For Immediate Release
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Colombia: Authorities Must Guarantee Safety of Demonstrators
WASHINGTON - President Álvaro Uribe must make a
strong public statement in support of the important and legitimate work
of human rights defenders. Failing to do so risks giving a green light
to those who wish to attack them, said Amnesty International today.
Amnesty International’s call came in the run up to demonstrations
scheduled to take place in Bogotá and other Colombian cities on 6 March
in protest at human rights violations committed by the security forces.
The demonstrations are being organized by the human rights coalition
National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (Movimiento Nacional de
Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado, MOVICE).
A number of Colombian trade unionists and human rights defenders
were killed or threatened just before or soon after last year’s 6 of
March mass demonstrations, also organized by MOVICE. Numerous Colombian
human rights organizations also received email threats at the time,
reportedly from paramilitary groups.
“The threats and killings that tragically marred last year’s marches
must not be repeated. The legitimate right of everyone to peaceful
protest must be guaranteed by the Colombian authorities,” said Marcelo
Pollack, interim Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Americas
Amnesty International calls on the Colombian authorities to
guarantee the security of the organizers and the participants in this
year’s 6 March demonstrations. Amnesty International also calls on the
Colombian authorities to impartially and effectively investigate last
year’s killings and threats, as well as all human rights abuses
committed against human rights defenders, trade unionists and other
activists, and to bring all those responsible to justice.
This year's demonstrations focus on the on-going problem of
extrajudicial executions by the security forces. Over recent years,
Colombian human rights organizations have sought to bring this problem
to national and international attention and to demand action by the
authorities. As a result of their work in exposing extrajudicial
executions and the impunity that surrounds these cases, defenders have
received death threats and have been publicly criticized by government
officials, who suggest their work is part of a guerrilla strategy to
discredit the security forces.
Colombia’s armed conflict has pitted the security forces and
paramilitaries against guerrilla groups for more than 40 years. The
civilian population continues to be the main victim of the conflict,
with both sides repeatedly failing to respect the right of civilians
not be dragged into the hostilities. All the warring parties – the
security forces, paramilitaries and guerrilla groups – are responsible
for systematic and widespread human rights abuses and violations of
international humanitarian law.
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