Human right defenders in Colombia subjected to attack

This content is in English.

Diakonia and The Church of Sweden’s international work condemn the assassination attempt against Matilde Leonor López Arpushana. Matilde received the 2014 award for the defence of human rights in Colombia in the category of Human Rights Defender.

We are deeply concerned about the situation and we demand that the state fulfill its commitments to protect both Matilde and her family.

Statement
Diakonia and The Church of Sweden’s international work condemn the attack on the night of September 27 against MATILDE LEONOR LÓPEZ ARPUSHANA , a human rights leader and the 2014 award winner of the Defense of Human Rights in Colombia.

We note the seriousness of the threat and the absence of safeguards for leaders, human rights defenders and local organizations, including those in the department of La Guajira.

Organizations operating in this area, and also at national level, experience an increased vulnerability in the current situation in Colombia, with increased murder rates, threats and harassment against leaders and human rights defenders.

A large number of organizations, both afro-Colombian and indigenous organizations, have flagged the urgency of the situation, but this has not had resulted in risk minimization or emergency measures for local, regional and national institutions.

Diakonia and The Church of Sweden’s international work demand that the state take urgent action, both at local and national level. The state must take responsibility for safeguarding the right to life and protection of leaders and human rights defenders, as well as the organizations they represent. Their right to exercise their rights needs to be defended and protected.

We urge the authorities to strengthen their presence in the vulnerable areas for the protection of the civilian population in accordance with the constitutional court’s statements and rulings. Immediate action must be taken to protect and defend human rights defenders and leaders.

The need to strengthen local and national authorities’ capacity to work with preventive measures against human rights violations, such as the right to life, freedom and security for individuals, groups and communities, is urgent.

The protection mechanisms available must be followed, both for individuals and organizations, in accordance with the National Protection Unit (UNP) and the Commission for Human Rights Compliance (Comision de Garantías para Lideresas and Defensoras de Derechos Humanos). Recommendations, reports and follow-up notes from the Early Warning System must be implemented and followed Early Warning System of the Ombudsman’s Office in its Risk Reports and Follow-up Notes.

Diakonia and the Church of Sweden’s international work call on the authorities to investigate and punish those responsible for the assassination attempt against Matilde Leonor Lopez Arpushana, both for her safety and her family’s.

We also urge the authorities to respond to humanitarian needs and ensure the local people’s human rights in Guajira, especially the right to land and the indigenous populations’ right to self-determination.

Diakonia and Church of Sweden will continue accompanying Colombian human rights defenders and their communities and advocating for the protection of their rights, as well as urging the municipal and national authorities to fulfill their obligations in this work.

MATILDE LEONOR LÓPEZ ARPUSHANA
Is an Indigenous leader, representing 145 local communities from the Wayuu Indigenous peoples group, working to protect and defend boys, girls and women’s rights in Riohacha, in the department of Guajira. Her work is carried out within the framework of the Consejeria de la Mujer, Familia and Generacion belonging to an organization called ONIC
She is raising the humanitarian crisis that the people of Wayuu are going through. She participates in legal action against human rights violations for the affected people in the local community. She has also participated in joint actions with authorities and worked for the indigenous people’s participation in these, including round table talks and in various administrative negotiations in critical cases for vulnerable students. She also participates in various accountability-related contexts for Congress and the Health Authority in Colombia.