Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killing of Afro-descendent Leader in Colombia

August 25, 2015

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) condemns the killing of Gilmer Genaro García Ramírez, a leader and legal representative of the Afro-descendant Community Council of Alto Mira y Frontera. The Commission expresses its concern over this incident and urges the Colombian authorities to act urgently to identify, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and masterminds. In addition, the Commission again calls on the Colombian authorities to act urgently to identify the reasons for this killing, as well as all other killings and attacks against human rights defenders, and to adopt the necessary measures to protect their lives and physical integrity and guarantee the security they need to do their work.
According to information received by the IACHR, on August 3, 2015, Gilmer Genaro García Ramírez was fatally shot after allegedly being pulled over by a group of armed persons while traveling in a car along a rural road in the Municipality of Tumaco, Department of Nariño, near the border with Ecuador, along the Pacific coastline. Gilmer Genaro García was a leader of the Community Council of Alto Mira y Frontera, which has been seeking to obtain collective land titles and the realization of the community’s territorial rights since 2012 through the land restitution process, and was also a member of RECOMPAS (Network of Afro-Colombian Community Councils of the South Pacific). With regard to the armed groups operating in the area, he advocated the position that Afro-Colombians are autonomous and neutral.
Gilmer Genaro García was said to have received multiple threats to desist his active participation and role as an Afro-descendant community leader over the past five years. According to publicly-available information, he was the beneficiary of protection measures from the National Protection Unit of Colombia. The Commission observes with grave concern that it has received reports indicating that three other members of this Community Council have been killed since 1998, and that Gilmer Genaro García’s sister was killed in 2012 following an attack by armed persons who were seeking him. In this regard, the Commission also notes that the Constitutional Court of Colombia had ordered protection for this community through Judicial Decrees (Autos) 005 of 2009 and 73 of 2014. 
Through Press Release No. 70/15, issued June 12, 2015, the Commission condemned the murder of at least 24 human rights defenders in Colombia during 2015. In light of the continued attacks against several other Afro-Colombian human rights defenders working in the Colombian Pacific region, the Commission expresses its alarm over a these acts of violence against Afro- descendant leaders, particularly in their quest to defend their rights to their ancestral and community lands. The IACHR urges the State of Colombia to investigate if these acts could constitute a pattern of violence against Afro-descendant leaders.
“Afro-descendants in Colombia continue to be the victims of forced internal displacement, and disproportionately so, as a result of the armed conflict in their ancestral territories and the activities and development projects involving extractive industries,” said Commissioner Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, IACHR President and Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-descendants and Against Racial Discrimination. “However, Afro-Colombians have been largely excluded from decisions and processes on how to repair and remedy human rights violations arising from the displacement and conflict. While I support the on-going peace process to end the armed conflict, I believe it is essential that the views and needs of Afro-Colombians are taken into consideration in the current negotiations in Havana.”
As the Commission has stated on previous occasions, not only do acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders affect the guarantees inherent to all persons; they also undermine the essential role defenders play within society and leave all the people on whose behalf they work in a state of defenselessness. The Commission reiterates that human rights defenders play a leading role in achieving the full rule of law and that their work is essential in constructing a solid and lasting democratic society.

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. 094/15