PBI-Colombia accompanied CREDHOS issues Urgent Action for the protection of Afro-fishers in Barrancabermeja

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Police assault human rights defenders from CREDHOS on July 23. ESMAD ammunition abandoned in the area where the protesters are.

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project accompanied CREDHOS has issued an Urgent Action calling for the life and integrity of the Afro-descendant and fishing community to be safeguarded as they exercise their right to social protest and right to territory.

On July 28, PBI-Colombia tweeted: “Important report by @Credhos_Paz about the community of Afro-fishers in #Barrancabermeja and the effects on the organization due to its accompaniment of the community.”

This Urgent Action released by CREDHOS highlights that:

1- On Saturday July 24 at 8:30 pm there was an attack with firearms against the Afro-descendant and fishing population of the El Llanito district of Barrancabermeja. This is a population exercising the right to social protest to avoid the eviction of approximately 350 families that have established a settlement on what they argue is part of their ancestral and collective territory. The attackers wounded 50-year-old Rosmira Olaya Cabarca in her right leg. She is an Afro-descendant woman and fisherwoman who is at the protest claiming her right to territory.

2- At the time of the attack, four people entered the sector on two motorcycles taking advantage of the nighttime and the inexplicable shutdown of public lighting.

3- On June 25, after the community had settled claiming the right to land, Afro leaders claim that Ramon Escobar arrived with two of his sons and that they were armed and burned several of the belongings of the families in the settlement. That same month, Escobar accompanied by the national police and ESMAD riot police attempted to evict the families. Subsequently Ecopetrol officials were present at the scene arguing the company is the owner of the land.

4- On Friday July 23, there was a new attempt by the national police and ESMAD to evict the population. There was the indiscriminate use of force and arbitrary acts on the part of the public force resulting in several people injured, including human rights defenders from CREDHOS.

5- The leaders of the Afro-descendant and fishing population of Llanito claim that their ancestral and collective territory has been damaged, mainly to the water sources (such as the Llanito ciénaga/wetland), by the hydrocarbon industry and are the responsibility of Ecopetrol. This impacts their fundamental right of subsistence.

CREDHOS has called on the Public Ministry to guarantee a mechanism to safeguard the life and integrity of the Afro-descendant and fishing population exercising their rights. They also demand that the commanders of the police forces stop the repression and abuse of authority against the protest. CREDHOS has also called on the Mayor of Barrancabermeja to help protect the community and support the demand that the police stop the repression. And it calls on the Attorney General to launch a criminal investigation into the attacks against the population.

Furthermore, to international human rights organizations, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations, CREDHOS asks that they inform the Colombian state that they are monitoring this action and ensure the life and integrity of the Afro-descendant and fishing population of Llanito exercising their right to social protest and right to territory along with the human rights defenders who accompany them.

The full Urgent Action by CREDHOS can be read here.

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