PBI-Colombia raises alarm about threats and the killing of human rights defenders during the coronavirus pandemic

Published by Brent Patterson on

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The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project is drawing attention to the situation of continued violence and threats against human rights defenders during the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting quarantine measures.

Marco Rivadeneira, Ángel Ovidio Quintero and Ivo Humberto Bracamonte killed

On March 24, PBI-Colombia shared an article from The Guardian titled Colombian death squads exploiting coronavirus lockdown to kill activists.

That article reported, “Marco Rivadeneira, a high-profile activist, was murdered in the southern Putumayo province, Ángel Ovidio Quintero was shot dead in the western Antioquia region, and Ivo Humberto Bracamonte was killed on the eastern border with Venezuela.”

Those deaths happened in cities where quarantines were already in place and the article noted, “Activists fear that a nationwide quarantine – to be imposed on Wednesday [March 25] – has put them in a deadly bind. Moving around puts them at risk of infection, but staying in one place makes them sitting targets.”

Carlota Isabel Salinas Pérez killed

On March 25, PBI-Colombia posted, “La Organización Femenina Popular (OFP) demands justice for the femicide last night of social leader Carlota Isabel Salinas Pérez, member of the organisation’s support team in the San Pabo municipality, Bolivar. We express our deep concern in light of this assassination and send our solidarity to her family.”

La Voz reports, “The social leader Carlota Isabel Salinas, defender of women’s rights in the context of the armed conflict in Colombia, was murdered in a town in the northern department of Bolívar. The crime occurred on Tuesday [March 24] in the municipality of San Pablo, when armed men broke into her home and forced her to leave and after making her walk several meters, shot her dead, said Gloria Amparo Suárez, a lawyer for the OFP.”

That article adds, “In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Salinas had dedicated herself to bringing food to the most vulnerable families in the urban area of ​​San Pablo.”

Indigenous community of Nuevo Cañaveral threatened

Then PBI-Colombia expressed concern about a report by the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP), which it has accompanied since 1994.

On March 25, the CIJP posted, “Today, the indigenous community of Nuevo Cañaveral refused to attend the summons of an AGC meeting in Pisingos. Because of this decision, the indigenous community fears armed retaliation by the AGC against the three leaders who threatened a few hours ago or other members of the Resguardo.”

Colombia Reports has explained, “The ‘Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia’ (AGC), a.k.a. ‘Gulf Clan’, is Colombia’s most powerful paramilitary group that allegedly controls most of the country’s drug trade.”

Assassination plan against Jani Silva

And on March 26, PBI-Colombia tweeted, “CIJP has been informed of an assassination plan against female social leader Jani Silva from Putumayo. We call for protection guarantees for social leaders in the light of the high risk situations and threats they are facing.”

Attack on Jhon Restrepo

Furthermore, Caribe Afirmativo has reported, “In the last hours of [March 25], while the Humanitarian House of Comuna 8 in Medellín was closing humanitarian aid activities, the activist and leader of the LGBTI movement, Jhon Restrepo, was attacked by three men with sharp weapons, allegedly members of an armed group outside the law, who stabbed him multiple times, trying to assassinate him and leaving him with serious injuries to his body.”

That article notes, “Restrepo, who is a gay man, had been working inside said Casa Diversa headquarters throughout the day preparing humanitarian aid for people in the community who would be affected socioeconomically by the current social isolation the country is experiencing due to of COVID-19.”

Peace Brigades International will continue to take all measures possible and raise concerns about attacks made against human rights defenders. As some social organizations have commented, there is no quarantine on the murder of social leaders.

Top photo: Jani Silva

Canadian PBI volunteer Javier Ignacio Hoyos, Jani Silva, Carlos Fernández (CIJP) and Sandra Lagos (La Perla Amazónica Campesino Reserva Zone – ZRCPA).

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