The Colombian state’s failure to protect the rights of displaced Afro-Colombian communities denounced before the IACHR

Boulder, Colorado. October 3, 2018. The National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) and the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) denounced the ongoing humanitarian crisis of displaced Afro-Colombian communities and the failure of the Colombian State to provide these communities with protection measures and reparations during a public hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Pedro Cortés-Ruiz, Colombia representative of Race and Equality, stated that AFRODES had first come to the IACHR over ten years ago to present the alarming effects that the Colombian armed conflict was having on Afro-Colombian communities, who were being displaced, and predicted that the situation would worsen unless the Colombian State adopted public policies with a specific approach. Ten years later, the situation remains critical. According to Mr. Cortés-Ruiz, over 25% of displaced persons are Afro-descendants.  This is roughly two million people, the largest group of victims of the Colombian armed conflict. Currently, the majority of these individuals live in marginalized sectors of larger cities and are subject to violence, despite the ongoing implementation of the Peace Accord.

During the hearing, Martha Jordan of AFRODES Cali described the grave violations of human rights being committed against children and youth in Afro-Colombian communities. Children and youth in these communities often experience criminal violence associated with drug micro-trafficking, and face problems such as drug addiction, prostitution, family violence and forced recruitment. “These human rights violations against displaced Afro-Colombian children and youth are evidence that the Colombian State has not done enough to guarantee reparation and non-repetition for our communities. The conditions needed for our culture’s survival continue to be destroyed. Our children and youth should be the generation of hope, but instead they are being destroyed physically and culturally,” said the AFRODES representative.

Luz Marina Becerra, AFRODES Secretary and Coordinator of the Coordination of Afro-Colombian Displaced Women in Resistance (COMADRE), reminded the IACHR that the Colombian Constitutional Court has already recognized the disproportionate impact that the armed conflict had had on Afro-Colombian women in Judgment 092/2008, which orders the State to implement specific programs of protection and reparation.  However, Ms. Becerra revealed that these orders have not been followed by the State. Furthermore, the Collective Reparations Plan for COMADRE has not been properly implemented. The failure of the Colombian government to comply has contributed to the increase in vulnerability of Afro-Colombian women who are victims of displacement.

In this sense, Vice-President of AFRODES Erlendy Cuero Bravo explained the continued risk suffered by Afro-Colombian human rights defenders of displaced communities. She highlighted that hundreds of assassinations of social leaders are committed during the implementation of the Peace Accord. Patterns of violence can be identified, such as assassinations being preceded by threats, as happened in the case of AFRODES Prosecutor Bernardo Cuero. AFRODES’ Vice-President emphasized the failure of the State to implement collective protection measures for organizations like AFRODES, places human rights defenders at greater risk and prevents them from carrying out their work in their communities.

In order to address the human rights violations of displaced Afro-Colombian communities living in larger cities, AFRODES recommends that the Colombian government to diligently implement the orders of the Colombian Constitutional Court issued over ten years ago, specifically, the programs and plans directed in Judgments 005/2009 and 092/2008. Likewise, they stressed the need to implement a specific program for Afro-Colombian children and youth and to guarantee the implementation of the Collective Reparations Plan for COMADRE.

The representatives of the Colombian State did not directly respond to the concerns raised during the hearing by AFRODES and Race and Equality, and only presented statistics on advances in programs associated with Afro-Colombian communities. However, these programs do not directly target displaced Afro-Colombian communities who live in marginalized sectors of larger cities. In addition, the State did not provide an update on the status of the implementation of Judgments 05/2009 and 092/2008 and were vague about the coordination efforts with AFRODES and COMADRE.

The IACHR Commissioners who presided over the hearing highlighted the seriousness and complexity of the causes and impacts of forced displacement of Afro-Colombian communities. They also emphasized that the Colombian government must prioritize attention to these communities through all institutional mechanisms. As such, they requested more detailed and complete information from the State on these mechanisms.

Race and Equality positively values the hearing as well as the fact that the IACHR was able to hear again from Afro-Colombian communities who are obscured within the larger context of human rights violations in Colombia. However, the responses by the Colombian State on the lack of priority for the implementation of the judgments issued over ten years ago remains worrisome. Race and Equality will continue to support AFRODES in the follow-up of these recommendations and the agreements derived from the public hearing.

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