OPEN LETTER ABOUT THE EXPULSION OF GERMAN AND FRENCH CITIZENS
Bogotá, October 22, 2008
Ministry of Defense
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Administrative Department of Security
We who sign the present document address ourselves to you with the purpose of sharing our deep concern regarding the situation that has emerged as a result of the expulsion of the German citizen Friederike Müller on October 2, the expulsion of two French citizens on October 14, and related facts.
We are the organizations of the European and American Network of Brotherhood and Solidarity with Colombia, observers, journalists, cooperating persons, and those in solidarity who, with our labor and presence next to the victims, work toward the protection of human rights and accompaniment and humanitarian action in different regions of Colombia, aided by the constitutional and legal government.
We are deeply concerned about the facts and activities that have occurred in relation to these incidents.
1) The human rights activist Christine Friederike Müller, Social Investigator and Communicator, arrived in Colombia to carry out documentation work and receive training related to the socio-economic and human rights situation in this country. On October 1, 2009, at about 5:30 pm, she was detained by agents of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), and deported on October 2 at about 1:40 pm. The DAS justified its action arguing that Müller was “participating in a protest march of sugar cane cutters from the sugar mill in the Cauca Valley.” In her freely given version though, Müller stated that she had not been participating in any political activity, but rather she was in the plaza where the demonstration took place in order to document the facts, accompanying a Colombian human rights organization.
2) After October 2, 2008, we have denounced the detention and unjustified deportation nationally and internationally, to the diplomatic corps, and to public opinion. More than 65 agencies and organizations and more than 200 private individuals signed an international protest petition expressing their concern regarding this situation.
3) On October 6, 2008, the collectives and member organizations of the Brotherhoood Network received death threats, in an e-mail sent by the paramilitary group, “Black Eagles, dissident block AUC.” In it, they say, “EITHER YOU SHUT UP OR WE WILL SHUT YOU UP ( . . . ) OR DO YOU WANT TO SUFFER THE SAME FATE AS THESE SONS OF BITCHES”; and it lists a large number of unionists and defenders of human rights assassinated this year. The pamphlet declares that all groups that are a part of the European Network of Brotherhood and Solidarity with Colombia are a military target, and names them one by one.
4) On October 13, 2008, at about 12:45, they detained Damien Fellous, who carried out a documentation project about the workers in the sugar cane industry, and two other French citizens who accompanied him. The three were detained in the sugar plantation Central Tumaco (Palmira). They were deprived of their freedom, without respect for the more elementary codes of contemporary law, violating due process. While Damien Fellous was freed, his companions were expelled from Colombia on October 14, 2008, after denying them the right to a translator even though they spoke no Spanish, using the same line of argument and accusations as with Frederike Müller.
5) On October 18, at 6:30 pm, in a factory near the SIPOL and the SIJIN, the graphic reporter from the Italian weekly News Carta, Massimo Boldrini, was detained in the Providencia sugar mill. He was brought to the SIJIN office. He was held until 8:30 pm, and freed after confirmation of his legal status.
6) On October 19 at 11:30 am, in a reserve barracks about two kilometers from the entrance to the Central Tumaco sugar mill in the municipality of Palmira, Massimo Boldrini was again detained by the army, who asked for his identification, which they gave to an unidentified civilian to write down in a notebook his personal information. Upon leaving the sugar mill at about 12:45 pm, the civilian refused to identify himself, because of which the Italian denounced what had happened to an official of SIPOL. Minutes afterward, SIPOL sent a combined unit of army and civilian personnel with an agent to the barracks, who, instead of identifying the civilian, allowed him to remove the information about the foreigner from the notebook and leave the area quickly, in a vehicle with license plates PLQ 436, from Palmira. This situation is troublesome, due to the criminal elements in the area because of the presence of paramilitary groups.
7) On October 18, the president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, in a public speech in the town of Quetame accused the German human rights worker and the expelled French citizens of having come to Colombia to incite violence: “Those foreigners should be in jail, we shouldn’t have deported them, but rather should have put them on trial and jailed them because they are guilty of inciting violence” and he added that, “here [in Colombia] they are apologists for crime and in other countries they distort the truth.”
We consider that:
Colombia has found itself immersed in a dramatic spiral of violence that affects all sectors of society, undermines the very foundations of the State, and completely moves the international community to feel compassion. Under these circumstances, one element of protection for civil society, for social movements, and for defenders of DDHH are those people from other climes who accompany and support as workers or observers the work related to human rights and respect for international humanitarian law. The European and American Network of Brotherhood and Solidarity with Colombia has been functioning here for more than 15 years. The Network’s action, like that of the organizations that belong to it, is not only legitimate but also necessary. For that reason, the actions of accompaniment, humanitarian missions, educational events, and technical support have been recognized has having enormous value for and by peasant and urban communities all over the country.
Even more than questioning the legality of the acts of deportation, we find troublesome that in the future, international workers who carry out tasks related to the defense of human rights in Colombia will be affected by unfounded accusations and arbitrary actions. We think that in spite of the government’s pronouncements in favor of human rights there is an enormous distance between the agreements and reality and that the facts mentioned above point to an intentionality of restricting the activities of international observers and workers.
AS A CONSEQUENCE AND GIVEN THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE MATTER, WE RESPECTFULLY REQUEST THAT THE COLOMBIAN AUTHORITES:
- Make an announcement in which they publicly and irrevocably recognize the fundamental role of defenders of human rights, observers, journalists, workers, and those in solidarity with communities and organizations affected by the persistent violence in Colombia.
- Make an announcement in which they publicly recognize that the work of protecting and promoting human rights is a legitimate action and that they look favorably on the expansion of the rights and guarantees to all persons.
- Provide support and respect the work of solidarity organizations and international observers.
- Offer guarantees to those foreign citizens who carry out humanitarian and solidarity work in Colombia.
- Also, provide an explanation on behalf of the Colombian government as to why the German woman and two French men were subjected to arbitrary actions during the time that they were detained in the DAS installation.
- Carry out a critical review of this case and of the government’s pronouncements, ratification of resolutions that prohibit their entry into Colombia for 7 and 5 years respectively, as well as reparation for damages suffered.
ASSOCIATION FRANCE AMÉRIQUE LATINE AFAL- COMITÉ COLOMBIA-LYON (FRANCE)
CENTRO REGIONAL DE INICIATIVA PARA LA COOPERACION CRIC (ITALY)
COLECTIVO AYNI DE BRUSELAS (BELGIUM)
COLECTIVO GINEBRINOS DE SOLIDARIDAD CON LOS PUEBLOS COLOMBIANOS -GINEBRA (SWITZERlAND)
COLECTIVO SOLIDARITÉ COLOMBIA (FRENCH SWITZERLAND)
COLECTIVO DE SOLIDARIDAD BELGO-ANDINOAMERICANO- AYNI (BELGIUM)
COLECTIVO REVISTA RESISTENCIAS (GREECE)
COLOMBIA SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN (GREAT BRITIAN)
COLOMBIA SOLIDARITY NETWORK (IRELAND)
COMITÉ DE SOLIDARIDAD CARLOS FONSECA (ITALY)
CONFEDERACIÓN COBAS (ITALY)
CONFEDERATION NATIONALE DU TRAVAIL CNT (FRANCE)
ESPACIO BRISTOL-COLOMBIA, (ENGLAND)
GRUPO DE APOYO (GERMAN SWITZERLAND)
KOLUMBIEN KAMPAGNE BERLÍN (GERMANY)
SOLIDARIDAD CON COLOMBIA DE LA REGIÓN BERNA- SOLICOL (SWITZERLAND)
TRIBUNAL INTERNACIONAL DE OPINIÓN SB-PARIS (FRANCE)
ASOCIACIÓN INTERNACIONALISTA PAZ Y SOLIDARIDAD - AISPAZ (LEÓN)
ASOCIACIÓN PAZ CON DIGNIDAD
CENTRO DE DOCUMENTACIÓN Y SOLIDARIDAD CON AMÉRICA LATINA Y ÁFRICA-CEDSALA (VALENCIA)
COLECTIVO DE COLOMBIANOS REFUGIADOS EN ESPAÑA - COLREFE
COMITÉ DE SOLIDARIDAD CON AMÉRICA LATINA - COSAL-XIXÓN (ASTURIES)
CONFEDERACIÓN GENERAL DEL TRABAJO (CGT)
COORDINADORA ARAGONESA DE SOLIDARIDAD CON COLOMBIA - CASCOL (ARAGÓN)
KOMITE INTERNAZIONALISTAK (PAÍS VASCO)
PROYECTO DE ACOMPAÑAMIENTO Y SOLIDARIDAD CON COLOMBIA -PASC (CANADA)
FRENTE POPULAR DARÍO SANTILLÁN (ARGENTINA)
PAÑUELOS EN REBELDÍA (ARGENTINA)
PRINCIPIO ESPERANZA (ARGENTINA)
AGENCIA PUEBLOS EN PIE (ECUADOR)
ALTERNATIVA PATRIÓTICA Y POPULAR (PANAMÁ)
ASOCIACIÓN COLOMBO-VENEZOLANA "LA ESPADA DE BOLÍVAR" (VENEZUELA)
RED MEXICO-COLOMBIA (MEXICO)
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621