Press Release

IACHR Regrets Murder of Colombian Activist and Urges State to Protect Community Leaders Advocating for Rights of Those Displaced by Armed Conflict

April 19, 2013

Washington, D.C. –The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) laments the murder of Ever Cordero, who chaired a participatory dialogue process for victims of displacement in the department (province) of Córdoba, Colombia. The Commission urges the State of Colombia to increase its efforts to implement a comprehensive policy for the protection of all those who are participating in processes to assert the rights of displaced communities and other victims of the armed conflict.

According to the information that is available, Ever Cordero was a community leader who worked to bring about the restitution of lands for victims of the armed conflict. The information the Commission received indicates that on April 9, 2013, Ever Cordero was traveling toward the urban area of Valencia, in Córdoba, when two individuals on a motorcycle intercepted him and shot him to death. According to the information received, Ever Cordero was going to Valencia to attend ceremonies and marches commemorating the National Day of Memory and Solidarity with Victims.

The following day, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos visited Córdoba and presented land titles to families who were dispossessed of their lands during the conflict.

The IACHR has been concerned about information it has been receiving about different forms of violence being perpetrated against community leaders who are participating in the land restitution process. These include murders, attacks, and written threats, printed on fliers, targeting human rights defenders and their organizations. The IACHR has observed that these human rights defenders’ role as community leaders tends to place them at greater risk in the context of the armed conflict.

The Commission welcomes the fact that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has condemned this murder and announced that the incident will be investigated and those responsible will be punished. The Commission also notes with satisfaction that President Santos has stated publicly that “those who are threatening victims” and “killing those who are making claims to land” will be considered “high-value targets,” and that he has asked for the support of the Colombian people in fingering the attackers. The Commission trusts that the investigation into this murder will be conducted diligently, so as to punish those who committed this crime, and that any means of reparation for the victim’s family members will be facilitated.

As was the case with Ever Cordero, the work carried out by community leaders who advocate for the rights of victims of displacement is an essential component for the peace process to be able to be built on the pillars of truth, justice, and comprehensive reparations. The IACHR thus urges the State to increase its efforts to implement a comprehensive policy for the protection of leaders who are participating in processes to lay claim to the rights of displaced communities. This comprehensive protection policy must ensure that these leaders’ rights are not affected, so that they can continue to carry out their work of defending the rights of victims of the conflict.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 27/13