Colombia: protection for environmental and human rights defenders
On July 14, the International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) sent a letter to the government of Colombia to express concern regarding recurring threats against human rights and environmental organizations in the department of Tolima in Colombia.
According to information received from reliable sources, on July 8, 2016, the Socio-Environmental Youth Collective of Cajamarca (COSAJUCA) received a threat written with letters cut from newspapers and/or magazines and glued to a paper, forming the following message “good children go to bed early, we put the rest to bed ourselves.”
ESCR-Net observed that this threat follows another threat leveled a month ago, by a paramilitary group called Águilas Negras, against ESCR-Net member, Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida (Environmental Committee in Defense of Life), the mayor of Ibagué, Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo and other civil society organizations who had gathered in a Summit (locally referred to as the Cumbre Agraria, Campesina, Étnica y Popular). This threat also occurred a day after the VII Carnival March in Defense of Life on June 3rd this year, which aimed to peacefully protest the mining projects being carried out in the Tolima department, including the open-pit mine, “La Colosa,” which is operated by Anglo Gold Ashanti.
The letter calls upon the government of Colombia to, among other things, carry out an independent, impartial, and prompt investigation to clarify who is responsible for the various threats against the members of the Socio-environmental Youth Collective of Cajamarca COSAJUC, the Environmental Committee of Cajamarca, the Network of Environmental Committees of Tolima, and the mayor of Ibagué, Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo. In addition to calling for the results of previous investigations into threats reported against environmental and human rights defenders, the letter calls on Colombia to prosecute and sanction those responsible. The letter also calls for protection for human rights and environmental defender, including the members of the aforementioned organizations, to allow them to carry out their work without harassment, persecution, threats, or interference of any kind. Finally, the letter calls on the Colombian government to respect calls by civil society organizations for prior consultation in the municipality of Ibagué regarding the decision to permit gold mining in their land, as well as protection for the leaders of this initiative.
Photo credit: Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida.