Correspondence: Protect South Bolivar Artisan Miners
Colombia Solidarity Campaign
19 April 2008
Please find Amnesty International’s Urgent Action below which we endorse, and encourage you to act on immediately.
The small miners federation FEDEAGROMISBOL has been targeted with death threats. Its president Teófilo Manuel Acuña Ribón was one of the recipients. Teófilo has been in the UK this week in a visit organised by the Colombia Solidarity Campaign.
Teófilo’s visit has coincided with the AGM of the mining corporation Anglo American in London. A short statement was read out on Teófilo’s behalf to the shareholders, explaining the grave human rights situation in his home region of Sur de Bolivar.
Anglo American are 17% shareholders in
AngloGold Ashanti, whose presence in this region is rejected by the Federation.
Teófilo’s work, in exposing the negative impacts of British mining
activity, has put him in great danger. He is seeking protection measures
for when he returns in the coming days and the solidarity he receives this
week could prove critical.
Fear for safety/ Death threats
Members of the Magdelena Medio Peace and Development Programme ‘Programa de Desarrollo y Paz del Magdalena Medio’ Members of the human rights organization, Corporación SEMBRAR Members of the trade union organization, The Agro- mining Federation of the South of Bolívar department, FEDEAGROMISBOL (La Federación Agrominera del Sur de Bolívar) Catholic priests working in the municipalities of Tiquisio, Arenal and Regidor, department of Bolívar
On 10 April, an e-mailed death threat signed by the paramilitary group ‘Black Eagles’ (Aguilas Negras) was received by those mentioned above. They were informed that they were considered to be military targets and so would be killed.
The death threat stated that their names are on a list of undesirables who must be eliminated, “su nombre esta (sic.) en la lista de personas no deseadas …que deben ser eliminados”. It accuses those under threat of being guerrilla auxiliaries or guerrilla members and informs them that the aforementioned organizations and their members have been kept under surveillance in the municipalities of Tiquisio, Arenal, La Gloria and Regidor in the department of Bolívar as well as in Aguachica in the department of Cesar.
The e-mail continues by saying “Going down the list, you will be killed one by one for each criminal act that you organize against the ‘democratic security’ in these towns”, (Por cada acto delincuencial en contra de la seguridad democratica (sic.) que ustedes organicen dentro de estos pueblos, serán exterminados uno a uno por orden de lista). It concludes by saying “We won’t hesitate to kill you; start getting your loved ones ready so that they can bury you, (No vamos en vacilar en asesinarlos y vallan preparando a sus allegados para que empiecen a enterrarlos).
The ‘Programa de Desarrollo y Paz del Magdalena Medio’ promotes economic, social, cultural and institutional development in the region, focusing on vulnerable and displaced communities. Corporación SEMBRAR is a human rights organization which in recent years has been monitoring the human rights situation in the region and which has repeatedly denounced human rights abuses.
FEDEAGROMISBOL is an organization which represents peasant farmers and the interests of artisanal gold miners in the South of Bolívar department. It has campaigned against the arrival of multinational gold mining companies in the area and in recent years, its members have regularly been threatened and labelled as subversive. On 19 September 2006, Alejandro Uribe, a FEDEAGROMISBOL leader was killed by members of the Batallón Nueva Granada of the Colombian army. He was presented by the security forces as a guerrilla killed in combat.
Human rights organizations, trade unions and other social organizations have often been labelled as guerrilla collaborators or supporters by government officials, as well as by the security forces and paramilitaries. Such accusations have often been followed by threats or attacks against human rights activists. The conflict provides a useful cover for those seeking to expand and protect economic interests and human rights violations are often committed in areas of economic interest.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Spanish or your own language:
-expressing concern for the safety of members of FEDEAGROMISBOL, SEMBRAR, the ‘Programa de Desarrollo y Paz del Magdalena Medio’ and Catholic priests working in the municipalities of Tiquisio, Arenal and Regidor in the department of Bolivar.
-urging the authorities to ensure that all measures deemed appropriate by the individuals and organizations named in the threat received on 10 April, are taken to guarantee their safety;
-calling for full and impartial investigations into the death threat received on 10 April, the results of which should be made public and those responsible brought to justice;
-calling for decisive action to confront and dismantle paramilitary groups and investigate and break their links with the security forces, in line with repeated UN recommendations;
- calling on the authorities to produce
policy and plans, in conjunction with human rights defenders, to guarantee
their safety according to the principles of the United Nations Declaration
on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Institutions
to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms, and to make these plans public.