By Jeanine Legato International Team – Colombia
At 9:30 in the evening of August 23rd, Martha Giraldo, Technical Secretary of the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) in the Valle de Cauca province, received a death threat via text message from a well-known paramilitary group, the Black Eagles:
“You will die, you communists, you concealed FARC supporters…We are the Black Eagles, a new generation, in a three day alliance to exterminate you.”
Martha has received numerous death threats since becoming vocal about the 2006 extrajudicial killing of her father by the Colombian military, and she has reason to take them seriously; her father was murdered by the military, who falsely claimed he was a guerrilla fighter to justify his murder, a common military tactic known to civilians in Colombia as the “False Positive.”
Martha’s uncle, a witness to her father’s murder, barely survived after he was shot in the head in the city of Cali in 2009. In response to threats made toward Martha in 2010, and, in admittance of the risk Martha faces as a representative of victims of human rights violations, Martha was granted security protection measures by the Ministry of the Interior in 2009. Despite increased security measures for Martha, the Black Eagles and other paramilitary groups remain at large and continue to terrorize civilians in an environment of impunity.
Since former president Alvaro Uribe’s official demobilization of paramilitary groups, subsequent evolutions of these groups, or, “new generations” have appeared, using the same death squad tactics as their predecessors. A statement released by MOVICE and the human rights community of Valle de Cauca in response to the death threat echoes this fact:
“We want to be clear that in the report made to (Colombian government) officials, we, the victims of these threats, included the phone numbers of those who threatened us, yet the authorities seem to consider it unimportant information, despite its obvious relevance to us. These same officials, in meetings with social and human rights organizations have promised professionalism in their investigations, yet their investigations never result in finding of the authors of these death threats.”
On August 17th, a Witness for Peace delegation of U.S. citizens met with Martha and other MOVICE members. When asked if accountability for paramilitary crime had improved under new president Juan Manuel Santos she responded, “Under Santos the methods of operation have changed some but the [paramilitary] violence has not changed.”
Such was the case shared by Sandra Lara, whose husband was murdered by the military after being lured away from his community under the false ploy of getting a paying job. Sandra’s case was closed by the prosecutor’s office in August without resolution.
Given the failure of the Colombian government to redress the rights of victims as well as the ongoing context of extrajudicial military killings, Martha and Sandra now turn to Witness for Peace supporters and the international community.
Please respond to Martha and Sandra’s appeal by contacting the Colombia desk at the State Department at 202-647-4173. Ask them to demand that the Colombian government investigate these death threats, punish those responsible and prosecute those responsible for the murders of MOVICE family members in Valle de Cauca.