Monday, June 27, 2016

International Accompaniment NGOs' Statement Regarding the Situation of Human Rights Defenders during the Colombian Peace Process

As international non-governmental organizations who accompany social organizations and human rights defenders in Colombia, we support various peace proposals collectively constructed by these communities and social organizations.
We celebrate the agreement achieved by the Colombian government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) on June 23, and we express our support for a negotiated solution to Colombia's armed conflict. We also reiterate that our work is carried out within the norms of Colombian law and stems directly from the petitions we receive from social organizations and human rights defenders. The people we accompany have communicated their desire for continued international accompaniment, due to their concern about a possible reconfiguring of the armed conflict in a post-accords period. The possible continuation of violence presents serious obstacles to a full guarantee of non-repetition for them and their communities.
We are concerned about the threats facing human rights defenders, especially those working in remote regions. According to the United Nations, in the last year there was a registered increase in assassinations that rose above the average number of assassinations over the last twenty years (UN Statement; November 19, 2015). The NGO Somos Defensores reports that acts of aggression against human rights defenders (including threats, assassinations, attempted assassinations, arbitrary detentions, legal harassment, theft of sensitive information, and forced disappearances) increased 9% in 2015 as compared to 2014. 357 acts of aggression have been registered since the beginning of the peace negotiations in 2012, and the number has almost doubled in 2015 with 682 acts of aggression (Somos Defensores Annual Report 2015). This is happening within the context of an arbitrary use of the penal system to criminalize and falsely accuse human rights defenders (Somos Defensores Annual Report 2015).
In many regions of Colombia, the armed conflict continues to evolve, manifesting itself through new conflicts and new actors who threaten the lives and work of human rights defenders. According to Somos Defensores, paramilitary groups have been responsible for 66% of the aggressions directed at social movement leaders (Somos Defensores Annual Report 2015).
Another threat for human rights defenders and communities is a foreign investment model in Colombia that operates within the framework of an extractive economic development model. This model often generates serious social and economic conflicts in local communities, which then leads to an increase in conflict and human rights violations.
Considering what we have expressed above, we respectfully request that the international community:
1. Demand that the Colombian state guarantees no repetition and a just, sustainable peace in Colombian territory; ensures international human rights standards; and tackles structural causes of the conflict, effectively dismantling both new and old paramilitary structures while respecting the rights of the civilian population.

2. Request that the Fiscalia General de la Nación (Attorney General’s Office) speed up investigations regarding acts of aggression and assassinations of human rights defenders, investigations regarding the land and environment, identifying material and intellectual authors. We believe it is important to demand that the Colombian state strengthens its judicial system and ensures equal access for all victims.

3. Reiterate to the Colombian state and all its institutions the need to give political recognition to the work to defend human rights. It is important to demand that the Colombian state implement policies that offer holistic and effective protection of human rights defenders. This protection should consider the causes of acts of aggression and should be designed in consensus with human rights defenders, reflecting collective measures with a differential focus, rural context, etc.

4. Continue supporting peace-oriented policies and financially supporting Colombian civil society in its efforts to build peace. The international community should also demand that the Colombian state guarantees the participation of campesino, indigenous, and Afro-descendent communities in the implementation of the Havana accords in their regions.

5. Decidedly support the establishment of peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN).

6. Demand that their country’s companies that operate in Colombia develop policies that do no harm while respecting the environment and the rights of communities.


Signing organizations:



Witness for Peace Colombia



FOR Peace Presence









Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFOR)





Peace Watch Switzerland





Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia



Comunicado de las organizaciones de acompañamiento internacional frente a la situación de las defensoras y defensores de derechos humanos en Colombia en el marco del proceso de negociaciones de paz

Las organizaciones de acompañamiento internacional de carácter no-gubernamental, que brindan acompañamiento a las organizaciones sociales y a las defensoras y defensores de derechos humanos en Colombia, apoyamos varias propuestas de paz lideradas por las comunidades y las organizaciones sociales, las cuales han sido construidas de manera colectiva durante varios años.
Saludamos el acuerdo logrado entre el gobierno nacional y las FARC-EP el pasado 23 de junio y expresamos de nuevo nuestro apoyo a una salida negociada al conflicto armado en Colombia.  Reiteramos que nuestro trabajo se realiza bajo las normas de la legislación colombiana y en base a las peticiones que recibimos directamente de organizaciones sociales y de las defensoras y defensores de derechos humanos. En este contexto las personas acompañadas manifiestan que ven la necesidad de seguir contando con el acompañamiento internacional, debido a su preocupación ante una posible reconfiguración del conflicto en un escenario de post-acuerdo, lo que obstaculiza seriamente la garantía plena de no repetición para ellas y sus comunidades.
En ese sentido, manifestamos nuestra preocupación frente a la realidad que viven las y los defensores de derechos humanos, especialmente en las regiones; pues, según la ONU, en el último año se registró un aumento de los asesinatos, lo cual supera el promedio de los últimos 20 años (Comunicado ONU, 19 noviembre 2015). Por su parte, Somos Defensores registra que las agresiones (las cuales incluyen amenazas, asesinatos, atentados, detenciones arbitrarias, judicializaciones, hurto de información y desapariciones forzadas) contra las personas defensoras de derechos humanos aumentaron en un 9% en 2015 en comparación con 2014 (Informe Anual Somos Defensores 2015). Igualmente, desde el inicio del proceso de paz en el año 2012 se han registrado 357 agresiones, incrementándose a casi el doble en el año 2015 con 682 agresiones (Informe Anual Somos Defensores 2015). Esto sucede en un escenario que presenta la tendencia preocupante de un aumento del uso arbitrario del sistema penal para criminalizar y judicializar a las y los defensores de derechos humanos.
Los datos descritos anteriormente demuestran que, en muchas de las regiones del país, el conflicto armado pasa por una reorganización, apareciendo así nuevos conflictos y nuevos actores que amenazan la vida y la labor de las personas defensoras de derechos humanos. Según Somos Defensores, grupos paramilitares fueron responsables del 66% de las agresiones dirigidas directamente contra los líderes y las lideresas sociales (Informe Anual Somos Defensores 2015).
Otro elemento preocupante para el ejercicio de la labor de defensa de los derechos humanos y de las comunidades es el impacto de la inversión extranjera en el país en el marco de un modelo de desarrollo económico extractivo, donde muchas veces se generan fuertes conflictos sociales y económicos en las comunidades locales que conllevan al surgimiento de nuevos conflictos y a violaciones de los derechos humanos.
Frente a lo expuesto anteriormente solicitamos respetuosamente a la comunidad internacional que:
1.    Inste al Estado colombiano a brindar las garantías de no repetición y de una paz justa y sostenible en los territorios, garantizando los estándares internacionales de los derechos humanos, abordando las causas estructurales del conflicto, desmantelando las viejas y nuevas estructuras paramilitares de manera efectiva, respetando los derechos de la población civil.
2.    Solicite a la Fiscalía General de la Nación agilizar las investigaciones sobre las agresiones y asesinatos contra las personas defensoras de derechos humanos, del territorio y del medio ambiente, identificando los autores materiales e intelectuales. Asimismo, es importante instar al Estado colombiano a fortalecer el sistema de justicia y a brindar las garantías de acceso a la justicia en condiciones de igualdad para todas las víctimas.
3.    Reitere al Estado colombiano y a todas sus instituciones la necesidad de brindar reconocimiento político a la labor de defensa de derechos humanos y el diseño de una política de protección integral y efectiva para las personas defensoras, que aborde las causas que originan las agresiones y diseñe una política consensuada con las defensoras y los defensores de derechos humanos, donde se reflejen medidas de carácter colectivo, con enfoque diferencial, contexto rural, etc.
4.    Continúe respaldando política y financieramente a la sociedad civil colombiana en sus esfuerzos de construcción de paz y al mismo tiempo, inste al Estado colombiano a que asegure la participación de las comunidades campesinas, indígenas y afrodescendientes en la implementación de los acuerdos de La Habana en sus regiones.
5.     Apoye decididamente el establecimiento de la mesa de negociaciones en el proceso de paz con el Ejército Nacional de Liberación (ELN).
6.    Inste a las empresas de sus países con actividades en Colombia a desarrollar políticas de acción sin daño, donde se respeten el medio ambiente y los derechos de las comunidades.


Organizaciones firmantes:


Acción Permanente por la Paz Colombia  


 
                     
                     

             FOR Presente por la Paz   



Movimiento Sueco por la Reconciliación (SweFOR) 







            Peace Watch Switzerland      




           Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia
                               

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Strangers in Their Own Country: A Story of Resistance to Capital Expansion and Struggle for Identity

by Amy Cameron 
Photo Credit: FPDT blog http://atencofpdt.blogspot.mx/

"Prior to 2001, we lived in harmony and tranquility," Maria Trinidad Ramirez Velasquez (Trini) tells our Witness for Peace delegation in Mexico City, "each one of us has an identity that nobody wants to denounce."
On October 21, 2001, the community of farmers in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico woke up to a nightmare: they would have to fight their own government for their land and identity.
56,000 people faced displacement by an expropriation decree that claimed 133,000 acres of their land for a new international airport. Trini and her community say the Mexican government "tries to take your identity and make you a stranger in your own country."
President Vicente Fox declared that the plans to build the new international airport would require eighty percent of Atenco's communally owned property, land the community depends on for their livelihoods. Despite constitutional law that protects communal land ("ejidos") and requires consultation with the community for proposed changes, the people of Atenco were never consulted by the government. Furthermore, they were not offered any resettlement assistance or help finding jobs; instead they were offered around fifty-seven cents per square meter of land (Environmental Justice Atlas).
Trini says that she was never the type of person to speak in public but she felt so saddened, afraid and angry that she had no other choice but to speak out. As guardians of the land inherited by their ancestors, they weren't going to let the government decide the fate of the land where seeds of many generations had been sown with their ancestors blood.
She and her community knew that they had to respond quickly or lose their livelihoods.
It was in those moments, waking up to a land expropriation decree, that the people had to ask themselves what they were willing to do to defend their land, Trini says. They knew that they were facing an uneven war and that it would take all of the courage and heart they had. The government had threatened to use force to take the land.
Indeed, they followed through with those threats. On July, 2002, the government security forces entered the community to brutally repress the protesters. They took several political prisoners and killed a small farmer, Enrique Espinoza Juarez, whose body was later laid to rest in the very land for which he died defending.
In August of 2002, the community of Atenco made history and gained international attention. With "the movement in each of us," Trini says, the Peoples Front in Defense (FPDT) of Land blocked the land grab decree.
The FPDT became a revered example of popular resistance in the universal struggle to defend land against capital expansion and neoliberalism. It was a "barometer for the people's strength and love for their land," said Trini. But the community of Atenco paid a heavy price.
That year was full of constant tension and learning about organizing. The FPDT began to see how their struggles were tied to others. They joined with teachers, indigenous groups and all of those who struggle to maintain their way of life -- the groups that the government and capitalists try to manipulate and divide and take their land and offer them crumbs in return.
The Atenco community, with their machetes they use to harvest crops, now symbols of resistance, became a strong movement against capitalist expansion. As a result, in 2006, when the FPDT led a protest with the flower workers of Texcoco, 3000 police brutally repressed them. The attack on the protesters, ordered by current Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto (then governor of Mexico State) killed a 14 year old boy and detained over 200 people, 27 of which were women violated, raped and tortured in prison. Trini had to leave because the police were pursuing her on false accusations of a crime.
However, Trini says she had to keep fighting for justice. With the key support of women and young people and their guiding principles, truth and justice, the Atenco community stood up to their enemy: the government. Four years later, in 2010, they were able to get all of the jailed FPDT leaders released from prison and the false charges of kidnapping were dropped.
The FPDT still faces repression and they continue their struggle for their land and identity. The most recent move to expropriate the land is called the "Dominio Pleno:" privatization of communal land, for which the government was offering, in 2014, almost four times more per acre and paying neighbors of farmers in the community to convince them to sell their land.
Trini and the FPDT say, "we aren't the poor ones of Atenco, we are the ones that resist, we know what we want, it's clear to us: we'll fight with whatever it takes."

Maria Trinidad Ramirez Velasquez, Frente del Pueblo en
Defensa de la Tierra, San Salvador, Atenco, Estado de México

"La tierra no se vende"!

"The land is not for sale!"