On April 1, 2013, Colombian labor and human rights activists received a death threat from the Rastrojos paramilitary group. The threat marks the continuation of threats and violence against human rights defenders in Colombia, and underscores the need for adequate protection of leaders and the prosecution of those responsible.
The threat identifies various unions and human rights organizations as “military objectives.” Several WOLA partners were listed on the threat, including the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Association (CCAJAR), and the Catholic Pastoral in Tumaco, groups that advocate for justice and the rights of victims. Several unions and labor rights advocate, Senator Alexander Lopez Maya, were also listed. The latter underscores the need for U.S. and Colombian officials to work towards full implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan (LAP).
Among the individuals on the threat is Rosaliano Riazco, a member of the Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES). Late last year, after receipt of a similar threat where AFRODES was listed, illegal armed groups murdered Miller Angulo of AFRODES Tumaco. While it is positive that the National Protection Unit (UNP) is developing a collective pilot project with AFRODES to protect its leaders in six regions, the situation requires that judicial authorities investigate and sanction those responsible for attacks against Afro-Colombians.
Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) was also included in the threat. This threat comes a week after WOLA joined Human Rights Watch in urging Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to protect MOVICE´s founder and current Congressman Iván Cepeda. In February, Cepeda received word of an assassination plot against his life, likely for his work exposing ties between paramilitary groups and government officials.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) joins the Central Workers Union of Colombia (CUT) and the Diocese of Tumaco in calling on Colombian authorities to guarantee the protection of activists and to thoroughly investigate the threats to assure these do not come to fruition. The United States must ensure that Colombia is meeting the human rights conditions required for continued military aid, demand exhaustive investigations into all threats, and expand funding for protection efforts.