miércoles, agosto 05, 2009

Urgent Action: Recent Afro-Colombian Human Rights Violations/Accion Urgente Sobre Violaciones de DDHH de los Afro-Colombianos


August 5, 2009

Dear Supporters of Afro-Colombian Human Rights,

This past week we received various reports of concern from our Afro-Colombian grassroots counterparts that we wish to bring to your attention. We kindly suggest that you contact the State Department and ask that they take action on the following cases affecting Afro-Colombian communities.

•On July 30, members of the Colombian Marines arrived and stationed themselves at the Community of Bajito, in Mosquera (Nariño Department) in anticipation of an armed conflict against a guerrilla group in the area. The Marines proceeded to raid approximately 100 civilian homes and to install themselves in these homes without any regard for the inhabitants. According to the Ibarbo family and other families, the Marines allegedly took the personal identifications of persons residing in the homes they occupied without informing them. These families report that Eduar Cortez Ibarbo was abducted by the Marines, severely beaten-up, and accused of having ties with the guerrilla. The leaders of this community have been stigmatized and accused of supporting the guerrillas and engaging in illegal operations such as storing weapons. The community notes that the activities of the Colombian armed forces including the breach of international humanitarian law, harassment of community members on the part of soldiers and combat operations between the Colombian Marines and the guerrillas have generated the internal displacement of the entire community- approximately 700 Afro-Colombians.

• On July 27th, the Displaced Women Collective of Valle del Cauca (COLMUDEVSA) announced that the government had not adequately responded to the critical humanitarian situation faced by internally displaced persons (IDPs) and that their lives and those of their families are in danger. Due to lack of a suitable government response to their plight, the Women’s Collective and District Working Group of Buenaventura decided to peacefully takeover the headquarters of Acción Social (Colombian agency in charge of IDPs) in Buenaventura to demand immediate solutions to their situation of internal displacement. COLMUDEVSA is urging the Colombian
authorities to implement the Constitutional Court’s recent orders on internal displacement
(092 of 2008 and 004, 005, 007, 008 and 009 of 2009).

• On July 24th, Clara Portilla, member of the Organization of Displaced Persons (OPD) from the Nariño Department received a written racist death threat from the “The Black Eagles” paramilitary group. In this threat, the paramilitaries threaten to kill her if she does not leave town within 72 hours.

• In July 2009, the Colombian military began a process of forced manual eradication in Bebedó located in the San Miguel Community (Chocó Department). The eradication provoked attacks from the guerrillas who killed civilian eradicators. It also has seriously undermined the security of the Afro-Colombian community living in this area. The community is concerned about the military’s eradication project because it violates their Constitutional civil right to previous consultation. They are not opposed to eradication of coca itself but how it is being done without their consultation and consideration of their rights. They argue that eradication done without consultation with those affected will only exacerbate illicit activities, and at the same time hurt the community’s licit economic activities. Members of this community have actively opposed the eradication efforts due to fear that such efforts could lead to attacks against them. Currently, there is concern that these protests may escalate into violent confrontations.

• According to the Black Communities Process (PCN), the Colombian government granted a concession to the foreign mining company Anglo Gold Ashanti to mine in the northern Cauca Department without following the previous consultation process with the Afro-Colombian communities in the area. Granting a concession for mineral exploitation without prior consultation with the communities affected is a violation of Law 70 of the Black Communities (1993), the ILO Convention 169 and the Order 005 of the Colombian Constitutional Court. PCN states that this concession will result in the eviction of 1,502 families from the Afro-Colombian Community Council of La Toma on the 6th of August 2009. The traditional small scale Afro-Colombian miners and their families have inhabited these territories since 1636 and make a living primarily from small scale gold mining.
The Community Council of La Toma consists of five villages: Yolombo, Gelima, Dos Aguas, El Ato and La Toma. 6500 of the 7000 hectares have now been conceded to the Anglo Gold Ashanti company. Afro-Colombian leaders predict that as the Community Council of La Toma faces displacement, other Afro-Colombian communities in the municipalities of Suarez, Buenos Aires and Santander de Quilichao are likely to become displaced in the future. Ashanti and Consigo Resort, another mining company, are allegedly looking for permanent license to exploit the gold in these municipalities. Afro- Colombian leaders are concerned that this type of economic development done without the proper consultation mechanism will not benefit the local communities. Rather it will lead to displacement and leave hundreds of traditional Afro-Colombian artisan miner families with no means of sustaining themselves.

• On July 2nd 2009 a sailor, linked to the company Harimar, named Gustavo Estrella, threatened a member of the Chanzara Community Council (CCL) which forms part of the Afro-Colombian community councils umbrella network COCOCAUCA. Estrella hassled the officer for the legal actions taken by the autonomous regional organization of Cauca (CRIC) against Harimar and accused him of blocking the progress of Harimar. The perpetrator said that if they were in Buenavista then ‘things would be different’; perhaps suggesting that he could be murdered or disappeared. One month earlier, during first week of June, another person linked to Harimar circled the Bellavista Community (where CCL is located) showing off his 9mm gun in a threatening manner.

• On July 17th in Quibdó (Department of Chocó) the 34th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerillas attacked a commercial establishment in the center of the city by launching a grenade into a crowded area. 11 civilians were wounded by this explosion including Michel Diana Hurtado Ortega, Deyvis Antonio Arrieta Pérez, Freddy Antonio Díaz Hoyos, José Bertuqueo Molina Sáenz, Elcy Rengifo Ayala, Sandra Correa Ospina, Julio Eduardo Herrera, Ángela Largacha Córdoba, Oscar Herrera Hoyos, Danny Maria Largacha Córdoba and Belkin Palacios Córdoba. The FARC is one of various illegal armed groups present in Quibdó and the violence among these groups has increased in recent months. This is the 9th attack against a commercial establishment to take place in Quibdó in 2009.

We strongly urge you to contact Susan Sanford, Colombia Desk
Office of Andean Affairs, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
(Tel: 202-647-3142; Fax: 202-647-2628) and
Steve Moody, Foreign Affairs Officer - Human Rights and Labor, Asia and Western Hemisphere Affairs, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (Tel: 202-647-8301; Fax: 202- 647-8326) at the US State Department and ask that they:

- Insist that Colombian authorities take strong action to implement human rights condition F of U.S. Military assistance to Colombia which states public forces are properly distinguishing between civilians and combatants in indigenous and Afro- Colombian areas. Cases of abuse on the part of the public forces in Nariño should be investigated and those found guilty brought to justice.

- Urge the Colombian government to take immediate action to guarantee that protection measures are immediately put in place to protect the life of Ms. Portilla and the other Afro-Colombian IDP leaders and organizations found in this document.

- Encourage USAID to work with the Colombian government to work with the community of San Miguel to create a coca cultivation reduction plan centered on alternative development projects developed by the affected Afro-Colombian territorial authorities. According to Article 52 of Law 70 (1993) of the Black Communities the authorities should support the creation of micro-financing associations to facilitate the gradual substitution of illicit crops. Additionally, the Ministry of Agriculture should be asked to regulate the exploitation of the forestry and mining sectors and the government should provide training opportunities to rural farmers on production, commercialization, and first-aid.

- Ask that Colombian authorities adequately address the concerns of the La Toma community and Displaced Women Collective of Valle del Cauca (COLMUDEVSA) in a manner that respects their Constitutional Rights.

- Recommend that the Colombian authorities take bolder actions to dismantle the operational structures (military, economic and social) of the illegal armed groups Black Eagles, New Generation and FARC in areas of the country, most notably Chocó, Cauca, Nariño and Valle del Cauca Departments, where Afro-Colombians live.

Attached to this document you will find a list of threats and killings involving Afro-Colombians received prior to this week.

We thank you in advance for your actions on these important matters.

Sincerely,

Gimena Sanchez
Senior Associate for Colombia
Washington Office on Latin America

Marino Cordoba, Charo Mina Rojas and Otoniel Paz
Association for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians USA

Nicole Lee, Esq.
Executive Director
TransAfrica Forum

Joseph Jordan
Director and Associate Professor
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Carlos Quesada
Latin American Program Director
Global Rights

Kelly Nicholls
Executive Director
U.S. Office on Colombia

James Vondracek
Managing Director
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)

Roland Roebuck
Afro-Latino activist
Washington, DC

Agustin Lao-Montes, PhD
Associate Professor, Sociology
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Ajamu Dillahunt
Community Organizer
North Carolina Justice Center

Arturo Escobar
Professor of Anthropology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Murders and Threats Against Afro-Colombian Leaders and Communities 20091

Murders:
• On January 26th 2009, three Afro-Colombian bodies were found floating in the river flowing out of the Guapi-Cauca municipality, Cauca Department. The bodies were later identified as fishermen from the settlement of Saija located in Timbiqui Municipality. The persons killed were Eliseo Castro, Wiston Hurtado Quintero and Richard Hurtado Quintero. Although there is insufficient information to know the motives of the crime it is worth noting that the area is a hot zone for all the armed groups (military, paramilitary, and guerrilla) and serves as a contested zone for the narcotics trade.

-Odulfo Mosquera Orejuela, a local Afro-Colombian leader, was killed in the basin of Cacarica by the FARC, February 10, 2009.

-Ana Isabel Gomez Perez, President of Junta de Desplazados del Municipio de los Cordobas (Cordoba) and member of the Committee of Family Victims of Cordoba (Comfavic), was killed April 14, 2009. Ms. Isabel is originally from the Chocó.

-Claudia Fernanda Ramos Camacho, an Afro-Colombian teacher in Rio Mira hired by CRIC, was killed on April 19, 2009.

-On May 3rd 2009 a helicopter of the Colombian military indiscriminately machine- gunned several areas where Afro-Colombian communities reside in the Lopez de Micay municipality. Among the victims there was a thirteen year old boy, Aureliano Tovar, who was shot. The community demanded that the military, at least, take the boy to a nearby hospital to seek treatment. Although Cali has a better emergency response centers, the military took the ailing boy to Pasto. Aureliano died May 6th due to severe gun shot wounds. As a consequence of the military’s actions, members of the Afro-Colombian communities have received threats.

-On May 4th 2009 a typist from the Ministry of Education of Tumaco was murdered on her way to work. Unofficial estimates claim that in Tumaco in 2009 at least one person a day has been killed. This comes in spite of heavy policing and military operatives by the local and national government. Locals suspect that these authorities have been infiltrated by criminal groups and are thus ineffective.

-Estrella Hinestroza Robayo, leader of ASODESS and IDP women's advocate, was killed in Granada Meta, May 20, 2009.

-Otavio Castaño, from the municipality of Guapi in Cauca, had been missing since June 6th 2009 and was assumed kidnapped. The morning of June 11th residents of the neighborhood discovered that Mr. Castaño had been murdered with a chainsaw when they found pieces of his body. The killing was allegedly committed by the paramilitary group “Los Rastrojos” who had previously extortioned Mr. Castaño for money.

Threats:

-Afro-Colombian sisters Johana and Elena Acosta won a racial discrimination lawsuit against two nightclubs in Cartagena. On February 4th 2009, after three years in court, the defendants were found guilty and forced to pay the Acosta sisters 100 million pesos. Since then the sisters and their lawyer, Francisco Hernandez, have received violent phone calls threatening them “hey corrupt lawyer, son of a bitch, you are going to die before you see a single dime of that money!.”

-Afro-Colombian partners in Buenaventura informed us on March 10, 2009 that a paramilitary group was distributing pamphlets announcing that persons deemed undesirable by the paramilitaries (drug dealers, thieves, prostitutes, etc.) will be “socially cleansed.” We find this development to be particularly disturbing given the paramilitary demobilization process and recent efforts by the Colombian authorities to increase the presence of the military in this port city. Recent interviews done by WOLA in June with victims from Buenaventura indicated that
the threat remains and that paramilitaries have taken actions (killings and disappearances) against persons, their family members are too afraid to report these violations to the authorities.

-On March 13, 2009 Adom, Adacho, Asociación Orewa, Asociaciones Comunales, Codegeved, Comisión Nacional de Reparación, Cocomacia, Defensoría del Pueblo, Diócesis de Quibdó, Fedeutch, Foro Interétnico Solidaridad Chocó, Mujer y Vida, Oficina departamental de Paz, Personería de Quibdó, Red departamental de Mujeres Chocoanas. Ruta Pacifica de Mujeres and Unión Desplazada Del Chocó are asking that action is taken regarding pamphlets containing death threats against civil society organizations in Quibdó and Chocó.

These organizations are concerned about the threat of death and harm that exists against them and others, as well as, the terror campaign that paramilitaries are orchestrating against the civilian population. They note that paramilitaries are threatening to individually and collectively kill, persecute massacre ethnic leaders in order to impose their economic, political and military projects in the region. They are especially concerned for the welfare of the large number of IDPs situated in Quibdó and their leaders since this population is very vulnerable to attack.

-In April 2009, Afro-Colombian IDP leaders Erlendy Cuero Bravo, delegate of AFRODES to the National Coordination Table on IDPs (CND) and Ricauter Angulo, Coordinator, National Municipal Table of IDPs in Cali, situated in Cali received pamphlets from the Black Eagles threatening them for their working in defending victims’ rights.

-Senator Piedad Cordoba, Afro-Colombian Senator threatened by the Black Eagles paramilitaries, in pamphlets distributed May 2009.

- On May 29, 2009, a strange man entered the office of the Municipal Association of Women (ASOM), an afíliate of the Black Communities Process (PCN) in La Balsa community, Buenos Aires Municipality in Cauca. The unknown man entered the office and began to ask for well-known Afro-Colombian advocate Clemencia Carabalí. When he was informed that she was not in the office, the man told the other women in the office that “she should watch out for her family and not involve herself in what does not pertain to her.” The same threat was made to Liliana Sandoval of ASOM, once the man determined that she worked with Clemencia. Various Afro-Colombian women advocates from ASOM have received similar cellphone threats.

-On May 31st 2009 in Vigia del Fuerte, Antioquia, various threatening and accusatory pamphlets were distributed. These pamphlets falsely accuse and threaten the life of missionary Jose Nelly Mena, among others. The Dioceses of Quibdo urges local and national authorities to make a full investigation and punish the material and intellectual actors of this crime. Additionally, they ask for the proper mechanisms to ensure the safety of Jose Nelly Mena and other religious leaders.

-Hugo Rivera Aquiñonez is the legal representative for the IDP association “El Porvenir” in the municipality of Tumaco. On Sunday June 14th 2009, two unknown individuals were searching for Mr. Rivera with the intent of murdering him. Mr. Rivera was able to escape with the help of neighbors and family members.

Security Issues Concerning Members of AFRODES in Bogotá

In recent months the Association of Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) has received numerous threats and been subjected to strange and menacing persons coming to their office. It is recommended that Carlos Franco of the Vice President’s office meet with the core members of AFRODES to discuss their security situation and develop actions that can be taken to ensure their safety.

AFRODES played a key role in helping the Colombian Constitutional Court gather the information necessary to do its hearing on Afro-Colombian IDPs. This hearing led to the Order issued by the Court in January 2009 that orders the Colombian State to take actions to reverse the poor situation faced by Afro-Colombian IDPs. AFRODES also recently released a joint report with Global Rights on the situation of Afro-Colombian IDP women that provides useful information and recommendations for how the particular concerns of such women can be addressed.

Other Reports:

• The Noanamito Afro-Colombian community of Lopez de Micay (Cauca Department) reported in January 2009 an increase in paramilitary presence in their area and increased activities on the part of the “New Generation” paramilitaries. They fear that the increased presence of this group is going to lead to human rights abuses.

• On June 25, President Uribe ordered that 12,000 members of the Colombian armed forces “recover from the FARC” the territories surrounding the River Naya (Valle del Cauca Department). It is believed that for every inhabitant in this area there will now be two soldiers. The Afro-Colombian Community Council of the River Naya are deeply concerned and reject the notion that there territories are serve as a “sanctuary for guerillas and narcos.” Approximately 18,570 Afro-Colombians and indigenous persons from the ethnic group Epera Siapidara inhabit this area. They fear that this military incursion will lead to deaths and new internal displacements because in February 28, 2008 these communities were subjected to aerial bombardments that damaged properties and led to displacement. Further, 30% of this population depends on growing banana, plantain, papa china, corn and cacao for its subsistence and there is concern that this militarization will obstruct their right to freedom of movement and thus their ability to sustain themselves.

•The 24th of January the 10th regiment of the Colombian Marines allegedly seized a shipment containing ACPM, the fuel needed for electricity in the lower part of the Saija Community Council (Cauca Department). Due to the outdated infrastructure of the Afro-Colombian community of Saija, the electricity generator plant depends on a daily dose of ACPM. Without ACPM the community has no electricity and this creates great discomfort and insecurity in a region affected by armed groups. The Marines did not explain why they seized the fuel from the Afro-Colombian community. Moreover, ACPM has no other known use which discards the argument that its seizure was an attempt to fight the guerrillas. After pressuring them for a response, the 30th of January, the Marines claim that the seizure came as a result of the transportation vehicle not having proper documentation and license plate (for which we the community was subsequently fined). It should be noted that the transportation vehicle used was our traditional canoe for which there is no clear and explicit policy regarding its mobilization and documentation.