Murder of Afro-Colombian Displaced Leader

On June 7, 2011, Afro-Colombian leader Ana Fabricia Cordoba from the Santa Cruz neighborhood in Medellin was shot dead. Ms. Cordoba was a leader of communities displaced to Medellin. She arrived in this city in 2001 when she was forced to flee after paramilitary groups killed her son in Urabá. A second son was killed at the hands of paramilitaries in 2010.  Ms. Cordoba was targeted because she reported death threats that she received to the police, national government and other entities of the State. She also was an activist with the Ruta de Pacifica de Mujeres, a women’s organization that promotes victims’ and land rights.

The Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN) is deeply saddened by this murder and sends its profound condolences to Ms. Cordoba’s family and the displaced communities in Medellin. While we appreciate that the Colombian government has publicly denounced this crime, we believe that such an action is insufficient. Ms. Cordoba had sought out the protection of the State after receiving multiple threats and she publicly had proclaimed “they are going to kill me and they (referring to authorities) have done nothing.”

As ACSN has recommended for the past three years, the Colombian State must take bold and effective steps to protect the leaders of the displaced from harm and to fully implement the recommendations made to it by Colombia’s Constitutional Court (Order 005 on Afro-Colombian displacement). Given the recent passage of the land and victims law in the Colombian legislature, which does not address the collective land rights of Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples, ACSN believes that the Colombian authorities must act quickly to guarantee protection for displaced leaders and land rights activists.

Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities continue to be hard hit by new displacements. Starting on May 28, the Santa Ana community of the Community Council of the Black Communities in the Mangroves has slowly become displaced. The construction of a temporary military operations site close to the communities’ homes has placed civilians at high risk of attack. In February, this site was attacked by a canoe filled with explosives detonated by the FARC.

The United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that in Chocó, over 18,000 persons (16,000 afrodescendants and 2,000 indigenous) are suffering from an armed strike imposed in the area by the FARC guerillas. The armed strike confines the movement of these people and restricts them to a very dangerous region. This comes after the May 22 attack by the 34th Front of the FARC which killed several civilians and generated displacement of others. Also this month, ninety-two members of the Embera indigenous group fled Turbo after one of their leaders was murdered.

ACSN demands that the rights of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities be respected. The Colombian government must fully implement Constitutional Court Orders 004, 005 and 009 and protect the lives of the leaders of movements in defense of displaced people, Afro-Colombians, and indigenous peoples. When leaders are threatened and killed, movements can be silenced. In Colombia, if these movements cannot exercise their constitutional rights more displacement and violence is inevitable and these communities could vanish.

For further information please contact Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli of WOLA at gsanchez@wola.org or 202-797-2171.

Photo courtesy of OCHA Colombia

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