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Human Rights Defender Fends Off Attack

Every day, human rights defenders draw on deep wells of passion and commitment as they stand up for people who have no voice, no power.

Too often, the vocation requires far more: unflagging courage in the face of an opposition willing to take aggressive hostility to the heights of terrorism and violence.

Mónica Roa, a widely known human rights defender, came under gunfire just last Monday on May 7, 2012, at the offices of Women’s Link Worldwide in Bogotá, Colombia, where she is Programs Director. Roa is well-known for leading a team that challenged Colombia’s blanket abortion ban and won a historic court decision establishing the right to abortion in certain circumstances. The shooting is the latest act of animosity that she has faced since she took this case on more than six years ago.

In return for her tireless work on behalf of women and their fundamental reproductive rights, she has suffered under an escalating campaign of harassment and intimidation. Threats over social media and the telephone were followed by a string of burglaries at Women’s Link Worldwide offices, with several computers taken. More recently, a public official from one the highest-ranking institutions in Colombia filed a baseless criminal complaint against Roa, the nature of which has been obscured from public scrutiny and from her.

The Center, where Roa served as a visiting attorney, joins 150 other prominent individuals and organizations from 40 countries in condemning these attacks in a letter to Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón. Together, we are calling for a full investigation of the shooting incident, the public release of all details of the criminal complaint against her, and a series of other steps to ensure the safety and respect of Roa, her fellow coworkers at Women’s Link Worldwide, and human rights defenders across the globe.

Human rights defenders devote themselves to improving the lives of others. No one should ever have to sacrifice their dignity, security, or, most certainly, their life in this noble pursuit.

Read the letter >