As President Bush in the waning days of his administration bestows the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, we'd like to nominate as LAWG Heroes of the Year 2008 the brave and tireless Colombian human rights activists who are taking risks to end the Colombian army's killings of civilians.
We probably can't convince President Bush to keep the medals in his desk drawer—but we can do our part to draw people's attention to some of Colombia's true heroes and heroines.
United in the Working Group on Extrajudicial Executions (Mesa de Trabajo Sobre Ejecuciones Extrajudiciales), and joined by courageous relatives of victims, these activists have painstakingly documented hundreds of cases of killings of civilians by the Colombian army.
They've denounced these abuses to the United Nations, the Colombian government, the U.S. government, and the media—to anyone who would listen—and to many who were deaf to their concerns.
They've organized visits by international observers, issued alerts, and taken case after case to the Colombian courts and to international courts.
They've endured death threats, accusations by the government, wiretapping of their phones—and some have become victims themselves.
When an international scandal broke revealing that soldiers organized killings of young civilians for profit, the Colombian government was forced to respond, dismissing a number of army officers.
But these activists are not yet satisfied, not until the full extent of the killings are admitted, investigated, and prosecuted. Not until the killings stop.
Let's take a moment to honor these Colombian heroes and heroines:
The Working Group on Extrajudicial Executions includes: The Human Rights Observatory of the Coordinacion Colombia Europa Estados Unidos; Corporacion Juridica Libertad; Colectivo de Abogados Jose Alvear Restrepo; Comision Colombiana de Juristas; Cos-pacc; Humanidad Vigente; Minga; Banco de Datos del CINEP; Comite de Derechos Humanos del Bajo Ariari; Sembrar; Comite de Solidaridad con los Presos Politicos; Fundacion Dos Mundos; Reiniciar; Paz con Dignidad Colombia; Redher; Corporacion Yira Castro; Justapaz; and Comision Intercongregacional de Justicia y Paz.
We'll be in touch soon with actions directed at the new administration and new members of Congress to achieve real changes in U.S. policy towards Colombia in 2009!