The Colombian government must act quickly to prevent further threats against representatives of the Organization of American States (OAS) verifying the paramilitary demobilization process, Human Rights Watch said today.
The head of the OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia reported today that a representative in its local office in Medellin had received a serious death threat.
“This threat suggests that armed actors in Medellin are becoming so increasingly bold that they now feel comfortable enough to intimidate even international observers,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should respond unequivocally and conduct full and effective investigations to get to the bottom of this.”
Human Rights Watch recently visited Medellin and received multiple reports about continuing threats, extortion, and violence against community leaders and local residents by paramilitaries and related groups in that city. Despite the demobilization process and a significant drop in homicides in recent years, armed actors continue exerting a great deal of control in low-income neighborhoods around the city. Residents frequently identify the perpetrators as linked to paramilitaries.
“The threat against the OAS comes on the heels of other threats and pressure against local communities,” said Vivanco. “It should serve as a wake-up call to national and local authorities to do much more to break the continuing control of paramilitary groups in Medellin.”