I am writing to express my concern for the safety of Martha Giraldo and her family who face ongoing threats from paramilitary forces as a result of her work for human rights, justice and accountability for victims of state violence. Ms. Giraldo is a new mother and the threats she has received even were directed at her unborn child while she was pregnant and have continued now that her baby is born. Such threats are unconscionable.
In 2006 Ms. Giraldo’s father, Jose, was killed by soldiers from the Colombian armed forces. Since then she has campaigned for justice for her family as well as other victims of state violence. When a soldier was finally brought to trial for her father’s murder, Ms. Giraldo’s uncle – a witness in the case – was shot. Since then armed men have approached Ms. Giraldo in her home town and threatened to kill her, and she receives threats regularly via text message and phone calls.
The latest threat to Ms. Giraldo and her colleagues was issued on 24 September and attributed to the group Águilas Negras (Black Eagles), which is widely suspected of being organized by former members of the AUC and might also have direct links to current and former members of the Colombian military.
Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Colombia face ongoing harassment and attack, and are in need of greater protection from the state, which should include pursuing justice and accountability for those who attack and threaten HRDs and other civilians.
As Colombia seeks to move forward from decades of violence and war, it is imperative that human rights defenders be afforded the maximum effort to ensure their safety and that of their families, as required of the Colombian state by international law. I urge you to take further steps to investigate and pursue the perpetrators of these threats and planned attacks before more human rights defenders are injured or killed.