Colombia: better protection of human rights defenders needed after killings of two CAFOD-supported defenders
20 November 2015
We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the deaths of two Colombian human rights defenders supported by CAFOD who were killed on 13 November 2015.
38 year old human rights defender Daniel Abril Fuentes was shot dead by hit men in Casanare Department, central eastern Colombia. Daniel is a board member of the Civic Committee for Human Rights in Meta – a local human rights organisation that is supported by CAFOD’s partner CODACOP - Corporación de Apoyo a Comunidades Populares (Corporation for Support to Communities).
Daniel had worked tirelessly to defend land rights of local communities and small scale farmers, especially recently with the rapid oil exploration in the region which is affecting the daily lives of communities and their surrounding environment. Daniel received threats in the past for his work and these were brought to the attention of the Colombian authorities. However the threats were never investigated and no protection measures were put in place.
On the same day, 48-year old human rights defender Luis Francisco Hernandez Gonzalez was killed in the urban area of Tierralta municipality, Cordoba Department, in northern Colombia. As a community leader, Luis Francisco was representing the Afro-Colombian communities at the Victims Roundtable of Tierralta (Mesa de Victimas de Tierralta). He was also defending land rights of the community, and supporting land restitution processes. Other members of the Victims Roundtable of Tierralta have also been threatened in the past, and there is growing concern for their safety.
CAFOD's Andes Country Representative, Barbara Davies said:
“The loss of Daniel and Luis Francisco is deeply felt by all of us. As with many brave women and men in Colombia who have been cruelly robbed of lives spent fighting for justice, Daniel and Luis Francisco’s fight for justice will go on.
“CAFOD along with our partners CODACOP and ABColombia will be calling on the Colombian government to urgently investigate these killings and bring those responsible to justice, these senseless killings must stop. Proper measures must be put in place to protect other human rights defenders, and so that the families and colleagues of those killed are also protected.”
Community leaders vital for peace in Colombia
An internal armed conflict has been going on in Colombia for over 50 years; left-wing guerrillas are fighting the Colombian armed forces, who are either acting alone or in collusion with right-wing paramilitaries.
The conflict has claimed the lives of 220,000 people between 1958 and 2012, and left more than six million people, mainly peasant farmers, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities forcibly displaced from their land, with nearly eight million hectares of land illegally acquired or dispossessed.
Since October 2012 peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia- known as the FARC - have been taking place.
Please join us in praying for Daniel and Luis' families, friends and colleagues, and all those risking their lives to fight for justice.
CAFOD’s Human Rights Defenders Programme in Colombia is supported by the European Union. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of CAFOD and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.