Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killing of Human Rights Defender in Colombia

September 25, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemns the killing of Colombian human rights defender Nelson Giraldo, who was a leader of Movimiento Ríos Vivos Antioquia. This movement's members are persons who claim to be affected by the hydroelectric project Hidroituango. The IACHR urges the State of Colombia to investigate this crime, clarify it judicially and punish the perpetrators and masterminds.

The available information indicates that the body of Nelson Giraldo was found on September 17, 2013, with his throat cut and with bullet impacts in the Cauca River Canyon in Ituango. Giraldo was spokesman for approximately 50 people who took refuge at the University of Antioquia, after claiming to have received threats due to their opposition to the construction of the hydroelectric project. According to available information, the killing occurred after a sentence was issued on September 9, 2013, by the Labour Chamber of the High Court of Medellín, which gave a six-day deadline to resolve collective protection measures. These measures had been requested based on the threats to life and physical integrity that members of the Movimiento Ríos Vivos had repeatedly complained about.

The IACHR recalls that it is the State's obligation to proactively investigate acts such as the killing of Nelson Giraldo and punish those responsible. The Commission also urges the State of Colombia to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the rights to life, integrity, and safety of human rights defenders whose work is related to the impact that the construction of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project could have on the members of communities residing in that region.

As the Commission has previously observed, acts of violence and other attacks committed against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that every human being must enjoy, but also seek to undermine the pivotal role that human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless. The work of human rights defenders is essential to building a solid and enduring democratic society, as they play a vital role in the pursuit of the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.

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 an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 71/13