Another Human Rights Defender Killed
News from Colombia |
on: Thursday, 31 March 2011
On the 23rd March 2011, Eder Verbel Rocha, a member of the Sucre branch of the Movice national victims movement was killed whilst on his way home from work. While the assailants were kicking and beating Eder’s body, his brother Orlando, and his son, who had both been riding with him narrowly managed to escape.
Orlando Rocha managed to report the crime to some nearby soldiers, who accompanied them back to the body, and were later joined by the police. Following the brother’s description of the killers, two men, alias’ ‘Begueta’ and ‘Polvora’ were then arrested by police, but inexplicably were later released.
The Sucre chapter of Movice has been the victim of over 80 attacks. These have included assassinations, assassination attempts, illegal searches, threats against members and their families, judicial set-ups, arrests and intimidation. This killing follows the murder of Rogelio Martinez Mercado on May 18th 2010, and the imprisonment without trial of fellow Movice member Carmelo Agamez since November 2008.
The threats continue. On March 30th Cendy Paola Lopez Vergara, the teenage daughter of Movice Sucre branch secretary Ingrid Vergara, received the latest in a long line of threats. These follow on from an assault in December 2010, where two men forced their way into the Vergara home and stole Movice's hard drive and its victims database. Before leaving, the men grabbed Cendy by the throat and threatened to kill her. Cendy and her mother were also threatened in 2009, when Cendy was waiting for a bus home from school. Two children approached and said that men in a white car had ordered them to tell Cendy that "if her mother wanted to see another year" she would shut her mouth. The latest threat was made by a man who called Cendy's mobile phone.
The threats form part of a pattern of threats and other abuses against members of the Sucre branch of Movice. According to Movice, this is part of a strategy to silence the victims of state and paramilitary violence and shows that despite government claims, paramilitaries continue to kill social activists. Movice has requested that the Rocha family and the Sucre chapter of Movice be granted protective measures to guarantee their "physical and psychological" safety.