The Alliance for Global Justice and the People’s Human Rights Observatory express our profound alarm over the recent threats against Peace Worker and labor leader William Salazar and his family. Salazar is the president of SINDHEP, the union of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia’s Ombudsman’s (peoples advocate) office. He is also the president of REDSIPAZ, a network of unions representing Peace Workers who are charged with the day-to-day implementation and monitoring of the 2016 Peace Accords. Salazar received grave threats in the form of texts that included a photo taken clandestinely of his son.
These threats have occurred less than a month after SINDHEP made public denunciations against Ombudsman Carlos Camargo regarding his role in covering up in an alleged $1.6 million in bribes in the form of contributions to the 2014 presidential campaign of far-right candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga. Camargo was appointed Ombudsman with the support of a coalition of right-wing parties in Colombia’s Congress in 2020. The denunciation against Camargo by SINDHEP is the latest of several, including that he has illegally intercepted private communications of SINDHEP; that he restricted monitoring of campaigns in 2022 at a time there had been a spike in irregularities and threats against candidates; and that he undercounted casualties during the 2021 National Strike. We reported in June of this year that Camargo had closed the negotiation table with SINDHEP. The threats against William Salazar are a chilling new development in right wing attempts to intimidate and silence Colombia’s Peace Workers.
Please send an email to the Ombudsman’s office as well as other Colombian and international authorities demanding an end to the attempts to silence and intimidate SINDHEP and to demand respect and protection for William Salazar and all the nation’s Peace Workers
READ THE SINDHEP / REDSIPAZ STATEMENT REGARDING THE THREATS AGAINST WILLIAM SALAZAR AND HIS FAMILY
SITUATION OF RISK AGAINST THE RIGHTS TO LIFE, SAFETY, AND INTEGRITY OF THE COLLEAGUE
WILLIAM SALAZAR PRESIDENT OF THE UNION SINDHEP
Bogotá, October 19th of 2023
The union of human rights defenders of the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office – SINDHEP defines
itself as a labor organization of human rights defenders, for whom legitimate and dignified
working conditions barely exist for us to defend the human dignity of those of us who live in this
country. Our job is not limited to the defense of labor rights, but essentially to the full realization
of the obligations of the State, regarding the guarantee and effective enjoyment of human rights
for society as a whole.
We issue this URGENT ACTION due to the threats to life, safety and integrity of our colleague
WILLIAM ARCESIO SALAZAR VALENCIA, current National President of our union collective
SINDHEP, Human Rights Defender, civil servant of the delegate for Agrarian Affairs and Lands at
the national level of the National Ombudsperson’s Office, visible figure of our organization who
has exercised leadership both within and at the broader level of society since the union’s
We consider that the threats against our president are a consequence of the different complaints
made by our union against Mr. Carlos Camargo Assis, Colombia’s national Ombudsman, about
the serious questions that mire and accompany his public image wherever he goes. His repeated
scandals are reprehensible from an ethical and moral perspective, especially because he is
expected to embody in his person the full exercise of the moral magistracy for the guarantee of
the human rights of all Colombians. His office is required to be in full compliance with the
provisions of the articles 282 and SS. of the Constitution, as well as the precedents of legal
interpretation within the framework of international law in virtue of the constitutional
stipulations, within which the Paris principles gain marked importance regarding international
standards of the National Institutions of Human rights like the Ombudsman’s Office.
The far-reaching case of corruption associated with the Odebrecht bribes once more tarnishes
the image of Carlos Camargo Assis as a public servant in his character as Ombudsman. The case
that has been back in the news these days is one of the biggest corruption scandals of recent
decades in Latin America and has global repercussions.
It was in his former public function as Magistrate of the National Electoral Council, where he
requested acquittal in the administrative process that was being carried out against former
presidential candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga for the alleged irregular donation of money from the
Odebrecht conglomerate to his presidential campaign in 2014. We collectively denounced the
situation as a union before the Attorney General’s Office for alleged crimes against the
administration of justice of Prevarication by Action (Article 241 of the Colombian Penal Code).
Likewise, in his function as Colombia’s Ombudsman (since September 2020), in agreement with
the above, we interposed a criminal complaint against him for alleged illegal interceptions and
persecution against some SINDHEP leaders, through a technological platform funded by the
Inter-American Development Bank, known as the Forensic Digital Evidence Laboratory.
From the above it can be concluded that as SINDHEP, we have denounced the erratic institutional
direction that Carlos Camargo has given to the National Ombudsman’s Office, as well as the way
in which he has been responsible for using the National Human Rights Institution of Colombia to
permeate and turn it to the benefit of particular interests. We have denounced: the loss of the
independence, autonomy and exercise of the Moral Magistracy; the presence of officials from
the public forces in the former government; violations of labor rights and violations of the human
rights framework and international humanitarian law; of being the sounding board for the
Government of Ivan Duque, who appointed him in a shortlist of one to be Ombudsman, which
also implied that he remained an omissive silence regarding serious human rights violations in
the country against social protests of 2020-2021; the serious violations of human rights
associated with the environmental and agrarian reform issue; and the insignificant reparations
to the victims of the armed conflict of Colombia, among other endless actions that not only
contradict the government’s legal and constitutional mandate, but represent enormous setbacks
in terms of human rights for the country and the region.
Mr. Camargo deliberately excluded the components of the Institutional strategic plan PEI 2020-
2024 in favor of peace as a Human Right, acting in unison at the time with the Government of
Iván Duque Márquez, and thus contributing to the political commitment to destroy the Peace
Agreement and its implementation, and to contribute to the polemics of war at a time that the
Minister of War branded the country’s youth as “war machines”. Camargo also became notable
for remaining complicit in silence in the face of serious violations to Human Rights during the
2020 social protests. National media reported that he was in a recreational farm in Anapoima
while the country burned in the midst of bloodshed in the streets. He did not speak out in the
face of events as regrettable as the murder of more than 54 young people, nor the targeting of
the eyes by the public forces of 92 other protesters. These are some omissions that, as SINDHEP,
we have been publicly denouncing.
He and his club of friends from the Government of former President Iván Duque likewise sought
to deny the systematic and repeated murder of signers of the peace agreement and exert
influence to denounce this unconstitutional affair, as in the case of Mr. Emilio Archila former High
Presidential Advisor for Stabilization and Consolidation, and later millionaire contractor with the
Delegate Defender’s Office for Collective Rights and the Environment in the National
Ombudsman’s Office. The endless parades of politicians and their hitchhiking contractors
disfigured the Ombudsman’s doctrine and with this, plunged the National Ombudsman’s Office
into the unfortunate eighth place of credibility and trust of public entities in Colombia, below the
Army and the National Police.
Our Union Collective SINDHEP has not kept silent in the face of these practices. On the contrary,
it has spoken out publicly in the media, in sit-ins, in marches, in the streets, under the conviction
of defending the Ombudsman’s Office and pointing out Mr. Camargo’s decisions, which have
meant the rights have been left unprotected for the most vulnerable, who are waiting for this
human rights institution in the most remote and forgotten places, that it might take favorable
actions in the face of serious human rights violations and breaches of International Humanitarian
Law. That is why we consider that there is a close connection between these denunciations and
the threats against our SINDHEP President William Salazar and his family and son, whose
photograph was included in a threat, should he persist with the complaints.
- To the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. That it takes into account the facts
of aggression narrated in this Urgent Action and order the Colombian State to guarantee
and protect the rights of the human rights defenders of the Ombudsman’s Office who
have been subjected to threats, human rights violations and human rights violations and
breaches of International Humanitarian Law.
- To the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is aware
of the continuous aggressions and threats to which several members of our Union
Collective SINDHEP have been subjected.
- To the President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro Urrego. That he offer GUARANTEES AND
PROTECTION to the human right defenders who are part of the Ombudsman’s Office and
especially to William Salazar as President of SINDHEP and, to attend to the guarantees for
the defense of human rights in the Colombian territory, in compliance with the Political
Constitution of Colombia, the Presidential Directive No. 007 of 1999, Ministerial Directive
No. 09 of 2003, Decree 1066 of 2015, the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990)
and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998).
- To the Attorney General of the Nation, before whose entity two criminal complaints have
been filed against Mr. Carlos Camargo Assis; also, to the National Human Rights Unit of
the Attorney General’s Office, so that investigations are carried out promptly, given that
of the nine cases denounced, no progress has been made regarding those responsible. It
is urgent to clarify the full determination of these facts and the prompt punishment of
those responsible for the threats to colleague William Salazar and his family.
- To the National Protection Unit-UNP. That it adopts differential and collective protection
measures, immediately in favor of SINDHEP, as well as for colleague William Salazar and
- To the Ministry of Labor. To advance all actions conducive to guarantee the labor right of
freedom for our organization, as well as complementary measures to protect our
president William Salazar and his family.
- To the Ministry of Interior. To take all actions to guarantee the legitimate work of
defending Human Rights, especially of colleague William Salazar and his family.
- To the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation. To follow up on the functions of the
institutions that are guarantors of human rights in the national territory, especially with
regard to what is contemplated in the Directive 02 of 2017 and, with emphasis on the
measures adopted to prevent the materialization of the risk to colleague William Salazar
and his family.
- To the Ombudsman:
- a) Follow up on the risk situation of colleague William Salazar in the development of
his functions as a union leader, president of our union collective SINDHEP and
human rights defender.
- b) To urgently, timely and agreed upon protection measures for colleague William
Salazar, including the component of differential psychosocial care.
- c) Consider as a priority the recommendations of the report on risk characterization
of workers of the National Ombudsman’s Office, presented by Sindhep in 2019, as
well as the guidelines on Safe Behavior, Resolution 553 – April 2019- Guidelines on
Safe Behavior in the Institutional Performance in Field of the Ombudsman’s Office.
Management Council/ Consejo de Gestión
Union of Human Rights Defenders of the Ombudsman’s Office
Sindicato de Defensores y Defensoras de Derechos Humanos de la Defensoría del Pueblo
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