Death threats issued to Colombian Indigenous activist Juan Pablo Gutiérrez

A trusted partner of Amnesty Canada urgently needs our support

By Kathy Price
Colombia Campaigner, Amnesty International

The terrible news came via a skype call from Colombia. Juan Pablo Gutiérrez, the big-hearted, creative, hard-working advocate for the rights of threatened Indigenous peoples and collaborator with Amnesty Canada, told me about receiving an envelope containing a death threat from the notorious Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles), a feared paramilitary group.

The message warned that Juan Pablo was now a paramilitary target and would be killed for his work with the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), a coalition with whom Amnesty International Canada has worked closely in recent years.

The death threat had been delivered to Juan Pablo as he waited for public transit near his home, en route to work, making clear that the paramilitaries had been monitoring his movements and knew where to find him.

I first met Juan Pablo when he got in touch to ask how he could support Amnesty Canada’s work on behalf of disappeared Embera Katío leader Kimy Pernia Domicó. At that time, Juan Pablo was living in France and working as a hugely talented photographer. Within no time, he had designed beautiful banners with Kimy’s image, which were invaluable in attracting attention to our campaign.

We continued to work together after Juan Pablo returned to his homeland and began a project with ONIC to make visible, via photography, some of the Indigenous nations whose very survival is threatened by assaults on their lands and lives. The end result was a powerful collection of portraits of Indigenous women and men holding hand-written messages to Canadians about the dangers they face and their hopes for a future of peace in their territory. Those photos, entitled “This is what we want to tell you” (link to photo gallery), have been shown over 70 times in communities across Canada, inspiring thousands of people to support actions to protect Indigenous women, men and children at serious risk.

Now the inspiring young man who made all of that possible is himself at risk. But just as Juan Pablo has always lifted his camera and his voice in defence of the threatened, we too must raise our voices now to defend this courageous, determined, tireless defender of Indigenous rights.

Join us to send a collective message of international concern that cannot be ignored: Colombia must guarantee the protection of Juan Pablo Gutiérrez and ensure he can continue his vital work without fear of harm. Thank you for sharing this message and our action with friends and family. Together we can make a difference!