human rights defender under surveillance
Colombian human rights defender Berenice Celeita was kept under surveillance by unidentified individuals after returning from a visit to the USA and Canada to expose human rights violations in Colombia.
From the evening of 20 June until the early hours of 21 June, a vehicle was parked outside the home of human rights defender Berenice Celeita (also sometimes spelled Celeyta) in Bogotá, the capital. From her window she saw that the two occupants sitting at the front of the vehicle were taking photographs of her house and she saw a camera flash firing.
Berenice Celeita called the local police to report the incident and the vehicle immediately drove away. Berenice Celeita is the director of the Research and Social Action Association (Asociación para la Investigación y Acción Social, NOMADESC), a non-governmental human rights organization that works in south-western Colombia and is based in the city of Cali. The human rights defender had just returned from a tour to the USA and Canada during which she was exposing human rights violations in Colombia and, amongst other issues, spoke about the serious human rights situation in Buenaventura and the importance of bringing to justice international economic and other interests which have benefitted from and have been responsible for human rights abuses and violations that have occurred during the course of Colombia’s long-running internal armed conflict.
In the past, human rights defenders who have been under surveillance, including by the security forces, have subsequently been physically attacked. NOMADESC has been the repeated target of death threats in recent years.
Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:
- Expressing concern for the safety of Berenice Celeita and other members of NOMADESC and calling on the authorities to ensure protection measures for them in strict accordance with their wishes;
- Urging the authorities to order full and impartial investigations into the incidents, publish the results and prosecute those responsible;
- Reminding the authorities to fulfill their obligations to ensure human rights defenders can carry out their work without fear, as laid out in the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 7 AUGUST 2015 TO:
Juan Manuel Santos
Presidente de la República
Casa de Nariño
Calle 7. No 6-54.
Fax: 011 57 1 596 0631
Salutation: Dear President Santos/ Excmo. Sr. Presidente Santos
Minister of Defense
Señor Luis Carlos Villegas
Ministerio de Defensa
Carrera 54, no.26-29
Fax: 011 57 1 266 1003
Salutation: Dear Minister /
Also send copies to:
Charge d’Affaires German Espejo, Embassy of Colombia
2118 Leroy Place, NW, Washington DC 20008
Tel: 202 387 8338 I Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please let us know if you took action so that we can track our impact! EITHER send a short email to email@example.com with “UA 140/15” in the subject line, and include in the body of the email the number of letters and/or emails you sent, OR fill out this short online form to let us know how you took action. Thank you for taking action! Please check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if taking action after the appeals date.
human rights defender under surveillance
During Colombia’s long-running armed conflict, members of human rights organizations, trade unions and other social organizations have often been labelled as guerrilla collaborators or supporters by the security forces and paramilitaries. As a result they are often killed, threatened or subjected to enforced disappearance. Guerrilla groups have also threatened or killed human rights defenders they consider to be siding with the enemy.
Berenice Celeita and other members of NOMADESC have been repeatedly threatened over many years. NOMADESC has been campaigning for justice in cases of serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions. NOMADESC has also been working closely with Afro-descendant, Indigenous and peasant farmer communities who have faced serious human rights violations committed by paramilitaries and the security forces in the context of the development of large-scale economic projects, including projects in the mining, hydroelectric or agro-industrial sectors.
Buenaventura is an important port on the Colombian Pacific Coast in the department of Valle del Cauca. There are a number of large-scale infrastructure projects being developed in the city, which still has a strong presence of paramilitary groups that have been able to operate despite the presence of large contingents of security forces personnel. There have been reports of numerous killings, forced displacements and forced disappearances in the city. The bodies are often dumped in clandestine cemeteries or in the sea, which means that the whereabouts of many of the victims remain unknown.
Despite the strong presence of the security forces, paramilitaries have been able to operate continuously with little effective action by the authorities to stop their activities. Witnesses have stated that although the security forces know who the paramilitaries are and where the paramilitary commanders live, they have taken no decisive action to confront them. Similarly, the authorities know where the houses used by paramilitaries to kill their victims are located, as well as where the clandestine cemeteries used by the paramilitaries are situated.
Name: Berenice Celeita (f) and other members of NOMADESC
Issues: Human rights defender, Freedom of expression, Fear for safety
Issue Date: 26 June 2015