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HUMANIDAD VIGENTE

Escrito por  el 
21 junio, 2017
Imagen de PBI Colombia 

This human rights organisation, founded in 1996, mainly works on the fight against impunity, emphasising the rights of children and women, and defending land and territorial rights. This includes working with small-scale farmers and indigenous people who live in rural parts of Colombia and have been forcibly displaced. Humanidad Vigente works in the regions of Choco, Magdalena Medio, Arauca and Catatumbo.

Emblematic case known as “the children of Tame”

Humanidad Vigente represented the victims in one of Colombia’s most significant cases of human rights violations, known as “the children of Tame” in which a lieutenant of the National Army was sentenced to 60 years in prison.[1]  The sentence was passed down in 2012, confirmed in 2013 and ratified in 2014.[2]  The lieutenant was found guilty of raping two girls of 13 and 14, and murdering one of the girls and her two brothers aged nine and six.  The events took place in October 2010, in a rural area in the municipality of Tame, Arauca.

The lawyer from Humanidad Vigente who represents the victims, Olga Silva, highlights the threats that she has suffered throughout the case, threats whose aim was to damage women’s integrity and dignity: “… There were threats, and the female judge who was going to start the trial was murdered.  As part of that, because I was the lawyer and defender, I received death threats on my telephone when they would tell me how they were going to sexually assault me, and I believe that, of course, this all created a situation that was emotionally destabilising…”[3].

In terms of human rights, as well as being emblematic, this case is of significant importance both nationally and internationally.  This is particularly so in a country where there is 98% impunity for cases of sexual violence against women.[4]  This gender violence is a factor over and beyond the complex, unequal, and unfair context that affects many women, and that they will continue to face.

National Human Rights Award

In September 2016, Humanidad Vigente was a finalist for the National Award for the Defence of Human Rights in Colombia, in the category “Collective Experience or Process, NGO level”.  This award is granted each year by the international community, led by the Swedish NGO Diakonia, on the National Day for Human Rights and Peace Week, in Bogota.

“To be chosen as a finalist for this award is recognition for the work of many people who have been part of Humanidad Vigente, for their commitment and their efforts.  It is recognition that we extend to the communities, to the women and men, the children and young people with whom we have worked and taught to defend their human rights. And I think that the effect of this kind of recognition is to raise awareness about the work, which for many people is anonymous, but which is vital and helps to build peace in this country, as it did even before this post-agreement stage”.[5]

About Olga Silva, Director of Humanidad Vigente

Olga Silva is a Colombian whose vocation is to defend human rights.  A lawyer by profession, she is currently the director of Humanidad Vigente.  She is a dedicated social activist, with a genuine conviction for defending human rights. Her eyes and her actions reflect her longing and motivation to contribute to building a country where full guarantees exist and peace with social justice can become reality.  She is person who expresses herself firmly and clearly in court, standing on the side of victims and representing them with empathy. Outside court, Silva is approachable, showing her humanity in the warm and affectionate way she treats people.

For Silva, growing up in the countryside where there were many situations where the State had abandoned the people and their basic needs were not being met, meant she came to know a context that would mark her life significantly.  To keep forging ahead with that motivation, she immersed herself in the academic world of the National University, and gained experience teaching underprivileged people to read and write.

Her work requires her to become deeply and carefully involved in cases of human rights violations, where pain is more present than ever and where the social fabric is under huge strain, which leads to a series of consequences for the lawyer on an emotional level. In her own words: “All the cases are very painful, each one is a tragedy, and behind each one there are more tragedies”.

On the role of women

In Silva’s eyes and experience, women human rights defenders face the challenge of taking on a role that is different to the roles that society tends to ascribe to them, and in the worst of cases, that revolve entirely around the home. For that reason, women human rights defenders frequently experience family breakups, which generally means that they will, amongst other things, take on responsibility for their family and children, and this makes it difficult for them to carry out their work.

Defending human rights undoubtedly results in differential and elevated risks for women, but in no way does it hamper the impetus and motivation that defenders like Olga Silva have for their work.

About peace

Olga Silva comments: “The signature of the agreements in Havana, between the Government and FARC guerrillas, which created a negotiated solution to armed conflict, will give the Colombian people a chance for the establishment to deal with the structural causes of the conflict, and for the population to take part in the economic, social and political transformations that are necessary if Colombia is to stop being a country with some of the highest levels of inequality and with such high levels of grave human rights violations.  There will no longer be any justification for the government of the day to invest such a large proportion of the national budget in war, instead it will have to put it towards the social wellbeing of the Colombian nation.

There is a great risk from the threat of paramilitary groups who are present in some areas of the country and are determined, as are their supporters, to derail the end of the armed conflict.  That means that a real and effective dismantling of the paramilitaries is paramount, paramilitaries who today have many different names: Bacrim, Post-demobilisation Groups, Neo-paramilitary Groups, Rastrojos, Urabeños, etc”.

International accompaniment

PBI accompanied Humanidad Vigente since 2013.

Olga Silva: “PBI’s accompaniment has been fundamental for us to keep on working, to not give up, to feel a little safer, because it isn’t easy being a human rights defender in this country, and it isn’t easy when you have faced borderline situations to be able to get out of bed each day and keep going”.

Further information

See the webpage for more information.


Footnotes:

[1]              Maximum sentence in Colombia, and the second person to receive it.
[2]              El Tiempo: En firme, condena a teniente (r) Muñoz por crimen de niños de Tame, 12 August 2014; El Espectador: Condenado a 60 años subteniente por asesinato de tres menores en Tame, 25 September 2012
[3]              PBI Colombia: “Detrás de cada caso hay más tragedias”, 3 March 2015
[4]              Contagio Radio: Ante la CIDH se denunció 98% de impunidad en casos de violencia sexual en Colombia, 22 October 2015
[5]              PBI Colombia: “El reconocimiento es al trabajo de muchas personas”, 12 September 2016

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