Death threats against human rights defenders in Colombia have caused “great concern” for the World Council of Churches (WCC). A letter from the WCC to the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, calls on the “government to take all necessary measures to effectively protect the life and physical integrity” of the human rights defenders.

The letter came as a reaction to threats made against 13 human rights defenders in a communication received by the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes on July 4.

Among those threatened is Lilia Solano, a renowned human rights activist with a long engagement in the ecumenical movement. She is the director of the Justice and Life Project, coordinator of the Camillo Torres Restrepo, and chair of the Faculty of Law and Political and Social Sciences at the National University of Colombia.

The human rights defenders are reportedly described by the government as “guerrillas.” It is also reported that they are military targets and there are clear instructions to eliminate them.

“Such threats seriously impede the work of human rights defenders in Colombia by creating a widespread climate of fear,” said Rogate Mshana in his letter to the Colombian president. Mshana is WCC's acting associate general secretary for public witness and diakonia (humanitarian work).

The letter urged the Colombian government to carry out an independent and impartial investigation into the authors of these threats. The letter stressed that the government should take all necessary measures to ensure that Solano and all other human rights defenders can continue their work of defending human rights and human dignity, without danger and stigmatization.