NOMADESC: 2004 – 2012

As the most visible member of Nomadesc, Berenice Celeyta has reported and denounced various death threats against her, the theft of sensitive information related to her work, and illegal surveillance of her communications through the executive branch’s Department of Administrative Security (DAS).[1] As is the case for other human rights defenders, this situation has had a serious impact on Celeyta’s life: “As human rights defenders we also experience a kind of forced displacement. I don´t have a house or any stable place to come home to.  If I stay in one place, they can target me.”[2]

Celeyta reports that in 2010 Nomadesc received 13 death threats.[3] In December 2010 and January 2011, Nomadesc received a series of death threats through text messages received on their cell phones naming Nomadesc as well as other organisations.  In one of the messages Berenice is named specifically as are the children of other threatened human rights defenders.[4] Nomadesc received threatening messages again on August 23[5] and December 20 2011[6], also threatening social organisations, human rights defenders, and indigenous and mining leaders in southwest Colombia.

Operation Dragon

In August 2004, the Prosecutor’s office and Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) discovered a series of official documents that detailed the various elements of “Operation Dragon”, an undertaking which included the illegal surveillance of 170 people—one of whom was Berenice Celeyta[7]—with the apparent aim of killing human rights defenders, union representatives, and members of the Colombian political opposition.  The Prosecutor’s office has demonstrated that the 3rd Brigade (Colombian National Army), the Cali Police, and the Department of Administrative Security (DAS) supported and collaborated in the gathering of information.[8] In October 2011, three members of the military were apprehended for their participation in Operation Dragon.[9] The operation was allegedly coordinated by Coronel Julian Villate Leal[10] who was assigned to coordinate security at the Embassy of the United States in Bogota from December 2004 to July 2005, even after the Operation had become public knowledge.[11] According to lawyer Jorge Molano, this is “a case of alarming and shameless impunity”.[12]

Threats and acts of aggression

  • 20 June 2012: Death threat via text message against Nomadesc and other organisations.[13]
  • 27 June 2012: Death threat via text message against Nomadesc, among other organisations.[14]
  • 24 September 2012: Text message threat against Berenice Celeyta and Olga Araujo of Nomadesc, and several other organisations.[15]

[1] DHColombia: Paramilitares amenazan de muerte a Berenice Celeyta, defensora de derechos humanos, 10 May 2010; Documentary: Defensora. Paz con Dignidad, 1 April 2011; El Espectador: Capturados tres militares por atentados contra sindicalistas, 3 October 2011
[2] Documentary: Defensora. Paz con Dignidad, 1 April 2011
[3] PBI Colombia: Interview with Berenice Celeyta, May 2011
[4] NOMADESC: Nuevas amenazas a los defensores de derechos humanos en el Suroccidente, December 2010.
[5] NOMADESC: Denuncia Pública: Nuevas amenazas a las organizaciones de derechos humanos del Suroccidente, August 2011.
[6] NOMADESC: Acción urgente: Nuevo mensaje amenazante contra organizaciones sociales, defensores(as) de derechos humanos, líderes indígenas y mineros del suroccidente colombiano, 21 December 2011.
[7] Human Rights First: Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia,  2009
[8] Ibíd.
[9] El Espectador: Primeras detenciones por ‘Operación Dragón’, 3 October 2011
[10] El Tiempo: Asegurados tres oficiales del ejército por seguimiento a sindicalistas, 3 October 2011
[11] Noticias Uno: Operación Dragón en la embajada de EEUU en Colombia, 6 May 2007; Associated Press: Alleged assassin worked at US Embassy in Colombia, 25 April 2007
[12] PBI Colombia: “Operation Dragon: A case of alarming and shameless impunity”
[13] NOMADESC: Urgent Action: New threatening message against Colombian social organisations and human rights defenders
[14] FCSPP: Colombia – Valle del Cauca: otras amenazas de muerte contra defensor@s de derechos humanos, In: La Pluma, 13 July 2012
[15] FCSPP: Paramilitares amenazan de muerte a defensores, líderes sociales e indígenas en Cauca y Valle del Cauca – Colombia, 24 September 2012

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