With deep indignation, we denounce the lamentable events that took place against the spokeswoman of the Congress of the Peoples, Marlylen Serna Salinas, her family and people close to her family. Sexual violence has been used as a way of generating terror, hindering and deterring her from defending human rights in Colombia.
We call on national and international public opinion to vigorously reject these acts of psychological, physical and sexual violence directed against female social leaders and human rights defenders who have been visibly persecuted in the recent period.
1. In the morning of Friday, April 7, 2017 a woman was abducted in the city of Popayán. The woman is of small farmer (campesina) origin, and has close links with the family of the leader, human rights defender and national spokeswoman of the Congress of the Peoples, MARYLEN SERNA SALINAS. She was approached by three armed men, who forced her into a vehicle, covered her head with a black bag, beat her on the arms and face, and injected an unknown substance into her right arm. Inside the vehicle the woman was tortured and interrogated about her relationship with MARYLEN SERNA, and the whereabouts of the Congress spokeswoman. When no further information was obtained, the vehicle took her to a quiet place in the city where she was attacked and sexually abused. Later she was driven to an even more solitary location, and released whilst still tied up. Once there, the men proceeded to call MARYLEN SERNA's cell phone to corroborate her links with the battered woman, and thereby reaffirming the direct relationship of their attack with her position as a social leader
2. This act of gender-based violence is totally deplorable because one woman has been assaulted in order to threaten and intimidate, to harass, to psychologically torture another woman, in order to dissuade her from work that embodies a struggle for peace and the defense of human rights in Colombia. It also constitutes a direct threat to the integrity of MARYLEN SERNA, her family and close associates, as well as to the Congress of the Peoples.
3. We deeply deplore this gender-based violence, we extend our voice of encouragement and solidarity to this peasant woman, now a victim of torture and sexual abuse, and her family.
4. These facts have been brought to the attention of the National General Prosecutor in order to be promptly investigated. They were also brought to the attention of the national authorities with the aim of immediately reinforcing the security of social leader MARYLEN SERNA, but the response has been null and void by the authorities in charge of her protection.
Marylen Serna Salinas: is a small scale farmer, and a leader of the National Agrarian Coordinator - CNA. She was a national spokesperson for the Social and Community Resistance Minga of Colombia, an important space for articulating the movements, sectors, regions and organizational processes of the country between 2008 and 2011. La Minga allowed the consolidation of the social and political movement Congress of The Peoples, of which she has been national spokesperson since its foundation, in October 2010, to date.
As well as her identity as a small farmer and as a woman, she has also been a prominent leader of the Agrarian, Peasant, Ethnic and Popular Summit, a space for the articulation of important social organizations throughout the country, which today is engaged in negotiation with the government through its National Negotiation Panel. Since 2015, she has an important role in motivating the Social Panel for Peace, as a proposal for the participation of society for the construction of peace in the country. This proposal aims to generate a process of binding participation of society (contributing to the negotiations between the State and the insurgent [guerrilla] movements), regarding the historical demands of the Colombian movement and society to guarantee dignified life and social justice.
The events described above, add to a list of human rights violations in recent months, especially against female leaders of the Peoples' Congress, as evidenced by the following:
1. On March 2, 2017, RUTH ALICE LOPEZ GUISAO, was murdered in the Olaya Herrara neighborhood of Medellín. She was a campesina leader and human rights defender, a member of the Inter-ethnic and Intercultural Agroecological Association ASOKINCHAS, of the National Agrarian Coordination. RUTH ALICIA LOPEZ was the promoter of an Agrarian, Peasant, Ethnic and Popular Summit Project which worked to strengthen food sovereignty within twelve indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in the municipalities of Medio San Juan and Sipí in the department of Chocó.
2. On March 22, 2017, MILENA QUIRÓZ, MANUEL FRANCISCO ZABALETA and ISIDRO ALARCON BOHORQUEZ were arrested in the South of Bolívar, along with 9 other inhabitants of the Bolivar Province. They were members of the Interlocution Commission of the South of Bolívar, Central and Southern Cesar region. In the judicial process brought against them, there is clear political persecution of the leaders of the Interlocution Commission.
The arguments of the Specialized Prosecutor 3 of the city of Cartagena reveal the intentionality of silencing the social activity of MILENA QUIRÓZ, because the basis that the prosecutor outlined to request the intramural assurance measure facing the leader today is precisely her activities as social leader and her membership in social and human rights organizations in Colombia. MILENA QUIROZ, is also a spokeswoman for the Agrarian Summit and is leading various projects promoting agriculture signed between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agrarian Summit, based on negotiations with the National Government.
We demand that the Colombian State:
1. Adopt all necessary measures to prevent, punish and eradicate political violence against women, as well as to protect female defenders and social leaders in Colombia.
2. Adopt the necessary measures in accordance with the international obligations entered into by the State of Colombia, in particular with its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women "Convention of Belém do Pará", and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and consequently investigate these acts of violence with due diligence and punish the perpetrators in the shortest time possible.
3. Adopt appropriate and adequate protection measures in favor of the leaders of the Peoples Congress in a way that protects their life and physical integrity, especially reinforcing MARYLEN SERNA's security and protection measures and to extend these to her family, in consultation with the social leader and her family.
4. To recognize the extensive and systematic nature of the attacks on social leaders and human rights defenders in Colombia.
5. That the General Prosecutor's Office revokes the punitive ‘security’ measures against MILENA QUIROZ and all leaders detained and prosecuted without evidence.
Likewise, we call on the international community and society in general to:
1. Support and protect the Colombian social movement and the various social organizations that defend human rights and build peace in the territories.
2. Reject acts of violence that violate women’s lives, freedom and dignity and their rights to association, expression and public demonstration.
Regardless of the storms, we continue to forge a country for Dignified Life.
Congreso de los Pueblos. Bogotá, April 10, 2017