Each year there is a ceremony for the National Human Rights Defense Award in Colombia. The award, organised by Diakonia Suecia seeks to recognise, highlight and applaud the work of individual defenders, processes, organisations and human rights NGOs that carry out their work in vulnerable and risky conditions.
Diakonia has just made the 2017 nomination list public and we are excited to hear that some of the people and organisations that PBI has been accompanying for years in their fight for human rights, have been nominated.
Defender of the year
In the category “Defender of the Year”, Enrique Chimonja from the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission, Adriana Arboleda from the Corporation for Judicial Freedom (CJL), Caroline Rubio from the Foundation Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners(FCSPP) and Jorge Molano from the association DH Colombia have been nominated.
Enrique Chimonja works with communities that live in the middle of the armed conflict in Valle del Cauca such as the indigenous Wounaan Nonam community situated on the banks of the river San Juan and it´s tributary river Calima, who have been forced to flee on various occasions; and the afro-descendant community that lives in the Humanitarian Space Puente Nayero in Buenaventura that, with the help of Chimonja, has initiated a hope-filled process constructing a space free of illegal armed actors.
Jorge Molano is a distinguished lawyer who represents victims of human rights violations. For example, he represents the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in the case of the massacre of 21st February 2005 where eight people were killed. Molano has achieved some important sentences despite the high levels of impunity in the country.
In addition to many other activities, Adriana Arboleda has accompanied relatives of victims of forced disappearance buried in La Escombrera, a vast landfill located in the Comuna 13 neighbourhood of Medellin.
Carolina Rubio is a social worker and member of the Solidarity Committee for political prisoners Foundation since 2001. The foundation oversees respect and guarantees for the rights of persons deprived of their liberty for political motives, with a commitment in favour of liberty, justice, and dignity.
Also, in the category “Collective Experience” the Campesino Association form the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC), the Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights (CREDHOS), the Corporation for Judicial Freedom (CJL) and the Self-determination, Life and Dignity Community (CAVIDA), have been nominated.
CAVIDA emerged in the middle of the armed conflict and the violence in Cacarica where 20 years ago the unimaginable occurred: paramilitaries came in, they took Marino López and killed him under the Genesis Operation, a joint military and paramilitary operation. Cavida has been at the forefront of the humanitarian zones, the resistance and the survival of the population in the midst of adversity and war. More than 85 people have been killed as a consequence of this fight for life.
The ACVC fight for land redistribution and tenure and for a dignified life for campesino communities; they have invested a lot in the Campesino Reserve Zone of the Cimitarra river valley. In this area they don´t just want to guarantee the access to and fair distribution of land for the campesinos, but also to protect the environmental resources and promote the campesino economy and food security.
CREDHOS was born in the petrol city of Barrancabermeja in the 80s. The paramilitary take over of the city in 2000 initiated the exodus of many members of CREDHOS due to the reports that they made about the human rights violations that were going on the in region. This organisation has worked in support of peace throughout the past two years, boosting the peace pedagogy so that the population could understand the content of the Peace Agreements and so they take ownership of them and urge them to be implemented.
In addition to legal representation for victims of human rights
violations pursuing truth, justice, and reparation, CJL acompanies
communities and grassroots resistance organizations, in defense of their territories and reconstruction of historical memory and remembrance.
There are many other organizations nominated, for example, the Forum for Workers and Human Rights Workers, which consists of 29 social and human rights organizations in the city of Barrancabermeja and in the Magdalena Medio region.
We have walked beside these distinguished organisations and individual human rights defenders for years and we know that it has been a path full of twists and turns that has meant exposing their lives to huge risk. We celebrate their work in defense of life and we congratulate them on their nominations!