Stop Paramilitary Death Threats to Colombian Women's Rights Leaders

 

On January 27, 2010, a leading Colombian women's rights group received startling death threats from a right-wing paramilitary death squad. Sisma Mujer works particularly to defend the rights of those who have been forcefully displaced from their homes.

In the email, the paramilitary group, known as the Black Eagles, threatens to kill dozens of female activists who work on behalf of communities that have been forcibly displaced as a result of Colombia's armed conflict. Most worryingly, the death threats borrowed rhetoric from Colombia's government falsely accusing human rights activists of being terrorists.

These death threats are unfortunately only the latest form of intimidation stretching back many years. They also demonstrate that contrary to the Colombian government's assertions, paramilitary groups continue to operate in the country.

TAKE ACTION NOW to urge the Colombian authorities to investigate these recent threats and to prosecute those responsible while providing adequate protection for the members of Sisma Mujer.

Alert Date: 2/12/2010


Dr. Carlos Franco
Director of the Human Rights Program
Calle 7 No 6 - 54
Bogota, Colombia

Rafael Bustamante Perez
Director of Human Rights
Ministry of Interior and Justice
Carrera 8 No. 13-31 Piso 4
Bogota, Colombia

Guillermo Mendoza
Attorney General
Diagonal 22-B #52-01
Bogota, Colombia.

Dear Sirs,

I write to you to express my concern over the recent death threats received by many women's rights leaders in Colombia including the human rights organization Corporación Sisma Mujer. Sisma Mujer is a women's rights organization that works with women human rights defenders to protect those communities that have been forcefully displaced due to Colombia's armed conflict.

On January 27, 2010, Sisma Mujer received a threatening email from the paramilitary group, the Black Eagles (Águilas Negras). The email threatens Sisma Mujer and dozens of women human rights defenders who work with communities forcibly displaced by Colombia's armed conflict.

In the email the Black Eagles accuse these human rights defenders of having links with terrorist guerilla forces. This is a false and dangerous claim and an accusation that is often perpetuated by members of the Colombian state. Such claims not only put the lives of defenders in danger by making them paramilitary targets, but they also discredit the important human rights advocacy engaged in by defenders.

Unfortunately this is not the first time that Sisma Mujer and other women leaders have been threatened by the Black Eagles paramilitary group. Similar death threats were sent in October 2009, after Sisma Mujer had participated in a meeting to help women who had been forcefully displaced from their homes.

The multiple threats received by human rights defenders clearly show the ongoing existence of paramilitary forces in Colombia. I urge the Colombian government to redouble its efforts to dismantle paramilitary structures rather than denying that they exist.

I urge you to investigate the threats made by the Black Eagles paramilitary organization and prosecute those responsible. I also urge you to provide the members of Sisma Mujer and the other threatened organizations with adequate and immediate security measures for themselves and their families. More specifically, I call upon you to reform the protection program to consider the particular needs of women human rights defenders and the gendered nature of the persecution that they face.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. I will continue to closely monitor this situation.

Sincerely,
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Background Information:

Corporación Sisma Mujer is a women's rights organization based in Colombia. It supports women human rights defenders who protect the rights of Colombians who have been displaced as result of the armed conflict.

On January 27, 2010,
Corporación Sisma Mujer received a death threat email from the Black Eagles (Águilas Negras) paramilitary group, specifically the Central Bloc for Truth and Death (Bloque Central de las Águilas Negras Verdad y Muerte). In the email the Black Eagles threaten Sisma Mujer and other women's rights activists with "annihilation". They specifically target those organizations that protect women's rights and the rights of Colombia's internally displaced.

The paramilitary group goes as far as to link human rights organizations with terrorist guerrilla forces. They falsely accuse human rights organizations of working under the banner of human rights in order to hide their links with the guerrilla.

These alarming accusations made by the Black Eagles are unfortunately all too common in Colombia. Colombian government officials often target human rights defenders as being members of the guerrilla in a deliberate attempt to discredit their work and to stigmatize them in the public sphere. 

In its February 2009 report, Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia: In the Dock and Under the Gun, Human Rights First documented the ongoing problems faced by human rights defenders who are falsely accused of being part of the guerrilla. Colombian defenders are often charged with rebellion and placed under arbitrary detention. The important work of these defenders is not only hurt by these claims, but more importantly these accusations put the lives of defenders in grave danger by making them the targets of illegal groups like the paramilitaries.

To read more about the recent threats received by
Sisma Mujer, please visit: