Colombia: rights activist threatened

On May 15 the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders—a program sponsored jointly by the World Organization Against Torture and the International Federation of Human Rights—issued an urgent call for the Colombian government to ensure the safety of Colombian human rights activist Ivan Cepeda Castro, his family and other members of the National Movement of Victims of Crimes of the State (MOVICE).

The Observatory is asking for letters to President Alvaro Uribe Velez (auribe@presidencia.gov.co), Vice President Francisco Santos (fsantos@presidencia.gov.co), the vice president’s human rights office (obserdh@presidencia.gov.co) and other officials.

Uribe’s government has been verbally attacking Cepeda because of a March 6 demonstration he helped organize for the victims of paramilitary violence and an April 15 appearance before members of the US Congress. Uribe and US president George W. Bush are currently lobbying Congress to ratify a Colombia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA, or TLC in Spanish) and are trying to downplay complaints about Colombia’s human rights record. On May 6 Uribe called Cepeda a “human rights faker” and complained about those in the international community who sympathize with “the crocodile tears of these human rights fakers.”

Cepeda dedicated himself to human rights work after the 1994 assassination of his father, Manuel Cepeda Vargas, a senator for the leftist Patriotic Union (UP). Ivan Cepeda himself has received death threats several times. (Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos urgent action, May 15; dhColombia, May 11 from El Espectador, May 10)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 18

Several leaders of the March 6 mobilization have already been murdered.

See our last posts on Colombia and the paramilitaries.