Afro-Colombian Social Movement Leaders Arrested

Human rights and social justice organizations from Colombia and international community question arrests of Afro-Colombian activists. On April 20, the Colombian government arrested around thirty people in southwestern Colombia that included the Afro-Colombian leaders Sara Quiñonez and her mother Tulia Maris Valencia based on accusations of narcotics trafficking and working with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group. However, both Ms. Quiñonez and Ms. Valencia are members of the Black Communities’ Process (Proceso de Comunidades Negras, PCN) social movement and have risked their lives to defend the individual and collective rights of Afro-Colombians.

The arrests of black activists are part of a systematic campaign to challenge the legitimacy of Afro-Colombian rights, and criminalizing the defense of human rights undermines the tenuous status of the Peace Accords. In 2012, another PCN activist Felix Banguero was arrested along with 27 others under similar circumstances for allegedly belonging to the FARC. After spending more than two years in an overcrowded prison, Banguero was released based on insufficient evidence. He continues to maintain his innocence and remains committed to the struggle for Afro-Colombian rights.

The arrests of Afro-Colombian activists Sara Liliana Quiñonez Valencia and her mother Tulia Marys Valencia are particularly concerning. Ms. Quiñonez currently has protective measures from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) due to death threats against her and the entire leadership of the Community Council of Alto Mira and Frontera located in Tumaco on the Colombian border with Ecuador. Ms. Quiñonez continued to defend the rights of the Afro-Colombian Community Council, even after the high-profile murders of her fellow community leaders Genaro Garcia in 2015 and Jair Cortés in 2017. Following the murders, Ms. Quiñonez was forcibly displaced with her family, including her mother Mrs. Tulia Maris, to another part of the country where she received protection measures provided by Colombia’s National Protection Unit (UNP).

ACSN expresses deep concern regarding their arrests and joins the call of the Colombian social movements to drop the charges and release Ms. Quiñonez and her mother Tulia Maris Valencia. According to PCN, “If our leaders (lideres y lideresas) stay in the territory, they are murdered—if they leave the territory, they are criminalized.”

Take Action on Twitter with the following message:

., ! These Black women are defending the right to life in the ancestral territories of the Afro-Colombian Community Council of Alto Mira and Frontera in Tumaco. There, Black communitiess are relentlessly attacked. !

@FiscaliaCol #SarayTuliaMarisLibres! Son mujeres Negras defensoras de la vida en los territorios ancestrales del #PuebloNegro del Consejo Comunitario Alto Mira y Frontera en Tumaco donde la vida se asedia cada minuto. #Justicia! #SarayTuliaMarisLibres! @PGN_COL @CIDH @renacientes

For additional information, please contact:

Charo Mina Rojas, International Coordinator of the Black Communities’ Process (PCN):

Gimena Sanchez, Director for the Andes of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA):

Anthony Dest, Coordinating Committee of Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN):

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