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Colombia: Fear for safety: Monica Madero Vergel

, Index number: AMR 23/063/2000

An anonymous caller has threatened to kill the secretary of the human rights organisation CREDHOS. Amnesty International believes that she and other members of the organisation are in grave danger.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 23/63/00
UA 258/00 Fear for Safety 30 August 2000
COLOMBIAMónica Madero Vergel, human rights defender
Other CREDHOS members
An anonymous caller has threatened to kill the secretary of the human rights
organisation CREDHOS. Amnesty International believes that she and other members
of the organisation are in grave danger.
The caller, who rang Mónica Madero Vergel on her mobile phone on 26 August
at 3.50pm, accused her of being a guerrilla and warned her to leave
Barrancabermeja “together with her friends” (“junto con sus amigos”) - thought
to mean other CREDHOS workers - or else they would be killed.
CREDHOS (Corporación Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (Regional
Human Rights Committee) is based in Barrancabermeja, in the central department
of Santander. CREDHOS workers have played a vital role in drawing international
attention to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law
committed by guerrillas, the security forces and paramilitaries. They have
sought to expose the strong links between the security forces and paramilitary
groups.
A death list is reported to be circulating in the department of Santander,
naming between 500 and 1000 people, including social activists and human rights
defenders. The security forces and their paramilitary allies often draw up
such lists of people they consider to be guerrilla collaborators or
sympathizers. Those named on these lists have frequently suffered serious human
rights violations. Other human rights defenders in the area have recently faced
death threats and human rights violations (See UA 82/00, AMR 23/20/00, 13 April;
UA 133/00, AMR 23/38/00, 25 May; UA 163/00, AMR 23/47/00, 16 June, and follow
up, AMR 23/54/00, 14 July.)
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The Colombian army and security forces, and their paramilitary allies, commit
serious human rights violations with virtual impunity. Paramilitary groups
have killed several thousand civilians over the past five years. The Colombian
government suspended the constitutional legal base for the formation of
paramilitary organizations and issued directives to the armed forces to combat
and disband such groups in 1989, yet they continue to work with the support
of the security forces in many areas of the country.
The security forces and paramilitaries have a policy of labelling human rights
organizations as guerrilla collaborators or supporters, so they can present
them as legitimate targets in the counter-insurgency war. Over 25 human rights
defenders have been killed or “disappeared” in the last three years. Some armed
opposition groups also refuse to respect the legitimacy and independence of
organizations which belong to civil society.
Human rights defenders working with CREDHOS and other non-governmental
organizations in Barrancabermeja and the Magdalena Medio region have suffered
continuous threats and harassment for carrying out their legitimate work to
promote and protect human rights in accordance with internationally recognized
standards. Many have been killed and others have been forced to leave the region.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in or your own language:
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- expressing concern for the safety of Mónica Madero Vergel, who has received
a telephone death threat against her and other CREDHOS workers;
- urging a full and impartial investigation, with the results made public and
those responsible brought to justice;
- urging the authorities to take immediate steps to guarantee the safety of
CREDHOS members, so they can continue their work of promoting and protecting
human rights in accordance with international human rights standards;
- urging the government to adhere to its obligations regarding human rights
defenders, as laid out in the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility
of Individuals, Groups and Organs of_Society to Promote and Protect Universally
Recognized_Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms adopted on 9 December 1998,
and the Organization of American States Human Rights Defenders in the Americas
resolution adopted on 7 June 1999 [AG/RES. 1671 (XXIX-O/99)];
- calling for a full and impartial investigation into links between the security
forces and paramilitary groups operating in Barrancabermeja and the surrounding
area, urging that the results are made public and those found responsible for
supporting and participating in such groups be brought to justice;
- urging the authorities to take immediate action to dismantle paramilitary
groups, in line with stated government commitments and UN recommendations.
APPEALS TO:
President of the Republic
Señor Presidente Andrés Pastrana Arango
Presidente de la República
Palacio de Nariño
Carrera 8 No.7-26
Santafé de Bogotá
COLOMBIA
Fax: + 57 1 286 7434/287 7939/284 2186/289 3377/337 1351
Salutation:Dear President / Excmo. Sr Presidente
Vice-President of the Republic
Señor Vicepresidente Gustavo Bell Lemus
Alto Consejero Presidencial para asuntos de Derechos Humanos y lucha Contra
la Corrupción
Cra. 8 #7-26,
Palacio de Nariño,
Santafé de Bogotá
Fax: + 57 1 337 1351
Salutation:Dear Vice-President / Excmo. Sr Vicepresidente
Minister of Interior
Dr. Humberto de la Calle
Ministro del Interior
Ministerio del Interior
Palacio Echeverry
Carrera 8a, No.8-09, piso 2o.
Santafé de Bogotá
COLOMBIA
Fax: + 57 1 286 8025/284 0214
Salutation:Dear Sir / Sr Ministro
COPIES TO:
CREDHOS
AA 505
Barrancabermeja
3
Santander
Colombia
and to diplomatic representatives of Colombia accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 11 October 2000.

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