Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is gravely concerned about the safety and security of the leadership and the families of the Women’s Popular Organization (Organización Femenina Popular –OFP-), one of CPT’s partners in Colombia. Yolanda Becerra, the national director, and Gloria Amparo Suarez, regional coordinator of the OFP, have been threatened with violence against their children. (More background is available below.) The OFP has worked in the region of the Magdalena Medio for 40 years defending women’s rights. As part of their work they have confronted and publicly denounced the state and illegal armed actors of conflicts for violations committed against women. Because of this work the OFP leadership has suffered numerous threats and several of their leaders have been forced to displace to other cities for their protection.
On 11 February 2013 a man came to the office of the Women’s Popular Organization asking for information about the validation program of the high school diploma for adults. After speaking with Gloria Amparo Suárez, he asked her “Why do you not dedicate yourself to this instead of f***ing around at the national level and creating commotion?” (Por qué no se dedican a esto en vez de estar jodiendo a nivel nacional y estar formando alborotos?)
The man then asked Gloria if she knew where her children were. He showed her his mobile and said “we do”, then showed her pictures of her sons. He also showed her a picture of OFP director, Yolanda Becerra. The picture showed her getting out of a car, which she has received as part of the government protection program. He said “Tell Becerra that […] we know all of her movements. So, as you already know, stop this sh*t and be quiet because we do not want to have to f*** with you.” (Dígale a Becerra […] que sabemos todos sus movimientos así que ya saben paren esa mierda y calladitas que no las queremos joder.)
Your swift action can save lives! Please write a short message without delay.
Thank you for raising your voice to protect Gloria, Yolanda, and their colleagues.
Please send an email to President Santos via the Colombian Embassies in Ottawa and Washington:
- Start with Dear President Santos / Estimado Sr. Presidente.
- Describe briefly who you are or where you are writing from.
- Express great concern for the safety of Gloria Amparo Suárez and her children, Yolanda Becerra, and other members of OFP in the light of threats against them.
- Ask him to organize for them any kind of protection they request.
- Urge him to order a full and impartial investigation into the threats, to publish the results and to bring those responsible to justice.
- Please note that Canada or the United States signed a free trade agreement with Colombia; as a citizen of Canada or the United States you expect our trading partner and your respective government to treat such threats against human rights defenders as a matter of the highest priority.
- Ask for a reply to let you know what steps have been taken.
Mr. César Felipe González Hernández
Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Colombia
360 Albert Street, Suite 1002
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7X7
Fax: (613) 230-4416
Third Secretary, Human Rights and Minorities, Embassy of Colombia
2118 Leroy Place, N.W.
WASHINGTON D.C. 20008 U.S.A.
FAX: 1 202 2328643 ext. 266
Thank you for your support and action.
For over ten years CPT has partnered with the OFP. Last year, the OFP celebrated its 40th anniversary.
In November, the OFP organized regional Women’s Courts for Justice, Territory and Peace. These courts provided a space for women to testify about human rights violations and violence against them in the context of the decades-long conflict, where there are few formal legal structures for these testimonies to be heard, and where those who commit and threaten violence almost always get away with it. CPT accompanied the process of planning and convening the Women’s Court (Read about it in these Women of Courage blog posts from OFP partner, Kairos Canada ).
Furthermore, in the context of the Victims Law (law 1448 of 2011) in Colombia, the OFP is in the process of negotiations with the State entity, the National Unit for Attention and Reparations of victims, in order to build a case for collective reparations to the OFP and its members. The recent threats to the OFP leadership are made in the context of these negotiations for collective reparations and are seen as a direct effort to attack and undermine this process. Furthermore, they are evidence of an alarming level of surveillance of the OFP and their families. Both Gloria Amparo Suarez and Yolanda Becerra have been repeatedly threatened by paramilitaries.