Christian Aid is calling on all of Colombia's presidential candidates to end human rights abuses and for the newly elected president to fully commit to supporting civil liberties.
Listen to the podcast* or watch the video interview with Kelly Nicholls from the US Office on Colombia talking about an international campaign to defend human rights defenders and the forthcoming elections.
Partners defending human rights
In the last two weeks, two community leaders and human rights defenders have been killed in Colombia. Fresh death threats continue to target members of our partner organisation Justice and Peace in Colombia, including two priests and a community leader seeking justice and protection for the victims of armed conflict in the country.
Grafitti written in various streets of the capital Bogota, called for the deaths of the priests while a source revealed that community leader, Enrique Petro, member of the Community Council in Curvarado, is also the target of a paramilitary plot to kill him.
Enrique Petro (pictured left) works to protect the rights of communities living in the Bajo Atrato region. Petro is the founder of humanitarian zones in his territory and has inspired the return home of hundreds of families who were violently displaced by paramilitaries who took their lands, some going back to 1996.
Under the current administration, President Alvaro Uribe has promoted the cultivation of Africa palm used to produce biofuels. This has led to desertification, deforestation and environmental destruction as well as displacement, death threats, kidnappings and killings of the people living in the humanitarian zones.
Petro has lived in Curvarado for 50 years, and two of his children have been murdered. This month (May 2010) our partner organisation Justice and Peace received information that paramilitary chiefs in the region linked with banana and Africa palm businessmen paid 15,000 USD to kill him.
He has given his community an international profile by inviting international human rights organisations; including our partners PBI and Pasc of Canada; to witness the situation of his community. He, like many Colombians who raise the profile of human rights abuses perpetrated in the country on a daily basis, has been falsely accused of supporting the guerrilla groups.
Our partners Peace Brigades International (PBI) provides support to victims of armed conflict and raises the profile of the human rights situation in the country. Justice and Peace offers legal advice, taking cases through the Inter-American system, and providing support to displaced populations, peasant, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.
In light of the difficult task facing human rights workers in Colombia, Christian Aid is supporting an international campaign to defend the rights of human rights defenders. The aim of the campaign is to put pressure on the Colombian government to achieve a positive, lasting and significant change for the country's human rights defenders.
You can support the campaign at: www.colombiadefenders.org
* You can subscribe to Christian Aid podcasts at Apple iTunes.