Buenaventura Action Needed

By bogotapost May 16, 2014

BuenaventuraAMNESTY International has called for urgent action in Buenaventura as human rights and indigenous defenders receive death threats.

Over the past weeks there have been a spate of threats made to various human rights defenders in the Southern Colombian port city.

Fifteen-year-old Génesis Giselle Gutiérrez Romero, a member of the Wayúu Indigenous Reservation of Zahíno, received a death threat on May 5. She and her family are linked to a local human rights organization which campaigns on behalf of the Wayúu Indigenous communities and which has been the target of repeated paramilitary death threats, according to Amnesty International.

On April 22, a paramilitary threatened to kill human rights defender Danilo Rueda of the NGO Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission in the Humanitarian Zone of Puente Nayero.

Rueda and other human rights defenders were following a paramilitary who had tried to recruit children in the Humanitarian Zone. At the edge of the Humanitarian Zone, the paramilitary allegedly drew a machete and said, “If you come closer I will cut you up”.

According to reports by Amnesty, on April 12, a 16-year-old boy was tortured, killed and dismembered by paramilitaries near the humanitarian zone, in spite of the strong presence of the armed forces in the area. His killing is one of many to have taken place in the city.

Vincent Vallies, a spokesperson for The International Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia (Oidhaco) said, “We do not understand the silence of the EU in light of the increased killings of human rights defenders and the high impunity in Colombia.

“It does not seem right that the EU has not reacted to the UN report which warns of the transfer of 48 cases of killings by the national army from the ordinary courts to the military courts, even though the government had assured that this would not happen” Vallies added.

Buenaventura is an important port on the Colombian Pacific Coast in the department of Valle del Cauca. There are a number of large-scale infrastructure projects being developed in the city, which still has a strong paramilitary presence which has continued to operate despite the presence of large numbers of security forces personnel.

There have been reports of numerous killings, forced displacements and forced disappearances in the city. A report issued by the Human Rights Ombudsman in November 2012 estimated that more than 1,000 families had been forcibly displaced in the two weeks leading up to the report’s publication.

By Steven Grattan