Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killing of Human Rights Defender in Colombia

November 22, 2013

Washington, D.C.-The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing in Colombia of human rights defender and campesino leader Sergio Ulcue Perdomo, who had been granted precautionary measures by the IACHR in 2010. As a human rights defender, Sergio Ulcue Perdomo publicly denounced wrongful treatment, abuses of authority, and crimes allegedly perpetrated against the civilian population by members of the National Army.

The information that is available indicates that Sergio Ulcue Perdomo was killed by gunfire on November 17, 2013, in the presence of family members, who are also beneficiaries of the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on August 13, 2010. The measure protects 179 families from the settlements of El Vergel and El Pedregal, in the department of Cauca, who since 2010 have been making allegations of serious human right violations and breaches of international humanitarian law, allegedly committed by members of the National Army against these peasant communities. Sergio Ulcue Perdomo was one of the leaders of these families.

The Inter-American Commission is dismayed by the fact that this murder took place less than three weeks after a working meeting on the implementation of this precautionary measure. In fact, on October 30, 2013, a meeting was held at IACHR headquarters with representatives of the petitioners and of the State, in order to examine the State's implementation of the precautionary measure and the measure's effectiveness. Sergio Ulcue Perdomo was the leader of these families, and he was under the protection of Inter-American Commission precautionary measures when he was killed. Moreover, the family members who witnessed the killing are also protected by the same precautionary measures. The IACHR is alarmed by the state of insecurity in which these families are living and by the lack of effective implementation of the precautionary measures granted by the Commission.

The Commission urges the State of Colombia to immediately and urgently take all necessary steps to guarantee the life, integrity, and safety of the other members of the settlements of El Vergel and El Pedregal, as laid out in the precautionary measure still in effect. Moreover, the IACHR urges the State to conduct an ex officio investigation into this murder and to prosecute and punish the perpetrators and masterminds, in fulfillment of its international human rights obligations.

As the Commission has stated previously, acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees of every human being, but undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless. The Commission also calls to mind that the work of human rights defenders is essential for the construction of a solid, lasting democratic society, and rights defenders play a leading role in the process of pursuing the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy. In this sense, the IACHR urges the State to take all necessary measures to ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their activities of denunciation, accompaniment, and protection, free from attacks or acts of violence that endanger their life, integrity, and safety.

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. 91/13