AIDA condemns threats to environmental defenders in Tolima, Colombia
Photo: Andrés Ángel / AIDA.
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11 July 2016
As a regional organization, we call on the Colombian government to immediately adopt measures to guarantee the life and integrity of at-risk activists.
The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) categorically condemns threats made against the Youth Socio-Environmental Collective of Cajamarca, Colombia (Cosajuca).
On July 8, the organization—which forms part of the Environmental Committee of Cajamarca and the Network of Environmental Committees of Tolima—received a document containing death threats, only the most recent of a series of intimidations to which its members have been subject.
The urgency of addressing this situation comes light of a larger problem in Colombia and across the region. In their most recent report, the international NGO Global Witness identified Colombia as the third most dangerous country in the world to be an environmental defender; 26 deaths were registered there in 2015.
AIDA calls on the government of Colombia to guarantee the life, liberty and physical integrity of the members of Cosajuca. We also urge the establishment of a safe space for these environmental defenders to do their work, and a prompt investigation into the threats made against them.
Freedom of expression and association are fundamental to the rule of law and a democratic society. Access to information, participation and the search for environmental justice are legitimate activities protected by the Constitution and the international legal treaties to which Colombia is a party.
Cosajuca exercises those rights by promoting a popular referendum against mining contamination in the town of Cajamarca, and the department of Tolima, where large-scale gold mining operations are being planned.
The harassment and murder of environmental defenders is pervasive throughout Latin America, which, according to the Global Witness report, is home to two-thirds of the world’s murdered activists and seven of the ten deadliest countries to be an environmental defender.