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(WASHINGTON D.C.) – The Colombian authorities must ensure the safety of a human rights defender and his family after an anonymous source warned local police that paramilitaries are intending to kill them, said Amnesty International.
On June 3, the police commander of the Department of Sucre, in northern Colombia, received an email saying paramilitaries were intending to kill human rights defender Juan David Díaz, his wife, and “another person close to the family.”
“This is by no means the first time that a human rights defender from the area has been threatened, while some have even been killed,” said Marcelo Pollack, Colombia researcher at Amnesty International. “The Colombian authorities should take all threats seriously and ensure appropriate security is provided to those at risk.”
According to the email, those planning to kill Díaz were in prison in the northern coastal city of Barranquilla. A group of paramilitaries, belonging to Héroes de los Montes de María, have been held there since being convicted for killing his father, Eudaldo Díaz, the former mayor of the Sucre town of El Roble, in 2003. The day Eudaldo was killed, paramilitaries also threatened Juan David – who later survived several apparent attempts on his life.
Juan David Díaz is a member of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado, MOVICE), a coalition of civil society organizations campaigning for truth, justice, and reparation for the victims of the armed conflict. MOVICE has also been supporting peasant farmers who want to return to the La Alemania farm, after paramilitaries forcibly displaced them in 2000.
In the course of Colombia’s long-running conflict, between 3 and 5 million people have been forcibly displaced as millions of hectares of land have been misappropriated – often through violence against the rightful owners.
Amnesty International has previously documented how large numbers of Colombian activists have been targeted for their work in favor of displaced peasants trying to return to their lands.
“The authorities must carry out an urgent investigation into the latest threats and all measures must be taken to ensure human rights activists across Colombia are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals,” said Pollack.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.