CASA sends letter to Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland

Toronto, August 7, 2018

 

Honourable Justin Trudeau,

Prime Minister of Canada

Hon. Chrystia Freeland,

Minister of Foreign Affairs

 

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Freeland:

 

We the undersigned, are asking the Canadian government to act and pressure the newly elected Colombian government of President Iván Duque, to protect the lives of social and community leaders who are experiencing an escalation of violence and systemic murder. We also ask the Canadian government to take clear steps to ensure the democratic right to protest.

Since the signing of the final peace agreement between the outgoing government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC in November 24, 2016, targeted threats and assassinations of social and community leaders have intensified. According to homicides registered by the Defensoria del Pueblo (Ombudsman), between January 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018 more than 300 community leaders, including peasant, Indigenous, trade union, student, Afro-Colombian, neighbourhood leaders and political opposition activists, have been murdered. In addition, 84 former FARC guerillas and their families, who demobilised, have been murdered.

During the campaign leading up to the May 27, 2018 presidential election, we also witnessed an increase in threats and selective murders targeting activists associated with left and centre-left political parties, including the Colombia Humana movement.

The election of the Duque government imperils the prospect of sustainable peace in Colombia. Duque and his right-wing Centro Democratico (CD) party opposed the peace agreement and has consistently hindered its implementation. For example, the CD attacked the Special Jurisdiction for Peace or JEP. The JEP is the transitional justice system enshrined in the peace agreement. It is intended to investigate and prosecute all actors (state, FARC and civilian) who committed or were complicit in crimes related to the armed conflict. The CD’s opposition to the JEP in the Congress resulted in limiting its investigative scope and excluding the participation of so-called “third-parties”. Effectively, this means that non-state actors, including politicians or businesspeople who supported or financed human rights violations or war crimes are not obligated to testify before the JEP.

Furthermore, the CD temporarily excluded the participation of members of the police and military in the JEP stating that they should have their own transitional justice tribunal separate from the FARC. These measures omit crucial information for the public understanding of the historical record of more than 50 years of internal armed conflict. Worse, it guarantees impunity, for crimes committed by state officials, army, policy and powerful economic elites.

Duque also campaigned on a promise to merge the country’s different courts into one super-court influenced by the Executive branch of government. This decision means the investigation by the Supreme Court against former president Alvaro Uribe Velez may be eliminated, resulting in the exoneration for any crimes that he may have committed.

In addition, the CD opposed the approval of an important law in Congress, the Circunscripciones Especiales para la Paz. This law would have granted victims of the armed conflict and the regions which they inhabit representation in the Colombian Parliament through the creation of designated seats.

President Duque plans to reform the Land Restitution Law, which according to experts would prevent lands violently snatched from tens of thousands of displaced rural communities to be returned to them.

A failure to implement these aspects of the peace agreement could mean a return to war. Endless cycles of armed conflict are detrimental not only to the stability and well-being of the Colombians, but of the hemisphere. Such a failure is a betrayal of the aspirations for peace of Colombians, especially for the victims, who endured decades of armed conflict. It is also a serious breach of the international commitments made by the Colombian State with the signing of the peace agreement.

As Canadian citizens and residents, we urge our Government to assume a firm stance with the Colombian State and its new Government. First, we ask the Canadian government to demand an immediate end to the killings of social and community movement leaders. Second, we ask the Canadian Government to demand that the Colombian government respect and implement all aspects of the peace agreement. Canada must also ensure that development aid funds for community projects that implement various aspects of the peace agreement are monitored for appropriate use.

Behind every murdered leader and activist is a family and community suffering a deep loss. Also lost are the aspirations of thousands of people who dream of living in a more just society.

Signed,

(Original letter has 47 signatures)

 

If you would like to sign this letter, please send your name, city and postal code to: colombiactionsolidarity@gmail.com

Assassination in Guatemala of nephew of Angelica Choc, plaintiff in Hudbay Minerals lawsuits

Assassination in Guatemala of nephew of Angelica Choc, plaintiff in Hudbay Minerals lawsuits.  Indications that murderers were actually seeking to kill José Ich, son of Angélica Choc, and witness in Hudbay lawsuits

Statement by Choc and Ich families, through Rights Action, April 11, 2018

 

During the late evening of March 30, 2018 and early hours of Saturday, March 31, several people brought Héctor Choc to the outskirts of the El Estor community (Guatemala), and beat him to death with rocks and other objects. Héctor died while being rushed to the Puerto Barrios hospital.

 

·         Emergency funding appeal: See below

 

Witnesses (who spoke on conditions of anonymity due to fear) explained that one of the assassins said: “It’s not Ich, let’s go.” “Ich” is how José Manuel Ich Choc, Angélica’s son and Héctor’s cousin, is known in El Estor.

 

The Choc and Ich families demand justice for this most recent attack against them and denounce that the murder of Héctor (apparently planned ahead of time) was probably an attempt against the life of José Ich.

Jose Ich: Witness in trials against Hudbay Minerals and CGN (Guatemalan Nickel Company)

José is a witness in the criminal case against Mynor Padilla in Guatemala and in the civil lawsuits against Hudbay Minerals/CGN before Canadian courts for his father’s murder on September 27, 2009, which was committed by Mynor Padilla (a former lieutenant colonel in the Guatemalan army who then worked as head of security of Hudbay Minerals/CGN) and the security forces under his control.

Due to the accumulated sorrow from suffering so many attacks and aggressions over many years, the Choc and Ich families waited several days before publicly denouncing this most recent attack and political crime.

-In 2008, Ramiro Choc – Angélica´s brother— suffered imprisonment as a political prisoner for six years, for his work in defense of the rights and lands of the Maya Q’eqchi’ peoples

-In 2009, Mynor Padilla, then head of security of Hudbay Minerals/CGN along with security agents under his control, murdered Adolfo Ich.

-In 2016, men fired their weapons against Angélica´s home while she was inside sleeping with her two younger children.

-In 2018, María Choc – the sister of Angélica and Ramiro—was arbitrarily detained (“criminalized”) by the Guatemalan state, for her work in defense of the rights and lands of the Q’eqchi´ peoples.

-Throughout these years, members of both families have faced constant harassment and threats for their work and struggle in defense of the rights and lands of the Q’eqchi´ peoples, particularly the Choc family – Angélica and José—due to their participation in legal proceedings in Canada and Guatemala.

In addition to the pain and suffering for yet another political crime that forced them to bury another loved one, the families are now extremely concerned for the safety of José Ich.

The Choc and Ich families request national and international solidarity and support.  They continue to demand justice, and to demand an end to impunity in Guatemala (and Canada) for all the political crimes against them for their work in defense of the human rights and land rights of the Q’eqchi’ peoples.

For more information

·         In Guatemala: Victor Manuel Cuz and Sofia Cuz (parents of the deceased Hector) and Angelica Choc, Telephone/ Whatsapp (Angelica): +1 502 4487-7237

·         In Canada: Grahame Russell, Rights Action, +1 416-807-4436, info@rightsaction.org