WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
21 Jun 2013 | Commentary | News

U.S. Organizations Call for an End to Threats, Attacks, and Murders of Afro-Colombians

To view a PDF of the statement, please click here.

Our organizations strongly condemn the murders, attacks, and death threats that Colombian illegal armed groups have perpetrated against Afro-Colombian leaders and communities in Chocó, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, and Atlántico. We strongly encourage the U.S. authorities to take action to make sure that Colombia’s Attorney General’s office investigates and brings the perpetrators of murders, attacks, and death threats against Afro-Colombians to justice. Colombia’s National Protection Unit should act swiftly to guarantee the safety of Afro-Colombian leaders under threat. The international community should continue supporting the peace talks between Colombia and the FARC guerillas that will bring an end to Colombia’s internal armed conflict and end the devastating human costs it has brought.

Particularly disturbing are the murders of Miller Angulo of AFRODES (Nariño), Demetrio Lopez of Community Council of La Caucana (Valle del Cauca), and Socrates Paz Patiño, the legal representative of the Community Council of Iscuande (Nariño). Additionally on June 6, FARC guerillas reportedly assassinated Everjo Ortiz Palomeque and Hipolito Ortiz Palomeque in Salaquí (Choco). We echo the rejection of these acts by the Association of the Lower Atrato River Afro-Colombian Community Councils and Organizations (ASCOBA), the Parish of Our Lady of Carmen of Riosucio, and the Inter-Ethnic Solidarity Forum of Choco (FISCH) and call for the Colombian armed groups to respect human rights and the autonomy of Afro-Colombian communities.

Security for Afro-Colombian leaders—in particular members of the Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES)—must be swiftly and effectively addressed by Colombia’s National Protection Unit. AFRODES has presented the Colombian authorities with 35 cases of threats. Several of their members, including two within its leadership, have suffered assassination attempts. The organization also suffered a break in and other forms of intimidation.

Afro-Colombian civilians continue to suffer the consequences of the conflict. An ELN guerilla attack in Sipí (Chocó) on June 6 killed one 11-month old baby, and injured a three year old and two others. Four days later on June 10, armed confrontations between FARC guerillas and the Colombian armed forces in Timbiquí (Cauca) led to a woman being shot and her young son’s head grazed by a bullet. The next day in Timbiquí, a bomb was set off in a civilian area. According to the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), in 2012, 36 percent of all new displacements took place along Colombia’s primarily Afrodescendant Pacific Coast. This marks a 22 percent increase in displacements compared to 2011, and 20 percent of all newly displaced persons in Colombia in 2012 were Afro-Colombian.

We call on all of the parties to the internal armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law and to refrain from actions that harm civilians and generate displacements. Criminal groups engaged in violence generating displacements should be apprehended by the Colombian authorities.

This statement is supported by the organizations AFRODES USA, AfroColombia NY, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, Center for International Policy, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Global Rights, Latin America Working Group (LAWG), PCN International, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Chicago Religious Leadership Network, Refugees International, School of the Americas Watch,TransAfrica Forum, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Steelworkers, Witness for Peace, and Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the following individuals: Kiran Asher (Associate Professor, Clark University*), Shirley Barnes, Roosbelinda Cardenas (Postdoctoral Fellow, Sawyer Seminar in Race, Place and Space in the Americas, Center for Race and Ethnicity, Rutgers University), Mary Cuevas, James Early (Member Board of Directors, Institute for Policy Studies), Jessica Heineman-Pieper, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, School of Public Policy, George Mason University*), Dr. Whit Hutchinson (Casa Rutilio Grande), Joseph F. Jordan (ACSN), Cornelius Moore (California Newsreel*), and Ruth Needleman (Indiana University, Professor Emeritus*).

*For identification purposes only

For more information, please contact:

Gimena Sanchez, WOLA, (202) 797-2171

Pedro Cortes, AFRODES USA, (202) 594-4879

Carlos Quesada, Global Rights, (202) 822-4600 ext. 162