Dear <<First Name>>

Welcome to ABColombia's Enews. In this edition:
  • In the Crossfire: thousands of Indigenous and Afro Colombians flee their territory in Chocó.
  • Colombians fearful as paramilitary bosses are released.
  • Retired Colonel summoned for murder of Jaime Garzón.
  • IACHR accept conflict sexual violence case of Jineth Bedoya Lima.
  • Oxfam sign statement on World Bank turning its back on rights protections for the poor.
  • Debate held in House of Lords on the UK-Colombia Bilateral Investment Treaty. 

In the Crossfire: thousands of Indigenous and Afro Colombians flee their territory in Chocó (link to article)
ABColombia has added its voice to that of Colombian civil society and issued a statement on the escalating humanitarian crisis in Chocó, western Colombia. Thousands of indigenous and afro-Colombians living in the department of Chocó have found themselves fleeing for their lives as illegal armed groups fight for the control of territory, illegal mineral mining and lucrative drug-trafficking corridors. Despite there being a joint military task force – Titan – deployed in the region, these communities remain unprotected.
Recommendations to the Colombian State include taking emergency actions to address the needs of communities suffering the humanitarian crisis; to guarantee their protection and security; to investigate the actions that have put at risk the lives of community members; and to ensure that Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Ethnic Development Plans have sufficient support and resources to be implemented.
Read the statement here.



Mining is expanding in Chocó and concessions have been granted without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous and afro-Colombians living there (as stated under ILO Convention 169 and required by law in Colombia). Photo: CAFOD

Colombians fearful as paramilitary bosses are released (link to article)
This August between 160 and 200 paramilitaries from the Colombian United Self-Defence Force (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia -AUC) will start leaving prison. The paramilitaries being released are those who had committed crimes against humanity and transferred for trial under Law 975 of 2005, also called the ‘Justice and Peace Law’. Their imminent release has led to considerable fear among the victims of their crimes, particularly those who testified against them.
Read more here.

Retired Colonel summoned for murder of Jaime Garzón (link to article)

Fifteen years after the assassination of the beloved Colombian journalist and political satirist Jaime Garzón, the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office summons Colonel Jorge Eliécer Plazas Acevedo to court for his murder.
Whilst the order against Colonel Plazas Acevedo is a welcome advancement in the case of Jaime Garzon’s murder, according to family members and legal organisations, the failure of the investigator in the case to declare it a ‘crime against humanity’ remains an obstacle for obtaining justice and uncovering fully the truth.
Until now, just one person has been charged for the murder of Jaime Garzón: in March 2004 the ex-paramilitary commander Carlos Castaño was sentenced for masterminding the crime. However, the involvement of Colombian security forces had been suspected for a long time.
Read more here.

Jaime Garzón was loved by Colombians for his political satire. He was also known for his humanitarian acts and for the work he did to advocate for a peace process with the left wing guerrilla groups. Photo: Semana

IACHR accept conflict sexual violence case of Jineth Bedoya Lima
ABColombia would like to congratulate Jineth Bedoya Lima on the excellent news that her case has been accepted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (read more on El Tiempo’s website).
Jineth Bedoya Lima is a Colombian journalist who was kidnapped, tortured and raped by paramilitaries in 2000 whilst carrying out her work as an investigative journalist (more about her case here). Look out for more information on Jineth’s case and conflict-related sexual violence in our next newsletter.


Oxfam sign statement on World Bank turning its back on rights protections for the poor (link to article)
Civil society organisations around the world, including ABColombia member Oxfam, have criticised a leaked draft of the World Bank’s proposed new policies to avoid harmful impacts from the development projects that it finances.
In the statement, sent by 97 non-governmental organisations and civil society networks and 17 distinguished individuals from Asia-Pacific, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe, they demand that the draft be sent back to the drawing board and re-written with serious safeguards to respect and protect the land, housing and livelihood rights of the poor.  
Read more here.


Debate held in House of Lords on the UK-Colombia Bilateral Investment Treaty (link to article) 

The UK-Colombia Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) was ratified by the House of Commons on Thursday 10 July 2014. On 30 July a debate was held on the BIT in the House of Lords, during which Lords and Ladies spoke about the risks posed by the treaty. To echo Lord Stevenson of Balmacara’s words on this point, it is important to recognise that we had Conservatives, Labour Members, Cross Benchers and Bishops representing [the House of Lords speaking in this debate], so all aspects of the House have been recorded. The unanimity in what was being said was remarkable’.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Labour) tabled the motion, stating that the concerns over the BIT include ‘a feeling that the balance of the treaty may be wrong, in that it gives excessive protection to investors while limiting the ability of the host country to regulate the FDI...’.
Crossbencher Lord Alton explained: ‘Instead of promoting policy changes to improve human rights, the bilateral agreement could obstruct Colombia’s ability to promote policies that achieve improvements in human rights’.
Conservative and Latin American expert Baroness Hooper added that ‘it creates legal uncertainty and could undermine the land reforms ... which are vital to the peace process in Colombia’. She went on to say that the BIT  ‘does not contain human rights obligations on investors in spite of the Government committing to this in our recent national action plan on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’.

Lord Monks raised concerns related to the attacks on trade unionists, meanwhile the Bishop of Sheffield highlighted ‘...the dangers posed by this treaty to the protection of the human rights ...with respect to upholding the indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent, and their right to self-determination and their own development...’.

The vast majority of the speakers urged the UK Government to establish an annual official monitoring system for the treaty, in order to measure the impact of this agreement on both human rights and peace agreements.
Lord Stephenson finished by saying that in relation to the situation seen on the ground in Colombia and the human rights concerns raised in the debate, ‘The only response we got from the Minister was that he understood our fears but thought they were overstated. I do not think that that cuts it’.
Read more here.

Best wishes,

Louise Winstanley
Programme and Advoacacy Manager - ABColombia