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Human Rights Defender of the Month

February 2012

The British government in Colombia has recognised Misael Payares and his tireless work fighting for the rights of the Las Pavas community by making him Human Rights Defender of the Month.

Body ShopMisael was awarded the title of Human Rights Defender of the Month by the British government in Colombia.

This is yet another small victory for Misael and his community in their struggle to remain on the land they’ve farmed for many years.

Land they were forced off at gunpoint in 2009 by Colombian riot police who told them it had been sold to a palm oil company.

Christian Aid partner, the Development and Peace Programme of Magdelena Medio, supported the Las Pavas community throughout its battle for justice and in April 2011 won a Constitutional Court ruling granting the legal right for 123 families to return home.

‘It’s not gifts or handouts we’re asking for, it’s justice’ said Misael Payares in a recent interview with Christian Aid. ‘We don’t need the companies or anyone else to give us anything. If we have our land we can raise our children. They want us to stay poor, on our knees. But with land we are free.’

Describing the first day he and his community returned home Misael said he ‘felt two things: joy and responsibility and happiness because we had returned to our land, and responsibility because we knew that there would be attacks and we would have to resist.’
Since the court ruling there have been public attempts to discredit community members but Misael and other leaders have continued to defend their rights.

Advocacy work by Christian Aid and its partner Programa de Desarrollo y Paz has helped temporarily block attempts to delegitimise the community’s struggle to gain legal title to the land it has been farming for generations.

Las Pavas is an emblematic case in the broader debate of land restitution for communities displaced by the conflict and economic policies which aggressively promote the palm oil industry in Colombia.

The high profile nature of this case is a direct result of Christian Aid’s advocacy work in Colombia and the UK.

Further links

• Body Shop decision praised as it cuts ties with Colombian palm oil supplier.

• Colombian human rights defender arrested.

• Colombia: fighting for the right to land.  

• Christian Aid's work in Colombia.


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