PAX rejects death threats to Colombian human rights activists

February 7, 2024

On the morning of 1 February 2024, trade union leaders and human rights defenders from the NGO PAX Colombia and the trade union organisation Sintramienergética received threats via text messages on their personal mobile phones. The messages referred to them as “guerrillas disguised as trade unionists, peasants and NGOs” (sic) and declared them military targets. PAX strongly rejects these threats.

Those threatened are colleagues and family member of four trade union leaders who worked for the US coal mining company Drummond and were killed in broad daylight by paramilitary death squads in 2001. The company allegedly participated in the killings by financing the death squads that carried out the killings. In Colombia, the National Prosecutor’s Office has recently brought charges against two Drummond executives on these grounds. Paramilitary death squads in Cesar are held responsible for thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of forced displacements in communities near the region’s coal mines. At the same time, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, created in Colombia following the 2016 peace agreement, is also conducting a judicial investigation into the role played by mining companies Drummond and (Switzerland-based) Prodeco-Glencore in serious human rights violations during the armed conflict.

The threats came a few days after these three individuals participated in a technical roundtable with the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in the department of Cesar on the thematic judicial investigation it is conducting into the issue of civilian third parties, including private companies, who participated in the armed conflict. During this event, held between 25 and 26 January in the town of Valledupar, the topic of the participation of victims and survivors as stakeholders in the hearing of this case in the Peace Jurisdiction was addressed. Also, a supplementary report was presented to the Peace Jurisdiction by the victims present in relation to the impact the armed conflict has had on the younger generations of the affected communities. The threats are clearly aimed at discouraging victims and survivors from contributing to these legal processes.

We, the undersigned organisations, are deeply concerned that these actions continue to occur, putting at risk the work and lives of those who remain committed to peacebuilding in the territories. We urge the competent authorities and entities to activate the necessary routes for the protection of social leaders and human rights defenders. We call on national and international civil society to show solidarity with our colleagues and companions, and with the cause of justice and truth.    

We strongly reject these threats and reiterate our commitment to the victims; we will continue to work for access to justice, reparation, and truth as a way to build peace in our country.

  • PAX Colombia
  • PAX Netherlands
  • Colombian Commission of Jurists
  • National Union of Workers in the Mining, Petrochemical, Agro-fuel, and Energy Industries (Sintramienergética).

About PAX & Coal mining in Colombia

Since 2012 PAX has been investigating the history of human rights violations near large coal mines in Cesar. The mines are operated by the mining companies Drummond, based in the US, and Prodeco, part of Swiss Glencore. These companies supply large quantities of coal to energy producers in the Netherlands and other European countries. Since then, PAX has been supporting the regional victims’ organisation Asamblea Campesina del Cesar.

Further reading

The featured image depicts four trade unionists assassinated in 2001 for their political activity

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