Each year, Diakonia and the Church of Sweden organize the National Award for the Defense of Human Rights that looks to make visible the challenges faced by human rights defenders in Colombia. It also highlights their work and realities in the regions. “It is a tribute to the people who defend human rights in Colombia and the independent narratives about what is happening in Colombia, the truth that is sought and transmitted from the regions, and to protect life in the territories,” commented Cesar Grajales, director of Diakonia.
Diakonia’s National Award for 2019 was launched this morning and the finalists for the different categories were announced. Caren Cárdenas, coordinator of the National Award program, presented an info-graph of the 45 initial nominations and the context in which the nominees work: “stigmatization and attacks against human rights defenders continue in the present context, a criminalization of the social movement persists, illegal armed actors –heirs of the failed dismantling of paramilitary groups– control the regions and threaten those who oppose their interests, new cases of false positives were registered, and there are regions and communities threatened by an expansion of extractive projects.” The individuals who were nominated for this award defend their communities and collective rights, they defend the right to life, the right to education, freedom of expression, and they promote the defense of the environment. Others work in the untiring search for truth and the historical memory of those who have been impacted by the violence and human rights violations in Colombia. “[T]hey construct and disseminate historical memory and work to dignify the memory of the victims of killings and forced disappearance,” stated Caren.
This Award, that looks to highlight the work of four individuals and initiatives that are representative of the collective of defenders, is also an opportunity to look towards a different Colombia, a Colombia that embraces the wealth of defenders’ creativity.
PBI Colombia is happy to announce that two accompanied organizations and one individual were selected as finalists:
- The Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (J&P): for 31 years it has been defending human rights and accompanying communities that are isolated and affected by the armed conflict. J&P works to defend life, the territories, the environment, and a peaceful solution to the armed and sociopolitical conflict that ravages Colombia. They also carry out important work to narrate the truths of communities and Colombian society’s search for justice and reconciliation. Due to their work in the regions and the search for truth and justice, J&P has suffered numerous threats, assassination attempts, and attacks.
The organization is nominated in the category “Collective Experience or Initiative of the Year — NGO, Organization, Collective, or Accompaniment NGO.”
- The Cimitarra River Valley Peasant Association (ACVC, in Spanish), was founded in 1996 and has been accompanied by PBI since 2007. It is a network of peasant organizations that work to defend the territory, human rights, and to dignify peasant life. Therefore, ACVC promotes the implementation of an alternative economic model that respects the environment and family farm agriculture, as well as the adoption of collective protection measures that are adapted to the needs of peasant communities that continue to undergo threats and attacks in territories controlled by illegal armed actors.
The organization is nominated for the category “Collective Experience or Initiative of the Year — Grassroots or Community Initiative.”
- Claudia Julieta Duque: journalist and human rights defender for over 20 years. She has investigated the crime against Jaime Garzón, showing state agents’ involvement in his killing, and thus she was targeted by the former Administrative Security Department (DAS, in Spanish). Claudia Julieta was recognized as a victim of psychological torture due to the constant surveillance, threatening messages, and other attacks against her over the last 20 years. She continues to work as an investigative journalist, investigating emblematic cases, such as Hidroituango, to demonstrate abuses of power and human rights violations. Due to her work, she continues to face physical attacks but also attacks against her freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Claudia Julieta is nominated in the category “Recognition of a Lifetime of Work.”