Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern over Threats against Human Rights Organizations in Colombia

March 8, 2011

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about threats against human rights organizations in Colombia made by an illegal group called the Águilas Negras (Black Eagles).

The information the Commission has received indicates that dozens of human rights organizations in Colombia have received a written death threat, signed by the “Central Bloc of the Águilas Negras,” stating that “the time has come to exterminate and annihilate all individuals and organizations that pass themselves off as human rights defenders.” Some of the individuals and organizations threatened have been granted precautionary measures by the IACHR, including members of the Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas (League of Displaced Women), MOVICE, SINALTRAINAL, MINGA, Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (“José Alvear Restrepo” Lawyers Collective, CCAJAR), CODHES, and Corporación Jurídica Yira Castro (“Yira Castro” Legal Corporation), as well as Hollman Morris and Claudia Julieta Duque.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urges the State of Colombia to investigate these threats on its own initiative and penalize the perpetrators and masterminds, and to immediately adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the life, integrity, and safety of the beneficiaries of precautionary measures and all human rights defenders in Colombia.

As the Commission has noted previously, one of the first steps to protect human rights defenders effectively is to publicly legitimize what they do, and protect them from the moment the public authority learns they have been victims of threats as a result of their work. The number of human rights defenders killed in the region shows that the States must take any reports of threats seriously, and take immediate and effective action. The Commission recalls that in many cases, the death of a human rights defender has been preceded by threats that were duly reported to the authorities and ignored.

The Commission also reiterates that the work of human rights defenders is critical to building a solid, lasting democratic society, and plays a key role in the process of fully achieving the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy. In this regard, acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders impinge on the role they play in society and contribute to the vulnerability of those whose rights they are working to defend.

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 matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 19/11