DEMOBILIZED PARAMILITARIES KEEP THRETENING HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Bogotá, Colombia, August 3, 2007
TO THE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY: THERE HAVE BEEN GRAVE THREATS AND HOSTILITY BY THE “DEMOBILIZED” PARAMILITARY GROUPS AGAINST VICTIMS AND ORGANIZATIONS THAT DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS.
1. On July 31, 2007, members of the paramilitary groups who identified themselves as “Black Eagles” attacked the residence in the city of Villavicencio where Mr. HECTOR TORRES, defender of human rights, was staying. He has been denouncing to judicial authorities the continual violations of human rights and international humanitarian law being perpetrated by police and paramilitary groups against the communities of the lower Ariari and the Güejar river, a region in which the so-called “Victory Plan” part of the Plan Colombia is being implemented.
Members of the paramilitary units knocked on the door, and told the occupants that they were there to do a political survey. When they opened the door, one of the paramilitary pointed a gun at them, while the other four climbed to the second floor, armed with small firearms and ordered all the occupants of the house to get on the floor, while they shouted: “where is that s.o.b. HECTOR TORRES?” While they searched the entire house, one of the family members succeeded in throwing himself off the balcony and warning the neighbors, who called the police. The paramilitary soldiers had come in a public service taxi with licence plates UTV 430 from Villavicencio. The taxi, after leaving them there, pretended to have a mechanical failure. The paramilitary group fled the scene; in their flight one of them climbed into the vehicle, but the neighbors’ action prevented the vehicle from leaving. That paramilitary jumped out of the car and succeeded in fleeing; the driver and the vehicle were detained and handed over to the police at 9:45 pm. The charge was filed in the URI of Villavicencio.
2. On July 30, 2007, an e-mail message arrived, addressed to the National Coordinating Organization of Displaced Persons. The message was signed by those who called themselves “Black Eagles of Bosa.” In the message they said that their immediate objective was Mr. Rigoberto Jiménez and the members of the Yira Castro Legal Corporation. The text of the threat reads as follows:
“AUC Black Eagles of Bosa
Mr. Rigoberto Jiménez , this is the third time. You think that we are playing games, and both you and the scumbag lawyers of the Yira Castro have ignored us. We are watching your every step and movement. We know that you intend to accuse us and if you do you’ll be sorry. We will hurt you where it hurts most. The idea is to clean up Bogotá of all FARC guerrillas and replace it with a city without criminals . Sincerely, Auc “
This is the third e-mail sent to the National Coordinating Organization of Displaced Persons CND and the second in which the Yira Castro Legal Corporation is mentioned, within the last 10 days.
This happened almost a month after the illegal breaking and entering and stealing of information from the office of the Yira Castro Legal Corporation. On June 22, 2007, unknown persons entered the headquarters of the human rights organization located in the La Soledad neighborhood of Bogotá, and made off with several computers and information relating to legal cases in process.
RIGOBERTO RUEDA is a displaced leader who through the CND has been working for the rights of the displaced communities. In this liability process, he has been aided by several human rights organizations, including the Yira Castro Legal Corporation (CJYC), a human rights NGO that works for victims of forced displacement in Colombia, as well as for peasant communities in danger of being displaced.
The CJYC is part of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, and of the Advisory Committee of the Citizens’ Hearings for the Truth of the Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination, and of the Colombian Project Never Again. Together with other organizations it spurred Citizens’ Hearings for the Truth in San Onofre-Sucre and in Buenaventura, Cauca Valley; and also the International Opinion Tribunal about the Forced Displacement in Colombia, jointly holding several regional hearings and one session in Bogotá. Similarly, they have accompanied the recent mobilizations carried out by organizations of displaced persons in different cities in Colombia, within the framework of the Land, Life, and Dignity campaign, during the 10 years of the 387/97 Law; and they formed the juridical advisory committee of the National Roundtable for Strengthening Organizations of Displaced Persons, a space from which they have supported the creation of several Departmental Roundtables of Displaced Persons. They also push forward legal action to protect fundamental rights, as well as the hereditary rights of victims of forced displacement, and they represent victimized families who are seeking their rights to truth, justice, and total reparation.
HECTOR TORRES, RIGOBERTO RUEDA, and the YIRA CASTRO LEGAL CORPORATION are members of the Victims of State Crimes Movement. They actively participated in the meeting of victims held by social organizations in Bogotá on July 26-28, attended by more than 2,200 delegates from indigenous communities and organizations, other community organizations, unions, displaced persons, young people, women, people of African descent, peasants, etc. At the meeting, it was reaffirmed that the crimes committed by paramilitary groups against certain political and social sectors are not isolated, but rather part of systematic, planned actions directly tolerated by the State. As well, they questioned the legal framework and actions of the national government in legalizing the impunity of crimes committed by these paramilitary groups, and they committed themselves to putting forward a common agenda of social mobilization against the impunity and for the defense of victims’ rights to truth, justice, total reparation, and guarantees that it won’t happen again.
3. The threats, persecution, and hostility against victims and human rights organizations that work toward organizing victims and in defense of their rights demonstrate that paramilitary structures have not been dismantled. On the contrary, there is evidence that they have been strengthened in many regions of the country, which proves the involvement of the Colombian State.
As a consequence, we ask for letters to the Colombian State, represented by President Alvaro Uribe Vélez, and civil and military authorities, demanding:
· That they guarantee the life and personal safety of HECTOR TORRES, RIGOBERTO RUEDA, and the members of the YIRA CASTRO LEGAL CORPORATION;
· That they initiate the action necessary to investigate the accusations through targeting and threats committed by presumed paramilitary groups, against those mentioned above;
· To the President of the Republic, that he publicly condemn the attacks against human rights organizations, emphasizing the importance of their work;
· The dismantling of paramilitary structures, the investigation and judging of their crimes with sentences proportionate to the gravity of the facts, and guarantees to the victims of their right to truth, justice, total reparation, and that it will not happen again.
Victims of State Crimes Movement
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621