Stand Up for Colombian Human Rights Activists: Urge the State Department to Enforce Conditions in U.S. Aid to Colombia
Colombian human rights activists are routinely targeted by prosecutors using trumped-up charges to stigmatize and silence them. Read more about defenders in Colombia.
Human Rights First documented these abuses in a report last year--and we've seen progress: dozens of activists have been released and Congress passed an appropriations law that put a condition on U.S. aid requiring the Colombian government not to persecute human rights defenders.
Colombia is not holding up on its end of the bargain.
Sign our petition to the State Department asking that it enforce U.S. conditions to aid–-and protect human rights activists unjustly detained or harassed.
Agamez has spent over one year in jail in Sincelejo, based on the testimony of witnesses he helped put in jail. He has still not faced trial. He is being detained on charges of conspiring with paramilitaries--charges which are implausible given that he has spent his career exposing links between paramilitary leaders and corrupt local politicians. In 2006 he was even included in a paramilitary "death list" and received numerous death threats. Prosecutors in the case will not even say when Agamez supposedly met with paramilitaries, denying him the ability to provide an alibi and infringing on his due process rights.
Colombian officials agree that his prosecution is problematic. Last year, the Superior Tribunal of Sucre found that the prosecutor violated Agamez's rights by failing to inform him promptly of the charges against him. The Attorney General also issued a resolution in which he ordered a criminal investigation of the prosecutor, Rodolfo Martinez Mendoza, for alleged corruption in connection with his baseless prosecution of Agamez. Mendoza is currently in prison. Despite high level governmental recognition of numerous violations of his rights, to date Agamez remains in prison without any scheduled trial. His case is one of the many examples of a state policy of harassment designed to silence the voices of Colombian civil society.
Agamez's treatment by the Colombian state breaches the condition contained in section 7046(b)(1)(B)(iv) the 2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations Law, which requires the Colombian government to respect the rights of human rights defenders. According to the law, a proportion of US aid to Colombia shall be released only if:
“The Government of Colombia is respecting the rights of human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, political opposition and religious leaders, and indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and the Colombian Armed Forces are implementing procedures to distinguish between civilians, including displaced persons, and combatants in their operations.”
Through its foreign assistance laws, the U.S. should encourage the Colombian government to end its judicial persecution of human rights defenders. The baseless prosecution and unjust detention of Carmelo Agamez is clear evidence that the Colombian government is not respecting the rights of defenders and demonstrates that section 7046(b)(1)(B)(iv) is being violated.
Until the government of Colombia takes concrete action to end the baseless prosecution of human rights defenders, I urge you not to certify that Colombia is meeting the human rights standards required by U.S. appropriations law. I also urge you to encourage the Colombian Prosecutor General to grant Agamez’s request to close the criminal investigation against him.
Thank you for your attention in this urgent matter.