TWO Colombians forced into exile by death threats have called on
British companies to consider the plight of the indigenous
communities living in the areas in which they seek to invest.
The British Government was warned in July that its bilateral
investment treaty with Colombia could undermine efforts to
safeguard the human rights of Colombians (News, 15 August).
Speaking last week at the offices of AB Colombia, an alliance
that includes CAFOD and Christian Aid, one of the two exiled
Columbians, Enrique Cabezas, said: "When I was growing up, I could
never imagine that all these authorities, the Attorney General, the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, would all know about the
disappearances, the assassinations, and yet they are still taking
Mr Cabezas has taken refuge in Europe after speaking out against
businessmen who illegally displaced him from his land. There have
been repeated threats against his life.
He left Colombia earlier this year with Yomaira Mendoza, whose
family was among the 3000 people displaced from the Curvaradó river
basin by paramilitary groups in the mid-1990s (Feature, 9 May).
Both have spoken out against the occupation of their land, and
have called for the swift implementation of a court order demanding
Mrs Mendoza, whose husband was assassinated in 2007, said on
Monday that there had been seven attempts on her life. Her passage
out of the country had been facilitated by the the Inter-Church
Justice and Peace Commission, a Christian Aid partner in
Her pursuers had even entered the humanitarian zone where she
had taken refuge, established as a place of safety for displaced
With Mr Cabezas, she described a campaign of threats, break-ins,
and harrassment by people determined to prevent the implementation
of land restitution. She eventually developed paralysis in half of
her body, attributed to stress.
"You either leave, or you are killed," Mr Cabezas said. Last
year, the Office of the Attorney General reported that it was
investigating the murder of 56 leaders, claimants, or participants
in the land-restitution process.
Despite this bleak state of affairs, both remain committed to
their campaign to seek justice.
"The work is part of my life," Mr Cabezas said.