Statement from PJFC on the arrest and detention of trade unionist and human rights activist, Liliany Obando, in Colombia
/ Monday 11 August 2008
A network of people in Australia concerned at the appalling human rights situation in Colombia – particularly as it affects trade unionists, workers and rural communities.
Red australiana de personas solidarias con sindicalistas, trabajadores y comunidades rurales afectadas por la crisis humanitaria en Colombia.
Peace and Justice for Colombia (PJFC) is a network of people in Australia concerned at
the appalling human rights situation in Colombia – particularly as it affects trade unionists,
workers and rural communities. It was formed after a visit last year from Liliany Obando
who moved everybody she met with her plea for assistance for the people of Colombia, to
help them work for an end to the state-sponsored violence directed against the ordinary
men and women of her troubled country.
Liliany impressed her audiences with her commitment to her work with peasant
associations as a member of the peak union council Fensuagro – CUT. When in Australia
she met dozens of trade unionists and parliamentarians seeking support for a human rights
monitoring project in rural areas of Colombia. She described the challenges presented by
state-sponsored violence (including the scarcely imaginable extreme violence used by
paramilitary forces) but at no time called for anything but a peaceful solution to the social
conflict in her homeland.
We are shocked and outraged that the Government of Colombia, through its Attorney
General, has moved to silence this voice of reason by arresting and detaining her last
Friday 8th August. The Attorney General had previously announced publicly that Liliany
(along with eleven other critics of the government’s human rights record – including
members of parliament) was under investigation for links to the FARC guerrilla
organisation. The arrest was carried out in Liliany’s apartment in front of her distraught
mother and children. She must now defend herself against extremely serious charges of
rebellion and managing resources to aid terrorism.
The tactic of raising “links” to guerrilla organisations in Colombia is not new. It is used often
and is being used now in an effort to distract public attention from investigations into well-
known and well-established links between narco-traffickers and highly placed civil servants
and parliamentarians from the governing parties. The latest developments are part of an
ongoing witch-hunt against critics of the government of President Alvaro Uribe.
The “evidence” in Liliany’s case is said to have been found on a laptop and other electronic
equipment captured by the Colombian armed forces when they invaded Ecuadorean
territory in March of this year. The equipment is said to have belonged to Commander Raúl
Reyes of the FARC, who was killed in the attack.
The credibility of the “evidence” is widely questioned. INTERPOL cannot vouch for its
integrity and notes that it has been manipulated by the Colombian authorities. In a country
that respects human rights Liliany would have no case to answer.
In Colombia she must defend her freedom and that of her compatriots against powerful
vested interests in order to pursue peace with social justice in their homeland.
We call on all fair-minded and peace-loving Australians to join us in our demand for the
immediate release of Liliany Obando from custody, the dropping of all the bogus charges
against her and for the government of Colombia to guarantee her safety. We ask people of
goodwill to sign onto this statement and to send it on to the addresses of Colombian
Government officials listed below and cc your letters or emails to:
Peace and Justice for Colombia,
President of the Republic
Señor Presidente Álvaro Uribe Vélez
Presidente de la República, Palacio de Nariño, Carrera 8 No.7-26, Bogotá,
Fax: +57 1 337 5890 / 342 0592
Salutation: Dear President Uribe/ Excelentisimo. Sr. Presidente Uribe
Vice-President of the Republic
Dr. Francisco Santos Calderón
Vicepresidencia, Carrera 8A No 7-57, Bogotá, Colombia
Fax: +57 1 565 7682 (ask for fax tone: me da tono de fax por favor)
Salutation: Dear Vice-president Santos/Estimado Sr. Vicepresidente
Dr. Mario Germán Iguarán Arana
Fiscal General de la Nación, Fiscalía General de la Nación
Diagonal 22B (Av. Luis Carlos Galán No. 52-01) Bloque C, Piso 4, Bogotá,
Fax: + 57 1 570 2000 (a message in Spanish will ask you to enter extension 2017)
Salutation: Estimado Sr. Fiscal/Dear Mr Iguarán
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