Case History: Lilia Peña Silva
Human rights defenders and members of the rights organisations Movimiento de Victimas de Crimenes de Estado and its partner organisations in the Departments of Atlántico, Sucre and Magdalena Medio received a number of death threats in 2015 in the form of pamphlets, phone calls and comments to members of their community.
Lilia Peña Silva is the founder and president of the Regional Association of Victims of State Crimes in Magdalena Medio (Asociación Regional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado del Magdalena Medio, ASORVIMM). As a result of her peaceful work in defence of human rights her husband and brother were tortured, disappeared, and assassinated.
Human rights defenders and members of Movimiento de Victimas de Crimenes de Estado – MOVICE (Movement of Victims of State Crimes) and its partner organisations in the Departments of Atlántico, Sucre and Magdalena Medio have received a number of death threats throughout the month of January in the form of pamphlets, phone calls and comments to members of their community.
MOVICE is a human rights organisation which monitors human rights violations committed by the state in the context of the armed conflict and calls for state agents and paramilitaries to be brought to justice. Asociación Regional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado en el Magdalena Medio – ASORVIMM (Regional Association of Victims of State Crimes in Magdalena Medio), is a partner organisation of MOVICE. The Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos – CSPP (Political Prisoner's Solidarity Committee) promotes the rights of political prisoners and campaigns for improved conditions of their detention.
On 21 January 2015, the latest in a series of three threatening pamphlets was delivered to human rights defenders and organisations in the Departments of Atlántico and Magdalena Medio. The pamphlet, which claims to be from the paramilitary group identifying itself as the Autodefensas Gaitanistas De Colombia AGC (Gaitan Self-Defense Groups of Colombia), named a long list of persons, including Messrs José Humberto Torres and Franklin Castañeda – both members of CSPP – and Ms Martha Díaz – a member of MOVICE in Atlántico. The pamphlet states that the paramilitary group was at war with the persons named and declares that the human rights defenders were falsely claiming to represent victims of the armed conflict at the peace talks currently taking place in Havana. José Humberto Torres and Martha Díaz attended Front Line Defender's Dublin Platform in 2007 and 2013, respectively, and they, as well as Franklin Castañeda, have been the victim of death threats over many years.
Previously, on 12 January 2015, Ms Carmen Mendoza, a member of MOVICE in Sucre, was informed that two unknown men on motorcycles without number plates had been inquiring after her and making threats, stating that the human rights defender must leave the area. The men continued to drive around the community throughout the day. Allegedly, the Criminal Investigation Unit of the police were contacted, but did not take any action to investigate the threats.
One day before, a pamphlet signed by the Águilas Negras paramilitary group was delivered to the homes and offices of human rights defenders in the Departments of Atlántico and the Caribbean region declaring the members of MOVICE in Sucre and Atlántico, including Mr Rosario Montoya, Mr José Humberto Torres, Ms Martha Díaz and Ms Ingrid Vergara Chávez, amongst others, to be military objectives. The same day, at approximately 5:30pm, Ms Lilia Peña Silva, President of ASORVIMM, received a threatening phone call attacking her for her human rights work.
On 18 December 2014, a pamphlet was distributed in the Caribbean region containing threats against various members of MOVICE and CSPP, again including Mr Rosario Montoya, Mr José Humberto Torres and Ms Martha Díaz.
These threats come in the context of long-term targeting of members of MOVICE throughout Colombia. According to sources, the protection measures allocated by the Unidad Nacional de Protección (National Protection Unit) to some of the above-mentioned human rights defenders have not been implemented. For more information on the threats faced by members of MOVICE and its partners, please see previous urgent appeals issued by Front Line Defenders.
Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of the aforementioned human rights defenders. Moreover, given the fact that Colombia continues to record some of the highest levels of attacks on human rights defenders, including 47 killings in 2014, Front Line Defenders reiterates that the Government is responsible for ensuring immediate measures to protect those who have been threatened, regardless of budget issues within the National Protection Unit.
On 9 January 2014, in the city of Barrancabermeja, human rights defenderMr Iván Madero Vergel received a death threat over the telephone, also warning him that his family's whereabouts were known.
On the same day, Ms Lilia Peña Silvareceived a death threat against her and the other members of the Asociación Regional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado del Magdalena Medio – ASORVIMM (Regional Association of Victims of the State of Magdalena Medio) as well as against human rights defenderMr Melkin Castrillón.
Iván Madero Vergel is president of theCorporación Regional por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos – CREDHOS (Regional Corporation for Defending Human Rights). Lilia Peňa Silva is a member of ASORVIMM, and Melkin Castrillón is a member of the Asociación Campesina del Valle del Río Cimitarra – ACVC (Campesino Association of the Valle del Río Cimitarra). The organisations work in the oil-rich city of Barrancabermeja and the surrounding region of Magdalena Medio, responding to the needs of the victims of the armed conflict in Colombia. They denounce violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by paramilitaries and state security forces, particularly cases of extra-judicial executions, as well as violations against and intimidation of the campesino community in Valle del Río Cimitarra.
On 9 January 2014, the secretary of CREDHOS received a threatening telephone call for Iván Madero Vergel, informing him that he had 48 hours to leave and that the whereabouts of his family had been identified. At the offices of ASORVIMM, a manilla envelope containing a pamphlet and a bullet was found. The pamphlet said, “Death to the guerrillas disguised as victims Asorvin Melqun Lilia (sic)”. This type of threat is frequent in Colombia; human rights defenders, campesino leaders, trade unionists and members of civil society organisations are often stigmatised as members of armed insurgency groups.
These incidents are the latest in a series of events. Front Line Defenders previously issued an urgent appeal on 27 November 2013 with regard to a break-in at the offices of CREDHOS, as well as intimidation of its members outside the office. Furthermore, during February and March of 2013 Melkin Castrillón and Lilia Peña Silva were subjected to death threats via SMS, including one threat of having a grenade thrown into their house.