Serious Threats to Human Rights
Defenders & Partners in Colombia

July 6, 2012

KAIROS is extremely concerned about recent news of a serious death threat to human rights defenders and partners in Colombia.  Thirteen human rights defenders—among them Lilia Solano of the Justice and Life Project, a KAIROS and United Church of Canada partner—are named in this threat, received by the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) on July 4. 

Below you will find contact information, and an urgent request to send letters to officials in Colombia and Canada. 

Please take action.

The death threat is chilling. 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.

Along with Lilia Solano, others named are highly respected human rights defenders who KAIROS and 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 (see Amnesty International article). On that same day, members of the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace also received death threats.)
lilia solano

The Human Rights Defenders Observatory , a joint project of the FIDH and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), condemned “this threat to a broad group of people linked to the defence of human rights.” It asked Colombian authorities to investigate the threat and to bring those responsible to trial.

The Observatory notes that “these threats generate a climate of terror in the community of human rights defenders that, in turn, impedes their legitimate work in defence of human rights.”  It also reports that 49 human rights defenders were murdered in 2011 and so far this year, 16 defenders have been killed, all in Colombia alone.  Most of these people were leading efforts to restore land that had been illegally taken from them.



Please write a short message without delay to the Colombian authorities listed below with copies to the Canadian Embassy in Colombia and to KAIROS. 
Thank you for raising your voice to protect Lilia and her colleagues.
Your action can save lives!

A. Message to Colombian authorities:

  • Express concern for the members of the organizations mentioned in the death threats and urge the authorities to take appropriate measures to protect them, in strict accordance with the wishes of those who are threatened.
  • Call on the authorities to order a full and impartial investigation into these death threats and all previous incidents.
  • Call for stronger efforts to create a climate of respect for human rights and fundamental liberties in the country that is coherent with the international human rights accords ratified by Colombia.
  • Ask for a reply to let you know what steps have been taken.


  1. Señor Juan Manuel Santos

Presidente de la República
Palacio de Nariño
Carrera 8 No.7-26, Bogotá, Colombia
Fax: 011-57 1 596 0631
Salutation: Dear President Santos/
Estimado.Sr. Presidente Santos

  1. Señor Federico Renjifo Vélez

Minister of Interior and Justice
Ministerio Del Interior y De Justicia
Carrera 9a. No. 14-10, Bogotá, Colombia
Fax: 011-57 1 599 8961


  1. Her Excellency Clemencia Forero-Ucros

Ambassador for Colombia to Canada
360 Albert Street, Suite 1002,
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7X7
Fax: (613) 230-4416

  1. His Excellency Tim Martin

Canadian Ambassador to Colombia
Cra. 7 no. 115-33 Piso 14
Bogota, Colombia
Fax: 57-1) 657-9912

Please forward a copy of your letters to
Thank you for your support and action.



Partner Lilia Solano
Lilia Solano,  director of the Bogota-based human rights organization Justicia y Vida, is an activist, an academic and a long time partner of KAIROS and the United Church of Canada.   She is an outspoken defender of human rights who has been the subject of past urgent actions issued by KAIROS, our member churches and Amnesty International. She has been to Canada on several occasions, hosted by KAIROS  and the United Church, to raise awareness about the human rights crisis in Colombia.  Most recently, she has spoken to Members of Parliament and the Standing Committee on International Trade about human rights concerns in the context of the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement.   She spoke at the KAIROS Gathering in June 2009.  Lilia is a woman of extreme courage and commitment.  She joined the KAIROS Women of Courage delegation in August 2010.

Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement
In 2011 the Canadian government signed a free trade agreement with Colombia despite considerable opposition in Canada and Colombia.  KAIROS was part of a significant movement of civil society groups calling for an independent, impartial human rights impact assessment of the trade deal prior to signing and implementation of this deal.  Parliament’s Standing Committee on International Trade made the same recommendation.  These recommendations were ignored.  Instead the government agreed to do human rights impact assessments annually.  The first assessment, released on May 15, 2012, was a non-report.  It made no reference to the human rights situation, stating that there was insufficient time to do a report. The report contains no acknowledgement that there are human rights concerns and no mention of the cases that civil society has brought forward. 

The current urgent action illustrates precisely why KAIROS was calling for a human rights impact assessment in the first place.    The reality remains that there are no guarantees for the safety of human rights defenders who speak out, including people like Lilia and organizations like Justicia y Vida.   Despite provisions for an annual government human rights impact assessment, human rights continue to be violated. 

These human rights violations, including threats to human rights defenders, cannot continue to go unreported.  In the context of the current trade agreement and the requirement to do annual human rights reports, Canada should have a special obligation to speak out against human rights violations and demand protection for human right defenders. 


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KAIROS Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
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