Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killing and Threats Against Defenders and Journalists in Colombia

January 30, 2015

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Righs (IACHR) condemns the killing of the human rights defender Carlos Alberto Pedraza Salcedo en Colombia, and expresses its deep concern on the continued threats against organizations that defend human rights and journalists in the country.

According to information publicly known, on January 21, 2015, police officers found the body of Carlos Alberto Pedraza Salcedo, allegedly with a bullet in the head. The available information indicates that the defender, who had been missing since January 19, was a member of the Project Colombia Never More (Proyecto Colombia Nunca Más), of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado, MOVICE), of the Regional Coordination of the Political Social and Popular Mass Movement of Center Oriental Colombia (Coordinación Regional del Movimiento Político de Masas Social y Popular del Centro Oriente de Colombia) and the People Congress, which is part of the National Agrarian, Rural, Ethnic and Popular Summit.

In addition, the Commission received information that indicates that on January 11, 2015, human rights defenders in Atlántico, Sucre, Magdalena and Bolívar received written threats at their homes and offices, signed by the “Aguilas Negras Atlantic-Coast Northern Block,” where defenders are declared a military target. The information received indicates that among the threatened defenders, there are beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR: José Humberto Torres, vice president of the Foundation Committee of Solidarity with Prisoners (FCSPP); Ingrid Vergara, secretary in Sucre of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado, MOVICE), and Martha Díaz, representative of the false-positive victims.

Furthermore, the Ombudsman's Office of Colombia reported that 38 people had been threatened on January 21, 2015 by a pamphlet allegedly sent by the "Gaitanistas Self-Defense Forces of Colombia AGC". Among those threatened there were journalists, human rights defenders and public officials of departmental administrations of Atlantico and Magdalena. According to the publicly available information, the Ombudsman asked for increased security to guarantee the lives of those threatened. Moreover, the Ombudsman noted that among the persons mentioned by their proper name in the pamphlet, 12 have protective from the National Protection Unit, two would be in risk assessment, and the status of the other 24 is in process of being established. Several of the defenders that were threatened are beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR.

Through its various monitoring mechanisms, the Commission has noticed the persistence of murders, threats and harassment against human rights defenders in Colombia. These attacks are intended to silence their denunciations, mainly related to human rights violations occurred in the context of armed conflict. The persistence of these attacks, coupled with the lack of substantial progress in the elucidation, investigation and punishment of those responsible for human rights violations perpetrated against human rights defenders, constitute an obstacle to the free exercise of the right to defend human rights, fueling impunity and impeding the full realization of the rule of law and democracy. Likewise, the IACHR has recognized that given the importance of the work that journalists do to inform a society by covering situations of armed conflict, the media outlets operating under these circumstances should be provided with special protection by the State.

The Commission reminds the State that it is obliged to conduct an ex officio investigation in a timely manner, aimed to clarify the circumstances in which the death of Carlos Alberto Pedraza Salcedo and, if appropriate, to identify and punish those responsible. It also calls upon the State to investigate the threats perpetrated against these human rights defenders in order to avoid repetition of such threats. Such investigations should be undertaken with due diligence in an exhaustive and impartial way. The Commission reminds the important role that defenders of human rights have played in denouncing human rights violations occurred during the armed conflict as well as their valuable contributions in the search for and consolidation of peacebuilding process in the country. Acts of violence attacks and threats against these defenders affect the fundamental role they play in society and contribute to the vulnerability of all those whose rights they champion. 

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. 007/15