Human rights workers threatened in Colombia

As peace talks continue in Havana, human rights workers remain under constant threat in Colombia.

Human rights workers threatened in Colombia

World Bulletin / News Desk

In the space of four days, 182 people, including human rights advocates and victims of the armed conflict, have received death threats, according to reports from the mayor’s office here.

“It is unbelievable that during a peace process there should be threats against the lives of victims of the armed conflict and for advocates of human rights. We understand that there are enemies of peace and the process itself but you cannot keep attacking this process that requires the involvement of all of the actors, not just the insurgent groups but also the newly emerged criminal groups which appear with these threatening pamphlets, threatening even the victims who have been to Havana,” said Ana Teresa Bernal during a press conference Wednesday.

Bernal is the Senior Advisor for the Rights of Victims, Peace and Reconciliation.

She and others have received the threats via email messages from an account purportedly belonging to the Bogota branch of the Aguilas Negras, a paramilitary group that formed out of the 2006 demobilization of the former United Auto-Defence Forces of Colombia, a right-wing paramilitary group.

The emails told recipients that they had 15 days to leave Colombia or they would be assassinated Sept. 18. They also mentioned having knowledge of, “the whereabouts of their families and friends and children,” and that those who worked to ensure human rights were nothing more than, “communist guerrillas.”

Speaking to a El Espectador newspaper, a government representative addressed the threats. “It is not completely clear why these widespread threats have been produced at this point in time, but it most likely has something to do with the debate on paramilitaries which will take place in the Senate very soon, or, indeed due to the fact that the peace dialogues are currently addressing the issue of human rights,” said Alfonso Castillo, a spokesperson for the National Movement of Crimes of the State (Movice).

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC guerrillas), which have been involved in a series of peace dialogues since November 2012 with the Colombian government in Havana strongly condemned the threats and in a press release said that there is “no turning back for this road to peace and reconciliation.”

There has been some concern in recent weeks that various members of the demobilized AUC paramilitaries, who have completed their mandatory 8-year prison terms as agreed to in the demobilization process, will return to threaten their former victims.

“It is now time to unite our voices in unison to reject these acts of depravity and that we unite all of our efforts towards peace in our communities and country,” Bernal said in a rallying call to Colombians to join a midday march for peace Sept. 12.

Last Mod: 12 Eylül 2014, 10:20
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