Posted 2012/1/19

Colombia: Death threats at gunpoint against human rights defender Mr Abelardo Sánchez Serrano

On 13 January 2012, human rights defender Mr Abelardo Sánchez Serrano was threatened by two unknown men on a motorcycle in Barrancabermeja.

Abelardo Sánchez Serrano is a member of the board of directors of Corporación Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos - CREDHOS (the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights).

CREDHOS provides training and education on human rights issues and International Humanitarian Law, and collects complaints regarding human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by paramilitary groups and members of the security forces, particularly those relating to extrajudicial killings in the region.

Abelardo Sánchez Serrano was a participant at the Front Line Defenders Sixth Dublin Platform in September 2011.

On 13 January 2012, at approximately 9:20 am, Abelardo Sánchez Serrano was approached by two men on a blue high-speed motorbike with black stripes, as he was on his way to the offices of CREDHOS. When he was on street 22 in the neighbourhood of Torcoroma he was intercepted by the two men who pointed a gun at his chest saying “dejen de estar denigrando de la fuerza pública que ya tenemos a un hijueputa guerrillero de Credhos encarcelado y que si es necesario si hay quedarle al resto, pues lo haremos para acallarlos; y antes de irse, dijeron: que tenía setenta y dos horas para salir de la ciudad” (stop denigrating the public forces, we already have a son of a bitch guerrilla from Credhos in jail and if it’s necessary to take care of the rest, well we’ll do so to shut them up). The perpetrators warned Abeldardo Sánchez Serrano that he had 72 hours to leave the city.

Since September 2010, spokesperson of CREDHOS, Mr David Rabelo Crespo, has been imprisoned and is facing prosecution on charges of conspiracy to commit a crime and aggravated murder brought about as a result of accusations made against him by a former member of a paramilitary group. During his detention he has been reportedly subjected to direct threats and harassment. Front Line Defenders have followed the case of David Rabelo Crespo since his detention in September 2010.

The threat against Abelardo Sánchez Serrano came less than 24 hours after he had acted as spokesperson at a press conference where CREDHOS and other social organisations in the Magdalena Medio region officially announced that they are to hold a commemoration of the 1989 La Rochela massacre on 18 January 2012. The massacre took place in the municipality of Simacota, when 12 out of 15 officials investigating crimes committed in the Magdalena Medio region by paramilitaries and members of the Armed Forces were killed. In January 2012, the Colombian Constitutional Court issued urgent protection measures for the surviving victims of the massacre pointing out that the State had not, to date, duly provided for their protection.

Front Line Defenders views this recent threat against Abelardo Sánchez Serrano as forming part of an ongoing campaign of threats, intimidation and harassment of CREDHOS and other human rights organisations operating in the region. Between 1991 and 1992 six active members of CREDHOS were killed and others were forced into exile. Members of CREDHOS and other social organisations in the region received nine death threats in 2008 signed by alleged paramilitary groups and 12 death threats between 2009-2011.

Front Line Defenders believes that the death threat against Abelardo Sánchez Serrano is directly related to his work in defence of human rights and in particular his membership of CREDHOS. Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned for his physical and psychological integrity.

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