Renewed threats against Afro-Colombian leaders put their lives at risk

Bogota, 15 July 2019.  Afrocolombian leaders were declared “military targets” by the clandestine group Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles) in a text message received July 13, 2019.

The text included an ultimatum for the members of the Consejo Comunitario de las Comunidades Negras (Communal Councils of Black Communities) in La Toma to leave their territory within 72 hours because of their “disobedience” and their “opposition to development.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

“Your debt is still not paid…each one of you son-of-bitches Blacks is a military target, just like all those toads that you care for, so you will die. AGUILAS NEGRAS ARE HERE,” the message reads.

This message is the latest incident in a pattern of persecution and harassment. Afro-Colombian human rights defenders, including the “Environmental Nobel” (Goldman Prize) honoree Francia Márquez, were attacked in May by armed men wielding guns and a grenade in Norte de Cauca.  (Read the statement regarding the attack on Afro-Colombian social leaders in Norte de Cauca).

We are extremely concerned by the systematic pattern of threats, harassment and repression that targets the life, integrity and peace of mind of Colombian social leaders. We are especially alarmed by the acts of violence and persecution against Afro-Colombian social leaders who struggle against development frameworks that wipe out communities, expropriate land and challenge the sovereignty of Afro-Colombians over their ancestral territory.

We urge the Colombian government, led by President Iván Duque, to speak out immediately against these acts that threaten the rights and lives of Afro-Colombian peoples. We also implore the government to prioritize addressing the genocidal circumstances that are confronting the country during the peace process. The number of social leaders assassinated since the signing of the Accords has climbed over 300 (with indigenous and Afro-descendent leaders being the most affected) without effective protection from the procedures meant to guarantee the rights to life, territory, justice and peace.

We also urge the international community to continue monitoring the current national emergency in Colombia, particularly the violence in ethnic territories that have historically suffered poverty, marginalization and violations of fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

To denounce the threats and the danger facing Afro-Colombian communities and all ethnic groups in Colombia, social leaders held a press conference on July 15th at 2:00pm, when the “deadline” given by the Aguilas Negras expired.

As Francia Márquez told Colombian newspaper El Espectador, “at the press conference, we will lay out our situation for the authorities. We want them to investigate why we are being threatened, labeled as targets, and made to leave our territory, among other things. No one should have to die for demanding their rights.”

Race and Equality adds our voice to the outcry against these acts, which require the Colombian government’s and international community’s immediate attention. Stable and sustainable peace cannot take root without guaranteeing justice, truth and peace for all peoples.

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