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Colombia: Cyber attacks against human rights organisation Political Prisoner's Solidarity Committee
Throughout the month of August 2012, the human rights organisation Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos, FCSPP (Political Prisoner's Solidarity Committee) has been subjected to a series of cyber attacks.
FCSPP is an organisation dedicated to combating persecution based on political reasons, through the promotion of human rights and the provision of human rights education, particularly to the most vulnerable sectors of Colombian society. FCSPP also works to protect and promote the rights of political prisoners in Colombia.
Between 15 and 24 August 2012, FCSPP's website was the target of incessant cyber attacks. As a result of these attacks, the website was inaccessible from 15 to 18 August, and it was temporarily blocked on several other occasions until full control of the site was regained on 24 August.
Moreover, between 10 and 25 August 2012, the organisation's email account was hacked and used to send malicious viruses and spam messages, and all employee work email accounts were deleted. During this time, the hacked email account was also used to send threatening emails to a member of the organisation based in the Antioquia Branch.
Furthermore, on 13 August 2012, the hard disk of a computer containing information relating to the work of FCSPP was stolen from the offices of the Atlántico Branch. The individual(s) who stole it replaced it with a hard disk that does not work.
At the beginning of August 2012, spyware was found installed on the computer that is used in FCSPP's national office to maintain the organisation's website and to manage its communications. The software was designed to record all of the information on the computer and to send it via the Internet to an unknown location.
These cyber attacks come against the backdrop of constant harassment and intimidation facing FCSPP. On 9 July 2012, Mr Walter Agredo received a death threat via text message, which made reference to several human rights organisations including FCSPP, and stated: “Moriran defensores de guerrilleros...” (You will die defenders of guerrillas). On 4 July 2012, Mr José Humberto Torres and Mr Franklin Castañeda were among 13 human rights defenders identified as “objetivos militares” (military targets) by the paramilitary group that calls itself Ejército Anti Restitución (Army against Restitution). For further information, please see the urgent appeal issued by Front Line Defenders on 10 July 2012 Colombia: Death threats against human rights organisations and human rights defenders.
Furthermore, since the 12 June 2012 members of the FCSPP have been refused entry to prisons and detention centres, despite the organisation following the correct procedures for applications for visitations. Between 12 June and 22 August 2012 a total of 58 requests were denied without explanation and despite other organisations still being granted access. In 2010, in the context of the precautionary measures granted to the FCSPP, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) requested that the Colombian State agree upon an admission protocol in order to ensure that the FCSPP have access to carry out their human rights work with prisoners.
Front Line Defenders condemns the cyber attacks on FCSPP, and believes that they are directly related to the organisation's peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights. Moreover, Front Line Defenders is concerned that the repeated refusal of the authorities to allow FCSPP members to enter prisons and detention centres may be an arbitrary means of preventing the organisation from carrying out its human rights work.