When the threats don’t end

According to Frontline Defenders, during 2016, eighty-five human rights defenders were assassinated. For Peace Brigades International a recent spate of death threats has caused a hectic and continuous workload of international accompaniment. Nathalie is one of the brigadistas who goes out into the field to be with some of the most threatened leaders. Here she tells us what one of these trips was like.

One December morning Bogotá awoke with the sun shining brightly within a clear blue sky. I left the house early to get to the airport in time because I was off to Sincelejo to have some meetings with the local authorities. My aim in these meetings was to express concerns after an assassination attempt against Argemiro Lara on the 17th of November. However, when I arrived at the airport I was greeted by the news that the airport was closed due to bad weather, and as I looked out of the window I glimpsed the runway covered by a thick fog.[1]

A few hours later, while we were waiting inside the plane for permission for take-off my colleagues rang me to tell me that there had been a new assassination attempt in Sincelejo. This time it was against Rodrigo Ramírez, a member of Movice. They told me that what had happened was similar to what had happened to Argemiro, but they had no more news, they didn’t even know about the condition of Rodrigo, if he had been injured or not. Suddenly everything became confused…… and I felt a bit anxious.[2]

argemiro-y-rodrigo
Argemiro Lara and Rodrigo Ramírez.

I had met Rodrigo at the end of November when he came to Bogotá after the assassination attempt on Argemiro. He is tall, young, very engaged with his work and is involved in many different cases in Sucre: La Finca La Europa, La Finca La Alemania, La Comunidad de Zispataca. I had mentioned our visit to Sucre in case we could meet up while I was there and he had shared with me his concerns about what was going on in the region. Before I left for Sincelejo I managed to speak to him, he was safe but very unsettled. We met up that night and he explained what had happened that morning.

This was the second assassination attempt against a community leader working on land restitution cases in Sucre in less than a month, and on both occasions the local authorities and the media presented the cases as if they were robberies. They didn’t take into account the type of work that these individuals were carrying out; that they were defending their territory and human rights.

Argemiro Lara is president of the Peasant Farmer Association of the Finca La Europa, and member of Movice and CPDH and when he recently visited Bogotá we had the opportunity to interview him.[3]


PBI Coffee break with Argemiro Lara: “The land issue must be resolved”

Argemiro Lara Finca La Europa
Argemiro Lara, member of MOVICE, leader of a land restitution process in Sucre, human rights defender and president of the Association of Farmers of Finca La Europa.

For several years now the region has had several ongoing land restitution cases and there still has not been much progress made; many peasant farmers don’t risk coming back because of the lack of guarantees for them. For example, in 2016, both of the leaders that suffered assassination attempts, had previously received death threats.

During our trip, we also went to visit the Finca Europa and to visit Argemiro. He was in better spirits but he understandably was still very anxious.  Nevertheless, he wants to carry on in the struggle for land restitution.

Nathalie


Footnotes:

[1] CPDH, “Listen up, do you want to get yourself killed?”, 22nd of November 2016

[2] MOVICE: Two men on a motorbike have attempted to end the life of Rodrigo Ramírez, member of Movice – Sucre, 14th of December 2016

[3] PBI Colombia: The land issue must be resolved, 29th of November 2016

One thought on “When the threats don’t end”

  1. Reblogged this on Kolumbien verstehen and commented:
    Ein Bericht von der belgischen Freiwilligen Nathalie über ihre Erfahrungen bei der Begleitung von bedrohten MenschenrechtsverteidigerInnen in Kolumbien. Trotz aller Gefahren machen diese Menschen ihre Arbeit weiter und pbi wird sie dabei so lange begleiten, wie sie es für nötig erachten.

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