Vattenfall: Stronger efforts needed to address violence in Colombia

press release by urgewald and PAX
Stockholm, April 27th, 2017    For years, Vattenfall has been confronted with the severe human rights violations in its Colombian coal supply chain. At today’s annual general meeting the nongovernmental organizations urgewald and PAX welcome that Vattenfall has finally taken first steps to investigate the human rights impacts of its suppliers Cerrejón, Drummond and Prodeco/Glencore. But the human rights groups stress that it now needs to be followed by strong and urgent action. Since last year´s AGM three social leaders from communities that were in conflict with the mining companies have been assassinated in the coal-mining region Cesar, Colombia.

On September 11th 2016 Néstor Martínez, an Afro-Colombian community leader from Chiriguaná, was killed by two gunmen in front of his family. Prior to his assassination, he had opposed mine expansion plans of the US coal company Drummond and received death threats by an illegal armed group. Just four months later, Aldemar Parra García was shot by two men on a motorcycle. Parra was a member of the El Hatillo community, which shall be relocated due to high pollution levels caused by the nearby coal mines. He leaves behind his wife and three little children. On February 4th 2017 Edilberto Cantillo Mesa was also shot by unknown individuals on a motorcycle. He had fought for land restitution on behalf of farmers, who had been driven off their land.

The recent killings are just the tip of the iceberg. During a wave of paramilitary violence between 1996 and 2006 more than 3,100 people have been killed and more than 55,000 people have been displaced. In the recent years, threats and assaults by new paramilitary groups have increased again.

“The assaults on civil society leaders are a threat to the peace process in Colombia since they aim to paralyze social movements. If people are so afraid that they no longer dare to stand up for their rights, impunity and injustice continue”, says urgewald’s director Heffa Schuecking.

Maina van der Zwan from PAX adds: “Vattenfall can become a frontrunner in performing a human rights due diligence that is actually effective. But only if it formulates very concrete and effective demands towards its coal suppliers Drummond and Prodeco/Glencore. These should address the threats and assaults and start a dialogue aimed at remedy with the victims of violence in their zone of influence.”

More information:
Up-to-date information on the security issues in Cesar, Colombia: (link is external)

Maina van der Zwan, PAX, +31-6-3034 0227,
Heffa Schücking, urgewald, +49-160-9676 1436,