Colombian partners win human rights award
September 19 2013
Each year the EU and Diakonia – an international development agency with Christian values – honour organisations and individuals who have worked tirelessly to promote human rights, democracy, and peace in Colombia.
This year the prize was awarded to Father Alejandro Angulo Novoa, SJ, for his lifelong contribution to human rights in Colombia.
Father Alejandro dedicated his award to all the people who have to confront the harsh consequences of the armed conflict in Colombia on a daily basis.
He has dedicated his life to research and uncovering human rights abuses and was one of the founders of our partner CINEP. Father Alejandro is currently the coordinator of CINEP’s internationally renowned human rights database, which records violations of international humanitarian law.
Islena Rey also won the Human Rights Defender of the Year award, in recognition of her tireless work as founder and director of the Civic Human Rights Committee in Meta – a regional human rights organisation that receives legal support from our partner CODACOP.
Islena has received continuous threats from paramilitary groups in Meta and was forced to flee her home in 2009 when she was shot while travelling down river in a canoe.
Clare Dixon, the Head of our Latin America team, said: “These are much deserved awards and CAFOD is very proud of the work of Father Alejandro and Islena Rey. Their tireless pursuit of the truth at great risk to their own lives has meant that those who have suffered during Colombia’s years of conflict are not forgotten.”
Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a human rights defender. In 2012 alone, there were 357 attacks against human rights defenders, up from 239 attacks in 2011 and 174 attacks in 2010.
Alongside the Catholic Church in Colombia, we welcome the peace negotiations with the FARC guerrillas, while recognising that they are the start of a long-term process. The Colombian Church is calling for greater involvement of grassroots organisations in negotiations and, in particular, for fairer representation for women.
We will shortly be starting a new programme to improve protection of human rights defenders in four dioceses in Colombia that are working on protecting the rights of those affected by the conflict and land restitution with funding from the European Commission and the Scottish Catholic Charity, SCIAF.