WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
3 Mar 2011 | News

Under Santos Government: Paramilitaries Threaten Afro-Colombian Communities and Organizations

Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network*Statement
March 3, 2011

Under Santos Government: Paramilitaries Threaten Afro-Colombian Communities and Organizations

On February 15, 2011, the Capital Bloc of the Black Eagles paramilitary group sent an email death threat containing a listing of over seventy Colombian human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations. The threat states “the time has come to exterminate and eliminate all persons and organizations that pass themselves as human rights defenders.”

The vast majority of those listed on the threat were Afro-Colombian organizations including the Association for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), organizations of internally displaced people, community council groupings and Afro-Colombian women’s groups defending their territorial rights in northern Cauca. Others listed on this threat include the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), the trade union SINALTRAINAL, the Jose Alvear Lawyers Collective (CCAJAR), the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Northern Cauca (ACIN), INDEPAZ, National Victims Movement (MOVICE) and several well known journalists.

It is the fourth threat of this kind that includes many of the Afro-Colombian, indigenous and human rights groups listed in the prior three threats that included WOLA, a member of ACSN. Several assassination attempts took place after those threats were received, and one of the people on the list was murdered.

This threat and other recent experiences of violence and intimidation demonstrate that politically-motivated right-wing paramilitary death squads still exist in Colombia.  According to a 2011 report from the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, “…demobilization has not put an end to the violence; paramilitaries have regrouped under new names such as ‘Las Aguilas Negras’ (the Black Eagles) or ‘Los Rastrojos’.”[1] The report also states:

“Violence and threats against Afro-Colombians are now most prominently associated with the ultimate aim of controlling land and natural resources resulting in the dispossession of Afro-Colombian lands. Communities described ongoing violence and threats in pursuit of acquisition, control or exploitation of their collectively owned lands.  While few displaced communities have returned to their lands, those who do find that others have claimed ownership or rights of usage in their absence.”[2]

The Santos administration must develop a plan to effectively dismantle these groups and bring them to justice in order to ensure the safety of all individuals, organizations and communities that are working for peace in Colombia. Additionally, large-scale development projects that benefit from violence and intimidation cannot be tolerated. We urge the Colombian government to prevent further loss of human life and act immediately.

The Colombian government must:

  • Investigate and prosecute those responsible for these threats, and promptly inform the affected organizations, Afro-Colombian community councils, and indigenous cabildos on the results of those investigations.
  • Implement the protective measures outlined in Constitutional Court rulings on Afro-Colombian communities, indigenous cabildos, and women's organizations (Orders 004, 005 and 092 of 2009) in consultation with Afro-Colombian community councils, indigenous cabildos, organizations of internally displaced people, AFRODES, the Black Communities' Process (PCN), and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC).
  • Comply with the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (99th Session), the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (44th Session) in 2010, and the aforementioned United Nations Report of the independent expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall.

The U.S. Congress should:

  • Not advance a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia until it strengthens Afro-Colombians’ territorial rights, protects existing Afro-Colombian communities and prevents further displacement by fully implementing Constitutional Court Order 005.
  • Urge President Juan Manuel Santos to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the threats and to implement effective protection measures in consultation with the people, community councils, indigenous cabildos, and organizations listed in these threats.
  • Pass House Resolution 1224: Recognizing and honoring the important work that Colombia's Constitutional Court has done on behalf of Colombia's internally displaced persons, especially indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, and women.

The U.S. Department of State should:

  • Urge the Government of Colombia (GOC) to implement Constitutional Court orders 004 and 005 with particular attention to the protective measures mandated in those two orders. These must be implemented in consultation with the legitimate community councils and cabildos, in addition to organizations such as AFRODES, PCN, ONIC, CRIC, and ACIN.
  • Request that the GOC demonstrate sufficient progress in the investigations into these threats by April 1, 2011.

The systematic targeting of Afro-Colombian leaders is part of a strategy to deprive Afro-Colombian communities of their inherent rights by forcing them into displacement or silence.  ACSN rejects the use of violence and intimidation by armed groups and encourages the Colombian government to implement the aforementioned recommendations.

For further information please contact Anthony Dest at [email protected] or Charo Mina Rojas at [email protected].

[1]“Report of the independent expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall: Mission to Colombia”. January 25, 2011.


*The Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN) includes the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), TransAfrica Forum (TAF), Global Rights, Chicago Religious Leadership Network (CRLN), Peace Brigades International (PBI), U.S. Office on Colombia (USOC), International Working Group of PCN, and activists and scholars Joseph Jordan, Roland Roebuck, Eunice Escobar and Arturo Escobar.