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URGENT ACTION

 

COLOMBIA

 

April 23rd    2008

 

D eath threat via email

against

José Humberto Torres Diaz,

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a lawyer for the Committee of Solidarity for Political Prisoners (Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos, FCSPP).

 

Source : AI AMR 23/014/2008 - AU 115/08

 

 

 

On 23 April, José Humberto Torres, a lawyer for the Committee of Solidarity for Political Prisoners (Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos, FCSPP), and Jesús Tovar, a leading member of the CUT in Atlántico Department, on Colombia's northern coast, received a death threat via email, signed by a group also calling itself the Black Eagles (Aguilas Negras al Rearme). The threat, dated 21 April, accused them of being guerrillas and said that “The demobilization has not weakened us; on the contrary it has rearmed us – a bullet for you (El desmovilizarnos no nohas (sic.) debilitado por el contrario nos ha rearmardo…bala para ustedes)". It also said, “Look, son-of-a-bitch Jose Humberto, take care, wherever we see you we will give it to you (Mira a hijueputa de Jose Humberto que se cuide, donde lo veamos lo damos…)."  It also warned members of other human rights and trade union organizations not to speak out and named FCSPP members María Cedeño and Nicolás Castro as people they are keeping under surveillance.

 On 22 April, members of the Trade Union Congress (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, CUT) in Santander Department, northeastern Colombia, received a written death threat from the paramilitary group, called the New Generation of the Black Eagles in Santander (Nueva Generación de Águilas Negras de Santander).

 

The threat, dated 18 April, warned against holding any marches or demonstrations to mark International Workers' Day on 1 May. It said, “There is a detachment of men available who will fulfil our orders and cleanse all you servants of the guerrilla” (“hay dispuesto un destacamento de hombres quienes cumpliran nuestras ordenes y haran limpieza de todos ustedes serviles de la guerrilla”).

 

The death threat named 17 members of human rights and trade union organizations as "military targets" including human rights activists Carolina Rubio, Príncipe Gabriel González and María Cardona, trade unionists Martha Cecilia Díaz, Javier Correa and Nicanor Arciniegas.

Background

 

During Colombia’s 40-year-old armed conflict, human rights organizations, trade unions and other social organizations have often been labelled as guerrilla collaborators or supporters by the security forces and paramilitaries.

 

Human rights abuses against trade unionists often coincide with periods of labour dispute.

 

International Workers' Day on 1 May is a period of intense activity in the trade union movement.

 

Twenty-two Colombian trade unionists have been killed so far this year, most recently Jesús Heberto Caballero Ariza, a member of the Atlántico branch of the union of SENA Public Sector Employees (Sindicato de Empleados públicos del SENA, SINDESENA). He had been kidnapped, and is believed to have received death threats in the months before his death. His body was found on 17 April, apparently showing signs of torture.

 

Further Information

 

  José Humberto Torres  works with Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos – FCSPP (Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee). José Humberto Torres has provided legal representation for many human rights defenders and political prisoners in Colombia over the past 27 years. He attended the Fourth Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders, organised by Front Line on 22-24 November 2007.

 

  Although his work in defence of human rights has been recognised by both the Colombian Ministry of the Interior and Justice and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, he has been subject to serious threats over the course of the last three decades. In 2004, a Regional Military Intelligence Unit (RIME) of the Colombian Army requested that the local prosecutor bring charges against him for contempt of court, a request which was denied by the prosecutor due to lack of evidence to substantiate the allegations. José Humberto Torres has been forced into exile twice due to fears for his safety and that of his family, first in 1991 and later in 2004. Since his return to Colombia in 2005, José Humberto Torres has repeatedly requested that the Colombian government provide the protection measures sanctioned by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to improve his security and that of his family, but these have not been provided as of yet.

 

  On 15 November 2007, former paramilitary commander, Edgar Ignacio Fierro Flores (also known as Don Antonio), admitted during a court hearing in Barranquilla that he had ordered the assassination of José Humberto Torres in 2004, and that that command still remained in force. Flores stated that José Humberto Torres remained a ’legitimate military target’ due to his supposed links with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). José Humberto Torres does not have a link with the FARC, and his human rights activities have been recognised by the Colombian Interior and Justice Ministry and the Inter-American Commission of Human rights. Flores also stated that he would be unable to carry out the assassination as José Humberto Torres travelled a lot. One of the paramilitaries ordered to carry out the assassination, El Zarco, has as yet not been demobilised and allegedly leads one of the newly formed paramilitary groups, the Black Eagles (Aguilas Negras), which is responsible for numerous threats directed at human rights organisations in Colombia in recent times.

 

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION

 

Using your own words, please choose a few of the suggestions below to create a personal appeal [click here for a brief guide to help you write your letter]:

 

call on the authorities to guarantee the safety of José Humberto Torres, Jesus Tovar, Javier Correa, Carolina Rubio, Príncipe Gabriel González, María Cedeño, Nicolás Castro, Martha Cecilia Díaz, Nicanor Arciniegas and other members of the CUT, other trade unions and human rights organizations, CPDH and FCSPP, in the Departments of Santander and Atlántico (write the names in capital letters, underline them or put them in bold so that they stand out), using all measures deemed appropriate by those at risk;

call for full and impartial investigations into the death threats received on 22 and 23 April, the results of which should be made public and those responsible brought to justice;

call for decisive action to confront and dismantle paramilitary groups and investigate and break their links with the security forces, in line with repeated UN recommendations.

 

APPELS À :

Président de la République :

Señor Presidente Álvaro Uribe Vélez

Presidente de la República, Palacio de Nariño, Carrera 8 No.7-2, Bogotá, Colombie

Fax : +57 1 337 5890

Formule d’appel : Excmo. Sr. Presidente Uribe, / Monsieur le Président de la République,

 

Directeur du Programme présidentiel pour les droits humains et le droit international humanitaire :

Dr. Carlos Franco Echevarría

Director del Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos y Derecho Internacional Humanitario

Vicepresidencia De La República De Colombia, Calle 7 No 6-54, Bogotá, Colombie

Fax :+ 57 1 565 9797

Formule d’appel : Estimado Dr. Franco Echevarría, / Monsieur le Directeur,

 

Procureur général :

Dr. Mario Germán Iguarán Arana

Fiscal General de la Nación, Fiscalía General de la Nación

Diagonal 22B (Av. Luis Carlos Galán No. 52-01) Bloque C, Piso 4, Bogotá, Colombie

Fax : +57 1 570 2000 (un message préenregistré en espagnol vous indique alors de composer le numéro de poste 2017)

Formule d’appel : Estimado Sr., / Fiscal, / Monsieur,

 

COPIES À :

FCSPP

Calle 26 No. 4 A-45 piso 12 torre KLM,

Bogotá, D.C., Colombie

and to diplomatic representatives of Colombia accredited to your country.

 

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

 

 

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