The defenders of Human Rights are being victimised in various parts of the world because of their fight in favour of life, for demanding justice, for protesting against the arbitrariness of power, or for their struggle to end social inquisition. The international system has no suitable mechanisms to protect them. The State of Colombia is a particular example of this crisis. The international community has, on repeated occasions, declared its preoccupation with the high level of violations of Human Rights taking place for many years in one of the most dramatic situations in the world. In spite of these statements, the work in defence of Human Rights in this country is becoming more and more difficult each day.
The assassination of Josué Giraldo, President of the Civil Committee for Human Rights in Meta (Colombia) is especially indicative of the weakness of the international system for protection of Human Rights. Josué Giraldo had recently participated in the sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Commission,in European Parliament conference and in various national parliaments of Europe. As his life was repeatedly threatened, many statements by the international community demanded protection for his life, including the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights who presented cautionary measures before the Government of Colombia.
Despite all this, he was brutally assassinated, inhis home in front of his two young daughters, on October 13, 1996. This assassination, like almost all Human Rights violations has been maintained under the most absolute impunity. One year after his death we want gather together to pay homage to his memory in the European Parliament Buildings where he provided his invaluable testimony, to draw attention to the fact that the situation of the defenders of Human Rights in Colombia continues to worsen. Many of these people have been the victims of threats, summary executions, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrest, attempts against their lives, physical or mental torture, and driven into exile.
On many occasions the attacks against the defenders of Human Rights are preceded by official public declarations questioning their work. On February 23, 1997, the «El Espectador» newspaper published an interview with the Commander of the Army, General Manuel-José Bonnet, who declared, «This story of Human Rights has done us a lot of damage. Especially the witness given by the friends and supporters of the guerrilla. It is statements by organisations such as CINEP that accuse us of violating Human Rights».
On May 19, 1997, Colombians and the International Community were shocked by news of the massacre that took the lives of two members of CINEP, Mario Calderón and Elsá Alvarado, and her father. The Presidency of the Union expressed his outrage and the European Parliament passed an urgent resolution on June 12 condemning these assassinations and recalling and rejecting the impunity of the assassination of Josué Giraldo. Nevertheless, in July 1997, General Bonnet was promoted to the position of Commander of the Military Forces. In the light of this situation, we want to join with the international movement demanding that the United Nations and its member states establish an effective system of protection for those people who continue the fight for peace and human dignity. In the words of Josué Giraldo:
«We have to cut the wings of impunity so that life can fly.»
In view of the defencelessness faced by the defenders of Human Rights who fight for civil and political rights, the right to the land, to a home, to one's own culture, in defence of the environment and in defence of peace, one year after the assassination of Jesué Giraldo, President of the Human Rights Committee of Meta, we associate ourselves with this Act in favour of the Defenders of Human Rights in the buildings of the European Parliament and:
1. We energetically condemn the attacks against defenders of Human Rights that have cost the lives of so many of them, including in Colombia Josué Giraldo, Victor Julio Garzón, Mario Calderón and Elsa Alvarado.
2. We demand that the intellectual and material authors of these attacks against the defenders of Human Rights, and those that condone them by omission, receive disciplinary and penal sanctions in line with the seriousness of these crimes. We hope that, with regards to those states who tolerate impunity, the implementation of an International Criminal Court will contribute to reducing the impunity of these crimes against humanity.
3.We ask for effective and just compensation for the victims and/or their families. We ask that guarantees be given to refugees and exiles so that they may return to their countries.
4.We support and hope for an opportune response to the demands that Human Rights organisations have presented to their Government in Colombia for the prevention of attacks and protection of the defenders of Human Rights.
5.We support the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia In his request to Samper, President of the Country for the abolishion of the law that authorises the creation of the «Convivir» Rural Security Cooperatives.We ask the Government of Colombia to eradicate paramilitary groups and that they punish the agents of the State of any rank who, by omission or action, are involved with the protection and encouragement of such groups.
6. We ask European Governments and Community Authorities to continue applying diplomatic pressure on the authorities of Colombia to improve the Human Rights situation in this country, and to encourage a negotiated political solution to the armed conflict.
7. We ask all governments to quickly approve the Declaration of the United Nations for the protection of defenders of Human Rights and to seek out efficient mechanisms to prevent attacks against defenders of Human Rights.
8. We demand that European States maintain access to their territories in order to give asylum to refugees, in accordance with their international obligations.
Please support this declaration, sign and return the attached document.
is President of the Regional Human Rights Committee, CREDHOS. A regional organisation that attends to the needs of several municipalities in Magdalena Medio, one of the most violent areas in Colombia. Threats against members of CREDHOS are a daily occurrence, their life is in constant danger, seven of their members have been assassinated and others forced into exile. In spite of this, they continue their fight from the city of Barrancabermeja.
President of ANUC-UR, an independent rural organisation affiliated with «Via Campesina» (as well as with the «Movemento Sem Terra» in Brazil). In spite of the assassination of a large number of its leaders, the peasants claim their rights by peaceful means. At this difficult time they are faced with a gigantic battle against agricultural reform being carried out by paramilitary groups and the «Convivir» security cooperatives. The ANUC-UR has been the main support for families forced into exile including those of «Bellacruz», a property owned by the Ex-ambassador of Colombia in Brussels.
PIERRE MERTENS is a lawyer who specialises in international law. An observer of the Middle East, Latin America, and the countries of Eastern Europe, he has written several works on international crimes and human rights. Professor of compared literature, literary chronicler, he directs a centre of literature sociology in Brussels. He is the author of countless novels, stories, plays, and more, and has received the prestigious Berheim Prize for the totality of his work.
TESTIMONY OF THE LIFE OF JOSUE GIRALDO CARDONA.
With a prologue by Pierre Mertens - Ed. CNCD.
«The cemeteries were overflowing. Under the earth lie a multitude of blood-spattered bodies said to be beared of a single seed of hope, a spore of hope that was stubborn and incorruptible. The resting place of idealists, romantics, dreamers: those that one day believed in democracy; those that believed in the poor; those that believed in the possibility of social changes; those that believed in justice; those that believed in the rights of the weak; those that believed in human dignity.»
FATHER JAVIER GIRALDO
Homage in memory of Josué. October 28, 1996.
«Josué Giraldo would have eternally wished that his tragic end, far from circumstantial homages, would give rise not only to tribute to him but also to renewed promises to fight for the causes we shared with him. Spreading his testimony, remarkably presented by Pierre Mertens and with an introduction by Luis Guillermo Pérez who interviewed Josué shortly before his death, the CNCD would once more like to contribute to a better awareness of the suffering taking place in Colombia, and the road still to be travelled before the end is reached.»
PHILIPPE PEPIN, General Secretary, CNCD.
The book by Josué Giraldo may be purchased in French or Spanish by transferring the equivalent of USD 10 (or BEF 250 if the order is for Belgium) to account number 034- 2164249-47 of the Daniel Gillard Committee, CGER Bank, rue Fossé aux Loups, 48, 1000 Brussels, mentioning «Josué, livre en français» or «Josué, libro en español» as appropriate.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15
12:15 « Colombia: what are the possibilities of the social moviement? » Conference- Debate forming part of «Les Midis du Tiers monde». CNCD, 9 Quai du Commerce, Brussels.
20:00 Conference: «Colombia, a democracy ?» with the participation of: - Hector Moncayo, Latin American Institute of Alternative Legal Services. - Belén Torres, President of the peasant association ANUC-UR. - Osiris Bayther. President of the CREDHOS Human Rights organisation. Address: 58/56 Rue de L'Etuve, 1000 Brussels.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16
11:00 European Parliament: Act for the protection of defenders of Human Rights, Homage to Josué Giraldo, and presentation of the book « Cut the wings of impunity ». With the participation of representatives of the European Parliament, European union, international NGOs for Rights and Development, Belén Torres, Osiris Bayther and Pierre Mertens.
12:20 Closure: Reading of the declaration
13:00 In front of the Colombian Embassy in different European Capitals. Placement of wreaths in memory of the defenders of Human Rights that have been assassinated or have disappeared. In Brussels: 96a av. F. Roosevelt.
Organised by: The Belgian Coordination for COLOMBIA (Broederlijk Delen, CNCD, «Daniel Gillard» Committee for Human Rights, NCOS. OXFAM-Solidarité, Propaz COLOMBIA) and the Latin American Group against Impunity (Committee Peru-Quipú, Commitee Oscar Romero - Europe, Serpaj - Europe). Secretary:c/o Danial Gillard 11 rue Gachard, 1050 Brussels. Tel/Fax: (+32) 27 648 5118 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org -http://www.derechos.org/nizkor (Artwork by Piccaya & illus by E. Toussaint).