Human rights defenders in Colombia are under constant attack for their work, facing murder, death threats, illegal surveillance, arbitrary detentions and prosecutions, activists told a congressional panel in Washington on Tuesday.
Speaking before the House Human Rights Commission, Colombian activist Gabriel Gonzalez recounted how he spent more than a year in jail on charges of being a member of the country's leftist guerrillas. A judge threw out the charges as baseless, but the ruling was overturned and he could face another seven years in prison on the same accusation.
His is one of dozens of cases, U.S. and Colombian rights groups say, where human rights defenders are prosecuted based on flimsy charges as part of an effort to intimidate them.
Margaret Sekaggya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, who visited Colombia in September, told the panel that she remained concerned over what she has called a "pattern of harassment and persecution against human rights defenders."
Sekaggya challenged the government of President Alvaro Uribe to "genuinely address" their concerns.
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