The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) received a new death-threat on Friday, June 11, 2010 for its work in Colombia. An email, which claimed to come from the Colombian paramilitary group known as the ‘Black Eagles,' named WOLA and 70 Colombian organizations as "military targets." The e-mail threatens to "kill and disappear without a trace" human rights defenders and activists for displaced communities. This is the second death threat directed at WOLA and a number of its partners in Colombia since May.
"Since WOLA received the last death threat, two prominent defenders of the rights of victims and internally displaced persons were murdered," said Gimena Sanchez, Senior Associate at WOLA, who received the death threat e-mail. According to the Colombian Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), over 40 internally displaced leaders were killed since 2005. "Displaced persons, their organizations, and their partners in Colombia are being targeted. The authorities have failed to bring to justice the armed groups that violently take away people's lands and these groups feel free to issue threats and attacks," said Sanchez.
Groups listed on the threat include a number of WOLA partners: the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective, the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), the Institute of the Study of Development and Peace (INDEPAZ), the national victims' movement (MOVICE), the Association for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) and Afro-Colombian organizations in the states of Chocó, Nariño and Cauca. The e-mail states that these "so-called human rights and internally displaced organizations […] are hiding behind international organizations" and "trying to obstruct the policies of the government." In addition, the e-mail issues the following threat: "We will continue attacking everyone named in the list and we will continue until there is not a single one left […] we have identified you, and we know where you live, what paths you take, and who you visit."
"WOLA will continue to raise the critical plight of more than 4.5 million internally displaced Colombians," said Sanchez. "We will continue to bring Afro-Colombian, Indigenous and the internally displaced's voices and proposals for constructing a peaceful Colombia to U.S. policymakers. We will not be stopped by those who believe in resolving differences with a gun."
WOLA urges the U.S. State Department not to certify that U.S. human rights conditions for military assistance have been met until the current wave of killings and threats against human rights defenders, Afro-Colombian, Indigenous and internally displaced persons advocates are fully investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice.
WOLA is aware that efforts have been made to guarantee the safety of human rights defenders in Colombia after the first death threat in May was sent. We hope these efforts will continue, and that a full investigation will lead to prosecutions and the conviction of those responsible.
Geoff Thale, Director of Programs
[email protected]; 202-797-2171