Aco EJP Chiriguaná

Right to social protest in Chiriguaná, Cesar

Equipo Juridico Pueblos (EJP) believes that it is fundamentally important to accompany communities which have autonomously decided to exercise their right to social protest, as a way for them to be listened to and respond to the situations they are going through. In this case, the organisation is demanding justice for the murder of the professor and leader of the La Sierrita, El Cruce and La Estacion Council of Black Communities (Consesice), Naimen Augustin Lara, who died on 11th July 2016. According to Chiriguana’s inhabitants, he was killed by a gunshot fired by a member of the National Police, when the people of La Sierrita in Chiriguaná municipality (Cesar) were holding a day of peaceful protest against the Health Ministry’s decision to close the San Andres Public Hospital which provided health services to approximately 200,000 people in the area.[1]

The people who witnessed the events, and even their relatives, were subjected to threats and attacks aimed at silencing them, EJP claims. As a result, EJP and Lawyers Without Borders Canada assisted the leader’s family in requesting precautionary protection measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human rights (IACHR) for the Chiriguaná community; their request gives details of attacks made against at least fourteen community members as a result of their peaceful demonstration, including people under the age of 18.[2]

“Social protest continues to be criminalised here. We represent many organisations, trade unions and students who are in this situation because they went out to protest. One of the ways social protest is being stigmatised, prosecuted and criminalised is through the new Police Code approved by the Colombian Congress in 2016, which enshrines a number of rules which make the exercise of the right protest impossible, for example, creating the right for the Police to enter and search people’s homes without a warrant in cases which we do not think are justified. Social protest emerged as a way of demanding respect for the rights that the Colombian State is breaching. Generally it is not pre-planned but spontaneous, like what happened on 11th July in Chiriguaná. The community found out they were going to close the hospital and people went out there to say No to the closure”.[3]


Footnotes:

[1] El Espectador, El Hospital San Andrés al borde de su cierre, 14 November 2016; El Espectador, Dos muertos en protestas por servicio de salud en Chiriguaná, 11 July 2016
[2] Contagio Radio: Atentan contra testigos de la muerte de Naimen Lara, en Chiriguaná Cesar, 21 July 2016; El Espectador: Llevan a la Cidh caso de líder afro que habría sido asesinado por un policía, 22 July 2016
[3] PBI Colombia, Interview with Leonardo Jaimes, founding member of EJP, October 2016

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