by Adriaan Alsema
Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, expressed her support for Colombian Human Rights NGOs Wednesday.
The UN rapporteur attended the start in Bogota of the For the right to defend human rights in Colombia campaign, an initiative of 73 NGOs active in Colombia with the support of 209 NGOs in 23 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia.
"Colombia ... has suffered a lot," Sekaggya said, stressing that in her short visit she saw "all kinds of human rights violations."
"There is intimidation, violations of the freedom of expression (and) we see children involved in the armed conflict," the rapporteur said.
According to the UN rapporteur, without human rights workers "democracy can not exist."
"Without your fight, without your work, peace will never obtained. Without you human rights in Colombia and the rest of the world will be forgotten," Sekaggya told the human rights workers.
"The promise I can make is that you can count on my support, because your work promotes and defends the legitimacy [of human rights]. It is a legitimate and necessary job," the UN official added.
Sekaggya will be in Colombia until September 18 to investigate the current situation of human rights workers in the country. NGOs in Colombia on a regular basis denounce intimidation or persecution by the government and violence committed by one of the country's illegal armed groups.