Washington, D.C., August 2, 2011—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of women’s rights defender Keila Esther Berrio Almanza, a member of the League of Displaced Women of Colombia (Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas, LMD). The IACHR had granted precautionary measures for the League of Displaced Women in 2009 and expanded them twice, in 2010 and 2011, to the benefit of all members of the LMD and 16 members of the organization’s Youth League.
According to publicly available information, different theories are being considered as possible motives for this crime. The LMD has stated that this murder could be linked to Keila Esther Berrio’s activities in defense of women’s rights.
The beneficiaries of the precautionary measures of the League of Displaced Women have informed the IACHR that the Colombian authorities have not responded in a timely manner to their situation of risk. They have also reported experiencing problems and delays in the implementation of the precautionary measures. In response to this information, the IACHR has sent special communications to the State and held working meetings during its periods of sessions, as well as during a visit to Colombia by the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in May of 2011. Specifically, during this visit, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero, held meetings aimed at promoting compliance with the precautionary measures that the IACHR has granted in favor of women’s organizations and following up on the Agreement signed by the State of Colombia and the women’s organizations. During this visit, the Rapporteur examined the problems and obstacles detected in the implementation of the precautionary measures and emphasized the need to establish a distinct approach to the measures of protection that seek to benefit women, in response to the causes and effects related to the situation of risk that they face in light of their gender.
In three press releases issued by the IACHR in 2011, it has reiterated to the Colombian State the need to protect human rights defenders effectively, give public recognition to the legitimacy of their work, and adopt measures to protect them from the moment in which the authorities become aware of threats against them as a result of their work.
The IACHR calls to mind that it is the State’s obligation to investigate acts of this nature of its own accord and to punish the perpetrators. The Commission also calls on the State of Colombia to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, physical integrity, and security of human rights defenders and their families. In this regard, the Inter-American Commission urges the State of Colombia to implement effectively the precautionary measures the IACHR has granted for women’s organizations, defenders of women’s rights, and activists who work to safeguard and promote the rights of women in that country.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.