Increasing Assassinations of Women Activists in Colombia

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Luz Mila Chavez, one of those murdered in recent months

Luz Mila Chavez, one of those murdered in recent months

A coalition of Colombian civil society organisations have denounced what they say is a surge in violence against women community activists in recent months and called on the Colombian authorities to address the issue. The coalition, which includes trade unions, human rights organisations and community groups, gives details of five women activists who have been killed since June and documents several other cases of attacks and death threats.

One of the murders highlighted by the coalition was that of Luz Mila Chavez, a well-known trade union and political activist in the province of Casanare. Ms Chavez, who was one of the founders of the women’s department of the CUT trade union federation and was active in the ‘Women’s Alliance for Peace’, was assassinated in her home in the town of Yopal on August 8th.

The most recent killing listed is that of 31-year-old Jineth Alexandra Barrios Duque who was killed in her home in the El Palmar neighbourhood of the Colombian capital Bogota on August 13th. She was murdered just four days after 41-year-old Luz Emilia Carreno Barrera was assassinated by two men in the La Gloria neighbourhood of Bogota.

The three killings in August followed the June 23rd murder of Rosiris Montes Cantero in the village of El Pantano in the San Pelayo municipality of Cordoba province. Ms Cantero, who was a well known community activist in the region, was shot dead by a man who fled on a motorcycle driven by another man who had been waiting for him.

In addition to the murders several other cases of violence are documented by the coalition including:

  • The August 12th threats against Isolina Arango Ochoa and the organisation that she works for, the National Association of Peasant, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Women of Colombia, who were told by paramilitaries to leave the zone “or be dismembered”.
  • An August 4th attack on human rights lawyer Judith Maldonado Mojica of the ‘Luis Carlos Perez’ Lawyers Collective who was beaten and threatened by armed men in the city of Bucaramanga;
  • The July 24th threats against Marta Diaz who has publicly condemned the Colombian Army for the murder of her son in 2008 and called for the soldiers responsible to be brought to justice. The threats against her were signed by the AUC paramilitary alliance.
  • Threats made against human rights activist Rosario Montoya on July 2nd for her work in the Caribbean region of Colombia providing support and judicial services to marginalised communities, especially in the province of Sucre;

In an unrelated development, women from the Bogota neighbourhood of Soacha travelled last week to the Ocana region of Norte de Santander province to demand justice in a large number of cases of extrajudicial executions of young men from the neighbourhood. The men, and in some cases boys, were kidnapped in Bogota and then killed by the Army in Ocana during 2008 with their bodies later being presented as guerrillas killed in combat.

The mothers, sisters and aunts of many of the victims came to the region in an effort to draw attention to the fact that despite international condemnation and a United Nations investigation into the issue, so far no soldiers have been brought to justice. Carrying photos of their murdered loved ones, the women visited the site, near the village of Las Liscas, where around 20 the men and boys had been buried in unmarked graves by the Army.

Human rights organisation Humanidad Vigente helped arrange the visit.

Mothers from the Bogota neighbourhood of Soacha visit the site where the Colombian Army dumped the bodies of their sons after killing them

Mothers from the Bogota neighbourhood of Soacha visit the site where the Colombian Army dumped the bodies of their sons after killing them

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