Case History: Danilo Rueda
Members of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz – CIJP, including Danilo Rueda, have been subjected to death threats and other acts of intimidation in the past as a result of their work in defence oh human rights.
Danilo Rueda is the National Coordinator of the NGO Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz – CIJP (Inter-Church Commission of Justice and Peace), a church-based human rights organisation working to expose human rights violations committed in the conflict regions of Colombia by state security forces and paramilitary groups.
On 28 February 2014, human rights defenders Ms Janeth Hernández and Mr Abilio Peña were followed by unknown men on a motorbike during the afternoon. That same day, before midday, a note was left in the postbox of human rights defender Mr Danilo Rueda, threatening him with death. On 27 February 2014, during the night-time, human rights defender Mr José Rocamora was followed by three men as he left his place of residence. All four human rights defenders are members of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz – CIJP (Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace), with Danilo Rueda being the national co-ordinator. The CIJP is a church-based NGO which works to expose human rights violations committed by state security forces and paramilitaries in conflict zones in Colombia. Owing to this work, several members of the CIJP have been subjected to death threats and harassment in the past. On 28 February, Janeth Hernández and Abilio Peña were in the city of Bogotá when the persons in charge of their security plan warned that they were being followed. The men fled when they realised the bodyguards were about to confront them. On that same day, the threat left by a man and a woman in Danilo Rueda's postbox made reference to the human rights defender dying like his father. The night before, José Rocamora, when he realised he was being followed, managed to enter a nearby building where neighbours have confirmed he was being followed. The men waited outside the building for thirty minutes. Meanwhile, the human rights defender's personal computer, which contained sensitive information including research into the prison system, cultural questions and young people in several conflict zones, was stolen. Nothing of value was taken. The incidents follow a separate incident on 16 February 2014, which took place while Danilo Rueda was in another city visiting family and being interviewed in relation to a recent decision by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights to sanction the Colombian state for the forced displacement and killing of Marino López. That day, the family of Danilo Rueda received a warning letter which stated the following: “Tell your brother to be careful. He has been very careless in his family visit. They are not joking. They are paying attention. I do not participate in this badness. That he take care”. During this period of supposed rest, Colombia's Unidad Nacional de Protección - UNP (National Protection Unit) had not responded to a request to facilitate the human rights defender's protection scheme in that city. The CIJP accompanies afro-descendants and indigenous communities and organisations who live around Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó to peacefully reclaim their land and affirm their rights. At the end of the 1990s, paramilitaries and state security forces occupied the land and expelled the communities with the aim of growing palm-oil as a commercial crop. Powerful mining interests also developed operations in these areas. Despite repeated orders from the Constitutional Court, the lands have not been restituted to the communities, and those who have returned to their lands suffer threats and killings as a result. Their work for the human rights of these communities, particularly against impunity in emblematic cases, has made the members of the CIJP the target of threats and attacks as well.
On 13 February 2013, three shots were fired at the vehicle of Father Alberto Franco, a prominent human rights defender and Executive Secretary of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace CIJP). The CIJP is a church-based human rights organisation working to expose human rights violations committed by state security forces and paramilitary groups in conflict regions in Colombia. The attack follows acts of surveillance and intimidation of Father Alberto Franco during recent weeks and coincides with the hearing of the case on “Operation Genesis”, a joint military and paramilitary operation which resulted in the killing and forced disappearance of many civilians; a case which the CIJP has provided key evidence for. On 13 February 2013, at approximately 7:50 am, three shots were fired at the front window of Father Alberto Franco's vehicle. It is reported that the attack was an attempt to test the level of protective plating in the armoured vehicle used by Father Alberto Franco, which he received as part of a government protection programme, as directed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In recent weeks, Father Alberto Franco has been subjected surveillance and acts of intimidation. On 11 February 2013, at approximately 7:30 am, two unknown individuals in a grey Mazda Coupe 323 car were witnessed close to the human rights defender's home, observing his movements. One of the individuals got out of the car to continue his observations, but upon being sighted by witnesses, got back into the car and left immediately. A similar incident reportedly happened during the morning of 30 January 2013. These acts follow recent statements made by Father Alberto Franco in the media regarding the role of government officials of former President Álvaro Uribe in impeding the restitution of lands and collective farms in the communities of Curvaradó y Jiguamiandó. As a result of their work in denouncing human rights violations, members of the CIJP have been continuously subjected to acts of intimidation and harassment, which have increased in recent weeks, since the opening of the hearing of the case regarding “Operation Genesis”. On 11 February 2013, the CIJP became aware of a defamatory letter against the CIJP which was submitted to the Inter-American Court and Commission on Human Rights, the Ambassador of the United States in Colombia and the Colombia Mission of the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID). The letter claimed that the CIJP had links to the guerilla group FARC and had represented them on various occasions internationally. The letter also made false accusations against CIJP member Mr Abilio Peña and CIJP National Coordinator Mr Danilo Rueda, as well another human rights defender, Mr Javier Giraldo. The letter, which was submitted hours before the hearing in the case “Operation Genesis” began, accused Danilo Rueda of procedural fraud by way of providing 100 million pesos to each individual testifying against the accused military and paramilitaries.
On 13 May 2011 the home of human rights defender Mr Danilo Rueda in Bogotá was broken into and computer memory sticks containing confidential and sensitive information regarding human rights abuses and his work in the protection of human rights were stolen. Danilo Rueda is the National Coordinator of the NGO Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz – CIJP (Inter-Church Commission of Justice and Peace), a church-based human rights organisation working to expose human rights violations committed in the conflict regions of Colombia by state security forces and paramilitary groups. Members of the group including Danilo Rueda have been subjected to death threats and other acts of intimidation in the past as a result of their work in the defence of human rights. On 13 May 2011, at approximately 6:30 pm, Danilo Rueda returned to his home to find it had been searched and items were missing. Books were thrown on the floor, passports were taken out of their covers, a computer was left turned on, a folder containing sensitive documents was open and a door leading out onto the balcony was left open. Although no valuables were taken, two USB memory sticks containing sensitive information were stolen. The memory sticks contained information relating to a military operation called “Genesis”. This joint military and paramilitary operation resulted in the killing and forced disappearance of many civilians. The memory sticks contained national and international criticisms of the operation, information regarding crimes against humanity committed between 2002 and 2010, work done by CIJP in 13 regions in Colombia, analysis of illegal operations of the Departmento Administrativo de Seguridad – DAS (Administrative Department of Security) against communities and social organisations, documents relating to peace processes and humanitarian initiatives, the prison conditions of political prisoners and letters from paramilitaries extradited to the United States. The break-in follows a series of acts of intimidation against members of CIJP. Danilo Rueda was reportedly followed and harassed on two occasions in the past nine months, once by men on motorbikes. On 18 April a former community council member, allegedly linked to retired general Rito Alego del Río, a former military commander, accused Danilo Rueda and CIJP of being guerrillas and attempting to take the land of the communities they represent for themselves. Ex- general Rito Alego del Rio is currently under criminal investigation for his involvement in coordinating military and paramilitary strategies including operation “Genesis”. The existence of these operations were confirmed in court on 11 and 12 May 2011 by former paramilitaries. On 1 April a CIJP lawyer, Ms Gisela Cañas, received a death threat by text message calling her a “bloody bitch” and demanding her to leave the country within 48 hours or otherwise she would be killed. The CIJP members have been subjected to an ongoing campaign of persecution since 1998. The CIJP offices was raided in 1998, allegedly under an order of ex-general Rito Alego del Rio, and since then its members have been the victims of written threats, illegal followings at national and international public events, two assassination attempts, kidnappings, defamation campaigns organised by DAS, baseless accusations from ex-Vice President Francisco Santos, four judicial assemblies and a prolonged campaign attempting to discredit their work. These acts of intimidation against the CIJP have been reported to the authorities, however no effective action has been taken to prosecute those responsible.