must abandon their homes within 24 hours or be killed. The three, all members of Colombia's principle human rights organisation, the Permanent Committee for Human Rights (CPDH), are involved in documenting and denouncing extrajudicial executions carried out by members of the Colombian Army in the region. The threat against them was signed by the 'Black Eagles' paramilitary death squad and, in a statement, the CPDH has accused the Army of working with the paramilitaries to intimidate and silence those that speak out about the ongoing killings.

The threats against human rights defenders Faiber Cadena Luna, Robinson Londono and Andry Gisseth Cantillo, who is also a journalist, arrived at the homes of all three on the evening of April 16th. Prior to the new threat the three had also been the victims of constant harassment since they participated in and gave testimony to the "Mission of Verification into the Human Rights Situation" which was conducted in Huila by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other organisations in late February.

Another individual who testified to the Mission, student leader and human rights activist Enrique Diego Perez, was assassinated on March 16th in the town of Pitalito, where all three of those who received the most recent threat also live and work, shortly after the Mission had left Huila.

According to the CPDH statement, people in Pitalito have been "victims of assassinations, threats, beatings, harassment and arbitrary detentions by members of the security forces, without, so far, anyone being sanctioned for these clear violations of human rights". The group also complained of "scandalously high levels of impunity" and asked why the police in Huila had taken no action to protect those in danger and bring those responsible to justice.

In a joint statement issued today, the three threatened activists say that they believe they are being targeted by Army-backed paramilitaries for their work to highlight extrajudicial executions. A report released by a coalition of human rights groups in Huila last November listed details of over 100 civilians that the Army had murdered since January 2007 and demanded that those responsible be brought to justice. The report, which can be read in Spanish here, accused the Magdalena Battalion, the Cacique Pigoanza Battalion and two special units attached to the 9th Brigade of the Colombian Army of, between them, killing 104 civilians in the region in less than two years.

The report was one of many that led Colombian President Uribe to accuse human rights groups involved in the work to document such killings of being "enemies of Colombia" and "working for the guerrillas". On April 22nd Colombia's Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos added to the controversy by accusing human rights groups of having "a perverse interest in inflating the numbers" of killings, despite the fact that the Attorney General's office is currently investigating over 1,600 cases of soldiers killing civilians and the fact that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has denounced the Colombian Army for the "widespread and systematic" murders of civilians.

For more information on extrajudicial executions committed by the Colombian security forces see:

Another Massacre as New Report Says Army Executing Civilians in Colombian Region of Arauca

Colombian Ministry of Defence Issues Death Threats

Community Leader Murdered by Colombian Soldiers

US Military Aid to Colombia Frozen Over Army Killings

Police Extra-Judicially Execute 16-Year-Old in Colombia

Families Protest Ongoing Army Killings in Colombia

Army Implicated in Murder and Attempted Rape in Colombian Region of Meta

New Dossier Details Hundreds of Abuses by Colombian Army

Death Threats for Official Who Denounced Army Killings in Colombia

Notorious Human Rights Abuser Promoted to Head Colombian Army

International Criminal Court May Investigate Army Killings in Colombia

UN Says Army Systematically Killing Civilians in Colombia

Massive Increase in Civilians Being Murdered by Colombian Army

'The Army Murdered My Brother' (Highly Recommended)

British Trained Colombian Soldiers Implicated in Murder, Kidnapping and Torture

Colombian Army Executes Peasant Farmer

UK-Trained Colombian Soldiers Implicated in Torture and Murder of Union Activist's Son

Soldiers Assassinate Peasant Farmer

Soldiers Execute Indigenous Brother and Sister

Extrajudicial Executions Continue in Meta Department

Colombian Police Implicated in Assassination Attempt Against National Union Leader

Six Civilians Massacred by Army in Catatumbo

CUT Trade Union Federation Accuse Uribe Regime of Encouraging Assassinations

IACHR Condemns Colombian Army for Ongoing Murders

Army & Paramilitaries Implicated in New Killing

Washington Post Reports Increase in Army Killing Civilians

Army Executes Human Rights Activist

LA Times Reports on Increase in Army Murders

Peasant Farmers Call on Army to End Executions

Colombian Army Extra-judicially Executes Community Leader

British-Trained Soldiers Assassinate 3 Indigenous People

Peace Campaigner Assassinated by Colombian Soldiers

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