August 29, 2017 | Washington, DC
The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights welcomes the decision by the State of Colombia to implement protection measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in favor of Erlendy Cuero Bravo and her family. The measures are part of the implementation of Precautionary Measure 658-16 granted to Ms. Cuero Bravo and her family by the Inter-American Commission in December 2016. Since then, Race and Equality has been advocating for the implementation of those measures by the Colombian State, through its National Protection Unit.
Ms. Cuero Bravo is Vice-President of the Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) and a human rights activist based in Cali, Colombia. As a result of her work with Afro-Colombian communities displaced by the internal armed conflict, Ms. Cuero Bravo and her family members have received multiple death threats and have survived several assassination attempts. Despite repeatedly reporting this security situation to Colombian authorities during the past decade, Erlendy did not receive adequate measures to protect her life and physical integrity and allow her to continue her work as a community leader and human rights defender until the Inter-American Commission intervened.
When she finally received the measures, Ms. Cuero Bravo commented, “On many occasions I’ve felt afraid, I’ve cried, and thought that I didn’t have the strength to continue. But, the depressing situation in which the Afro community and victims in this country live has been my incentive to carry on. The measures adopted for me do not represent an end in themselves, but the possibility to mitigate the risks derived from my activity as an activist and human rights defender, for which full-time dedication is required on behalf of the victims and vulnerable populations requiring this permanent presence and companionship. I would like the Colombian government to pay attention and work for the prevention of harm befalling leaders who are persecuted and threatened, to avoid that people who dedicate their lives to constructing peace in the midst of adversity end up dead, leaving their families shrouded in grief, as happened with my dear brother Bernardo Cuero Bravo.”
While the assignation of protection measures for Ms. Cuero Bravo is a positive step, Race and Equality notes that many other Afro-Colombian community leaders and human rights defenders are facing similar risks to their lives and personal security as a result of their advocacy work. “We are pleased that Colombia is upholding its obligation to protect the life and physical integrity of Erlendy, and to allow her to continue her work on behalf of displaced Afro-Colombians. However, there are many other Afro-Colombian leaders at risk who are also awaiting protection measures from the National Protection Unit. We encourage the National Protection Unit to pay attention to their cases,” stated Race and Equality Executive Director Carlos Quesada.
In the current context of the implementation of the Peace Accord in Colombia, the protection of leaders of victims’ populations should be a priority for the Colombian State. Unfortunately, as different sources have analyzed – among them Race and Equality – violence against those social leaders has been on the rise.
Race and Equality will continue to work with Ms. Cuero Bravo and partner organization AFRODES to support Afro-Colombian community leaders at risk.