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Murder in Buenaventura of human rights defender Emilsen Manyoma, of the CONPAZ network and leader of the Bajo Calima Community Council, together with her partner Joe Javier Rodallega.
Bogotá, 19th January 2017
We wish to share with you our profound sadness and concern over the recent murder in Buenaventura of Emilsen Manyoma, human rights defender with the CONPAZ network and leader of the Bajo Calima Community Council, which we have been accompanying both with the Inter-church Justice and Peace Commission and CONPAZ.
Although the events in question are still under investigation, the Inter-church Justice and Peace Commission has reported that her body, together with that of her partner Joe Javier Rodallega, was found lifeless at dawn on 17th January in El Progreso neighbourhood of commune 10 in Buenaventura, with her neck slit and multiple stab wounds. Different sources suggest that both had been picked up on Saturday night in a taxi which took them to Las Palmas neighbourhood, where contact with them was lost.
Through her leadership in the Community Council, Emilson had been part of the struggle for the preservation of collective territories in the Bajo Calima area since 2005, in the face of paramilitary control, drug-trafficking and megaprojects belonging to the firm Aguadulce. Through her work with the network CONPAZ, she had also supported various social initiatives of communities in Buenaventura, such as the declarations of humanitarian reserves along the San Juan and Calima river basins, and the construction of the Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space and, more recently, the Punta Icaco Humanitarian Space, formalised on the 6th October last year.
This murder has taken place in the worrying context of the Buenaventura area in recent months. Also in Bajo Calima a man was shot on 23rd November last year, and the community leader Armando Torres Lozano, of the Community Council and Marcha Patriótica political movement, has been missing since the 2nd December. In La Playita neighbourhood, five families from Piedras Cantan Street (next door to the Humanitarian Spaces) were forcibly displaced on 2nd January by alleged paramilitary group, bringing to 14 the number of families that have had to displace due to threats between 2016 and the beginning of 2017. Various death threats and threats of extortion have also been reported in the Punta Icaco Humanitarian Space, despite the high presence of public security forces in that part of the city.
Despite the peacebuilding achievements – amongst others, the Agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC, there was an identifiable increase in threats, assaults and murders of social leaders and human rights’ defenders in 2016 (compared to 2015), which makes Colombia the most dangerous country in the world to undertake such work. According to the NGO Somos Defensores, 24% of attacks against defenders between July and September 2016 can be attributed to paramilitary groups, as they are most frequent perpetrators identified in such cases. Human Rights Watch has highlighted the presence, in particular, of paramilitary successor groups in Buenaventura, and the threat that they represent for social leaders.
In view of these events, we request that the international community:
- Urge the Attorney General’s office to investigate the murder of Emilsen Manyoma and Joe Javier Rodallega as a matter of priority, fairly and impartially.
- Make a public, jointly-coordinated statement condemning these murders, in the context of a wave of murders of social leaders and human rights’ defenders over recent months in Colombia.
- Urge the Colombian Government to agree and implement rapid and effective protection measures for threatened leaders, in particular those related to point 3.4 of the peace agreement with the FARC, concerning the dismantling of paramilitary successor groups.
We invite anyone committed to the defence of human rights in Colombia or any other part of the world, to send a letter of concern (model letter available in Spanish or English) to their embassy in Colombia.
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