World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Letter to the Colombian president

10 July 2012

  Geneva, July 9, 2012

Your Excellency,

It is with great concern that the World Council of Churches has been informed of a serious death threat to human rights defenders and partners in Colombia. Thirteen human rights defenders are named in this threat received by the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) on July 4. Among them is Prof. Lilia Solano, director of the Justice and Life Project, and coordinator of the Camillo Torres Restrepo Chair at the Faculty of Law and Political and Social Sciences at the National University of Colombia.

The death threat is staggering. It includes photographs of 13 well-known human rights defenders and describes them as “guerrillas” who are “military objectives”, stating that there are clear instructions to eliminate them.

Prof. Solano is a respected member of the international ecumenical movement. Her training in philosophy and political science is accompanied by her outstanding Christian commitment and courageous witness in the struggle for life, peace and justice in Colombia. She has been invited on numerous occasions by the World
Council of Churches, and in particular our Commission on International Affairs, to take part in different events organized in Geneva, New York and elsewhere in the world. On every occasion we have appreciated her intellectual capability and her ethical honesty in defending human dignity in Colombia.

Along with Lilia Solano, others named are highly respected human rights defenders with whom WCC member churches have worked with over the years, including: Former Senator Piedad Córdoba and Gloria Cuartas of Colombians for Peace (a movement in which Solano also participates), MOVICE founder Iván Cepeda and MOVICE members Juan Díaz Chamorro, Pedro Geney and Jeison Paba, Diego Martínez, Executive Secretary of the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CPDH), Staff of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CCAJAR): Yessica Hoyos and Soraya Gutiérrez (also a vice-president of the International Human Rights Federation, FIDH), Franklin Castañeda and José Humberto Torres of the Foundation Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners (FCSPP), Ayda Quilcué, a leader of the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC). (Quilcué was also threatened on June 20 in a text message to her cell phone. On that same day, members of the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace also received death threats).

Such threats seriously impede the work of human rights defenders in Colombia by creating a widespread climate of fear. It is for this reason your Excellency, that the World Council of Churches would like to call on the Colombian government to take all necessary measures to effectively protect the life and physical integrity of Prof. Lilia Solano and of all other human rights defenders under threat; to carry out an independent and impartial investigation into the authors of these threats with due trial and appropriate penalties;  to be mindful of its obligations with respect to the security and protection of those working for the defence of human rights, and in the light of this, to take the immediate and effective measures necessary to ensure that Prof. Solano and the members of the Justice and Life Project can continue their work of defending human rights and human dignity, without danger and stigmatization.

Sincerely yours,

Dr Rogate Mshana

WCC Associate General Secretary

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