The latest news for the struggle for human rights for all in Colombia
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COLOMBIA SUPPORT NETWORK'S STATEMENT ON KILLING OF HOSTAGES/ ENGLISH/SPANISH
Please, help us by sending this statement to your Representatives in the US Congress. Many thanks. CSN
COLOMBIA SUPPORT NETWORK’S STATEMENT ON KILLING OF HOSTAGES IN COLOMBIA
The Colombia Support Network (CSN) condemns in the strongest terms the murder of eleven deputies of the Departmental Assembly of Valle del Cauca, who had been kidnapped by the FARC guerrillas in April 2002. Kidnapping of civilians is a flagrant violation of International Humanitarian Law. CSN has repeatedly denounced kidnapping as totally unacceptable. The FARC have continually refused to respect the fundamental principle that civilians are not to be treated as combatants and they bear ultimate responsibility for the security and well-being of those whom they have kidnapped, independently of who killed them. CSN calls for the immediate release of all hostages still being held in Colombia.
CSN also condemns the practice of both the FARC and the Colombian government of using hostages as political pawns to seek advantage in future negotiations. We call upon President Uribe and the Colombian government to enter into a Humanitarian Agreement, to follow the norms established in the Geneva Conventions and to abandon the strategy of military rescue by legal or illegal means which threatens the lives of the hostages. This Humanitarian Agreement would be a first step toward a negotiated solution to the Colombian conflict.
CSN also calls upon the United States government to support a negotiated solution and not to contribute arms, illegal troops or mercenary contractors to spreading the conflict.
And we call for an investigation to determine who is responsible for the horrendous murder of the Valle del Cauca Deputies and to punish the criminals.
Colombia Support Network sends its most heartfelt condolences and solidarity to the relatives of the victims.
Madison , June 30, 2006
DECLARACION DE COLOMBIA SUPPORT NETWORK EN ESPANOL
Colombia Support Network ( Red de Solidaridad con Colombia) condena en los terminos mas energicos el asesinato de los once Diputados de la Asamblea Departamental del Valle del Cauca, quienes habian sido secuestrados por la guerrilla de las FARC en Abril de 2002. El secuestro de civiles es una flagrante violacion del Derecho Internacional Humanitario. CSN repetidamente ha denunciado el secuestro como algo totalmente inaceptable. Las FARC rehusan continuamente respetar el principio fundamental de que la poblacion civil no debe ser tratada como combatiente y ellas son las responsables ultimas de la seguridad y el bienestar de los secuestrados, independientemente de quien los mata. CSN llama a la liberacion inmediata de todas las personas actualmente secuestradas en Colombia
CSN tambien condena la practica tanto de las FARC como del gobierno de Colombia de usar a los secuestrados como peones de ajedrez politico en la busqueda de ventajas para futuras negociaciones. Hacemos un llamado al Presidente Uribe y al gobierno de Colombia para que hagan un Acuerdo Humanitario, siguiendo las normas establecidas en los Convenios de Ginebra y para que abandone la estrategia de un rescate militar por medios legales o ilegales porque estos amenazan la vida de los secuestrados. Este Acuerdo Humanitario seria un primer paso hacia una solucion negociada al conflicto colombiano.
CSN tambien llama al gobierno de los Estados Unidos para apoyar una solucion negociada y a no contribuir con armas, tropas ilegales o contratistas privados a expandir el conflicto.
Hacemos un llamado para que se haga una investigacion para encontrar a los responsables de este horrible asesinato de los Diputados del Valle del Cauca y que se castigue a los criminales.
Colombia Support Network envia sus mas sentidas condolencias y su solidaridad a los familiares de las victimas.
Madison , June 30, 2006
cc President Alvaro Uribe
President George Bush
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
TWO THOUSAND HECTARES OF FOOD CROPS DESTROYED BY WEEDKILLERS
(Translated by Dan Baird, a CSN volunteer translator)
Two thousand hectares of foodcrops destroyed in Colombia, south of Bolivar. Hundreds of peasant families affected. Massive evacuation imminent.
From: Humanidad Vigente/Notimundo
On Sunday 24 and Monday 25 of June, four small planes from the Colombian government’s crop-spraying programme, using the non-selective herbicide Glyphosate, sprayed about 2000 hectares of foodcrops or pancoger in the south of Bolivar, Colombia, plunging into hunger and misery the hundreds of familes dependent on the crops.
The Peasant Association of the Valley of the River Cimitarra (ACVC) reported that this use of Glyphosate has ruined the crops of peasant families in districts within the jurisdiction Cerro Azul, Alto Berlín, Monte Carmelo and Alto San Juan, in the municipality of San Pablo and in the districts of Alto Limón and Diamante in the municipality of Cantagallo.
The damage reported by farmworkers is immense. The devastation of grazing land affects more than 500 head of cattle. Food crops like manioc, rice and bananas have been lost. Tens of hectares of cocoa from the Programme for Peace and Development’s Ecocacao project - supported by various international organisations and providing for more than 60 families ––have been totally ruined.
In addition, the ACVC’s agricultural and livestock programme in Alto SanJuan has been seriously damaged. The peasants insist that the government is well aware that there are no illegal crops in the places that have been sprayed.
In a statement seen by Notimundo, agrarian associations say: “The situation is so horrific that even the district aqueduct has been contaminated. The water is poisoned and cannot be drunk”.
According to reports reaching ACVC, peasants in many districts of San Pablo fear similar raids on their crops of pancoger because three light aircraft have flown over the area.
As a result of the situation in the affected area, tens of families have in fact begun to move to the district of San Pablo. The peasants say: “We don’t understand why, to eradicate 12 hectares of illicit plants, the government has had to destroy 2000 hectares of grazing land and pancoger crops, putting seriously at risk the food supply of entire communities”.
President Uribe, arrogantly and in an authoritarian way, told the peasants of the Valley of the River Cimitarra – whom he met in Barrancabermeja on 20 June last – that the crop-spraying could not be reversed and that, in such cases, those affected could claim compensation.
About a thousand peasants find themselves refugees in the oil capital of Colombia, driven out as much by the targeted killings carried out by the security forces and the paramilitaries as by the indiscriminate crop-spraying.
These people cry out for the solidarity and support of the people of Colombia and of the international community: the condition of the women and children is deplorable…….
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
FLOWERS FOR THE CRIMINALS, IMPUNITY FOR THE VICTIMS
Flowers for the Criminals, Impunity and Indolence for the Victims
(Translated by Micheál Ó Tuathail, a CSN volunteer translator)
The Memorias Campaign Against Silence and Impunity – No More State
Crimes expresses before the national and international community the
following position in relation to the voluntary testimony of Fredy
Rendón Henao, also known as 'el Alemán':
1. Yesterday, 5 June 2007, marked the beginning of the voluntary
testimony of Fredy Rendón Henao, alias 'el Alemán', leader of the
paramilitary bloc Elmer Cárdenas, which operates in the departments of
Antioquia, Chocó, Córdoba, Santander, and Cundinamarca and which is
responsible for hundreds of crimes against humanity including:
extrajudicial executions, massacres, forced disappearances, torture,
forced displacement, rape, and the appropriation of the collective
lands of campesino, black, and indigenous communities.
2. As part of the activities of the Campaign, the Memoria Gallery was
organized in the Plazoleta de la Dignidad, located near the Justice
building in the La Alpujarra Administrative Center in the city of
Medellín. Among those present at the gallery were victims of
paramilitarism and the social and human rights organizations who
accompany and represent those victims. They demanded truth, justice,
and reparations for all damages suffered.
3. At the same time, a group of demobilized (paramilitaries) from the
Elmer Cárdenas bloc and people from Urabá, who with banners, music,
posters and flowers screamed slogans of appreciation to their leader
and proceeded to occupy the same space where victims had congregated
to dignify the memories of their loved ones and demand their rights.
From the outset, the demobilized had the clear intention of displacing
and silencing the victims; as a result of fear and indignation, many
of the victims and their supporters decided to leave.
4. As the day progressed, 'el Alemán's' men celebrated all around the
Palace of Justice complete with a vallenato and salsa musical group.
The paramilitary leader directly thanked them, waving from a sixth
floor window during the course of the actual judicial proceedings.
5. This action was directed by three known paramilitary leaders from
the Urabá region, who filmed and photographed participants of the
Campaign and the victims present. They persisted until confronted by
members of the Unidad de Derechos Humanos de la Personería de
Medellín, who demanded that they stop such acts of intimidation and
hostility against the victims. These acts constitute both yet another
affront to the memory and dignity of the victims as well as acts of
aggression, which resulted in the Campaign deciding to terminate its
symbolic action and removed the Memoria Gallery.
6. The attitude assumed by 'el Alemán' and his group makes clear the
public opinion that material and substantive actions, which involve
the fulfilment of the requirements of eligibility for the granting of
benefits conceded by Constitutional Court's Law 975 of 2005 and that
of Sentencing 370 of 2006, will NOT be carried out. There are no
gestures of repentance on the parts of the participants, showing that
the haughtiness persists, as does the justification of acts of terror
and intimidation they carried out in the territories under their
7. In the trial of paramilitary leader Fredy Rendón Henao, alias 'el
Alemán', he did not confess to the systematic crimes perpetrated by
the paramilitary structures under his command and limited himself to
alleging that all of the victims were members of insurgent groups who
had been 'neutralized', that which generated indignation among the
trial's attendees. One must highlight that, in his voluntary
testimony, he will not openly and truthfully confess, thereby impeding
the granting of the benefits of the Justice and Peace Law awarded to
paramilitaries under this exceptional process. This should oblige the
Public Prosecutor to suspend said procedure and send the penal
processes back to the ordinary judicial process.
8. The Campaign once again condemns the attitude of the Public
Prosecutor, represented by Prosecutor 19, sent before the Justice and
Peace Tribunal, who persists in denying the participation of victims
and their representatives, with full faculties, in the development of
the voluntary testimonies, a fact that has been recognized in various
statements by the Constitutional Court. The argument of the public
official was that the process of paramilitary demobilization is being
carried out in a state of war, a situation that does not generate
secure conditions for the victims to participate neither directly nor
through representatives in the act of confronting their victimizers.
However, when 'el Alemán' wanted the direct presence of victims in the
trial, the Public Prosecutor obliged. This puts in plain view the
influence afforded the victimizer by the penal process and the
obstacles put in place for the victims in the legitimate exercise of
9. The right of victims to hear voluntary testimonies of
paramilitaries is seen newly limited by the Public Prosecutor in his
reaffirmation of disallowing the televised broadcast of the trials. In
a 'supposed' process of demobilizing paramilitary structures, it is
necessary that the public hear the full and true confessions of the
trials; it is a humanitarian right to know what occurred during the
decades of war against the civil population.
10. Prosecutor 19 also rejected the petition by the victims and their
representatives to access the content of other voluntary testimony
proceedings already carried out by members of the Elmer Cárdena bloc,
which would establish the links between members of this paramilitary
group as well as the extent of responsibility of State agents.
Given the preceding, we demand:
1. That the full exercise of the rights of victims to truth, justice,
and reparations be guaranteed. It is also demanded that the
attribution of benefits comply exactly with the terms of Law 975 of
2005 and Sentence C 370-06.
2. That the voluntary testimonies of all paramilitaries in accordance
with Law 975 of 2005 be presented publicly, as promised by the
3. That the National Public Prosecutor, the Attorney General, the
Defender of the People, and the CNRR guarantee respect for the dignity
and memory of the victims.
4. That the National Public Prosecutor move forward with respective
organizations to establish the identity of paramilitaries, demobilized
members, and intelligence agents of the State who have followed,
harassed, filmed, and photographed victims and members of social and
human rights organizations aligned with the Regional Movement of
Victims of State Crimes and the Memorias Campaign Against Silence and
5. That the national, departmental, and regional governments, as well
as judicial and state controlled organisms, guarantee the lives,
security, and personal integrity of the victims, their
representatives, and social and human rights organizations of the
department of Antioquia who demand truth, justice, and full
We urge that the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, the
diplomatic body, and the international community establish an
observation office that would oversee the voluntary testimonial trials
of the paramilitaries and accompany victims who are demanding the
fulfilment of their rights.
Asamblea Regional de Derechos Humanos
Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado
Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos desaparecidos (Asfaddes)
Asamblea Regional de Derechos Humanos de Antioquia
Nodo Antioquia de la Coordinación Colombia Estados Unidos
Colectivo de derechos humanos Semillas de Libertad (CODEHSEL)
Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT)
Asociación de Institutores de Antioquia (ADIDA)
Red Juvenil de Medellín
Instituto Popular de Capacitación (IPC)
Grupo interdisciplinario por los derechos humanos (GIDH)
Capítulo de derechos humanos del Polo Democrático Alternativo
Corporación El Solar
Comité Permanente Héctor Abad Gómez
Red Europea de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia
Corporación Cultural La Aldaba
Asociación Campesina de Antioquia
Comité de Derechos Humanos Gustavo Marulanda
Campaña por la Vida y la Libertad
Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos
Cristianos y Cristianas por la Justicia y la Paz
Corporación Jurídica Libertad.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Why were two US Army officials present at a meeting of displaced people?
(Translated by Rachel Kennedy, a CSN volunteer translator)
Two officials of the US Army, Lieutenant Colonel Christian Patrick and Major Richard Marzan took part in a meeting of the Comité Departamental de Atención a la Población Desplazada in Caquetá, on 10th May 2007 in the city of Florencia.
The meeting was called by the Governor Juan Carlos Claros Pinzón in order to find a solution to the serious situation faced by 360 displaced families of La Unión Peneya who were seeking guarantees to be able to return to their land.
The US Arnmy officials not only attended the meeting but also questioned the population for their objection to the setting up of a Police Barracks in the hamlet from which the return was to be organised. According to the community, a Police Barracks in the middle of the village would be a target for FARC guerillas and attacks, with gas canisters, could affect the civilian population. In these conditions, the displaced community requested all parties to respect international humanitarian law rights and proposed that the police barracks be built on the edge of the village.
The US army personnel told the community and the local authorities that they should understand that “Farc is not at war with the police but with the community” and that they “know about war because they have been to Iraq where they learned that the strategy of the terrorists is to separate the population from the legitimate authorities” *- a strategy they believed should not be accepted in Colombia.
The population of Union Peneya was obliged to flee 3 years ago as a consequence of military operations and confronations between the Fuerza Publica and the FARC guerillas, and were stigmatized because of the village's location in a zone of “guerilla influence”. The Comité Deparamental de Atención ( a legal body made up of the Agencia Presidencial para la Accion Social y la cooperacion Intenacional, the local civil authorities, military authorities the police and State organisations) is fully aware of the process of return.
The presence at this meeting of two uniformed officials belonging to foreign military constitutes unlawful interference in the internal affairs of the country and, in this case, in the management of humanitarian crises, such as the displacement of the civilian population in the middle of the armed conflict.
The departament of Caqueta is the epicentre of the “Plan Patriota” and the “Plan Consolidacion” promoted by the Ministry of National Defence with the support of the Government of the United States, through the “Plan Colombia”. In these circumstances around 76 408 people were displaced between 1999 and 2006. These people were fleeing conflict, threats, illegal crop-spraying in addition to breaches of international humanitarian rights, attributed to the guerillas, and human rights violations attributed to the Colombian Army.
The presence of foreign troops in humanitarian areas is not a good sign for national sovereignity The government and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs owe the country an explanation over this issue which has caused concern among the displaced communities and the civil organizations wich are working in this area.
*These US soldiers seem to ignore the fact that the war in Colombia has been going on for more than 40 years!
Information from CODHES website.CODHES is and NGO working with displaced population in Colombia
IACHR Ruling on the massacre of La Rochela, Colombia
Translated by Colectivo de Abogados "Jose Alvear Restrepo"
A Just Ruling for Justice
José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers¹ Collective
Corporación Colectivo de Abogados ³José Alvear Restrepo²
June 20, 2007
On January 18, 1989, 15 judiciary officials were investigating grave human
rights violations in the department of Santander, including the forced
disappearance of 19 merchants . Suddenly, they were approached by several
dozen armed men who presented themselves as members of the FARC and
proceeded to disarm and hold them for the next two and a half hours. After
their hands were tied behind their backs, they were put in two SUV¹s and
driven to a place called La Rochela. There, one after another and in a state
of utter defenselessness and vulnerability, they were executed in
Three of the officials from the judicial branch survived through sheer luck.
(No State authority came to their rescue.) The murderers proceeded to leave
graffiti on the vehicles to make it appear the guerrilla was responsible for
the massacre. They also plundered more than a dozen files belonging to
the judicial commission.
Later, it was discovered that the material authors of this atrocious crime
were paramilitaries belonging to the group calling itself ³Los Masetos.²
This group was created under the protection of the framework legalizing the
creation of self-defense groups  and was sponsored by large
landowners, politicians, and ranchers from the area (along with having the
active participation and close cooperation of the State security forces and
especially the senior military commanders in the area). The material authors
were led by ³El Negro Vladimir², who would later provide key testimony
concerning these criminal acts.
The La Rochela massacre did not happen by mere chance, rather it was
deliberately planned by drug traffickers, paramilitaries, and members of the
public force to ensure impunity for other crimes that had already been
committed in the region. In other words, the commission of this massacre
meant to paralyze the activity of the judicial branch as far as the series
of atrocious acts carried out in the region of the Magdalena Medio as well
as to intimidate judiciary officials in charge of investigating
similar such acts constituting grave violations to human rights.
More then 18 years have passed since these acts took place. Facing the
prevailing and rampant impunity existing in Colombia, the victims of this
massacre and their family members were left with the sole option of taking
the case before international bodies. Recently, on May 11, 2007, the Inter-
American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling of major historical
importance in which the Colombian State was condemned by act and omission
for this reprehensible massacre.
While this case was being processed before the Court, the Colombian State
admitted to its responsibility in the murder of the judiciary officials, yet
also requested the Inter-American Court not to make reference in its ruling
to the context in which the acts occurred. Nonetheless, the Court
correctly decided that the case could not be duly handled by ignoring the
examination of the legal and de facto framework surrounding, facilitating,
and encouraging this massacre.
For instance, the Court determined that the Colombian State pr
ovided the legal support for the creation and promotion of armed groups
through Decree 3398 of 1965, which allowed civilians without any State
control or supervision whatsoever- to be given restricted military weapons
in order to carry out activities as military self-defense groups. Moreover,
the Court established that army regulations and combat manuals favored the
development of these groups as well as their integration with the military
forces through such concepts as the use of ³guides² or ³informants²,
joint patrols, and the provision of restricted military weapons. When the La
Rochela massacre was carried out all of these norms were in force.
The IACHR ruling also recognizes that the massacre took place in a context
of violence against public servants belonging to the judicial branch and
were meant to obstruct their work, terrorize them, and thus maintain
impunity in cases of human rights violations, which makes this crime even
more grave, since it concerned an action carried out by the State to
eliminate its own officials from the judicial branch while they were
fulfilling their mission to administer justice.
Moreover, the ruling sustains that the Colombian system of justice was
inoperative and that the case remains ³substantially in impunity², depriving
the victims, their family members, and society from attaining the
clarification of the acts, knowledge of what truly occurred the right to
truth- as well as the designation of the corresponding responsibilities by
way of the persecution, arrest, investigation, trial and conviction of the
authors the right to justice-.
In this respect, it is revealing that judicial processes have taken more
than 17 years, during which time the generalized systematic patterns of
violence were not identified and followed as a part of an effective
investigation; logical lines of investigation were not followed to determine
the responsibility of the senior military commanders and paramilitary
chiefs; military criminal justice should not have handled the case since it
concerned a grave human rights violation; disciplinary and criminal justice
were ineffective; there was a grave omission in the protection of public
servants, witnesses and family members of the victims as well as obstruction
to justice, among other major transgressions.
Update on case against spy chief Jorge Noguera
Translated by the Colectivo de Abogados Jose Alvear Restrepo
As regards the case of the former Director of the DAS Jorge Noguera Cotes
The Attorney General¹s Office Should Proceed Quickly and Decisively
José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers¹ Collective
Corporación Colectivo de Abogados ³José Alvear Restrepo²
June 20, 2007
The Attorney General of Colombia, Mario Iguarán Arana, had the legal
obligation of issuing a pronouncement on the case of Jorge Noguera by June
15, 2007. According to reliable sources of information, an arrest warrant
waits on his desk that will determine the legal status of Jorge Noguera
Cotes, former director of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS)
 and former consul in Milan.
Nevertheless, up to now, Attorney General Iguarán has yet to make a
statement, which cannot help but spread doubt as to what can be expected to
occur. One way or another this would reveal how from within the very
institutions in charge of administering justice all kinds of distractions
and erroneous arguments are employed in order to exhaust processes,
guarantee impunity, force the victims into silence, and guarantee a
profitable political or administrative career for the perpetrators
of the worst crimes against humanity.
Likewise, despite having the unrestricted support of the president who
appointed him DAS senior chief and then to a diplomatic post, the Colombian
system of justice cannot underestimate the gravity of the accusations lodged
against Jorge Noguera.
After so many leaks to the different mass media outlets, it has become
common knowledge that these processes being carried out by the Attorney
General¹s Office against the former DAS director demonstrate how
paramilitarism and corruption infiltrated this agency. Furthermore, in
addition to being lengthy files, these processes illustrate how the
institution ignored fundamental rights, violated constitutional guarantees,
and encouraged State-sponsored crime.
Jorge Noguera is presently implicated in several criminal investigations,
which is of public knowledge. It is also known that he was detained and then
subsequently released. (But not due to lack of evidence, rather to a
supposed jurisdictional error due to the constitutional privileges
protecting him as former DAS director.) Nonetheless, the investigations
against him remain open and concern the commission of grave crimes. He has
not only been implicated in carrying out a well proven electoral fraud along
the Colombian Caribbean coast (which in and of itself is of course grave
and questions the very legitimacy of the current presidential
administration), but he is also accused of administrative corruption in
several multimillion-dollar contracts, of having put the principal
intelligence agency to the service of the mafia and criminal gangs, of
having participated in carrying out a conspiracy against the Venezuelan
government (including the murder of Venezuelan state
prosecutor Danilo Anderson), and most grave of all- of supporting
paramilitary groups (including at least turning list over to these groups
with the names of unionists and leftwing leaders so they would be murdered,
which indeed was what occurred to a good number of them).
The case of Noguera is not just another case or an act repeated as a part of
a long record of crimes implicating the DAS¹s conduct. The case concerning
Jorge Noguera Cotes conclusively proves that in Co
lombia power has been used to attack and disregard the rights of the weakest
members of society. It is also the leading evidence of a sinister process
reaching its climax, when the worst crimes massacres, forced
disappearances, forced displacement, political persecution, the
dismembering of living human beings, and the sowing of generalized terror-
had been legitimized, permitted, tolerated, and employed by State
institutions as a political weapon. Bearing in mind the
DAS is responsible for the protection programs for social leaders,
unionists, and journalists, this becomes even more grave.
It is completely unacceptable that Jorge Noguera is still at liberty. The
Colombian justice system must determine the validity of the denunciations
and grave claims made by several former DAS officials turned prosecution
witnesses. If it fails to do so, these accusations will be diluted by
out-of-date excuses and shameful legal arguments meant to keep Noguera from
being duly processed and punished.
Considering the current political crisis in Colombia, the case against the
former DAS director is of vital importance for Colombia. Since we have
reached a point of exhaustion and extreme skepticism,
historically, politically and socially we as Colombians need to know the
real truth concerning all acts of national relevance committed, which have
been constantly manipulated, concealed, or given an erroneous treatment so
as to distort and falsify our country¹s historical memory.
Thus, nationally and internationally we must demand the Attorney General¹s
Office to act quickly and decisively so as to avoid impunity and guarantee
the truth to the victims, society, and the whole of humanity.
It should be stressed that such international organizations as the
International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the International Center
for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR), and the Taula Catalan
Organization for Peace and Human Rights in Colombia, have made
pronouncements concerning this case, requesting the Attorney General¹s
Office to be quick and effective in the handling of this case.
1 The Administrative Department of Security or DAS is the principal
intelligence agency in Colombia and also functions as the secret police. The
DAS undertakes strategic intelligence, criminal investigation, migratory
control, and the protection of senior leaders and persons under threat
(including human rights defenders, social leaders, unionists, and
Letter to Secretary Rice about Colombia by several Senators
Indigenous nations on the Sierra Nevada reject demonstration supporting paramilitary leader
(Translated by Dave Brown, a CSN volunteer translator)
ONIC SUPPORTS THE POSITION OF THE GONAWINDUA INDIGENOUS ORGANIZAITON (ARHUACOS, KOGUIS AND WIWAS INDIGENOUS PEOPLES EN THE DEPARTMENTS OF MAGDALENA AND GUAJIRA), WHO FORM PART OF THE TERRITORIAL BOARD OF THE COUNCILS IN THE SIERRA NEVADA, ALONG WITH THE KANKWAMOS!!! AND SOLICITS THE SAME TREATMENT IN THE MEDIA, IN THE CNRP (National Press Roundtables), AND BY THE GOVERNMENT PROSECUTORS THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CASE.. FROM THE COMUNIQUE THAT WE NOW RESEND!!!!
GONAWINDUA TAYRONA ORGANIZATION
COMUNIQUE FOR THE PRESS AND FOR NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC OPINION.
SANTA MARTA, JUNE 6TH, 2007
The Gonawindua Tayrona Organization (OGT) that represents the peoples, traditional authorities and indigenous communities en the departments of Magdalena and La Guajira between the basins of the Fundacion And Rancheria rivers in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, expresses its rejection, preoccupation, sickness and sadness as a result of the demonstration made yesterday the 5th of June, 2007 by a group of indigenous peoples of our lands, in which they support the known paramilitary boss, Hernan Giraldo Serna, during the sessions that this man held in the city of Barranquilla before the prosecutor.
a. Above all, we want to leave clear that neither our traditional authorities nor the Council Governor, legitimate representatives of our indigenous communities had any knowledge of the intention of this group of persons to travel to Barranquilla in order to support the acts of Hernan Giraldo. Because of this, these indigenous peoples did not have the endorsement or authority to, in the name of the indigenous communities, to support the recognized paramilitary boss. In this sense we vehemently reject the behavior of this indigenous group that does not represent the opinion nor the policies of our peoples, of our authorities and of our organizations that have always shown and practiced neutrality in a conflict that is not our own and that has caused so much harm to our territory and to our communities.
We have not been beneficiaries of, nor have we supported any armed group that operates with the seal of violence in our territory, but rather are victims of the shady practices that both the paramilitaries as well as the guerrillas have used to intimidate our authorities and leaders.
b. Secondly, in the recent decades it has been the indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada that have suffered to the largest degree, from the outrages of the armed actors that have been appropriating our ancestral territory. More than 280 Kankwamos have been assassinated and 15 have been disappeared, many of them by paramilitary groups. The Koquis of the northern slopes have suffered a similar situation where the paramilitary Block, lead by Hernan Giraldo, operates, more than 9 were assassinated by the paramilitary groups and one by guerrilla actions. In the case of the Wiwa peoples the damage is no less, as more than 280 indigenous peoples have been assassinated by the assassin's bullets of these groups, including two of our Council Governors, and more than 20 have been disappeared.
For the Arhuaco peoples, the assassination of more than 24 of our members, including the horrendous practice of cannibalism, were also part of the terror we suffered from these armed groups of paramilitaries and guerillas imposed by blood and fire on our communities.
Assassination of our leaders and members has not been the only effect that we, as ancestral peoples, have suffered.
We have also been the victims of the blockade of our roads and of the mobility of our peoples in the transport of foodstuffs from and to the Sierra, a situation that has generated a humanitarian crisis in many of our communities due to the lack of food and medicine as well as medical personnel from our health institutions.
The situation that we indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada have suffered has been so grave that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ordered precautionary measures for the Wiwa people and provisional measures for the Knakwamo nation, that obligate the Colombian state to protect the life and cultural and territorial integrity of our nations.
One of the principals ordered by our authorities has been the recovery of territory to guarantee the environmental conservation throughout the Sierra Nevada and the survival of our population in the high and steeper parts of the Sierra. However, because of the presence of the paramilitary groups, this dream has been cut short on many occasions, as much by the damaging presence of illicit crops with the destruction of 150,000 hectares of forest in the last 30 years, such as by orders by the paramilitary chiefs such as Hernan Giraldo to impede the sale of parcels owned by settlers in order to be returned to the true owners, the indigenous nations.
Again, the manipulation of a few indigenous generates a generalized opinion and stigmatizes our communities and authorities, totally contrary to the mandate of or Law of Origin and of our traditional authorities that we have always practiced and transmitted to our populations and the non-indigenous society.
We are not, have not been or ever will be paramilitaries. We are not, have not been and will not be guerrillas. We are victims of a conflict foreign to our tradition and culture. We are victims of the actions of these groups such as the one that has been lead by Mr. Hernán Giraldo.
We reject and openly condemn those persons from our communities that have given themselves to this painful demonstration of support to a paramilitary boss and those who have with certainty been manipulated and obligated by non indigenous people to benefit of their own interests.
JUAN MAMATACAN MOSCOTE
Gonawidúa Tayrona Organization
Santa Marta - Sierra Nevada, Heart of the World, June 6, 2007-06-07
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Inter-American Court Newly Condemns the Colombian State and questions Demobilization
Inter-American Court Newly Condemns the Colombian State
and Calls into Question the Demobilization Process
June 8, 2007
For the sixth time in the last three years, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled against the Colombian State. On this occasion, the Colombian State was condemned for its collaboration with paramilitary groups in the commission of a massacre against judiciary officials. Today, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR), representatives of the victims and their family members, were notified by the High Court of this ruling on the case of the massacre of La Rochela, which established that the paramilitary group “Los Masetos”, responsible for this crime, acted with support and collaboration from State agents.
Furthermore, the Court determined that the Colombian State violated the rights to personal liberty, physical safety, and life –in addition to the judicial guarantees and protection- of the victims and their family members, which are established in the American Convention on Human Rights. As a result of these violations, the Court ruled that the Colombian State must conduct and finalize the investigation into the massacre so as to try and punish all of the material and intellectual authors. This ruling by the Inter-American Court constitutes a significant contribution to the search for truth, justice, and reparation for the survivors and family members of the La Rochela massacre.
The case of La Rochela concerns a massacre committed in January 1989 in the township of La Rochela (Department of Santander), in which 12 persons died and 3 survived. The victims, all of them judiciary officials, had been investigating –among other crimes- the massacre of 19 merchants, a case also analyzed by the Inter-American Court in July 2004. The Court considered that the massacre occurred in a context of violence committed against judiciary officials (and under laws that permitted the creation of self-defense groups that later became paramilitary organizations).
Even though the Colombian State recognized its responsibility (and testimony was provided implicating the active participation of State agents in these acts), no progress has been made toward investigating and punishing the responsible parties of this massacre.
The Inter-American Court established that the Colombian State failed to diligently investigate the relationship between the paramilitary group AGDEGAM and senior military commanders. Specifically, the Court mentions the failure to investigate such senior commanders as General Farouk Yanine Díaz, General Carlos Julio Gil Colorado, and Colonel Jaime Fajardo Cifuentes.
Currently, several of the paramilitaries implicated in this massacre are also beneficiaries of the demobilization process (concerning which the Inter-American Court has already issued pronouncements). In this respect, the Court established that the right to truth must be guaranteed “as adequate, participatory, and thorough as possible”, granting the victims the chance to participate “in all of the stages of the respective processes.” Moreover, the Court established that the sentences imposed on the demobilized persons must be proportional, “in function of the diverse nature and gravity of the acts,” and that “the State has the certain duty of making reparations directly and principally for those human rights violations for which it is responsible.” Lastly, the Inter-American Court insisted that the granting of amnesties under Decree 128 “demands the utmost diligence paid by the corresponding authorities to determine if the beneficiary actually participated” or not in grave human rights violations.
The Inter-American Court also called attention upon the total lack of protection provided to the judicial commission that was victim of the massacre, as well as deprotection of the judiciary officials, witnesses and family members, which has affected the efficacy of the investigation. Consequently, the Court insisted in the importance of “an effective system of protection of judiciary officials, witnesses, victims and their family members.”
“Colombian political and judicial authorities should pay close attention this ruling since it gives guidelines for the Colombian State to bring its conduct in the demobilization process into line with international standards insofar as the protection of human rights.” stated Viviana Krsticevic, executive director of CEJIL. Non-compliance to this judicial decision by the Colombian State brought the Inter-American Court to newly condemn the Colombia for not guaranteeing the rights of the victims in the demobilization process.
Rulings issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights must be complied to by the member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) –such as Colombia-, which have accepted its jurisdiction and binds all branches of State power.
Contact at CEJIL:
Contact at José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective:
Tragic Events at La Union Bridge in Santa Cecilia, Risaralda and Guarato, Choco, Colombia
( Translated by Amy Rose Pekol, a CSN volunteer translator)
26-27 May 2007
The undersigned from the Observation Commission share with us what they witnessed regarding the events that occurred at Union Bridge, Santa Cecilia, Risaralda and Guarato in Chocó, Colombia.
According to the Testimony of the Indigenous Peoples:
The indigenous communities of the Chocó have been negotiating with the government a list of demands concerning education, health, territory and human rights. The points of agreement for each topic were signed into law on April 27, 2007. The indigenous communities provided a deadline to speed up the arrangements, especially regarding the appointment of teachers, as the children have a right to education.
As the deadline passed and there were still no results, the indigenous communities decided to take the highway that runs from Quibdó to Medellín at Kilometer 18 on May 21, 2007. The indigenous authorities have since been in various meetings with government institutions from the Chocó region. Unable to reach an agreement, they decided to strengthen the negotiation by creating a roadblock along the highway from Quibdó to Pereira, with the goal of seeking a fulfillment of the aforementioned agreements on behalf of the government.
The indigenous peoples made their presence on the highway on Friday, May 25, 2007. Around 100 people participated, among them were boys, girls, women (some pregnant), men, young and elderly. They situated themselves at a place called “Union Bridge”—a bridge over the San Juan River, 4 kilometers from the Santa Cecilia district, both in the Pueblo Rico municipality. On Friday, May 25th, both the army and the police arrived and spoke with the city council, demanding the passage of three buses detained by the road block. They reached an agreement to allow the buses to pass; the drivers gathered about $200.000 (= $110.USD) for the indigenous peoples and one of the drivers gave them rice.
On Saturday, May 26, 2007, while they were preparing breakfast at approximately 7:00am, troops from ESMAD (a mobile anti-disturbances squadron of the police force) arrived in anti-disturbance trucks and attacked the indigenous peoples with tear gas and chased them, trying to dissolve the group and round them up towards Agüita, a small hamlet alongside the highway. The chaos provoked disorder, dizziness and blurred vision and several people were injured. ESMAD dissolved the road block, burned and destroyed the huts that the indigenous peoples set up along the highway and threw their suitcases and other belongings into the river.
The indigenous people also report the disappearance of three minors who presumably fell into the San Juan River during these events. Their names are: GLORIA INES ARCE, 6 years old, from the Conondo community; and brothers, JORGE MURRI NARIQUIAZA, 8 years old, and EMILIO MURRI NARIQUIAZA, 6 years old, both from the Dokabú community. On May 27, the parents reported these events to the woman who is the official representative of the community ( called thee Corregidora) of Santa Cecila in the Pueblo Rico district of Risaralda, accompanied by members of the OREWA Association, Diocese of Quibdó and international organizations.
Once these violent acts had passed, members of the community, who had dispersed and sought shelter from the gases, reunited. The police then put them in their vehicles and drove them to Guarato, a small community in the Chocó region, 8 kilometers from Santa Cecilia, saying that they could continue their protest there. According to the indigenous people, when they arrived in Guarato, they saw that the police had driven them to a different location so several of them decided to jump out of the police vehicles and remain there on the highway. The police stopped the vehicles and the indigenous people got out of the trucks and continued their protest on the highway.
While they were preparing lunch at around 2:30 pm, units from ESMAD arrived with 2 anti-disturbance trucks and once again fired tear gas and chased them to the banks of the San Juan River. From these events, we attach in the annex a report of 22 disappeared people, of which 14 are minors and 8 are adults. The Vivícora community is awaiting the report of 6 children from the community who have not yet appeared. Additionally, 13 people were injured. The community also told us of the damages to their personal belongings. Among them, they corroborated the burning of suitcases filled with clothes, the destruction of kitchen utensils and the loss of money and means of communication, such as cell phones, radios and megaphones. In conjunction with these events on May 26th, 2 missionaries of the Diocese of Quibdo, who had conducted a health workshop for the indigenous communities, were detained for four hours. They were driven to the Santa Cecilia station without ever being presented with detention orders.
According to the Police and ESMAD Versions:
This Commission had many opportunities to meet with representatives of the police and ESMAD. From these dialogues, the synthesis of their interventions is written as follows:
1. The indigenous people cannot block a highway because it disrespects the rights of other citizens, risking the Chocó department’s inhabitant’s access to food.
2. This protest was risking the health of various people who were sick and in the vehicles being detained at the roadblocks.
3. The indigenous people demanded 200.000 pesos ($ 110 in USD) from each detained bus in order to allow them to pass. This could be considered extortion and aggravated kidnapping.
4. The indigenous people were causing damage to other vehicles by breaking the windows.
5. They spoke with the indigenous people on May 25 to lift the roadblock along the highway, or at least do it in intervals, but they did not accept this proposal.
6. ESMAD said that they deterred the protest with only one anti-disturbance group, which used non-damaging tear gas while being assaulted with stones by the indigenous people
7. The police recognize that there are three missing children in the Risaralda jurisdiction as a result of these events. They say that they have been searching for them since the moment they were notified of this loss, but they have not yet found them.
8. In the ESMAD operation, the police brought many indigenous people towards the area of Chocó after the events at Union Bridge, but the indigenous people conspired in their language and decided to throw themselves from the trucks and remain at Guarato to continue the roadblock.
9. In one of the dialogues, Major Díaz of the Santa Cecilia police requested a copy of the notes that members of the commission were taking, but the commission refused to do it since they were private notes.
10. The police say that the retention of the 2 missionaries was done to get complete identity and verify their records.
11. The police expressed their desire for the indigenous people to achieve a good and timely agreement with the administrative authorities and not to continue with this type of behavior.
1. We request that the Colombian government carry out an immediate investigation to identify the responsibilities of the superiors who gave the orders for the use of disproportionate and unnecessary force on behalf of the ESMAD agents.
2. We request that all necessary and pertinent efforts are carried out for the immediate search of the minors, especially the three children who presumably fell into the San Juan River during the events at Union Bridge. We especially encourage the intervention of rescue and relief organizations.
3. We urge the Colombian national and departmental governments to move quickly to fulfill the agreements they reached with the indigenous people to improve their living conditions, as their inaction was the cause of these new protests.
4. We ask the same Colombian government, as well as humanitarian aid organizations, to attend to the nutritional, health and clothing necessities of the indigenous people who lost their possessions as a result of these tragic events.
In witness whereof the undersigned have signed this report on May 28, 2007 in Quibdó, Chocó,
Diócesis de Quibdó, Chocó, Colombia.
Christian AID de Gran Bretaña e Irlanda
Diakonía de Suecia
Amnistía Internacional Francia,
PTM Mundu Bat, del Estado Español
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
An extra- judiciary Execution in Meta
(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
An Extra-Judicial Execution
A peasant is murdered in the municipality of El Castillo, Meta Department, after having been detained by troops of the 21st Pantano de Vargas Battalion
Saturday, the 26th of May of 2007 at 3 PM, Mister Genaro Potes, 51 (identified by his national ID card No. 17,351,972 given in San Martin, Meta) left the house of his brother, located in the community Campo Alegre, of the municipality of El Castillo (Meta), headed for the community Puerto Esperanza, wearing a white shirt and blue pants. He went on horseback, intending to attend a meeting on tax discounts At 4 PM, he was detained in the Campo Alegre community by troops of the 21st Vargas Battalion, under the command of Commander Ferro. According to the versions of neighbors who witnessed the events, the peasant was tied up in a cacao plantation, next to the community’s school. The army interrogated another easant who passing by the site at that time, asking if he knew Mister Genaro. The soldiers said that the detained man was a guerrilla fighter. The neighbor told them that he did know him as a hard-working and honest man of the area.
On Sunday, May 27, neighbors from the Puerto Esperanza community that the body of Mister Genaro Potes was put into a pickup truck belong to the armed forces and taken to the Municipality of Granada, Meta.
In the morning of the 28th of May, the radio Station Colombia Stereo gave out the news that in the Municipality of El Castillo, in the community of Campo Alegre, during a confrontation with the guerrilla forces, the army had brought down a guerrilla fighter.
Commander Pérez, in command of the 21st Vargas Brigade, indicated on repeated occasions that Mister Genardo Potes was a guerrilla. He also put up obstacles to identifying and delivering the body on the pretext that there were no personal documents, when his family affirmed that Mister Genaro left his house with his personal indentification documents, along with the title to his land.
Special physical characteristics of the person:
Mistor Genaro Potes suffered a minor cerebral paralysis and mobility problems, which manifested themselves in his poor equilibrium while walking, as a result of having had polio as a child. This situation was known by all, since it was obvious at first glance.
Antecedents of the Displacement:
According to the declaration in the single registry of displaced populations, dated February 2006, Mister Potes was internally displaced within the municipality on Mat 26, 2003, from the community of Los Alpes to the community of Caño Embarrado. During this period there was a massive displacement in the municipality of El Castillo that left the fields deserted, as well as multiple murders, disappearances and other violations of human rights and of the International Humanitarian Law.
Mister Genardo Potes still presented special physical and mental characteristics, fully evident, which gave him the right to special and respectful treatment, and especially when those who arbitrarily detain him (the National Army) are authorities who, because of their constitutional duty, must watch out for the life, honor and possessions of the inhabitants of the territory. He was submitted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, his personal identification documents were taken from him, and then he was murdered and reported to be a guerrilla killed in combat.
This evident shameless mistreatment by which the rights of the peasants are violated, and their later use to demonstrate the results of combat actions, alarms the community of this municipality who feel insecure in the face of the very forces of the State.
That is why we raise the following
We ask friends and social and human rights organizations who have this information that they please spread it through all the possible media and that they send communications to the following national authorities:
To the President of the Republic, Doctor Álvaro Uribe Vélez, that he guarantee the right to life, and to the free movement of the people of the Municipality of El Castillo, Meta
To the President of the Republic, Doctor Álvaro Uribe Vélez, as commander-in-chief of the military forces, that he demand of his soldiers that they guarantee the fundamental rights of the peasants of the region.
To the National Army, that they abstain from presenting extrajudicial executions as casualties of combat and that they carry out their constitutional duty to protect the life, honor and possessions of all Colombians.
To the Inspector General of the Nation, Doctor Edgardo Maya Villazón, that he initiate the appropriate disciplinary investigations.
To the Attorney General of the Nation, that he initiate criminal investigations.
To the Defender of the People, Doctor Volmar Pérez, that he assume direct control of the case in question. In the same way, that he guarantee the permanent presence of a representative Defender of his office for the region of Alto Ariari, who would effectively accompany the peasants who have been the victims of violations of fundamental rights.
MOVIMIENTO NACIONAL DE VICTIMAS DE CRÍMENES DE ESTADO (National Movement of Victims of Crimes of the State)
CORPORACIÓN CLARETIANA NORMAN PEREZ BELLO (Claretian Firm “Norman Pérez Bello)
COMITÉ DE SOLIDARIDAD CON PRESOS POLÍTICOS (Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners)
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
THE WOUNDS ARE NOT HEALED: In the 21st year of Impunity
WORDS SPOKEN AT THE LAUNCH OF THE TRUTH COMMISION, IN MAY 2007, BY THE RELATIVES OF THOSE WHO DISAPPEARED AT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE
( Translated by Dan Baird, a CSN volunteer translator)
[On 6 November 1985 a group of M-19 guerillas burst into the Palace of Justice in Bogotá, taking 300 people hostage. The army stormed the building, bringing up armoured cars and using automatic weapons. Over 100 people died. Eleven people, mostly cafeteria workers, were missing afterwords and a Truth Commission has now been set up to investigate their fate.]
As we convene this meeting, we wish to borrow a sentence from Jon Cortina, the Jesuit priest who helped find the bodies of several children who were disappeared in the most recent conflict to strike El Salvador. We have had the inspiration of another Jesuit, Father Javier Giraldo, who over the last 21 years has constantly found strength from within his own spiritual resources to celebrate memorial masses for our disappeared relatives and to help us cope with the sadness, the despair, the anger and the other emotions we have felt in the face of what seems meaningless and absurd. So too the Savadorean people have had Father Cortina. And Father Cortina rightly says: “It is only the victims – and not the State or the murderers or treaties or laws – who can finally say whether wounds are healed.”
You, who 21 years ago saw your relatives go off to work in the Palace of Justice but never return, do you believe that the wounds are closed? The elusive truth of their fate at the hands of the police and army charged with their protection - is that enough to heal the wounds? The man who was President of the Republic at the time himself says that, for good or ill, he personally took the fateful decisions, yet he is absolved of all responsibility by a commission of the House of Representatives headed by a Presidential candidate – do you believe that can heal the wounds?
Can the wounds be healed when we look at the subsequent lives and careers of those who directed and took part in the storming of the Palace of Justice? Let us consider these: a retired former President; the ex-Minister of Communications who ordered that a football match be shown on television during the attack and is today the Ambassadress to Spain; an ex- major in the Army who today heads the Colombian Association of Retired Soldiers (ACORE); an ex-colonel whom the present government has put in charge of National Direction on Narcotics (one of its most responsible posts); an ex-colonel and former contractor to the Directorate of Prisons; a major, who has become a general, former commander of the Omega task force and now military attaché in Chile.
These are only a few examples of those who directed and took part in retaking the Palace of Justice. They show clearly that the wound has not healed.
Any concept of a peaceful and developed society has to be inspired by truth, justice and reconciliation. Without these, it is impossible to contemplate a better society. The Colombian state still owes a debt to the relatives of the 11 disappeared of the Palace of Justice. As testified by reputable witnesses, those 11 people were taken alive from the building on the second day of the slaughter, as you will see in the film we will show you shortly, and of which you will be given copies. They were brought alive from the Palace by police and troops and then taken off to various military installations, to be tortured for days before being murdered and their bodies disappeared.
Let us recall what Father Cortina said about the healing of the wounds, and let us repeat that, even with the slight hope given us by the current administration at the Attorney General’s office, doubts remain about the real purpose of the present investigation.
We have had vital evidence such as the statement of Ricardo Gámez Mazuera, a former intelligence agent, dropped in the middle of legal discussions about territorial considerations, as if the important thing was whether the truth is known in Belgium or Colombia or in some other place. But what is fundamental is to bring forward a witness who has been maintaining for 18 years that the Cafeteria manager was brought out alive and the then Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega ordered him to be tortured and reports made to him every two hours. Ricardo Gámez, according to this evidence, was telling lies in saying that no-one was had come out alive, since it is now admitted 21 years later that Carlos Rodríguez, Irma Franco y Cristina del Pilar Guarín were alive when they were brought out of the Palace.
It is necessary for the health of the judicial process that it investigates the matter of the disappeared of the Palace, and that the international community requires that evidence be taken according to the conditions laid down clearly at the outset but now confused in discussions of procedure.
To live with wounds is not healthy for the body or for the soul. In my own case, I should confess that I feel a deep sadness, and certainly not the healing of the wound, when I remember my dead father. In the area around this place where we meet today he used to look for my sister’s face among the insane people who wander through the centre of Bogotá, hoping to find in one of them his daughter Cristina.
It is not necessary to ask of Pilar, the wife of the disappeared Héctor Jaime Beltrán, who has raised her four daughters alone, if the wound has healed. Or to speak with Raúl Lozano, the son of Ana Rosa Castiblanco, to know what he feels 21 years afterwards when he learns that his brother was born in an army truck in the midst of the massacre, a brother he does not even know, because the child was taken away by a soldier. Or to ask Alejandra, the daughter of Carlos Rodríguez, when as a daughter she reads of the tortures inflicted on her father. This is to mention only a few of the horrors that the relatives of the 11 disappeared of the Palace of Justice carry with us every day of our lives.
Is a wound healed when the lawyer representing us, José Eduardo Umaña Mendoza , is murdered in his office on 18 April 1998 and there is complete impunity for his death.
Clearly, the wounds are not healed, and debts remain outstanding. That is why we ask today that the international community join us in the struggle to find the truth and justice and to obtain the complete reparation denied us for more than two decades.
For 21 years, the killers have been rewarded and the victims forgotten. As in the Macondo of García Márquez, we will always refuse to forgive or forget. We will always demand truth, justice and reparation.
THE RELATIVES OF THE DISAPPEARED OF THE PALACE OF JUSTICE, IN THE 21ST YEAR OF IMPUNITY
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
THE ATROCITIES AGAINST THE PEACE COMMUNITY MUST END
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)
When you know the victims personally, Mr. Minister; when you are familiar with their spirit and their sufferings, their plans, their ideals and the everyday way they live with their tragedies, then the rottenness of the official lies that are being used to try to cover up plans to destroy us causes greater indignation and repugnance.
Bogotá, May 28, 2007
Dr. Carlos Holguin Sardi
Minister of Interior and Justice
Making use of the constitutional right of petition, enshrined in Article 23 of the national constitution, and making use of articles 5 et seq. of the Code of Administrative Procedure, I would like to request urgently that you explain to the international community and to Colombian society the things that happened last week in the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado. I would like you to explain once again the attitude and the treatment that the national government is providing that Community, while refusing to recognize the provisional remedies that the Inter-American Court for Human Rights has ordered for the Community since the year 2000.
As you know very well, Mr. Minister, since the communications media have reported it numerous times, on Monday May 14, 2007 at 7 A.M., FRANCISCO PUERTA, a member of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, was murdered. Francisco was in the Apartado bus terminal at that time. Another member of the Community saw him in the terminal cafeteria at 7 A.M. and he suggested the two have something to drink. But the other person was in a hurry to catch a bus that was about to leave and said a hasty good-bye. When he arrived at his destination, before 8 A.M., the news of Francisco's murder was already going around. Government intelligence agencies and members of the armed forces have tried to spread false information about the crime to the national and international communities. Col. Jorge Salgado, Chief of Staff of the 17th Brigade has sent messages to groups and to members of the United States Congress, stating that Francisco was not murdered in the bus terminal, but in a neighborhood in Apartado, in the middle of a fight, and that he had been expelled years ago from the Peace Community. They are trying to attribute these stories to Francisco's wife and daughter, but they have flatly denied them. By various means, government agencies have tried to besmirch Francisco's memory; they have tried to hide and twist the circumstances of his death and to implicate him in situations of common crime, in order to avoid the government's responsibility. In spite of all the government's misleading reports to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, the Peace Community continues to complain, with supporting facts, that the Bus terminal persists in being a place of privilege for the paramilitaries, a place where they control the comings and goings of the members of the Community against whom they are planning to commit their crimes; all this with the complicity of the armed forces who have strict control over this location.
On that same day it was possible to observe the presence of several groups of paramilitaries at the place called Tierra Amarilla, on the road that leads from Apartado to San Jose, and in the El Mangolo neighborhood, where the Police usually have a post, and where the paramilitaries have also had a very strong presence for the last ten years.
Francisco was one of the leaders of the Peace Community. He lived in the town of Miramar, in San Jose de Apartado, where he had coordinated the establishment of a Humanitarian Zone. When the Peace Community was constituted in 1997, he took part in its creation. In 1999, for economic reasons, he moved to the rural area of Saiza (Tierralta, Cordoba), but when brutal military operations began to burn down the very houses of the farmers, he returned to San Jose de Apartado in the year 2000. He located in the town of La Cristalina and later in Miramar. In 2003 he participated, as the delegate from La Cristalina, in a gathering of national and international organizations. Around the middle of 2004, he began to set in motion the Humanitarian Zones project and he coordinated that project especially in Miramar. In 2005 he was designated an alternate member of the Internal Council of the Peace Community, representing the Humanitarian Zones. That same year he took part in the knowledge exchange promoted by the Farmers' Resistance University, together with another twenty communities from different regions of the country, in Remolinos del Caguan, Caqueta. In 2006, he resigned as coordinator for the town of Miramar and dedicated himself to working for the Miramar Humanitarian Zone project.
When Francisco's body was brought to San Jose for burial, a number of police officers that are stationed there were heard to say that they knew the paramilitaries' plans to carry out more massacres against the Community, but they did not intend to do anything to stop them.
The previous Wednesday, May 9, when some people were coming down from San Jose toward Apartado, in the neighborhood of El Mangolo, where the Police ordinarily maintain a post, they were stopped by paramilitaries who identified themselves as members of the "Black Eagles", a new name that uses the paramilitary structure in the area. The armed men detained four people; they announced that they were going to kill them; they demanded their identity documents and transmitted the numbers by means of a radiotelephone. They took them to a place where the Police ordinarily maintain a post, en the neighborhood of El Mangolo, and photographed them. Later they received directions through the radiotelephone and they told them that they were not the people they were looking for, but that if they made any complaint about what had happened, they would kill them. They also told them that in the next few days they would be coming to places in the Peace Community and they would be starting to kill some of the leaders and the people with them. They explained that the Army and the Police had authorized them to do this because "you don't mess with them". They said that, even after two years of police presence in San Jose, very few people were collaborating with them and that means that the people are more sympathetic to the guerrillas and for that reason, they have to be eliminated. According to the armed men, it was the soldiers and the police who had given them the list of people to kill.
On April 24 of this year, a resident of the town of San Jose, who isn't formally a member of the Peace Community but who is close to the Community, was accosted by an official of the Social Action Agency of the office of the President of the Republic. The official told him that he was soon going to be killed or arrested, because he had not wanted to join the programs of social investment that the government was promoting in the area. When the resident answered that companies that had worked with the paramilitaries and had financed the paramilitaries were involved in the programs, the official answered emphatically and angrily that all the social investment in the area is done in coordination with the paramilitaries and that the person who doesn't join in those programs is better off to leave the area before they eliminate him.
In the last few months, the Peace Community has received reports about meetings that have taken place in different places in Apartado. At those meetings, known paramilitaries who work with the 17th Brigade, among them Wilson Guzman and Elkin Tuberquia, have been announcing that massacres against the Peace Community are coming soon. For their part, agencies of the government have been offering money to members of the Community to turn them into informants, to let them know the comings and goings of Peace Community leaders and their families.
One resident of Apartado who had gone up to San Jose the week before to buy some hogs, told the residents of the settlement of San Josesito that they should be very careful, because the paramilitaries have been announcing vehemently around the neighborhoods in Apartado during the last few weeks that there is soon going to be a new massacre against the Peace Community.
One thing that impresses one profoundly at a time like this, Mr. Minister, is that the government not only turns its back on the reality that the unprotected inhabitants are living, but that it tries at all costs to create "a different truth", which has no compassion for what the victims are actually experiencing. It is a "truth" that is entirely false and is evil-minded, constructed with false witnesses and with intentions that could never be confessed. Just a few days ago, I was able to hear with my own ears, in the jail at Apartado, the anguished account of the people who were accosted by a lawyer who works with the Army. He offered them several million pesos if they would agree to provide false testimony, for the purpose of making it look as if a victim of violence by the military was a "militant of the guerrillas" and thus exculpate the soldiers who are implicated in the crime. The court files are saturated with false "truths" purchased like merchandize. With those they create the most despicable decisions in the offices of prosecutors, courts, the attorney general and of tribunals, carrying out a "justice" that no longer maintains any relation to ethics. When you know the victims well, Mr. Minister, when you understand their spirit of morality through all of their sufferings, their efforts, their ideals and the way they live through their tragedies every day, it causes more indignation and repugnance for the rottenness of the official lies by which the Government is trying to cover up their plans for our destruction.
Just two and a half months ago, I had an urgent meeting with Vice President Francisco Santos, whom the Government says it has put in charge of the protection of human rights. I wanted to make a desperate request that he stop the plan to murder seven people whose names had been revealed by the paramilitary Elkin Tuberquia. (He is a person whose moral conscience has been destroyed in a corrupt manner by the Army itself.) The Inter-American Court for Human Rights itself intervened to try to protect these lives before it was too late, but up to now, there has been no response whatever that reveals any action at all by the Government to put a stop to such a criminal plan. On the contrary, we were astonished to see that several of the people who were on the list to be killed were deprived of their liberty by a prosecutor in Medellin (who is known all over the city for the arbitrariness of her decisions). They were thrust into a criminal proceeding where the "witnesses" are the same paramilitaries who were planning to kill them.
That explains why today I am not applying to the office of the Vice President, but instead to you, Mr. Minister. Your mandate imposes obligations related to citizens' living together. I am asking that you cancel the criminal plans that are directed against the Peace Community. The recent revelations by one of the most important leaders of national paramilitarism about his working plans with the Vice President, discourage me even more from asking him to take the steps that he has refused to take, turning his back on the serious risk that is being run by a community that has already suffered the Government's criminality on nearly 600 previous occasions, with the additional protection of absolute impunity.
I earnestly request, Mr. Minister, that you evaluate and analyze thoroughly the evil that has resulted from the presence of the Police in the settlement of San Jose. Since their arrival on April 1, 2005, the paramilitaries feel that they have absolute power everywhere in the area. The paramilitary alias "Lalo", who took part in the massacre of April 4, 1999 when the artist and teacher Anibal Jimenez (author of the anthem of the Peace Community) was killed and when they used a machete to cut open the stomach of a young man named Daniel Pino, and left him for an hour in agony with his intestines spread out on the floor, now spends all his time with the police who are stationed in San Jose. He has opened a store and a pool hall. That's where the paramilitaries have a lot of parties; meanwhile the police destroyed the monument made to the memory of the victims; they permit the houses of the displaced people to be plundered and they themselves use the houses for acts of prostitution. They seek families that are close to the paramilitaries to repopulate the settlement and the towns, trampling the ownership rights of the displaced people. And the police watch the backs of the paramilitaries in the carrying out of all of their crimes. Also they are pressuring the businesses to help finance the paramilitaries so that they can control the regional economy (production and marketing of bananas and cacao). They display their presence there as part of plans to overcome the economic depression in the area, meanwhile blocking and destroying all the efforts the Community has put forth for a sustainable economy.
At a time when the Government itself is proclaiming in speeches the necessity to "tell the truth", I request, Mr. Minister, that the Government tell the truth about its plans for the destruction of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado. It's regrettable that those who are revealing many truths now are the criminals. Why did it have to be that a high-ranking paramilitary commander was the one who confessed that the generals Rito Alejo Del Rio and Martin Orlando Carreno Sandoval were working in close concert with the paramilitaries at a time when the paramilitaries were shedding blood every day in Uraba? Why has the Government never been able to say it or even to investigate it honestly and openly, in spite of all of our insistence? Why was it the paramilitary alias "Melaza" who had to be the one who revealed to the prosecutors his presence, together with the Army, in the horrendous massacre of February 21, 2005, the one that the Government stubbornly continues to deny? How long, Mr. Minister, will the Government wait to reveal to the country and to the world the crimes committed by the 17th Brigade in all these years? Does the Government prefer that it continue to carry out crimes and leave the criminal structure of this Brigade untouched, like the Police in Uraba?
As you well know, Mr. Minister, the subject of the police presence in San Jose was the subject of negotiations between the Community and the Government in 2004. There was the possibility of serious analysis of the conditions under which a police station would not violate the principles of a peace community, and there was study of possible mechanisms of control that would avoid a repetition of the abuses, immorality, and crimes that the police had committed in the past. In spite of that, the Government unilaterally broke off the negotiations, just at the time of the horrible massacre of February 21, 2005, adding an attack on the Community to the defamation that the President put forth against it. He publicly destroyed the Community's reputation, based on false information given to him by the Army. He has never retracted those defamatory statements, in spite of the precise direction of the Constitutional Court. All of that pulled the rug out from under the negotiations, which could not function without some base of good faith. Since then, through the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, the Community has continued to invite the Government to make four simple modifications that would restore a minimal base of good faith. The goal would be to re-establish a space for negotiation. The Government has flatly refused. Meanwhile, it continues to carry out evil plans for the destruction of the Community.
I don't have any expectation of being listened to, but, in the face of the indifferent silence of the Vice President's office, which has been complicit in so many crimes as to fail in the responsibility assigned to it and which right now also inspires anguished questions and suspicions, I turn to you, Mr. Minister, to beg that you stop this blood bath; that you convince the President that he reflect on and correct the very criminal role that the Government is playing against the Peace Community. Some day history will call them to account for all of the death, all of the destruction, all of the injustice, and all of the depravity. In the name of humanity, Mr. Minister, I beg you, I entreat you and I implore that the Government reconsider its criminal plans; that it reflect; that it no longer hide the truth from the international community and from the country; that instead of more destruction, it rebuild and make amends for all the evils it has caused; that it spare these suffering people new suffering; that it end all the atrocities.
I thank you in advance for your attention to these anguished pleas and I beg that you send some answer, within the legal deadline, to the following address:
Javier Giraldo M., S.J.