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UN refugee agency concerned over attacks on rights workers in Colombia

UN refugee agency concerned over attacks on rights workers in Colombia

A spate of attacks on human rights workers and organizations in Colombia has prompted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to call for an investigation.

Issuing a statement in Bogotá today, the agency condemned last Friday's attack on the Colombian non-governmental organization (NGO) Corporación Casa de la Mujer by a group of unidentified armed men who stole computer files and documents.

That NGO partners with UNHCR in helping internally displaced women and their families. The UN agency has replaced the stolen equipment so work can continue.

The break-in was the latest in a series of incidents – some deadly – involving individuals and groups working for Colombia's internally displaced people (IDPs). Last September, a member of a women's IDP association in the southern city of Puerto Asís, Francis Girón Quilindo, was murdered. Another activist, Esperanza Amaris Miranda, was slain on 16 October in the northern city of Barrancabermeja. Other attacks and threats have been carried out against women involved in IDP groups in the Caribbean Coast region of Colombia.

UNHCR called on authorities to investigate all of these incidents and to prosecute those responsible. It also urged authorities to protect of those who have been threatened, as well as their families.

The agency is in Colombia to promote the rights of IDPs and strengthen the response of the Government and civil society to forced displacement. It works in coordination with Colombian authorities, church groups, NGOs, IDP associations and other UN agencies.

Although 1 million IDPs are registered in Colombia, NGOs estimate that there could actually be close to 3 million. According to official sources, 74 per cent of the displaced are women and children.