Another brave human rights defender shot dead
We are outraged and saddened to hear that Hernán Bedoya, a brave Colombian community leader and human rights defender, has been brutally murdered. After numerous threats to his life and despite all the best efforts of local groups to provide him with protection (such as bullet proof vests, cell phone etc.) he was shot dead by paramilitaries last Friday the 8th of December, while riding home on his horse.
While the details of the events are obviously still emerging, it seems obvious that this assassination was related to the fact that Hernán was an outspoken defender of the rights of his community which is engaged in a struggle to retain its land under threat by surrounding palm oil and banana plantations.
Palm oil expansion
Both ENDS had only recently gotten in contact with Hernán: in the fall of 2016, he participated in a workshop organised by Both ENDS in Bogotá. Here, NGOs and community members exchanged experiences and knowledge about the expansion of palm oil in the Latin America and its impacts on local people in the region. Hernán shared his community's experiences with the group and had already then expressed his fears for his safety but also been instant that his community's struggle for recognition and rights must continue. We are deeply shocked to learn that his worst fears have come true and express our deepest dismay and solidarity with Hernán's family, friends and the Pedeguita y Mancilla community in Bajo Atrato that he fought for.
Unfortunately, this is not at all an isolated event in Colombia. A few days earlier, Mario Castaño Bravo, land rights activist and leader of Madre Unión Community and La Larga Tumaradó Community Council, was also murdered - in front of his family despite being under the protection of the UNP. Both ENDS will keep supporting these incredibly courageous human rights defenders like Hernán and Mario throughout the world, who risk their lives and safety to stand up and fight for their rights and for a better future for their communities. However, it's extremely concerning to see that, especially in Latin America more and more often, these brave people end up paying the ultimate price.
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