Colombia

 

  • Alerta de Solidaridad: Colombia

    Alerta de Solidaridad Colombia: la obstrucción de participantes en la marcha Rise for Climate muestra un patrón de violaciones contra los defensores del medio ambiente

    Activistas y campesinos del "Movimiento Ríos Vivos" fueron detenidos ilegalmente por la policía en Ituango, Colombia, el 8 de septiembre de 2018, mientras participaban en la movilización "Rise for Climate". La acción en Ituango fue parte de una movilización global organizada por el grupo de derechos ambientales 350.org. Las movilizaciones reunieron a miles de personas en las calles de ciudades de todo el mundo que participaron en 900 acciones en 95 países. Las movilizaciones pidieron la protección del medio ambiente e instaron a los gobiernos a comprometerse con las energías limpias. Ríos Vivos es un movimiento de derechos humanos integrado por comunidades afectadas por los impactos de "Hidroituango", uno de los mayores proyectos hidroeléctricos en América Latina, actualmente en construcción en el río Cauca.

    El 8 de septiembre de 2018, más de 400 personas viajaron desde diferentes pueblos de la región de Antioquia hasta la ciudad de Ituango, donde habían planeado una acción para exigir la protección del clima mundial. En el camino a Ituango fueron temporalmente retenidos por la Policía Nacional, que comenzó a hacer una lista de las personas que participan en la movilización. Esta acción fue denunciada por la oficina regional de 350.org para América Latina. Los miembros de la policía que retenían a los manifestantes también se negaron a mostrar su identidad y cubrieron sus nombres en sus uniformes.

    Después de que la caravana de Ríos Vivos llegó a la ciudad de Ituango, la policía no permitió que los manifestantes realizaran una actuación planificada que pedía la protección del río Cauca y el clima mundial. Según Isabel Zuleta, una de las voceras de Ríos Vivos, la policía detuvo a los manifestantes por orden del Alcalde de Ituango.

    El domingo 9 de septiembre, cuando la caravana de autobuses y autos con los manifestantes regresaba a sus lugares de origen, nuevamente fueron retenidos por un grupo de empleados de las Empresas Públicas de Medellín, la empresa que está construyendo el proyecto Hidroituango. La caravana eventualmente pudo continuar su viaje alrededor de las 6 p.m. después de haber sido retenida desde las 6 a. M.

    " No tiene justificación que en la actualidad una empresa pública comprometa los derechos al libre tránsito de grupos comunitarios defensores del ambiente. Lo que hizo EPM con Rios Vivos Antioquia sobrepasa el deber ser del Estado que es garantizar la protección de la ciudadanía", dijo Xiomy Acevedo, de 350.org Colombia.

    Las restricciones impuestas a la marcha de los activistas climáticos violan su derecho de reunión pacífica y refleja el ambiente hostil para los defensores del medio ambiente en Colombia. Según lo informado por el Monitor CIVICUS, el ambiente para los defensores de los derechos humanos y del medio ambiente en Colombia ha empeorado en los últimos meses.

    "Es extremadamente preocupante que los manifestantes pacíficos que participan en una campaña mundial contra el cambio climático en Colombia sean estigmatizados y hostigados por las autoridades como sucedió este fin de semana en Ituango", dijo Natalia Gomez, directora de promoción y compromiso de CIVICUS.

    Durante años, los miembros del Movimiento Ríos Vivos han sido objeto de amenazas, intimidación y estigmatización por oponerse a megaproyectos que amenazan a los ríos. Especialmente han sido blanco de su oposición a la construcción del proyecto “Hidroituango”, un proyecto que ha estado sumido en crisis durante meses y ha dejado cientos de personas afectadas.

    CIVICUS hace un llamamiento a las autoridades colombianas para garantizar un entorno seguro para los activistas medioambientales y respetar su derecho a plantear inquietudes y reunirse pacíficamente.

    CIVICUS es una alianza global de organizaciones de la sociedad civil y activistas dedicados a fortalecer la acción ciudadana y la sociedad civil en todo el mundo. Fundado en 1993, promocionamos con orgullo las voces marginadas, especialmente del Sur Global, y tenemos miembros en más de 160 países en todo el mundo.


    Para más información o consultas de los medios:

    Comunicaciones –

    Natalia Gomez:

    https://www.facebook.com/CIVICUS/ 
    @CIVICUSalliance
    @CIVICUSMonitor

     

  • Attacks against human rights defenders in Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras

     

    Statement at the 40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Response to country reports from the High Commissioner and Secretary General

    CIVICUS is extremely concerned about attacks against human rights defenders across Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala, of which governments of these counties show little sign of adequately addressing.

    In Colombia, increased violence against human rights defenders took the lives of 110 people in 2018. 20 were members of indigenous or afro-Colombia communities. Delays in implementing the peace agreement has fueled further risk, especially in rural areas which have been most affected by conflict.  We are concerned by the alarming increase in the number of threats and attacks against journalists, and we call on the government of Colombia to accelerate implementation of the peace agreement which would expand civic space.

    In Honduras human rights defenders are routinely attacked, criminalized, harassed and targeted by smear campaigns. We are also deeply concerned by the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, particularly in contexts of protests. We call on the government of Honduras to adopt a comprehensive, rights-based and gender-responsive policy for the protection of human rights defenders and to reform laws which criminalise them, including the overly-broad law on terrorism.

    In Guatemala, too, the environment for human rights defenders continues to be hostile. Local organisation UDEFEGUA reported that at least 24 human rights defenders were killed in 2018. And since the beginning of 2019, there have been two further murders. Human rights defenders, especially indigenous leaders and land defenders, are subject to judicial harassment and intimidation. CIVICUS is concerned that in the approach to the June 2019 general elections, violence against defenders may increase.

    In all three cases, lack of investigations into crimes against human rights defenders has created a climate of impunity and increased risk. We call on all three governments to conduct investigations into attacks and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice, and to develop effective protection mechanisms and policies so that human rights can be defended without fear of reprisal.


    The CIVICUS Monitor rates the state of civicspace in Colombia as Repressed, Honduras as Repressed, Guatemala as Obstructed

     

  • Carta colectiva sobre Colombia: La COVID-19 no puede servir de tapadera para atacar a líderes sociales

    El Estado colombiano debe acoger las recomendaciones de la CIDH en materia de líderes sociales incluso durante la pandemia COVID-19

    En su informe reciente, la CIDH destaca de manera crucial  la importancia de reconocer el derecho a defender derechos y el rol fundamental de líderes y lideresas sociales en Colombia, especialmente en el contexto actual de emergencia generalizada

    El informe Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Líderes Sociales en Colombia, presentado recientemente por la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), tras su visita en noviembre de 2018 al país, destaca que la labor realizada por estas personas es fundamental para la existencia plena del Estado de Derecho y constituye un pilar indispensable para el fortalecimiento y consolidación de la democracia. Cuando se impide la defensa de los derechos humanos, no sólo se afecta una vida o comunidad particular; las agresiones contra líderes y lideresas sociales afectan la cohesión y continuidad de la organización social a una escala mayor. 

    Los líderes y lideresas sociales cumplen un rol fundamental en el mantenimiento del tejido social en sus comunidades, a menudo bajo condiciones precarias de seguridad. En el actual escenario de la pandemia por COVID-19, las recomendaciones de la CIDH cobran especial relevancia para salvaguardar su trabajo. Cómo aseguró Erlendy Cuero, lideresa social y Vicepresidenta de la Asociación Nacional de Afrocolombianos Desplazados (AFRODES),en la serie de Dejusticia sobre pandemia y desigualdad, #DelMiedoALaAcción, “los homicidios, las amenazas y la persecución han aumentado porque estamos en una situación en la que el acompañamiento para algunos líderes con medidas de protección se ha minimizado y quienes no tienen medidas de seguridad están desprotegidos”. A esto último se suma que los líderes, quienes deben permanecer en su residencia por causa del coronavirus, se enfrentan a un mayor riesgo pues son ubicados con mayor facilidad.

    La vulnerabilidad es más alta para líderes y lideresas en zonas alejadas de los centros urbanos. En este escenario, la adopción de las recomendaciones de la CIDH por parte del Estado colombiano en estas zonas es aún más indispensable. 

    Las recomendaciones claves de la Comisión Interamericana para Colombia incluyen: 

    • “Redoblar sus esfuerzos en la implementación del Acuerdo de Paz para que en todo el territorio estén dadas las condiciones para el ejercicio de la defensa de los derechos y de las comunidades”
    • “Convocar a las organizaciones sociales para la construcción de una política pública integral de prevención y protección de personas defensoras de derechos humanos y líderes sociales, retomando las mesas de diálogo como la Mesa Nacional de Garantías y la Comisión Nacional de Garantías de Seguridad, en la que existían acuerdos pactados previamente”
    • “Implementar debidamente las medidas cautelares otorgadas por la Comisión Interamericana y mantener los esquemas de protección respecto de las personas beneficiarias mientras estén vigentes”
    • “Adoptar todas las medidas necesarias para evitar que las autoridades o terceras personas manipulen el poder punitivo del Estado y sus órganos de justicia con el fin de hostigarles y perjudicar la labor de personas defensoras; y asegurar la aplicación de las debidas sanciones en caso que ocurra”
    • “Continuar adoptando medidas para investigar con debida diligencia y hacer frente a la situación de impunidad respecto de los crímenes cometidos contra personas defensoras de derechos humanos y líderes sociales en el país, determinando autores materiales e intelectuales”
    • “aumentar el nivel de coordinación entre las autoridades a nivel nacional y local para que las medidas de protección sean adecuadas para resguardar los derechos de las personas defensoras y líderes y asegurando su efectividad en zonas rurales alejadas”;  y 
    • “acordar las medidas de protección para enfrentar la situación de riesgo escuchando y consultando con las personas defensoras a fin de concretar una intervención oportuna, especializada y proporcional al riesgo que se pudiera enfrentar y con un enfoque diferencial”. 
    • “fortalecer la coordinación con organismos internacionales de derechos humanos”

    Las organizaciones firmantes hacemos especial énfasis en el reconocimiento por parte de la Comisión Interamericana del derecho a defender derechos humanos y su llamado al cumplimiento de las disposiciones contenidas en el Acuerdo Final de Paz, tal como lo han ordenado los jueces constitucionales en las sentencias de tutela confirmando #ElDerechoADefenderDerechos presentada por diversos líderes y organizaciones sociales del país, a finales de 2019

    ARTICLE 19
    Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA)
    Asociación Minga
    Amnesty International
    Business & Human Rights Resource Centre 
    CIVICUS
    Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo - Cajar
    Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (CCJ)
    Dejusticia 
    Espacio Público
    Front Line Defenders (FLD)
    Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos (FCSPP)
    International Land Coalition - LAC (ILC LAC)
    International Service for Human RIghts (ISHR)
    International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)
    Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
    Not1More (N1M)
    Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
    Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Democracia (REDLAD)
    Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 
    Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social (UNITAS)
    Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

     

  • CIVICUS and Colombian Confederation of NGOs concerned about aggressions and impending restrictions on civil society

    Click here to read a Spanish language version of this release

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and the Colombian Confederation of NGOs (CCONG) are deeply worried about the growing challenges faced by civil society in Colombia. Several activists have been attacked while potentially restrictive legislation is underway and would curtail civil society organisations’ ability to contribute to the implementation of the peace agreements.

     

  • Civil Society “Contested and Under Pressure”, says new report

    Read this press release in Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish

    Civil society around the globe is “contested and under pressure” according to a 22-country research findings report released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The report, Contested and Under Pressure: A Snapshot of the Enabling Environment of Civil Society in 22 Countries, brings together insights from Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA) conducted around the world between 2013 and 2016.

     

  • COLOMBIA: ‘Citizens are outraged and tired of the policies that have plunged them into poverty’

    CIVICUS speaks with Alexandra González Zapata, coordinator for democracy and social protest at the Solidarity Committee with Political Prisoners Foundation, and a member of the Campaign to Defend Freedom. The Solidarity Committee Foundation is a Colombian civil society organisation that works to defend the rights to life, freedom, physical and moral integrity, decent, fair and impartial treatment and other rights of people deprived of liberty, prosecuted for political crimes and criminalised for participating in social protest. The Solidarity Committee Foundation is a member of the Campaign to Defend Freedom, which focuses on denouncing arbitrary detentions, judicial persecution and the criminalisation of social protest in Colombia. A network made up of social, student, cultural, community and human rights organisations, Defend Freedom works in a coordinated manner to challenge the illegal use of force as a mechanism of persecution against those who, individually or collectively, demand and promote human rights through social mobilisation in Colombia.

    alexandra gonzalez zapata

    What triggered the 2019 protests in Colombia, and why did they escalate?

    Outrage has been building up little by little in Colombia. Even as it was inaugurated in August 2018, President Iván Duque's government did not enjoy wide margins of legitimacy and support. The electoral results showed that a broad segment of the citizenry rejected traditional power and all that it represented: policies in favour of war, privatisation and indebtedness. This discontent increased as the government announced a series of policy measures, including among those who had voted for Duque.

    The government's proposals were aimed at eliminating the state pension fund Colpensiones, raising the retirement age and lowering the salary for young people to 75 per cent of the minimum wage, among other measures. A widespread atmosphere of indignation emerged as a result, yielding a unified call for mobilisation on 21 November 2019.

    What few expected by then was that the mobilisation would continue over the days that followed 21 November. On that day some acts of vandalism were committed, which the national government tried to use as an excuse to criminalise social protest and adopt measures to restrict freedoms, including a curfew. In response to this, citizens went out to demonstrate freely. We really do not know which was the first neighbourhood or the first block to start banging pots and pans on 22 November, but what we do know is that this dynamic expanded throughout the capital city, Bogotá, as well as other cities around Colombia, shifting the narrative that had prevailed on the media, which was all about vandalism, towards a public discourse that highlighted citizen outrage and social demands.

    How have these mobilisations managed to be sustained over time? How are they different from others in Colombia in the past?

    From 2013 onwards, social mobilisation in Colombia has been on the rise. In 2013 there was an agricultural strike that lasted for more than 20 days and managed to keep several major national roads closed. Then came the agricultural strikes of 2015 and 2016, and the so-called ‘mingas for life’, marches and protests of tens of thousands of Indigenous peoples, and the student strikes of 2018 and 2019.

    In other words, we’ve seen numerous massive and sustained mobilisations over the past few years. What is different about the ongoing national protests in comparison to past mobilisations is that they have been characterised by a majority participation of urban citizens and mainly middle-class people. This caused them to be viewed not as the actions of a particular group of people – Indigenous peoples, peasants, or students – but instead as the work of outraged citizens who are tired of the policies that have increasingly plunged them into poverty, even though the country keeps flaunting positive economic growth indicators. Hence its massive and sustained character.

    What do the protesters demand, and what response do they expect from the government?

    The National Strike Committee has submitted a list of petitions around 13 major issues: guarantees for the exercise of the right to social protest; social rights; economic rights; anti-corruption; peace; human rights; the rights of Mother Earth; political rights and guarantees; agricultural and fishery issues; compliance with agreements between government and social organisations; withdrawal of legislation; the repeal of specific laws; and reform of the law-making process.

    On the first item, guarantees for the right to social protest, protesters urge the government to dismantle the Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron (ESMAD) and refrain from establishing any other similar force. They demand that those responsible for the death of Dylan Cruz, an 18-year-old who was shot dead in the head while running unarmed to escape ESMAD in the early days of the protest in Bogotá, be brought to justice and held accountable.

    On the second item, social rights, protesters demand an end to labour subcontracting, the establishment of an interest rate for mortgage loans that is fair and correlated to people’s real incomes and the repeal of the tax that is currently used to finance the electricity company Electricaribe.

    So far the government has shown no willingness to enter into any real dialogue and negotiation; instead, it insists on beginning ‘exploratory dialogues.’ Protesters expect the government to convene a negotiating table as soon as possible to address the substantial issues that have been raised.

    How did the government react to the protests? What human rights violations were committed by the security forces?

    On 15 November 2019, six days before the first protest was scheduled to take place, the national government made the decision to involve the army in control and security operations in Bogotá. Nine Brigade XIII contingents were deployed and more than 350 soldiers took part in monitoring, patrolling and security controls in Bogotá. This militarisation still persists in the city. The presence of a ‘riot squad’ of the national army, according to information released by the authorities, is particularly concerning. It should be noted that, except in exceptional circumstances, military forces should not intervene in operations to control, contain or even guarantee the celebration of social mobilisations.

    In addition, as confirmed by the authorities, starting at 6am on 19 November, 37 raids were carried out in the residences and workplaces of media professionals throughout Colombia. To date, 21 of those raids have been declared illegal after undergoing judicial scrutiny, because they did not comply with legally established requirements, including being based on reasonable suspicion. According to information provided by the authorities, the raids involved people who were thought to be prone to committing acts of vandalism during the protest. However, it was mainly people linked to artistic groups, alternative media and social movements. Among the items seized were posters, brushes and paintings.

    Also on 19 November, the Ministry of the Interior issued Decree 2087/2019, establishing new measures for the maintenance of public order. Article 3 made “a very special call to district and municipal mayors, so that in their duty to preserve public order in their respective territories, they comply [with the provisions of the Law] in matters of public order.” This call prompted the authorities of at least eight cities – Bogotá, Buenaventura, Cali, Candelaria, Chía, Facatativá, Jamundí and Popayán – to declare curfews. These affected the exercise of the rights to free movement and social protest for all citizens, even though acts affecting public order had been extremely localised.

    Throughout the protests, the authorities made an improper and disproportionate use of force. Although Resolution 1190/2018 states that “the use of force must be considered the last resort of intervention by the National Police,” in most cases ESMAD has intervened without any apparent reason to do so. On 22 November it intervened in Plaza de Bolívar, where more than 5,000 people had assembled, although the demonstration was completely peaceful. On 23 November, Dylan Cruz was killed as a result of an unjustified intervention by ESMAD during a peaceful mobilisation. Although the weapon uses was among those authorised, the ammunition fired by ESMAD caused the death of this young man because of improper use, since according to international standards this type of weapon can only be fired at a distance greater than 60 metres, and only against lower extremities; otherwise, it is deemed to entail lethal risk. Strikingly, on a video recorded live by the Defend Freedom Campaign, an ESMAD agent can be heard encouraging another one to shoot, saying: “Shoot anyone, just anyone, come on daddy.”

    During the protests more than 300 people were injured, including 12 who had eye injuries. Some young people were injured by firearms shot by the police, including Duvan Villegas, who might remain paralysed as a result of a bullet hitting him in the back. Another young man lost his right eye in Bogotá after being hit by a rubber bullet fired by the ESMAD, and two other people could face the loss of their legs due to the impact of teargas canisters thrown by the police from close range.

    Overall, there were 1,514 arrests during the protests, 1,109 of them in Bogotá. Out of 914 people who were arrested, 103 (6.8 per cent) were prosecuted for allegedly being caught in the act of committing violence against a public official; however, arrest procedures were declared illegal in a high number of cases, both because there were not enough grounds for conducting them and because they were accompanied by physical violence against detainees.

    The rest of the people who were detained (93.2 per cent) were transferred for protection or by police procedure. According to the law, detention in these cases is justified when the life or integrity of the person or a third party is at risk or danger. However, in practice an abusive use of this power was made, since these were mostly administrative detentions, used as a mechanism of intimidation and punishment against citizens who were exercising their right to protest. Therefore, these were mostly arbitrary detentions.

    In some of these cases, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment was documented during detention, particularly in Immediate Attention Commands or police stations. Cases came to our attention of people who were forced to undress, others who received electric shocks through electrical control devices and some who had broken bones in their hands as a result of baton charges or being kicked.

    Additionally, in Bogotá, more than 620 people who were transferred to the Protection Transfer Centre were punished with police appearance orders, in many cases for the crime of disruption, for having obstructed transport. This mechanism, which results in fines amounting to around 200,000 Colombian pesos (approx. US$60), was used indiscriminately and has affected the exercise of social protest.

    How has civil society organised in the face of these abuses?

    In 2012, the Defend Freedom Campaign was established. Through its Verification and Intervention Commissions, recognised in Resolution 1190 of 2018, the campaign does on-site monitoring of social mobilisation, documents cases of arbitrary and excessive use of force by police authorities, arbitrary detention and transfer for protection and various forms of repression and abusive use of police power against protesters and human rights defenders, and it systematises the information collected. The campaign also promotes the creation of a National Network of Civil Society Commissions for Verification and Intervention in situations of social mobilisation.

    Likewise, through a joint demand, the National Process of Guarantees, the Agrarian, Peasant, Ethnic and Popular Summit and the Defend Freedom Campaign have obtained verifiable commitments from the national government and the government of Bogotá to establish public policies aimed at enforcing respect for the freedoms of individuals, communities and social organisations that promote and defend rights. The most important of these were Decree 563/2015 (Protocol of Action for Social Mobilisations in Bogotá: For the Right to Mobilisation and Peaceful Protest) issued by the Office of Bogotá’s Mayor and Resolution 1190/2018 (Protocol for the coordination of actions to respect and guarantee peaceful protest) issued by the Ministry of the Interior.

    What immediate measures should the Colombian government adopt in response to the protests?

    First, the government should convene the monitoring mechanism (‘Mesa de Seguimiento’) to respect and guarantee peaceful protest, as a space for negotiation and dialogue that should define mechanisms to guarantee the right to protest, as envisaged in Resolution 1190. Likewise, the government should immediately suspend the use of 12-calibre shotguns by ESMAD members, due to their high impact on people’s physical integrity and life. Second, it should refrain from pursuing stigmatisation and criminalisation campaigns against those who engage in social protest. Third, the government should initiate a negotiation process with the National Strike Committee to address its demands. And in response to the substantive demands made by the National Strike Committee, the government should start by withdrawing its proposals for labour and pension reform that are due for congressional debate, and initiate a broad and participatory process towards the formulation of new laws concerning those issues.

    Do you think the response of the international community has been adequate? How could international groups and organisations support Colombian civil society and contribute to safeguarding civic space in the country?

    I believe that the international community and the United Nations system were able to issue a timely warning regarding the risks of repression of social protest. The call made by human rights organisations in the USA to urge their government to start a moratorium on the sale of US riot weapons to Colombia was also timely.

    However, it would also be important for Colombian civil society to receive longer-term support to undertake medium-term strategies that allow for a deeper and more detailed follow-up of the human rights situation, and particularly to help make progress in judicial investigations for the human rights violations allegedly committed during the protests.

    Civic space in Colombia is rated as ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Solidarity Committee Foundation through itswebsite andFacebook page, or follow@CSPP_ on Twitter.
    Get in touch with the Defend Freedom Campaign through itswebsite andFacebook page, or

     

     

  • COLOMBIA: ‘La ciudadanía está indignada y cansada de las políticas que la han sumido en la pobreza’

    CIVICUS conversa con Alexandra González Zapata, coordinadora del área de democracia y protesta social de la Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos e integrante de la Campaña Defender la Libertad: Asunto de Todas. La Fundación Comité de Solidaridad es una organización de la sociedad civil colombiana que trabaja en la defensa de los derechos a la vida, la libertad, la integridad física y moral, el trato digno, justo e imparcial y demás derechos de las personas privadas de la libertad, procesadas por delitos políticos y judicializadas por participar en la protesta social. La Fundación Comité de Solidaridad es parte de la Campaña Defender la Libertad, que trabaja para denunciar las detenciones arbitrarias, la persecución judicial y la criminalización de la protesta social en Colombia. Integrada por organizaciones sociales, estudiantiles, culturales, comunales y de derechos humanos, Defender la Libertad trabaja en forma coordinada para enfrentar el uso ilegal de la fuerza como mecanismo de persecución contra las personas que, individual o colectivamente, reclaman y promueven derechos humanos en Colombia a través de la movilización social.

    alexandra gonzalez zapata

    ¿Por qué estalló y escaló la movilización en Colombia en 2019?

    En Colombia existe una indignación que ha venido creciendo poco a poco. El gobierno del presidente Iván Duque, iniciado en agosto de 2018, no comenzó con un amplio margen de legitimidad y apoyo. Los resultados electorales demostraron que un segmento amplio de la ciudadanía rechazaba el poder tradicional y lo que éste representaba: políticas favorables a la guerra, la privatización y el endeudamiento. Este descontento aumentó ante algunas medidas anunciadas por el gobierno, alcanzando incluso a muchos que lo habían votado.

    Las propuestas del gobierno apuntaban a eliminar el fondo estatal de pensiones Colpensiones, a aumentar la edad de jubilación y a reducir el salario para los jóvenes hasta ubicarlo en el 75% del salario mínimo, entre otras medidas. En reacción se generó un ambiente generalizado de indignación, que se tradujo en una convocatoria unificada a una movilización el 21 de noviembre de 2019.

    Lo que pocos esperaban es que la movilización continuara en los días posteriores al 21 de noviembre. Ese día se produjeron hechos de vandalismo, que el gobierno nacional quiso utilizar para deslegitimar la protesta social, adoptando medidas restrictivas de la libertad que incluyeron un toque de queda. En respuesta a ello, la ciudadanía salió a manifestarse libremente. Al día de hoy no sabemos cuál fue el primer barrio o la primera cuadra que inició el cacerolazo del 22 de noviembre, pero lo cierto es que esa dinámica se expandió por toda Bogotá, la ciudad capital, y otras ciudades del país, transformando la narrativa que se había instalado en los medios acerca del vandalismo y posicionando en cambio un discurso público que puso de relieve la indignación ciudadana y los reclamos sociales.

    ¿Cómo lograron estas movilizaciones sostenerse en el tiempo? ¿En qué se diferencian de otras que hubo en Colombia en el pasado?

    Desde el año 2013 en adelante, la movilización social en Colombia ha venido en aumento. En ese año hubo un paro agrario que se extendió por más de 20 días y mantuvo cerradas varias carreteras principales del país. Luego vinieron los paros agrarios de 2015 y 2016, y las “mingas por la vida”, marchas y protestas de decenas de miles de indígenas, y el paro estudiantil de 2018 y 2019.

    Es decir, en los últimos años hemos tenido numerosas movilizaciones masivas y sostenidas. Lo que el actual paro nacional tiene de diferente en relación con las movilizaciones pasadas es la participación mayoritaria de la población que vive en las ciudades, principalmente de clase media. Esto motivó que no el paro fuera visto no como resultado del accionar de un grupo específico- indígenas, campesinos o estudiantes - sino en cambio como obra de una ciudadanía indignada y cansada de las políticas que poco a poco la han sumido en la pobreza, a pesar de que el país exhibe indicadores de crecimiento económico positivos. De ahí su carácter masivo y sostenido.

    ¿Qué reclaman los manifestantes, y qué respuesta esperan del gobierno?

    El Comité de Paro Nacional ha presentado un pliego de peticiones divididas en 13 grandes temas: garantías para el ejercicio del derecho a la protesta social; derechos sociales; derechos económicos; anticorrupción; paz; derechos humanos; derechos de la Madre Tierra; derechos políticos y garantías; temas agrarios, agropecuarios y pesqueros; cumplimiento de acuerdos entre gobierno y organizaciones; retiro de proyectos de ley; derogación de normas; y construcción normativa.

    En el primer punto, relativo a las garantías para el derecho de la protesta social, el reclamo es que se desmonte el Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios (ESMAD) y que no se creen otros cuerpos similares. También se solicita el juicio y castigo a los responsables del fallecimiento de Dylan Cruz, el joven de 18 años que fue asesinado de un tiro en la cabeza cuando corría desarmado para escapar del ESMAD en los primeros días de la protesta en Bogotá.

    En el segundo punto, sobre derechos sociales, se solicita el fin de la tercerización laboral, la definición de una tasa de interés para los créditos de vivienda que sea justa y acorde a los ingresos reales de las personas, y a derogación del impuesto que se usa para financiar a la compañía de electricidad Electricaribe.

    Hasta el momento no ha habido voluntad de diálogo y negociación por parte del gobierno, que en cambio insiste en hacer “diálogos exploratorios”. Se espera que el gobierno convoque a la mayor brevedad a una mesa de negociación para abordar en profundidad los puntos planteados.

    ¿Cómo reaccionó el gobierno ante las protestas? ¿Se observaron violaciones de derechos humanos por parte de las fuerzas de seguridad?

    El 15 de noviembre de 2019, seis días antes de que iniciara la jornada de paro, el gobierno nacional tomó la decisión de involucrar al Ejército en los operativos de control y seguridad en la capital del país. Se desplegaron nueve contingentes de la Brigada XIII y más de 350 soldados intervinieron en acciones de monitoreo, patrullaje y controles de seguridad en Bogotá. Esta militarización persiste en la ciudad y preocupa de manera fundamental la acción de un “pelotón antidisturbios” del Ejército Nacional, según información difundida por las autoridades. Es importante recordar que, salvo en circunstancias excepcionales, las fuerzas militares no deberían intervenir en operativos de control, contención o garantía de la realización de las movilizaciones sociales.

    Además, según lo confirmaron las autoridades, desde las 6 de la mañana del día 19 de noviembre se llevaron a cabo 37 allanamientos a residencias y lugares de trabajo de profesionales de los medios de comunicación en todo el país. Hasta la fecha, 21 de ellos han sido declarados ilegales luego de su control judicial, debido a que no cumplieron con los requisitos legalmente establecidos, entre ellos una inferencia razonable que los legitimara. Según la información suministrada por las autoridades, los allanamientos involucraban a personas que se estimaba que podrían cometer actos de vandalismo en la protesta. Sin embargo, se trató principalmente de personas vinculadas a colectivos artísticos, medios de comunicación alternativos y personas pertenecientes a los movimientos sociales. Entre los elementos incautados se contaban afiches, pinceles y pinturas.

    El mismo 19 de noviembre el Ministerio del Interior expidió el Decreto 2087/2019, que establecía medidas para el mantenimiento del orden público. Su artículo 3 hizo “un llamado muy especial a los alcaldes distritales y municipales, para que, en su deber de conservar el orden público en sus respectivos territorios, den cumplimiento [a lo establecido en la Ley] en materia de orden público”. Este llamado sentó las condiciones para que las autoridades de por lo menos ocho ciudades - Bogotá, Buenaventura, Cali, Candelaria, Chía, Facatativá, Jamundí y Popayán - decretaran toques de queda. Estos afectaron el ejercicio de los derechos a la libre circulación y a la protesta social de toda la ciudadanía, aunque los hechos de alteración del orden público fueron muy focalizados.

    Durante las protestas, las autoridades hicieron un uso indebido y desproporcionado de la fuerza. Si bien la Resolución 1190 de 2018 establece “el uso de la fuerza debe ser considerado el último recurso de la intervención de la Policía Nacional”, en la mayoría de los casos el ESMAD ha intervenido sin que hubiera una razón evidente para ello. El 22 de noviembre intervino en la Plaza de Bolívar, donde había más de 5.000 personas, pese a que la concentración era totalmente pacífica. El 23 de noviembre, como resultado de la intervención injustificada del ESMAD en una movilización pacífica fue asesinado Dylan Cruz. Aunque se encontraba entre las armas permitidas, la munición disparada por el ESMAD ocasionó la muerte del joven a causa de su uso indebido, ya que según normas internacionales este tipo de armas solo pueden utilizarse a una distancia mayor a los 60 metros y sólo contra las extremidades inferiores; caso contrario, pasan a conllevar un riesgo letal. Llama la atención que en un video grabado en vivo por la Campaña Defender la Libertad se escucha a un agente del ESMAD alentando a otro a disparar: “Al que sea, al que sea, dele papi dele”.

    Durante el período de las protestas se registraron más de 300 heridos, entre ellos 12 con lesiones oculares. Algunos jóvenes fueron heridos con arma de fuego por parte de la policía, como fue el caso de Duvan Villegas, quien podría quedar parapléjico por un impacto de bala en la espalda. Otro joven perdió su ojo derecho en Bogotá producto de una bala de goma del ESMAD, y otras dos personas tienen su pierna en riesgo por impacto de un gas lacrimógeno lanzado por el cuerpo policial a poca distancia.

    En total, se produjeron en el país 1.514 detenciones, 1.109 de ellas en Bogotá. De las 914 personas detenidas, 103 (6,8%) fueron judicializadas por haber sido capturadas en supuesta flagrancia en el delito de violencia contra servidor público; sin embargo, el procedimiento de captura fue decretado ilegal en un alto de casos, tanto por no haber elementos que lo justificaran como por ir acompañado de agresiones físicas contra los detenidos.

    El resto de las personas detenidas (93,2%) fueron trasladas por protección o por procedimiento policivo. Según la ley, la detención en estos casos se justifica si la vida o integridad de una persona o de terceros esté en riesgo o peligro. Sin embargo, en la práctica se hizo un uso abusivo de esta facultad, ya que se trató de detenciones administrativas, utilizadas como mecanismo de amedrentamiento y castigo a la ciudadanía que ejercía su derecho a la protesta. En ese sentido, se trató en la mayoría de los casos de detenciones arbitrarias.

    En algunos de estos casos se documentaron tratos crueles, inhumanos o degradantes durante la detención, particularmente en Comandos de Atención Inmediata o estaciones de policía. Hemos tenido conocimiento de personas que fueron obligadas a desnudarse, otras recibieron descargas eléctricas a través de dispositivos de control eléctrico y algunas experimentaron fracturas en sus manos como resultado de bastonazos o patadas.

    Adicionalmente, en Bogotá, más de 620 personas trasladas al Centro de Traslado por Protección fueron sancionadas con un comparendo policial, en muchos casos por alteración a la convivencia, por haber efectuado obstrucción al transporte. Este mecanismo de multa, que ronda los 200.000 pesos colombianos (unos 60 dólares estadounidenses), es usado de manera indiscriminada y afecta el ejercicio de la protesta social.

    ¿Cómo se ha organizado la sociedad civil frente a estos abusos?

    En el año 2012 se creó la Campaña Defender la Libertad. A través de sus Comisiones de Verificación e Intervención, reconocidas en la Resolución 1190 de 2018, la campaña hace acompañamiento in situ de la movilización social, documenta casos de uso arbitrario y excesivo de la fuerza por parte de las autoridades policiales, retención y traslado por protección de manera arbitraria, y diversas modalidades de represión y uso abusivo del poder policial contra manifestantes y personas defensoras de derechos humanos, y sistematiza la información recogida. La campaña también promueve la conformación de una Red Nacional de Comisiones de Verificación e Intervención de la Sociedad Civil en escenarios de movilización social.

    Asimismo, a través de un ejercicio de exigibilidad realizado conjuntamente, el Proceso Nacional de Garantías, la Cumbre Agraria, Campesina, Étnica y Popular, y la Campaña Defender la Libertad han obtenido compromisos verificables de las autoridades capitalinas y nacionales de establecer políticas públicas para el respeto de las libertades de las personas, comunidades y organizaciones sociales que exigen y defienden derechos. Los más importantes de ellos son el Decreto 563/2015 (“Protocolo de Actuación para Las Movilizaciones Sociales en Bogotá: Por El Derecho a la Movilización y la Protesta Pacífica”) promulgado por la Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá; y la Resolución 1190/2018 (“Protocolo para la coordinación de las acciones de respeto y garantía a la protesta pacífica”), promulgada por el Ministerio del Interior.

    ¿Qué medidas inmediatas debería adoptar el gobierno de Colombia en respuesta a las movilizaciones?

    Lo mínimo que debería hacer el gobierno es, primero, convocar a la Mesa de Seguimiento al respeto y garantía de la protesta pacífica, como espacio de articulación y diálogo para definir mecanismos que garanticen el derecho a la protesta, como lo contempla la Resolución 1190. Asimismo, debería suspender de inmediato el uso de la escopeta calibre 12 por parte de los miembros del ESMAD, por su alto impacto en la integridad y vida de las personas. Segundo, debería abstenerse de continuar con las campañas de estigmatización y criminalización de la protesta social. Tercero, el gobierno debería iniciar un proceso de negociación con el Comité Nacional del Paro para abordar las demandas señaladas. Y en respuesta a las demandas sustantivas del Comité Nacional del Paro, debería empezar por frenar las propuestas de reforma laboral y pensional que se van a tramitar en el Congreso, e iniciar un proceso amplio y participativo para la definición de nuevas leyes sobre esos temas.

    ¿Piensas que la respuesta de la comunidad internacional ha sido adecuada? ¿Cómo podría en lo sucesivo apoyar a la sociedad civil colombiana y contribuir a salvaguardar el espacio cívico en el país?

    Creo que hubo de parte de la comunidad internacional y del sistema de Naciones Unidas una alerta oportuna frente a los riesgos que presentaba la represión de la protesta social. El llamado que hicieron organizaciones de derechos humanos en Estados Unidos para pedirle al gobierno de ese país una moratoria de la venta de armas antidisturbios estadounidenses a Colombia también fue oportuno.

    Sin embargo, también sería importante que la sociedad civil colombiana recibiera apoyo de más largo aliento para emprender estrategias de mediano plazo que permitan hacer un seguimiento más profundo y detallado a la situación de derechos humanos, y particularmente para contribuir a que haya avances judiciales en las investigaciones por presuntas violaciones a los derechos humanos ocurridas durante las protestas.

    El espacio cívico en Colombia es clasificado como ‘represivo’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contáctese con la Fundación Comité de Solidaridad a través de susitio web y su perfil deFacebook, o siga a@CSPP_ en Twitter.
    Contáctese con la campaña Defender la Libertad a través de susitio web y su perfil deFacebook, o siga a@DefenderLiberta en Twitter.

     

  • COLOMBIA: ‘La protección del medio ambiente es inseparable del éxito del proceso de paz’

    Al cabo de un año signado por la movilización masiva en torno de la emergencia climática, CIVICUS está entrevistando a activistas, líderes y expertos de la sociedad civil acerca de los principales desafíos ambientales que enfrentan en sus respectivos contextos y las acciones que han emprendido para hacerles frente. CIVICUS conversa con un joven estudiante colombiano, activo en el movimiento climático, que por razones de seguridad prefirió mantener el anonimato. Además de movilizarse en el marco de movimiento #FridaysForFuture, el entrevistado forma parte de Hijos del Postconflicto, un colectivo creado recientemente para visibilizar las experiencias de la gente en los territorios y defender el proceso de paz en Colombia. En la convergencia entre diversas luchas, el entrevistado enfatiza la defensa del proceso de paz como clave para preservar el medio ambiente y la biodiversidad en Colombia.

    colombia protests

    ¿Cuál es, desde tu perspectiva, el problema ambiental más urgente en Colombia?

    El problema ambiental más urgente es la deforestación. Las tasas de deforestación en Colombia son altísimas, y la situación no ha mejorado desde la firma de los acuerdos de paz. Eso se debe a que, en tiempos de conflicto armado, las guerrillas colombianas, principalmente las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), tenían dominio de gran parte del territorio selvático de Colombia. Por supuesto que nadie se metía en ese territorio: no llegaban las multinacionales ni las petroleras; tampoco llegaba la ganadería. Con la firma de los acuerdos de paz y la retirada de las guerrillas se acentuó el problema que ha tenido Colombia desde la década del ’50: la distribución de las tierras.

    Colombia tiene una distribución de la tierra extremadamente regresiva; la propiedad está concentrada en muy pocas manos. Con la retirada de la guerrilla y la llegada de las multinacionales el acaparamiento de tierras se ha acentuado. Muchas tierras son apropiadas, deforestadas y utilizadas para la cría de ganado, y la población local continúa siendo desplazada.

    Al mismo tiempo sigue habiendo grupos armados al margen de la ley que continúan activos, sobre todo grupos paramilitares de extrema derecha, aunque también queda la guerrilla, más pequeña, del Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) y algunas disidencias de las FARC que decidieron no acoplarse al proceso de paz. Estos grupos armados están disputando el territorio para hacerse del dominio de los cultivos de coca y expandirlos, provocando mayor deforestación.

    En consecuencia, tanto la continuidad del conflicto en algunos territorios como su finalización en otros influyen directamente sobre la deforestación. El proceso de paz contiene una serie de mecanismos para contrarrestar la deforestación, pero sus efectos dependerán de que efectivamente se lo implemente. En ese sentido, la protección del medio ambiente es inseparable del éxito del proceso de paz.

    ¿Qué mecanismos contemplados en los acuerdos de paz permitirían detener la deforestación?

    Los acuerdos de paz incluyen dos puntos específicos para frenar la deforestación. El primero es la reforma rural integral, que pretende distribuir el campo colombiano y respetar los usos asignados al suelo – por ejemplo, que si es para uso agrícola, no sea utilizado para ganadería. El segundo punto es el Programa de Sustitución de Cultivos de Uso Ilícito, que apunta a resolver el problema de las drogas. Es importante entender que muchas familias campesinas pobres se han visto obligadas a cultivar coca para sobrevivir; a través de este programa el Estado les ofrece incentivos económicos para que hagan una transición hacia otros cultivos sustentables. 

    ¿De qué modo colabora el activismo juvenil con la efectiva implementación de los acuerdos de paz?

    La lucha por la paz se da en todos los frentes. Nosotros hacemos tres cosas: nos movilizamos en las calles en defensa del proceso de paz; hacemos pedagogía para que la gente entienda porqué el proceso de paz es tan importante; y trabajamos en distintos espacios haciendo incidencia política.

    El contexto para este trabajo es bastante difícil. Ni bien asumió el poder, el presidente Iván Duque objetó el proceso de paz e intentó modificar todos los aspectos con los que no estaba de acuerdo o que según él no eran justos, lo cual en definitiva supondría desactivar el proceso que resultó de los acuerdos y volver a comenzar desde cero. Esto no fue una sorpresa: toda su campaña giró en torno del proceso de paz y se basó en la difusión de mentiras acerca del proceso de paz. Ganó las elecciones manipulando el temor de la gente, a la que le aseguró que los acuerdos consagraban la impunidad. Trató de asustarnos diciéndonos que si ganaba la izquierda nos íbamos a convertir en una segunda Venezuela. También mintió en relación con sus planes para las industrias extractivas: llegó a asegurar que no se autorizaría la exploración y explotación petroleras por medio de fracking, pero a fines de diciembre de 2019 hizo púbico un proyecto de decreto para habilitar el fracking.

    En tanto que activista por la paz y el medio ambiente en Colombia ¿has tenido alguna participación en el movimiento global por la justicia climática?

    Sí, con un pequeño grupo nos sumamos a la iniciativa Fridays for Future. Nuestra participación se limitó a una serie de acciones y plantones para dar inicio al movimiento climático en el país.

    Nos ha sido bastante difícil generar movilización en torno de la crisis climática global. Ante todo, hay mucha ignorancia. En Colombia la mayoría de las personas no tiene idea de lo que les están haciendo; de hecho, el actual presidente se aprovechó de ello para difundir mentiras, hacer una campaña de desinformación y ganar las elecciones. En un país donde la educación pública es muy mala y solamente la gente rica puede estudiar es muy fácil mentir y que te crean. Entonces, el primer problema es la ignorancia. A eso se suma el miedo: en Colombia a la gente le da miedo hablar, organizarse y manifestarse. Los colombianos vivimos una increíble zozobra debido a los asesinatos sistemáticos de líderes sociales y ambientales. Colombia es uno de los países más peligrosos del mundo para las personas defensoras de derechos humanos en general, y para los líderes ambientalistas en particular.

    Todo esto ha limitado la movilización por el clima. Hubo algunas acciones sueltas, pero no una gran marcha nacional de alto impacto. Por eso nos sorprendió que se produjera una movilización escolar masiva en el sur del país, en el departamento del Huila, donde menos esperábamos una movilización debido a las dinámicas complejas de seguridad que se viven en esos territorios. Logramos ponernos en contacto con los jóvenes que se movilizaron en Huila y juntos participamos de un encuentro nacional que realizamos en el departamento del Caquetá, también conocido como la puerta de oro de la Amazonía colombiana. Allí logramos articular el trabajo con las comunidades que viven en territorio amazónico y hasta el momento seguimos en el proceso para elevar las consignas amazónicas e iniciar una resistencia en defensa de nuestra selva.

    Actualmente estamos empezando a sumarnos todos los colectivos ambientales en un mismo frente climático. Esperamos que esto inspire a los que tienen miedo para que también se sumen.

    ¿Han tenido alguna participación en foros internacionales sobre el clima?

    Hemos estado en un encuentro latinoamericano de Fridays for Future que se hizo en Chile con el apoyo de 350.org. Fue un encuentro de defensores del clima para generar lazos latinoamericanos e impulsar el movimiento a nivel regional. Nos ayudó bastante encontrar jóvenes de otras partes de la región que también estaban movilizándose, ver que podíamos unirnos y sentir que teníamos apoyos internacionales para hacer nuestro trabajo. Esto nos dio algo de esperanza.

    Fue después de esa reunión que empezamos a tratar de formar una red ambientalista nacional, viajando a la mayor cantidad de territorios y sumando a jóvenes de otras regiones del país. Todavía nos falta mucho por construir, pero estamos creciendo exponencialmente, porque cuando sumamos a un colectivo, ese mismo colectivo tiene llegada a otros tres o otros cuatro colectivos más. Todo el año 2019 nos hemos centrado en este proceso, recorriendo territorios, comunicando nuestro mensaje a la gente y haciendo lazos. Creemos que la próxima vez tal vez sí podamos movilizarnos a nivel nacional. Lo haremos el 24 de abril de 2020, cuando se realice la próxima huelga global.

    ¿Qué clase de apoyos necesitarían para poder hacer en 2020 la movilización que no pudieron hacer en 2019?

    Nuestra oportunidad en este momento es el paro nacional, la serie de manifestaciones que se han desarrollado en varias ciudades colombianas a partir de noviembre de 2019. En un país donde a la gente le da miedo hablar, el 21 de noviembre del año pasado salieron a la calle millones de personas, en una de las movilizaciones más grandes que ha tenido Colombia en los últimos 40 años. Esta es una oportunidad única. En el marco de estas protestas, el movimiento ambientalista también ha puesto sus propuestas y demandas. Tal vez no podamos movilizar a la gente específicamente por el clima, pero podemos aprovechar estas movilizaciones masivas y sumar nuestros temas. Si hay gente dispuesta a movilizarse, podemos acercarnos para contarles lo que está pasando en relación con el medio ambiente y comunicarles nuestras demandas para que vean que también les conciernen y se movilicen por ellas. Así es como logramos que el comité de paro incluyera entre sus demandas la declaración de la emergencia climática en Colombia. Este ha sido un avance muy grande.

    El espacio cívico en Colombia es clasificado como ‘represivo’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contáctese conFridays for Future a través de susitio web y con la campaña en Colombia poremail o a través de su perfil deFacebook, y siga a@FutureColombia en Twitter.

     

  • COLOMBIA: ‘The protection of the environment is inseparable from the success of the peace process’

    Following a year marked by massive mobilisation on the climate emergency, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the main environmental challenges they face in their contexts and the actions they are taking. CIVICUS speaks with a young Colombian student, active in the climate movement, who for security reasons asked to remain anonymous. In addition to mobilising in the context of the #FridaysForFuture movement, the interviewee is part of Post-Conflict Children (Hijos del Posconflicto), a recently created group that seeks to render the experiences of people on the ground visible and defend the peace process in Colombia. On the crossroads of various struggles, the interviewee emphasises the defence of the peace process as a key to preserving Colombia’s environment and biodiversity.

    colombia protests

    From your perspective, what is the most urgent environmental problem in Colombia?

    The most urgent environmental problem is deforestation. Deforestation rates in Colombia are very high, and the situation has not improved following the signing of the peace agreements. That is because, in times of armed conflict, the Colombian guerrillas, mainly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), controlled much of the jungle territory of Colombia. Of course, no one dared get into that territory: multinationals and oil companies did not have a presence there; nor did the industry of cattle-raising. After the peace agreements were signed and the guerrillas withdrew, the problem that has plagued Colombia since the 1950s – land distribution – increased.

    Colombia has extremely regressive land distribution, with land property concentrated in very few hands. With the withdrawal of the guerrillas and the arrival of multinational corporations, land grabbing has increased. Lands are privately appropriated, deforested and used for raising livestock, while the local population continues to be displaced.

    At the same time, there are still active armed groups operating outside the law, particularly far-right paramilitary groups, alongside the smaller guerrilla force of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and some FARC dissidents who refused to engage with the peace process. These armed groups are fighting over the territory with the aim of taking control of coca crops and expanding them, causing greater deforestation.

    Therefore, both the continuation of the conflict in some territories and its termination in others are having a direct influence on deforestation. The peace process contains a series of mechanisms to counteract deforestation, but its effects will depend on whether it is effectively implemented. In that sense, the protection of the environment is inseparable from the success of the peace process.

    What mechanisms in the peace agreements would help stop deforestation?

    The peace agreements include two specific mechanisms to stop deforestation. The first one is comprehensive rural reform, aimed at distributing land in the Colombian countryside and enforcing respect for the uses assigned to the land – for example, by ensuring that if land is for agricultural use, it is not used for raising livestock. The second mechanism is the Programme of Substitution of Crops for Illicit Use, aimed at tackling the drug problem. It is important to understand that many poor peasant families have had to grow coca in order to survive; through this programme, the state is offering them economic incentives to transition towards other sustainable crops.

    How does youth activism contribute to the effective implementation of the peace agreements?

    The struggle for peace is taking place on all fronts. We do three things: we mobilise on the streets in defence of the peace process; we do educational work so that people understand why the peace process is so important; and we do advocacy in various spaces.

    The context in which we do this work is quite difficult. As soon as he took office, President Iván Duque objected to the peace process and tried to modify all aspects that he did not agree with or that he claimed were not fair. If he succeeds, this would ultimately mean a deactivation of the process that resulted from the agreements and the need to start over from scratch. This was no surprise: his entire campaign revolved around the peace process and was based on the dissemination of lies about it. He won the elections by manipulating people’s fears; he told people that the agreements would enshrine impunity. He tried to scare us by telling us that if the left won, we would become a second Venezuela. He also lied regarding his plans for extractive industries: he stated that oil exploration and exploitation through fracking would not be authorised, but in late December 2019 he drafted a decree that would allow fracking.

    As an activist for peace and the environment in Colombia, have you had any participation in the global movement for climate justice?

    Yes, along with a small group, I joined the Fridays for Future initiative. But our participation was limited to a series of actions and strikes aimed at launching the climate movement in our country.

    It has been quite difficult for us to elicit mobilisation around the global climate crisis. First of all, there is much ignorance. In Colombia, most people have no idea what it is being done to them; the current president took advantage of this to spread lies, run a disinformation campaign and win the elections. In a country where public education is of very low quality and only rich people are able to further their studies, it is very easy to lie to people and make them believe you. So, the first problem is ignorance. Add to that fear: in Colombia people are afraid to speak, organise and protest. Colombians live in a state of incredible anxiety due to the systematic murders of social and environmental leaders. Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders in general and for environmental leaders in particular.

    All of this has limited climate mobilisation. Some isolated actions have been held, but there has not been a big national, high-impact demonstration. That is why we were surprised to find out that a massive school mobilisation took place in the south of the country, in the department of Huila, where we least expected it to happen due to the complex security dynamics in those territories. We managed to get in touch with the young people who mobilised in Huila and together we took part in a national meeting held in the department of Caquetá, also known as the golden door to the Colombian Amazon. At that meeting we managed to coordinate our work with the communities that live in Amazonian territory and so far we are in the process of raising the cause of the Amazon and initiating a resistance to defend our forest.

    We are currently starting to bring all the environmental groups together into a single climate front. We hope this will inspire those who are afraid to join as well.

    Have you had any participation in international climate forums?

    We have been to a Latin American meeting of Fridays for Future that was held in Chile with the support of 350.org. It was a meeting of climate advocates to build a Latin American network and take the movement to the regional level. It helped us a lot to meet other young people from other parts of the region who were also mobilising, to discover that we could get together and feel that we had international support to do our job. It gave us some hope.

    Right after that meeting, we began to try to form a national environmental network, travelling to as many territories as possible and enlisting young people from other Colombian regions. There is still a lot to be done, but we are growing exponentially because when a new group joins in, they reach out to three or four other groups. Throughout 2019 we focused on this process, touring territories, communicating our message to people and creating links. We believe that the next time we may be able to mobilise at the national level. We will do so on 24 April 2020, on the occasion of the next global strike.

    What kind of support would you need to be able to hold in 2020 the mobilisation that was not possible in 2019?

    Right now our window of opportunity is the national strike, the series of protests that have taken place in several Colombian cities since November 2019. In a country where people are afraid to speak, on 21 November last year millions of people took to the streets. It was one of the largest mobilisations Colombia has witnessed over the past 40 years. This is a unique opportunity. Within the framework of these protests, the environmental movement has also put forward its proposals and demands. We may not be able to mobilise people specifically around climate, but we can take advantage of these mass mobilisations and put our issues out there. If there are people willing to mobilise, we can approach them, tell them what is happening to the environment and communicate our demands so that they understand that our issues also concern them and they start mobilising for them as well. By doing this, we succeeded in getting the national strike committee to include the declaration of a climate emergency in Colombia among its demands. This has been a very big breakthrough.

    Civic space in Colombia is rated as ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Fridays for Future through itswebsite, and with the Colombian campaign byemail or through itsFacebook page, and follow @FutureColombia on Twitter.

     

  • Colombia: Debe detener los brutales ataques y asesinatos de manifestantes

    Las autoridades colombianas deben dejar de reprimir brutalmente a las personas que protestan e investigar los asesinatos, ataques y uso excesivo de la fuerza por parte de policías y militares contra los manifestantes, dijo la alianza global de la sociedad civilCIVICUS. 

    Desde el 28 de abril, los colombianos han salido a las calles para exigir justicia social y oponerse a una reforma tributaria. Las protestas tienen lugar en un contexto de creciente desigualdad y violencia, provocadas por el fracaso en la implementación de los acuerdos de paz de 2016 y exacerbadas por la pandemia. Los manifestantes han sido fuertemente reprimidos  por la policía en varias ciudades    del país. Los militares han sido desplegados para vigilar las protestas, lo cual solo está permitido en casos excepcionales y de forma temporal de acuerdo con el derecho internacional.

    El domingo 2 de mayo, el presidente de la República Iván Duque Márquez retiró el polémico proyecto de ley de reforma tributaria, pero las protestas han continuado. La semana pasada el DANE  (el organismo de estadísticas de Colombia) anunció que la pobreza aumentó en 2020, afectando a casi la mitad de la población.  La creciente desigualdad ha intensificado los disturbios y la violencia en el país. 

    Las organizaciones de la sociedad civil en Colombia han condenado graves violaciones a los derechos humanos, incluido el uso desproporcionado de la fuerza por parte de la policía, la represión violenta de las protestas, el asesinato y desaparición de manifestantes, los abusos sexuales, la detención arbitraria y el uso de armas de fuego.

    El uso de la violencia contra los manifestantes se produce en un contexto de fuerte estigmatización contra los manifestantes. La sociedad civil en Colombia ha  condenado los  pronunciamientos del gobierno nacional y local contra la movilización,  que comparó a los manifestantes con "vándalos" y  sugirió que están vinculados a grupos armados ilegales.

    La Oficina del Alto Comisionado para los Derechos Humanos (ACNUDH) dijo  que mientras estaban en una misión de verificación la noche del 3 de mayo, la policía abrió fuego contra los manifestantes, al parecer matando e hiriendo a varias personas en la ciudad de Cali. Grupos de derechos humanos que acompañaban al ACNUDH fueron atacados, amenazados y recibieron disparos por parte de la policía. Así lo  confirmó  la representante del ACNUDH en Colombia, Juliette de Rivero, quien agregó que ninguno de los miembros de la misión resultó herido.

    En una semana de protestas, las organizaciones que hacen monitoreo han documentado cientos de violaciones de los derechos humanos. Hasta el 3 de mayo, el Defensor del Pueblo de Colombia había  registrado al menos 19 muertos desde el inicio de las protestas, y la sociedad civil informó de más casos que aún no han sido confirmados. El  grupo de derechos humanos Defender la Libertad dice que  unas  300 personas resultaron heridas y casi un millar de manifestantes fueron detenidos.  El grupo de la sociedad civil  Temblores  también documentó nueve casos de violencia sexual por parte de la fuerza pública y 56 denuncias de desapariciones durante las protestas. La Fundación  por la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP) también  documentó  70 ataques contra los medios de comunicación.

    "Lo que estamos viendo ahora es una escalada de violencia del gobierno Duque contra la movilización social, que cada vez es más letal. La introducción de acciones de "ayuda militar" ha legalizado el uso de la fuerza militar para reprimir el legítimo derecho a protestar y manifestarse pacíficamente", dijo Gina Romero, de la Red para la Democracia-Redlad de América Latina y el Caribe.

    "CIVICUS recuerda al gobierno de Colombia que la libertad de reunión pacífica es un derecho humano fundamental articulado en el Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos (ICCPR) de las Naciones Unidas. El derecho a reunirse para expresar puntos de vista colectivos es una piedra angular de una sociedad libre y abierta",  dijo Natalia Gómez Peña, Oficial de Promoción y Campañas de CIVICUS para América Latina.

    "Incluso si una asamblea incluye participantes violentos, los estándares internacionales de derechos humanos no permite a las autoridades usar fuerza excesiva contra los manifestantes. Al usar la fuerza, los organismos encargados de hacer cumplir la ley y sus oficiales no deben usar armas de fuego para dispersar a las multitudes y no pueden usar indiscriminadamente armas no letales como gases lacrimógenos", continuó Gómez Peña.  

    CIVICUS hace un llamado al gobierno colombiano para que garantice el derecho a la manifestación pacífica, la libertad de expresión, la seguridad, la vida y la integridad de todas las personas que participan en la huelga nacional.

    Colombia es calificada como REPRIMIDA  por el CIVICUS Monitor, una plataforma en línea que mide el estado de las libertades cívicas, incluyendo las libertades de expresión, reunión y asociación, en todos los países.


    Entrevistas

    Las entrevistas están disponibles con:

    • Natalia Gómez Peña, Oficial de Promoción y Campañas de CIVICUS para AméricaLatina;
    • Gina Romero, de la Red para la Democracia de América Latina y el Caribe-Redlad.

    Póngase en contacto con:   o 


    ACERCA DE CIVICUS

    CIVICUS es una alianza global de organizaciones y activistas de la sociedad civil, dedicada a fortalecer la acción ciudadana y la sociedad civil en todo el mundo. CIVICUS cuenta con más de 10.000 miembros en todo el mundo.

     

  • Colombia: Rise for Climate marchers unlawfully obstructed

    Peaceful activists and campesinos of the “Movimiento Rios Vivos” were unlawfully obstructed by police in Ituango, Colombia on 8 September 2018 as they participated in the global “Rise for Climate” mobilisation. The action in Ituango was part of a global mobilisation organised by the environmental rights group 350.org, which  brought together tens of thousands of people who took part in 900 actions in 95 countries around the world.  The blocking of the protesters is an example of the ongoing pattern of violations against environmental defenders.

     

  • Colombia: Stop brutal attacks and killings of protesters

    Colombian authorities must stop brutally repressing protesters and investigate the killings, attacks, and excessive use of force by police officers and military personnel against demonstrators, said global civil society alliance CIVICUS. 

    Since April 28, people in Colombia have taken to the streets to demand social justice and oppose a tax reform. Protests take place against a backdrop of growing inequality and violence, sparked by failure to implement the 2016 peace agreements and exacerbated by the pandemic. Protesters have been heavily repressed by police in various cities across the country. The military has been deployed to police the protests, which is only allowed in exceptional cases and on a temporary basis according to international law.  

    On Sunday May 2, President of the Republic Iván Duque Márquez withdrew the controversial tax reform bill but protests have continued. Last week DANE (Colombia’s statistics body) announced that poverty increased in 2020, affecting nearly half of the population.  Growing inequality has intensified unrest and violence in the country. 

    Serious human rights violations, including disproportionate use of force by the police, violent suppression of protests, the killing and disappearance of protesters, sexual abuse, arbitrary detention and use of firearms have been condemned by civil society organisations in Colombia. 

    The use of violence against protesters occurs in a context of heavy stigmatisation against the demonstrators. Civil society in Colombia has condemned national and local government pronouncements against the mobilisation, which compared demonstrators to “vandals” and suggested they are linked to illegal armed groups. 

    The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that while they were on a verification mission on the night of May 3, police opened fire on demonstrators, reportedly killing and injuring a number of people in the city of Cali. Human rights groups accompanying OHCHR were attacked, threatened and shot by police. This was confirmed by the representative of OHCHR in Colombia, Juliette de Rivero, who added that none of the members of the mission were injured.

    In one week of protests, monitoring organisations have documented hundreds of human rights violations. As of May 3, Colombia’s Ombudsperson had registered at least 19 people killed since the beginning of the protests – with more cases reported by civil society that are yet to be confirmed. Human rights group Defender la Libertad says around 300 people were wounded and almost a thousand protesters detained. Civil society group Temblores also documented nine cases of sexual violence by the public forces and 56 reports of disappearances during the protests. The Foundation for the Freedom of the Press (FLIP) also documented 70 attacks against the media. 

    “What we are seeing now is an escalation of violence from the Duque government against social mobilisation, which is becoming more and more lethal. The introduction of ‘military aid’ action has legalised the use of military force to suppress the legitimate right to protest and peacefully demonstrate,” said Gina Romero, from the Latin America and Caribbean Network for Democracy-Redlad. 

    “CIVICUS reminds the government of Colombia that freedom of peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right articulated in the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The right to gather to express collective views is a cornerstone of a free and open society,” said Natalia Gomez Peña, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer for Latin America.

    “Even if an assembly includes violent participants, human rights law does not permit the authorities to use excessive force against protesters. When using force, enforcement agencies and officers must not use firearms to disperse crowds and cannot indiscriminately use non-lethal weapons such as tear gas,” Gomez Peña continued.

    CIVICUS calls on the Colombian government to guarantee the right to peaceful demonstration, freedom of expression, security, life and integrity of all people participating in the national strike. 

    Colombia is rated REPRESSED by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform measuring the state of civic freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, in all countries.


    INTERVIEWS

    Interviews are available with:

    • Natalia Gomez Peña, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer for Latin America;
    • Gina Romero, from the Latin America and Caribbean Network for Democracy-Redlad. 

    Please contact: or  


    ABOUT CIVICUS

    CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists, dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. CIVICUS has over 10,000 members worldwide.

     

     

  • Colombian activists: ‘We are paying with our lives to defend water’

    Spanish

    CIVICUS speaks to Carlos Andrés Santiago, spokesperson of CORDATEC, an organisation that defends water, the territory and the ecosystems of San Martín, in the Colombian region of Cesar. CORDATEC mobilises against oil extraction through fracking in the area.

    1. Now that the peace accords with the FARC have finally been ratified, one would think that violence in Colombia is over. However, aggressions against social activists have not diminished. You and your colleagues at CORDATEC have reported numerous intimidations and threats. What are the causes of the on-going violence against human rights defenders?
    The conflict between the FARC and the military has effectively de-escalated over the past several months, even before the peace treaty was signed, thanks to the bilateral ceasefire that was declared in August 2016. This is reflected in the information that President Santos provided a few days ago: at that time, a single wounded soldier was being treated at the Military Hospital, in contrast to very high figures just a year earlier.
    In regions such as Cauca changes became apparent as a result of the ceasefire, the signing and ratification of the peace agreements, and more recently the establishment of “normalisation border zones” (zonas veredales de tránsito y normalización). These are areas in which the guerrillas will carry out the process of laying down their weapons, demobilising and reintegrating into civilian life. This, however, has also meant that in these regions a vacant space has remained that is now being occupied by new armed groups or criminal gangs.

    In addition, we are witnessing a transition from a great conflict between two armed actors to a set of diverse conflicts around social issues, many of them linked to environmental causes. For instance, land use conflicts involving victims who demand the restitution of their land and struggles in defence of water and, particularly in communities like ours, mobilised against extractive projects.

    The extinction of the conflict with the FARC, which yielded countless victims, therefore correlates with an increase in the number of murders of social and environmental activists and also the visibility of human rights defenders active in territories and communities.

    2. What is CORDATEC’s role and aims in this context?
    It is important to note that, as part of its post-conflict strategy, in December 2015 the Colombian government signed a contract with two multinational companies (ConocoPhillips and Canacol Energy) to explore and exploit hydrocarbons from unconventional deposits through fracking in three municipalities. One of them is ours: San Martín, in the department of Cesar.

    So our community got organised and in early 2016 we formed the Corporation for the Defence of Water, Territory and Ecosystems, CORDATEC. We began to mobilise: we staged demonstrations, pot-banging protests, a civic strike and several marches. About 9,000 people took part in the most recent one, on 25 September 2016 – in a municipality that has 21 000 inhabitants. We also went to the media, resorted to strategic litigation and looked for allies in Congress. We even went along with CIVICUS to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

    We seek to defend the most fundamental good which is water. By resorting to peaceful resistance, we are trying to prevent oil exploitation through fracking because we acknowledge the environmental and social impacts that it causes, and we are not willing to pay the costs. Among other impacts, fracking uses large amounts of water, contaminates underground and surface water sources, increases induced seismicity, causes serious damages to public health, changes the uses of agricultural land, and releases large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse effect gas.

    3. What sort of restrictions on the exercise of the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly have you faced as environmental and anti-fracking activists?
    We face many. In retaliation for resisting fracking, the community of San Martín, and particularly CORDATEC members, have been subjected to harassment. It is clear that the municipal mayor, Saul Educardo Celis, has a strategy of intimidating all the people that are close to CORDATEC. For instance, CORDATEC members’ relatives have lost their jobs in the local administration. I have personally received death threats, and the comrades from the Workers Trade Union (Unión Sindical Obrera), who accompany us in our struggle, were threatened through a pamphlet just a few days ago.

    The company ConocoPhillips has also attempted to file civil lawsuits, and through several letters to the municipal government they have requested that the conflict be judicialised, that is, that measures be taken to arrest and imprison the leaders of the mobilisation and protest actions, and that guarantees be provided so the company could start work in the Pico Plata 1 well, which they had so far been unable to do.
    In the demands that they directed towards the government, the company appealed to the Criminal Code, according to which the obstruction of roads is a crime punishable with imprisonment. In response to these demands, the municipal government – in complicity with the Attorney General at the time and the national government – authorised the use of the ESMAD (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios, or Anti-Riot Squad), the unit of the National Police that is employed to control demonstrations and carry out evictions. Our fundamental right to the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, enshrined in Article 37 of our Constitution, was therefore ignored.

    Since then, the ESMAD has repressed the community of San Martín and our comrades from the department’s subdivision of Cuatro Bocas on three separate occasions, and several people have been injured. The ESMAD’s operations have resulted in numerous human rights violations, on top of the threats, intimidation, harassment and illegal surveillance that CORDATEC leaders have been subjected to. These events have been reported to the Office of the Attorney General, the Ombudsman Office, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia, of the Organization of American States, among other instances. Nevertheless, the government has taken no measures to safeguard the lives and physical integrity of the environmental defenders under threat.

    Ever since its first operation, on 19 October, the ESMAD has remained in San Martín. The camp and the entrances to the well are guarded by militarised police at all times. In other words, a significant number of military personnel have been assigned to guarding the interests of a multinational company instead of protecting the communities. In the context of a social state based on the rule of law, the communities should take priority – not a transnational corporation that has come to plunder those communities’ natural resources.

    The same is happening in other regions of Colombia, which is not surprising given that there are currently 43 blocks assigned to fracking that would eventually affect more than 300 municipalities across the country. In seven of those blocks there are already signed contracts, most of them adjudicated to foreign companies. To make it worse, despite the pronouncements by the Comptroller General, two additional contracts are currently being processed.

    Why is this happening? It’s fairly simple. The extractive industries create very strong economic interests that frequently involve politicians and government officials who receive bribes in exchange for facilitating contracts, granting environmental licences, providing congressional support or favouring the companies when under investigation. Corruption has pervaded this type of megaprojects: the Odebrecht case is a clear example of this. These are struggles led by small communities that are trying to defend themselves, like the Biblical David from a giant and corrupt Goliath that crushes whoever gets in their way. From their perspective, the end justifies whatever means.

    A few months ago the Minister of the Environment acknowledged that 75% of current conflicts in Colombia are environmental conflicts. And the pattern of threats, intimidation and ESMAD use is replicated throughout the country. It is part of a familiar script that often ends with activists being murdered. We are used to life not being worthy enough; therefore, we see it as relatively normal when physical elimination is resorted to so as to remove from an obstacle from the way. In Colombia, defending water is costing us our lives.

    4. Are there any civil society initiatives to overcome these limitations of civic space?
    Due to the long-standing conflict that we have experienced, many organisations in Colombia have long specialised in human rights issues. Numerous Colombian civil society organisations as well as the international community follow and give accompaniment in this sort of situations and provide support to communities regarding self-protection, visibility and denunciation.

    As the situation in San Martín unfolded, we have found allies willing to accompany the process. Along with trade unions and social and environmental organisations, we are in the process of forming the Alliance Colombia Free of Fracking as an arena in which to weave resistances, and we are moving forward from there.

    But this does not happen in all regions of the country: many struggles are being quietly fought in very small and distant territories that are not easily reached and where access to media and technology is extremely limited. In those places, the law of fear continues to prevail, and whoever gets in the way is easily taken out of the equation.

    5. What concrete actions should the Colombian government adopt in the short term to safeguard civic space and protect the rights of its citizens?
    First of all, the government must stop stigmatising and criminalising environmental activists and human rights defenders, and particularly those who oppose extractive industries. The Mayor’s accusation that we are terrorists, for instance, lapidates us and undermines the legitimacy of human rights defenders’ struggles.

    Secondly, the government must provide guarantees for the exercise of the constitutional rights to mobilise and protest, which is not presently the case. Third, it should stop relying on mining and fossil fuels, and instead reorient its development model towards alternative and sustainable energy sources that do not pollute the environment.

    Fourth, it must channel the required resources towards the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP), which provides protection schemes to persons under threat. The capacity of the UNP is currently insufficient, and only one out of every six submitted applications receives a positive answer entailing the provision of some type of protective measure. This means that five out of six persons seeking protection are left unprotected. Many social leaders who submit applications are told that their risk level does not warrant the granting of security measures.
    Recognising threat levels, however, does not automatically result in the adoption of timely and effective measures. For instance, on 29 November 2016 the Ombudsman’s Office – a human rights guarantor with no enforcement capacity – issued a report identifying several political groups and social organisations in various communities of Cesar, including CORDATEC, as facing imminent risk due to their work. On 1 December an early warning was issued for the authorities to guarantee these persons’ life and integrity. Protection however never came and one of those people – a member of the Community Board of Hatillo – was murdered a month later.

    This situation is a reflection of a very unequal country, where congressional representatives, former presidents and various politicians enjoy very generous protection schemes, with many people assigned to their protection detail, while community leaders and human rights defenders are left exposed.

    6. How connected is local civil society in Cesar with its counterparts in other parts of the world and how can external actors support activists and civil society organisations in Colombia?

    Given the high profile of both the armed conflict and the peace negotiations in Colombia, the organisations that form the United Nations and the Inter-American system, as well as international cooperation agencies and various CSOs around the world have spoken out about what is happening.

    Global Witness in its reports On Dangerous Ground and How Many More?, Front Line Defenders in its Annual Report on Human Rights Defenders at Risk 2016, and also CIVICUS in the report Against All Odds about the dangers of environmental activism, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with their strong statements to condemn the assassinations of land rights defenders, and Amnesty International in their 2016/2017 Report – they all converge in alerting the world about the serious risks faced by social and environmental leaders in Colombia. This has originated a very strong movement to repudiate the wave of assassinations, forcing the Colombian state to acknowledge the problem.

    Concrete measures, however, are still very inadequate. That is why it is urgent for the international community to adopt a firmer position vis-à-vis the Colombian government. We need international actors to put more pressure on the Colombian state so it behaves more consistently.
    Indeed, there are currently major contradictions and inconsistencies between what the national government says out there and what they do domestically. The Colombian state promotes and ratifies international commitments in defence of the environment and against climate change; it proclaims the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreements while within its own territory it implements fracking and mining projects that contradict those agreements for the protection of the environment and its inhabitants. Not only does it fail to fulfil its environmental commitments, but it also receives the Nobel Peace Prize while its mining-energy locomotive opens the way for the murder of social leaders. Somebody needs to call them to account.

    Civic space in Colombia is rated as ‘repressed’ in the CIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with CORDATEC through their Facebook page or website, or follow @CarlosSantiagoL on Twitter.

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for the UN´s Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 9 countries in advance of the 30th UPR session (May 2018). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations. Countries examined include: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Djibouti, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan:

    Bangladesh (Individual/Joint): In this UPR, CIVICUS draws attention to a range of legislative restrictions which have been strengthened and imposed to curtail the operation of independent civic groups in Bangladesh. Of particular concern, are new restrictions on groups seeking funds from abroad, as well the repeated use of the penal code to arrest HRDs and place blanket bans on meetings and assemblies. We further examine the spate of extrajudicial killings against secular bloggers and LGBTI activists which is illustrative of Bangladesh’s downward spiral with respect to civic freedoms and systemic failure to protect civil society.

    Burkina Faso (EN/FR): CIVICUS, the Burkinabé Coalition of Human Rights Defenders and the West African Human Right Defenders Network examine unwarranted limitations on freedom of expression and assembly. Despite several positive developments since the popular uprising of 2014, such as the decriminalisation of defamation and the adoption of a law on the protection of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression including suspensions of media outlets by the national media regulator and attacks and threats against journalists continue.

    Cameroon: CIVICUS, Réseau des Défenseurs Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) highlight Cameroon’s fulfilment of the right to association, assembly and expression and unwarranted persecution of human rights defenders since its previous UPR examination.  We assess the ongoing judicial persecution and detention of human rights defenders on trumped up charges, the use of anti-terrorism legislation to target journalists and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.  

    Colombia(EN/SP): CIVICUS highlights the hostile environment for human rights defenders, social leaders and unions workers who are routinely subject to physical attacks, targeted assassinations, harassment and intimidation by state and non-state actors. CIVICUS examines the increased number of attacks against journalists as well as the government’s lack of effective implementation of protection mechanisms to safeguard the work of journalists and human rights defenders.

    Cuba (EN/SP): CIVICUS and the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) highlight the constitutional, legal and de facto obstacles to the exercise of the basic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. The submission discusses the situation of CSOs, HRDs, journalists and bloggers, who face harassment, criminalisation, arbitrary arrests, searches of their homes and offices and reprisals for interacting with UN and OAS human rights institutions. The submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled both in the streets and in the media, offline and online. 

    Djibouti (EN/FR): CIVICUS, Defend Defenders and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) submission describes how the government of Djibouti has patently ignored the 14 recommendations made during the second UPR cycle related to the protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Instead, in the intervening period, authorities in Djibouti have continued their campaign against dissent, regularly detaining human rights defenders, journalists and trade union activists because of their criticism of the government or human rights activists.  

    Russia: CIVICUS and Citizens’ Watch address concerns regarding the adoption and application of several draconian laws that have resulted in the expulsion and closure of numerous CSOs and restrictions on the activities of countless others. The submission also lays out the increasing criminalisation and persecution of dissenting views by means of growing restrictions, in both law and practice, on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. 

    Turkmenistan: CIVICUS highlights restrictions to freedom of association in Turkmenistan including recent amendments to the 2014 Law on Public Associations which further limit CSOs’ ability to register, operate independently and receive funding from international sources. Additionally, we assess the use of the arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders as well as unwarranted limitations to online and offline freedom of expression.

    Uzbekistan: CIVICUS, The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia and the International Partnership for Human Rights assess the conditions of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Uzbekistan. We highlight the lack of progress made in implementing recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle. It particular, we note that although there have been some notable improvements to the environment for civic space, the situation for human rights activists and journalists remains deeply constrained.

     

  • Five countries added to the civic space watchlist

    • Egypt, China (Hong Kong), Colombia, Guinea and Kazakhstan join global watchlist
    • Escalating rights violations include arrests, abductions and assassinations of activists, as well as the persecution of journalists and media blackouts
    • International community must pressure governments to end repression and bring perpetrators to account

    Five countries from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America have been added to a watchlist of countries which have seen a rapid decline in fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months. The new watchlist released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks the latest developments to civic freedoms across the globe, identifies growing concerns in Egypt, China (Hong Kong), Colombia, Guinea and Kazakhstan.

    Activists, civil society groups and peaceful protesters in these countries are experiencing an alarming number of attacks to their civic freedoms as protected by international law. In particular, the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Violations include the murder of human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia; excessive force and mass arrests against protesters in Hong Kong, Egypt and Kazakhstan; and the arbitrary arrest of activists in Guinea who are trying to uphold the constitution and presidential term limits as the country prepares for 2020 elections. 

    “It is deeply alarming to see ongoing and serious  attacks to basic rights in these countries,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, CIVICUS Civic Space Research Lead. “The scale of these violations is often under reported as journalists in these countries are facing their own host of restrictions” Belalba said. “We call upon neighbouring states and international bodies to put pressure on these countries to end the repression.”

    In September 2019, demonstrations against alleged government corruption in Egypt were met with excessive force. The use of tear gas was widespread and videos have surfaced of police beating protesters before being taken into custody. In a bid to silence government critics, security forces have carried out sweeping arrests of protesters, detained journalists, blocked news websites and disrupted online messaging services. Civic space in Egypt is rated as Closed.

    Human rights groups in Hong Kong have documented excessive and unlawful force by security forces against protesters including the use of truncheons, pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets. Protesters have also been attacked by pro Beijing mobs. More than 1,300 people have been arrested in the context of the mass protests as of mid-September 2019 and some have been ill-treated in detention. Civic space in China (Hong Kong) is rated as Closed.

    In Colombia, dozens of community leaders have been killed this year, and violence has escalated ahead of October's Municipal Elections. Thousands have marched across the country calling for an end to the violence and impunity for these crimes. Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders and environmental activists. Civic space in Colombia is rated as Repressed.

    In Guinea, plans to change the constitution, which could see the presidential term limit abolished, has sparked opposition and protests. Activists opposing constitutional changes have been arbitrarily arrested, and security forces have used live ammunition and tear gas during protests, killing several people and injuring dozens more. Civic space in Guinea is rated as Obstructed.

    While in Kazakhstan, since June 2019 elections human rights abuses have hit a new high. The work of journalists and electoral observers has been obstructed, while thousands have been detained in post-election protests. Civic space in Kazakhstan is rated as Obstructed.

    In the coming weeks and months, the CIVICUS Monitor will closely track developments in each of these countries as part of efforts to ensure greater pressure is brought to bear on governments and the perpetrators of these attacks. The CIVICUS Monitor rates countries based on the state of their civic space as either open, narrow, obstructed, repressed or closed. These ratings are based on multiple streams of data that assess the state of freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

     

  • Groups call for respect for peaceful protest in Colombia

    December 9 marked the 18th day of peaceful nationwide protests by labor unions, students, peace activists, Afro-Colombians, indigenous, victims, women, farmers negatively impacted by free trade agreements, and many other Colombians. As the demonstrations were launched, U.S. organizations and activists pledged their support to the peaceful protests in a public statement. Days prior to the strike, the Duque administration implemented unnecessary security measures that sent the message that they wanted to squash the protests.

    On November 19, the police raided and searched some 37 homes of activists, artists, and alternative media services. 21 of the raids were declared illegal by Colombian courts. In an attempt to justify repression, the President and members of the Democratic Center Party publicly stigmatized the protestors, criminalizing the right to protest and incorrectly stating that there was a foreign influence driving the protests to destabilize the government. Given this initial response from the highest level of government, we felt compelled to speak out against possible attacks and abuses against protestors.

    Two weeks later, we sadly see that our concerns were justified. Even though the majority of the hundreds of thousands of Colombians protested peacefully, they were met with a brutal response from the Colombian National Police’s Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD, a 3,300-member riot police unit founded in 1999). On November 22, a curfew was issued in both Bogota and Cali due to false rumors spread on social media that thieves—some of them Venezuelans—were taking advantage of the police being busy to attack people’s homes. These rumors caused panic and led to the formation of “para-police” patrolling the streets and fomenting fear and chaos. The government fueled xenophobia against Venezuelans by deporting 60Venezuelans with no due process.

    The next day, Saturday 23, the ESMAD worked methodically and violently to break up any peaceful gathering of protesters, apparently under an order “to disperse any demonstration that might block traffic.” Members of the ESMAD shot 18-year-old Dilan Cruz in the back of the head with a “bean bag” weapon, a “non-lethal” projectile intended, according to UN standards, to “be used in direct fire with the aim of striking the lower abdomen or legs of a violent individual and only with a view to addressing an imminent threat of injury to either a law enforcement official or a member of the public.” Multiple protestors caught the incident on video. Dilan died from his injuries on November 25. The coroner determined that his death was a homicide.

    According to the coalition Defendemos la Libertad, made up of 60 organizations working together to conduct observation of social protests, over 400 cases of abuse at the hands of the ESMAD and other police were reported just between November 21 and 27. This includes 16 eye injuries caused by tear gas canisters and other projectiles, which are forbidden by Colombian police procedures and international law to be shot at protesters' faces.

    This is not the first time that actions taken by the ESMAD have resulted in death and injuries. Since its creation in 1999, the unit has killed at least 34 people. Their disproportionate use of force and brutal attacks against unarmed civilians in rural protests—especially those led by indigenous communities—have been denounced to authorities on numerous occasions.

    To our knowledge, U.S. public funds do not fund the ESMAD directly. However, many of the ESMAD’s weapons, including tear gas and “bean bags,” are purchased with the Colombian government’s own funds through U.S. arms sales programs. Much of its materiel, for instance, comes from one Pennsylvania-based company, Combined Systems, Inc., which sells tear gas canisters and stun grenades to Colombia. We call on the State Department and the U.S. Congress to place a moratorium on sales of crowd control weapons to Colombia until the ESMAD has either been replaced by a new force or undergone a full overhaul toward building a dramatically different, more rights-respecting culture and doctrine based on de-escalation, respect for peaceful protest, and minimal use of force. The U.S. Embassy and State Department should support civil society’s rightful demands for peace, labor rights, safety for human rights defenders, and environmental protection. The Secretary of State’s reiteration of rumors that widespread social protests across the Americas are driven by Venezuelan and Cuban intervention rather than the real national concerns that lead people to protest in each country, including Colombia, is harmful.

    Lastly, we call on the Duque administration to resolve these protests peacefully through a negotiation involving the broad leadership of the various sectors involved in the protests that leads to a deeper resolution of the issues driving this widespread social discontent. A thorough investigation of the killing of Dilan Cruz and other abuses taking place during the protests should be carried out in civilian courts. The Inspector General’s office (Procuraduria General de la Nación) and the Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría del Pueblo) should be encouraged and permitted to play their crucial roles in issuing disciplinary measures for public officials and verifying and documenting citizen complaints. Finally, the Duque administration should ensure that the existing protocol for addressing social protest (Resolution 1190 of 2018 of the Ministry of the Interior) is employed at all times instead of completely ignoring it.

    Sincerely,

    • Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
    • Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective
    • United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
    • UNIAFRO
    • The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights
    • OXFAM America
    • Movement for Peace in Colombia, New York
    • MADRE
    • Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
    • Latin American Studies Association (LASA) – Colombia Section
    • Interdisciplinary Colombian Studies at University of New Mexico
    • Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ
    • Colombia Human Rights Committee, Washington, DC
    • Colombia Grassroots Support, New Jersey.
    • Codhes
    • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    • Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
    • Center for Justice & International Law (CEJIL)
    • Amazon Watch
    • AFRODES USA
    • ACSN
    • Victoria Sanford, PhD - Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies, Lehman College-NY
    • Sinclair Thomson - New York University-NY
    • Sandra Granobles - DC Government Educator
    • Ofunshi Oba Koso, Minnesota Yoruba Cuba Association- MN
    • Nicolás Sánchez - Department of Latin American Studies, Duke University
    • Nancy Appelbaum - Director, Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies Program, Binghamton University-NY
    • Michael Birenbaum Quintero - Chair, Musicology and Ethnomusicology Department, Boston University
    • Mary Roldán - Epstein Professor of Latin American History Hunter College, CUNY-NY
    • Margaret Powrer – Profesor of History, Illinois Institute of Technology
    • Luz M Betancourt, PhD., CUNY, Graduate Center-NY
    • Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera - Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Colombia
    • Lina Britto - Assistant Professor, Northwestern University- IL
    • Kiran Asher - Professor, University of Massachusetts-MA
    • Jonathan Fox – Professor, School of International Service, American University-DC
    • John C. Dugas - Kalamazoo College-MI
    • Joel Wolfe - Professor of History, University of Massachusetts
    • Jessica Srikantia, Associate Professor at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government-VA
    • James E. Sanders - Utah State University-UT
    • Gloria Monroy-DC
    • Gina McDaniel Tarver - Associate Professor of Art History, Texas State University-TX
    • Gabriel Rudas-Burgos - Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, Stony Brook University
    • Felipe Gómez G - Professor, Carnegie Mellon University-PA
    • Fabian Prieto-Ñañez - Postdoctoral Researcher, Virginia Tech-VA
    • Erin K. McFee, PhD - The University of Chicago-IL
    • Danesis Arce - Afromedios
    • Constanza López - Associate Professor, University of North Florida-FL
    • Barbara Gerlach - Minister, United Church of Christ
    • Alexander Fattal - Assistant Professor, University of California, San Diego-CA

     

  • Incertidumbre en Colombia: La paz en tiempos de elecciones

    Por Inés Pousadela 

    Lo que en cualquier democracia “normal” sería considerado un dato rutinario devino recientemente en Colombia un hecho de significación histórica: las elecciones legislativas de marzo de este año, en las cuales las ex guerrillas FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) debutaron como partido político, se desarrollaron sin incidentes graves. 

    Leer en: Open Democracy 

     

     

  • Incertidumbre en Colombia: La paz en tiempos de elecciones

    Por Inés Pousadela 

    Lo que en cualquier democracia “normal” sería considerado un dato rutinario devino recientemente en Colombia un hecho de significación histórica: las elecciones legislativas de marzo de este año, en las cuales las ex guerrillas FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) debutaron como partido político, se desarrollaron sin incidentes graves. 

    Leer en: Open Democracy 

     

     

  • Joint letter on Colombia: COVID-19 cannot be a smokescreen to target social leaders

    Joint Letter: Colombia must implement the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recommendations regarding social leaders, even during the pandemic

    In its recent report, IACHR crucially underscores the importance of recognizing the right to defend rights and the fundamental role of social leaders in Colombia, especially in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The report Human Rights Defenders and Social Leaders in Colombia, recently presented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) after their visit to the country in November 2018 repeatedly highlights that the work of human rights defenders and social leaders is essential for the full assurance of the Rule of Law and constitutes an indispensable pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of democracy. When the defense of human rights is impeded, it is not only a particular individual or community that is affected; attacks against social leaders affect the cohesion and continuity of social organization on a larger scale.

    Social leaders play a fundamental role in maintaining the social fabric in their communities, often under precarious security conditions. In the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recommendations in the report are even more important to safeguard their work. As Erlendy Cuero, social leader and Vice President of the National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), stated in a recent series by Dejusticia on pandemic and inequality, #DelMiedoALaAcción [From Fear to Action], during the pandemic, "homicides, threats and persecution have increased because we find ourselves in a situation where the support for some leaders with protection measures has been reduced and those who do not have security measures are left unprotected.” The latter is compounded by the fact that leaders, who have to stay at home because of the coronavirus, are at greater risk because they are more easily located.

    Leaders in areas far from urban centers are more vulnerable, meaning the Colombian government’s adoption of the IACHR’s recommendations in those areas is even more essential. 

    Key recommendations made by the Commission include that Colombia: 

    • “Redouble its efforts to implement the Peace Agreement so that the right conditions are in place all around the country for people to be able to defend human rights and defend communities”.
    • “Involve social organizations in any efforts to develop a comprehensive public policy on prevention and on protection of human rights defenders and social leaders, reactivating platforms for dialogue such as the National Roundtable on Guarantees and the National Commission on Security Guarantees, in which agreements have already been worked out”
    • “Properly implement any precautionary measures granted by the InterAmerican Commission and keep protection arrangements in place for beneficiaries as long as the measures are in force”
    • “Take all necessary measures to ensure that authorities or third parties do not manipulate the punitive power of the State and its institutions of justice to harass human rights defenders and harm their work. Ensure that the proper punishment is applied if this occurs”
    • “Adopt measures to investigate with due diligence and confront impunity regarding crimes committed against human rights defenders and social leaders in the country, establishing the perpetrators and masterminds of the crimes”
    • "Improve coordination between national and local so that protection measures can be adapted to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and social leaders and ensure that measures are effective in remote rural areas" 
    • "Agree on protection measures to address the level of risk, listening to and consulting with the human rights defenders in order to develop a timely, specialized intervention that is proportionate to the potential risk and has a differentiated approach.”
    • "Improve coordination with international human rights organizations" with which the Commission ends its report.

    The signatory organizations place special emphasis on the Inter-American Commission’s recognition of the right to defend rights and its call to comply with the provisions contained in the Final Peace Agreement, in line with the constitutional judges in the recent tutela [protection] action judgments confirming #TheRighttoDefendRights presented by various social leaders and organizations in the country, at the end of 2019.

    Sincerely,

    ARTICLE 19
    Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA)
    Asociación Minga
    Amnesty International
    Business & Human Rights Resource Centre 
    CIVICUS
    Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo - Cajar
    Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (CCJ)
    Dejusticia 
    Espacio Público
    Front Line Defenders (FLD)
    Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos (FCSPP)
    International Land Coalition - LAC (ILC LAC)
    International Service for Human RIghts (ISHR)
    International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)
    Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
    Not1More (N1M)
    Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
    Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Democracia (REDLAD)
    Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 
    Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social (UNITAS)
    Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

     

  • La Colombia rural, Iván Duque y los acuerdos de paz

    Por Natalia Gómez, Oficial de la Coalición Vuka! para la acción cívica, parte de la Alianza global para la Sociedad Civil-CIVICUS

    La autora expresa su temor por que el nuevo presidente altere lo negociado entre las FARC y el Gobierno y ponga en peligro a las comunidades más vulnerables del país.

    Lee el artículo: El País 

     

     

     

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