Nº 6/02







The Acting President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Juan E. Méndez, has condemned the assassination of Mrs. María del Carmen Florez, human rights defender, which occurred on Thursday, February 14, 2002, in Colombia.


Mrs. Florez, representative of the municipality of Mutatá and co-founder of the Colombian Juridical Foundation [Fundación Jurídica Colombiana], was working on the case of the alleged forced disappearance of Alcides Torres Arias, a case now pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  The Commission has scheduled a hearing on the aforementioned case for March 2002 at its 114th regular session.  Mrs. Florez was engaged in preparatory work for this hearing.


According to information received by the IACHR, Mrs. Florez was kidnapped, tortured, and subsequently assassinated.  It is not known whether she or other persons involved with the Foundation had received threats prior to the assassination.


Dr. Méndez stated: “The IACHR regrets and deplores Mrs. María del Carmen Florez’ assassination.  Human rights defenders carry out the vital work of protecting everyone’s rights.  Protection of such defenders thus takes on singular importance.”


The IACHR pointed to the adoption by the member states of the OAS, at its regular session held in Costa Rica in June 2001, of resolution AG/RES. 1818 (XXXI-O/01) which, inter alia, resolves:


To deplore acts that directly or indirectly prevent or hamper the work of human rights defenders in the Americas.


To urge member states to step up their efforts to adopt the necessary measures, in keeping with their domestic law and with internationally accepted principles and standards, to guarantee the life, personal safety, and freedom of expression of human rights defenders.


To instruct the Permanent Council to follow up on this resolution and to report to the General Assembly at its thirty-second regular session on its implementation.


The Inter-American Commission has informed the Permanent Council of the OAS of the extrajudicial execution of María del Carmen Florez.


Dr. Santiago A. Canton, Executive Secretary of the Commission, also categorically condemned the assassination of the Colombian activist:


“The assassination of a human rights defender is offensive to the entire inter-American community.  Human rights defenders are the first line of defense.  Attacks on such defenders render society as a whole more vulnerable to assaults on human rights.”


Washington, D.C., February 15, 2002