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Friday, February 27, 2009

The indigenous Awas in the midst of war

( Translated by Rolf Schoneborn,  a CSN volunteer translator)

By Constanza Vieira

BOGOTÀ, Febr.19 - FARC commandos slaughtered eight indigenous Awas, whom they had accused of working as informants for the Colombian military. Ariel Avila, an expert on military issues, is certain that indigenous groups in the departamento (province) of Narino "have formed a kind of ronda campesina (peasant round)like the ones in Peru."

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, have already referred to the AWA rondas campesinas,i.e. autonomous peasant patrols,  Ávila told IPS. "I have heard of this type of organization."

Avila is a member of the Armed Conflict Observatory, Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris (New Rainbow Organization), which differs from other think-tanks because it does local monitoring.

"The question is as to whether the army initiated these rondas or whether the Awas themselves initiated them. According to FARC the government exerts pressure, engages in blackmail, by way of rewards, Familias Guardabosques ( subsidies for landowners who choose not to grow coca in a certain area)", and other social programs, according to Avila. "But they also acknowledge that it was their own decision", so he says.

The rondas campesinas started cropping up in the North of Peru in the late 70's as a way to control cattle-rustling and serve as arbiters in land and boundary conflicts. At some point there were up to 400.000 local committees in Peru.

The Peruvian government under Alberto Fujimori /1900 2000) decided to militarize the rondas in the early 90's, even in areas where there were no guerrilla activities and those rondas that refused to cooperate with the military in its counter-insurgency measures had to suffer the consequences.

According to the experts, the demise of the Maoist guerrilla movement Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) antedated the capture of its leader Abimael Guzman in 1992, when the campesinos no longer cooperated with them but rather decided to confront them, and the Peruvian military opted for modernization.

Narino province, 33.2668 square kilometers of rugged Andean mountains is located in the Colombian South-West, has the most forced internal migration and the greatest number of minefields in all of Colombia.

All warring factions in Colombia fight over this no man's land, militarily speaking, which serves as a corridor for drug traficking and a clandestine resupply area.

According to the Observatory the following can be said about the military situation in Narino:

The security forces will ibe increased by 1,000, i.e. from 17,000 to 18,000.

FARC and the leftist ELN (Army of National Liberation), the second guerrilla organization started being active in Narino in 1987 and 1985, respectively.

Today FARC has 600 fighters in the field here: the Marshal Antonio José de Sucre Column (with about 150 -160 members, who are responsible for the Awa massacre), the mobile column Daniel Aldana and three so-called fronts.
The ELN has 300 members in Barbacoas, Samaniego, and La LLanada. These are municipalities, where the killings took place.

The entire South-West of Colombia is fiercely being fought over by the two guerrilla organizations since 2005.

Although 32,000 members of right-wing paramilitary groups were demobilized after negotiations with the government there are also new groups and remnants of the militias of the drug traffickers: Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles), Nueva Generacion, Autodefensas Gaitanistas and the Rastrojos (the Weeds), all told 600 combatants.

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Colombia Support Network (CSN) Statement on Violence against the Awa

February 21, 2009

We of the Colombia Support Network are outraged by the recent attacks upon the Awa indigenous communities in Narino Department in southwest Colombia. More than 20 peaceful Awa indigenous have been kidnapped and then murdered reportedly by FARC guerrillas, in what a FARC spokesman has attempted to justify as retaliation for the Awa providing information to the Colombian Army concerning the whereabouts and the activities of FARC units in the vicinity of the Awa settlements. The Awa are caught between opposing forces in the Colombian conflict. As units of the Army, paramilitaries and FARC guerrillas move through the area where the Awa live and work, they each demand support from the Awa. If that support is not provided, they will harm those indigenous who refuse to provide it. If they do provide support of any kind, they are targeted by the opposing forces.

The Awa have a right to live peacefully on their lands without threats from any of the armed actors. The Army, the paramilitaries and the guerrillas must not interfere with these basic rights. The FARC have violated the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and of human rights. Their murder of defenseless Awa is execrable and utterly unjustifiable.

We call upon the FARC immediately to end their threats, kidnappings and murder of Awa indigenous, and to refrain from incursions into Awa lands. They should submit those who ordered kidnappings and murders of members of the Awa communities to public authorities for prosecution. And we call upon the Colombian government to pursue and dismantle the illegal paramilitaries operating in the Narino region and throughout much of Colombia, and to end Army and Police collaboration with the paramilitaries. And we further call upon the Colombian government to halt the Army's threats and violence against the Awa and to guarantee these indigenous communities the rights granted to them by the Colombian Constitution of 1991.

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
e-mail: csn@igc.org

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Why are they massacring the Awa ?

(Translated by Anne Boylon, a CSN volunteer translator)
(2/23/2009)  (Author:  Communication Web and External Relations for Truth and Life-ACIN)
In time, the inefficiency of the State, its laws and its terror will have combined to consolidate dispossession and expropriation in such a way that it will become an accomplished historical fact.  By then, the mega- projects and the usurpers of the wealth will be established, the territory will have been exploited and the struggle, sacrifice and suffering of the victims will be buried by the infamy of a history written by greed and total indifference.
We write these lines overcome by pain and sorrow.  We write them from the shared rage caused by this criminal act – apparently committed by the FARC to whom we direct our condemnation of these unalterable acts and for the innocent blood spilled.
We write as the Defense Minister, Juan Manuel Santos, arrives in the Narino department to direct the military operations which are the response of the State to the massacres and terror to which this indigenous population has been victim.  Mr. Santos who, in a statement to the media, said that it had been very difficult to obtain the cooperation of the indigenous people, declared:  “We hope to be able to convince them that the best position, the best attitude that they can assume, is that of collaboration with the authorities, with the military.


“Al caido caerle”, (kick him while he’s down) This is the proverb that the government applies to this terrible situation, basing their reaction, according the available information, on their certitude that it was the FARC who committed the massacre.  Now, however, it seems the massacre is the fault of the victims, as are the massive displacements, the disappearances and the terror to which the communities are condemned.  It is their fault, says the Minister, because they have not wished to collaborate with the public forces.  He tries to convince us that, if the military had been in the area, these horrible crimes would not have been committed.  As a consequence, the entire territory will now be militarized with the excuse that the Awa have to be protected.  The Awa themselves, agonized and in distress, are fleeing to the jungles. Some of their leaders see no alternative but to seek the help of the military.  The media, the government spokespersons and the parties which back it echo this call.  Colombians, horrified at the on-going genocide, repeat the cry.
As one voice we call for these populations to be protected and for justice to be done; we denounce the murderers, whoever they are – in this case the FARC who, by carrying out these atrocious deeds, confirm a terrible truth: that they have become one factor more in the terrorization of the people.  They join the paramilitaries, the military and all those who wreak their violence on the people and communities of Colombia.  We have denounced this and today we repeat our denouncement:  The ultimate goal of this terror is a means to certain ends which must be faced.  If we ignore them, the horrific crimes seem like ends in themselves, as though there is no ulterior motive for these massacres and the terrorization of the people.  But this terror, from wherever it comes, does have other purposes.  And that is why the truth demands a different response from all the citizenry of the country, from the organizations and the indigenous populations and with the support of the Governments and peoples of the world. 
The truth can be found in the answer to a question that needs to be asked:  Why do they massacre the Awa? Then, after asking this question straight out, it is essential that we react coherently and with decisiveness.  If not, the terror of this massacre will serve as an excuse to commit others as a way to dispossess the Awa of their land,  their culture and their way of life; a way to disappear them in a planned genocide.  Then those who have sacrificed themselves defending the lives, culture and land of the Awa will have done so in vain.. And we will have been convinced once again that these massacres against the Awa in Narino have nothing in common with the massacres in San Jose de Apartado, Uraba, Catatumbo, Amazonia, Cauca and in the entire national territory.  They will have convinced us that there is no connection between them and the assassinations of women, unionists, peasants, and human rights defenders.  But we know that this terror is a perverse means to a perverse end; because we keep memory alive; we lay bare the truth of terrible deeds done. And now with rage and sorrow we denounce and condemn the FARC for the crime they committed and for contributing in this way not only to the sowing of death, misery and pain, but also for helping to dispossess the indigenous peoples of their land.
The facts:

1.    Terror as a tool:


“We are peoples of the mountain, children of the forest; therefore they will have to take us out dead,” was the ominous declaration made by Eder Burgos, Coordinator of Camawari, on August 10, 2008, during the Audience held to make public the critical violations of human rights and of International Humanitarian Law which the indigenous Awa people are suffering.  This audience was held before various state officials, control organisms, representatives of the United Nations and NGO human rights organizations and under the vigilance of more than 70 indigenous persons who had come for the audience from the south of Colombia.  According to ONIC’s official communiqué, “A report, which was the product of a participatory process, was presented in the Audience by the authorities and representatives of the Awa peoples, the Office of the High Commission of the United Nations for Refugees, the Peoples Defender, and SAT.”  The report made dramatically clear the development of the territorial struggle against the indigenous by the armed players.  This communiqué indicated that the denouncements made by communities located in the Tumaco, Barbacoas, Roberto Paya, Samaniego and Ricaurte municipalities were clear and precise:  “for three days their ancestral territory has been bombed, including densely populated areas in the Ricaurte municipality where displaced people are located, and in the Magui and Imbima reserves.”  The Narino peoples’ defender also denounced these bombings to his superior by letter.  It is in these areas where the massacres against the communities are being perpetrated.
Both the Resolution and the Report denounce the terror and present conclusive evidence about this dirty war in which the military and the illegal armed players are all involved.  They document the use of this terror as a strategy to dispossess them of their lands.

The Report’s evidence, the Audience and the Resolution make abundantly clear that the claims of the Defense Minister are totally without foundation.  The military has been and continues to be a factor in the terror against the Awa and, therefore, far from constituting a guarantee of protection against the human rights violations, are a direct threat against their safeguarding.  All of the armed players use violence against the Awa.

2.    Greed and the Mega-projects

a.    Agro-business and the plantations: 
The Pacific Coast and the foot of the Occidental mountain range, which includes the ancestral territory of the Awa people endangered by the massacres and on-going displacements, are areas of great strategic importance for legal and illegal economic projects.  These include rubber and palm oil plantations just as well as coca plantations and processing laboratories. As in the rest of the country, these agro-business projects require and depend upon the use of violence and terror against the ancestral dwelling places in order to dispossess its inhabitants.
b.   Mining and Vital Resources: According to conclusions drawn by the Bulletin on the Situation of Human Rights and the DIH in Narino:  “the geographic richness in the Narino area has been the focus of investment studies by multinationals who seek to carry out explorations for strategic resources, such as gold and uranium.  A report done by Ingeominas reveals that the Kedahda S.A. Society, a subsidiary of Anglo Gold Ashanti, presented 110 requests for concessionary contracts in the Narino department in July, 2007.  Because of this company’s previous incursions into the territory, incursions which have involved clear human rights violations, these requests are worrisome in the extreme.  Among the 37 Narino municipalities where Kedahda S.A. has requested concessions are areas where there are immense deposits of gold, zinc, copper, silver, platinum and molybdenum:  Taminango, Leiva, Rosario, Policarpa, Cumbtaro, Samaniego and Barbacoas.  And coincidentally it is in these very municipalities that there is a greater presence of the military and of the illegal armed groups, all of whom have acted with a complete disregard for human rights and in violation of International Humanitarian Law, submitting the populations of these territories to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.” This ancestral territory of the Awa is notorious for its great hydric richness, its biodiversity, its plentiful timber and coal. It is for these that the trans-nationals have come.
c.    Infrastructure:  The Multimodal Amazon Center of IIRSA (South American Regional Integration of Infrastructure) crosses the Awa territory from the Narrno Pacific Coast.  The 284 kilometers of the Pasto-Tumaco highway cross through the disputed Awa territory and are part of the multimodal Tumaco-Puerto Asis-Belem do Para corridor which unites the Pacific Coast with the Atlantic, crossing the South American continent by way of the Amazon.  Beyond the benefits that these modern and costly roads could generate and beyond their enormous environmental destructive potential is the reality that these roads are constructed with the single purpose of opening the territory for the privatization, exploitation and extraction of its riches by the multi-nationals. These highways are a concession to private interests and therefore facilitate the displacement and destruction of the peoples who are in the way of these great designs. And the Awa people who live in the middle of this mega-project are in the way and therefore must be dealt with.  Over time, the absence or submission of the Awa, who have historical rights to these lands, will serve the interests of those who benefit from this mega-project.
d.   Tourism and Other Interests:  The beauty and enormous richness of the Awa territory at the foot of the mountains and the Pacific Coast are ideal for tourism consortiums.  These tourism projects expel or exploit those dispossessed indigenous people and rake in huge profits by appropriating autonomous territories and their peoples who become private commodities to exploit for profit. Other interests exploit the biodiversity and lay claim to plant life and knowledge gained over centuries by supposedly legal patenting. 

The Carrot and the Stick:  Terror and the Law.


Those who promote and in the long run benefit by death and dispossession use any means in order to gain the riches and resources for which they seek.  While the dirty work of terror is carried out by diverse armed actors, legal and illegal, who engage in criminal acts of war among themselves and against the people in order to achieve the expulsion or exploitation of the indigenous people and the privatization of the territory, the Colombian State implements policies that provide the legal institutional covering for the exploitation of these lands.
A powerful example of this can be found in the 2007 Rural Legistation or Law 1152.   The only paragraph of article 123 of this law reads:  “Indigenous reserves and other areas of the country with similar conditions cannot be creaed, enlarged or drained according to article 2 of the 1993 Law No 70.”  This article delimits the Pacific Cuenca as a Territory located in the line that goes from the Chiles volcano at the border with Ecuador and the Golf of Uraba in the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Ocean.  This immense territory which takes in mountain ranges, the foot of mountains and the coast includes the territory of the Awa people of Narino.
According to the article cited in the Rural Legislation, indigenous reserves in the Pacific Cuenca cannot be constituted, enlarged or drained.  The Awa peoples lose, by that law, the right to a great part of their present and ancestral territory.  This territory is thus “liberated” for economic exploitation and for the authors of the terror who end up benefiting either directly or indirectly.  The Awa have made four Constitution of Reserve requests, eight for enlargement and 15 for drainage which are on hold by the government.
At the present time, the Constitutional Court is close to emitting a decision on the Rural Statute.  If law 1152 is declared null as was the Forest Law in April of 2008 on the basis that it violated the legal obligation to hold previous consultation with the affected parties, in this case the Awa, then theoretically other populations could set in motion legal claims to resolve their territorial rights. But it is impossible for those who are massacred, for those who are displaced, for those who are confined and for those who are threatened to initiate and carry out lengthy legal processes. And meanwhile new proprietors will appear with fake deeds which will be legalized with little difficulty.
In time the inefficiency of the State, its laws and its terror, will have combined to consolidate the dispossession and the expropriation will become an accomplished historical fact.  Then the mega-projects and the usurpers of the wealth will have become established, the territory will have been exploited and the struggle, sacrifice and suffering of the victims will by buried by the infamy of a story written by greed and indifference.
The Awa people fight for their dignity, for their lives and for the life of their territory.  They are exterminated and dispossessed so that insatiable greed can be satisfied.  Although it is important and urgent to know who committed this terrible and unpardonable massacre, so that justice be done, the truth be known and reparation made to those affected, it is even more important to understand that the massacres are committed for the purpose of dispossessing the Awa of their lands. We must, therefore, denounce the crimes and mobilize ourselves in resistance to this project which uses terror as a means and are killing our brothers in order to rob them.
We make an appeal:
First we join with ONIC, with all the indigenous peoples and with all the organizations and persons who feel the commitment and need to join the victims in solidarity; and we call on ourselves to join the Minga Humanitaria which is organizing to make a presence in these endangered communities and to replace our pain with their generous accompaniment and concrete action.
Secondly, we join those who are calling for the Minga Social and Community Resistance  to mobilize.  The message is clear.  The assassination of Aida Quilcue and her companion, Edwin Legarda, carried out by the National Army acting under the orders of those who implement the Democratic Security Policy as a false positive* against popular resistance, is now followed by massacres, committed by the FARC who serve as an excuse to escalate the dispossession under the cover of an indifferent society and world.
This isn’t just a problem for the Awa, nor is it just a problem of indigenous peoples; it is not a crime against the Narino people.  It is an act of terror that is part of the accelerating implementation of policies designed to dispossess people of their lands by killing them. This is Plan Colombia at work:  a mega-project that delivers up our territories and lives to the greed of global capital.
Faced with such evident horror, we cannot continue watching from afar or wait for our turn.  It is time to understand why they have killed; why they continue killing and to stand up and resist.  It is time to reject, once and for all, the horror committed by the FARC in the name of the people, just as we reject that of the governing regime.

It is also sadly evident that it is of little use to have lands, to denounce human rights violations or to negotiate agreements with a legitimate government when the development model, its treaties and its laws make terror, from wherever it comes, possible: massacres, displacement and dispossession.  It is now a priority that we resist this model in all of its totality.  These conditions and these horrific acts make it necessary to recognize that everything else – including the politics involved in the electoral process must be subordinate to the need to mobilize and act in Minga to resist and stop the accelerated course of dispossession for which this massacre is but one event.

We call for the Social and Communitarian Minga.  We will resist the death model that comes with the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), with the laws of dispossession, with terror, with the unfulfilled agreements, and with the absence of a people’s network for liberty.  We will decide in Minga how to stop the horror of the FARC, of the State and of all the armed groups in Narino and in Colombia.  We will decide how to support the Awa in the defense of their territory and how to defend their lives and our territories from this advancing death that helps a few to become rich.
So that the dead rest and their families remake their lives, that the Awa regain their dignity, and their lands be safe from robbery; so that those who have the weapons  clear off, leave us in peace and never again tell us that they are protecting and fighting for us; so that we have a country made up of peoples without owners and so that there are no more massacres, we will fight with  Social and Community Minga; we will meet in a collective territory and with them create consciousness from sorrow and a way out of pain.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Victim of alias Don Berna asks to be heard by United States Judge

 (Translated by Makayla Counselman, a CSN volunteer translator)
Medellin, Feb. 17 (IPC) The legal representatives of the mother of a young boy who disappeared from la Columa 13 of Medellin, presented a legal motion on Thursday in New York before a Federal Judge whom will sentence the paramilitary Diego Fernando Murillo on February 24th of the next year.  President Alvaro Uribe Velez extradited Murillo Bejarano, a known associate with alias De Berna, to the United States, on May 13, 2008 along with 14 other chief paramilitaries.
Judge Richard Berman of the District of South New York was asked to listen to the victim and consider her rights to consult a public prosecutor and to be restituted before the sentencing of the paramilitary leader.  The Judge will take into account the testimony of the victim when fixing the terms of the sentence, which could include an order of financial reparation to the victim.  This legal procedure opens the possibility of intervention by Colombian victims in drug trafficking proceedings against paramilitary leaders in the United States.
On June 17, 2008, Murillo pleaded guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine to the United States, and faces a possible sentence of 27 to 33 years.  He admits his double role in las Auc: as Chief Inspector and in ordering the activities of the drug trafficking, the transport of cocaine, as well as the financial operations of the organization.  In 2001, las Auc were included in a list of terrorist organizations by the United States government.
The mother affirmed she was a victim of the drug trafficking conspiracy committed by Murillo Bejarano against the United States.  Following the legal motion, the Chief Paramilitary ordered the disappearance and execution of the residents of la Comuna 13, including the son of the petitioner, in order to secure a “strategic route” for the drug trafficking. These acts account for the disappearances and assassinations of at least 70 people since November, including men, women, and children.  In February of 2008, Murillo accepted his penal obligation for the disappearance and executions of the residents of Comuna 13.
As a test of the link between drug trafficking and the disappearances, a writing stated that there had been discovery of a laboratory of narcotics, near la Comuna 13, which had the capacity to process 1,000 kilograms of cocaine per week.  On a property nearby, common graves were discovered with the remains of persons disappeared by the paramilitary leaders of alias don Berna.  The writing concluded that Murillo used “violent methods to drive the drug trafficking” and “used the earnings from the trafficking to finance the disappearances and killings.”
The Legal Clinic of International Human Rights of the School of Law at the University of California Berkeley and the private firm of Wilsom Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati represented the petitioner.  The motion is based on the Law of Rights of Victims of Crimes, in use since 2004, and on the broad rights of victims in the United States.  This will be the first time the law is used to favor the victims of human rights violations, and specifically, to favor Colombian victims of paramilitarism.  In addition to having this power, the legal clinic represents the victims of 7 of the 15 extradited paramilitaries.
“We want to participate in the hearings and dialogues with the public prosecutors to assure that the extraditions and the procedures for drug trafficking may not be an obstacle for the truth and justice in Colombia,” said Roxanna Altholz, the Associate Director of the legal clinic in Berkeley and representative of the petitioner.
Following the extradition of the paramilitary leaders, las Auc is to face the charges of drug trafficking, in which the governments of Colombia and the United States have promised the participation of those being extradited to be included in the procedures for justice and peace.  The Ambassador of the United States in Colombia, William Brownfield, assured that the United States government will facilitate “all the access, all the information and all the opportunities available to the victims” of the crimes committed by the paramilitary.
Since the date, at least six of the fifteen paramilitary leaders have come to agreements with the United States authorities and only one of those extradited, Salvatore Mancuso, has recognized new declarations about the violations of human rights committed in Colombia.  “The extradited paramilitaries are looking to agree with the United States authorities in order to reduce their sentences,” said attorney Altholz, “it depends on the United States justice system to give them incentive to talk about the assassinations and disappearances in Colombia.
Agencia de Prensa IPC
Medellin, Colombia      

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Exploitation of Natural Resources in Afro-Colombian Territories and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

(Translated by Dan Baird, a CSN volunteer translator)

Exploitation of Natural Resources in Afro-Colombian Territories and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA)
José Eulícer Mosquera Rentería

From the beginning of the Republic, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities have been voraciously exploited by  large companies, both national and international, operating with the approval of a succession of regional and national governments.
A notable example has been  the Compania Minera Choco Pacifico S.A., a subsidiary of the International Mining Corporation of  New York, which obtained the assets and mining rights of other companies – British, French and Belgian – which had operated in the region since 1880.  
For more than 70 years, this company  mined gold, silver, uranium, iridium, palladium and other minerals of strategic importance in  Choco on the Pacific Coast, in Frontino and  in Bajo Cauca Antioqueño. In the course of this exploitation, the company destroyed local economies being developed by the communities, seriously damaged traditional cultures, and devastated plant and forest life.   

Then, after making huge profits and exhausting the natural  resources, the company decided in 1974 to pull out, abandoning its commitments to its workers and pensioners, to local communities and to the nation. It made an arrangement with the company  Mineros de Antioquia, whose majority stockholder is the family of President Alvaro Uribe Velez, using as a  façade the registered name Mineros Colombianos S.A., leaving   it with the best assets - assets which the US company should have returned to the nation of Colombia when its mining concession  expired.  But the company’s final legacy was a social one: it left poverty, misery, backwardness, desperation and  despair.

Choco Pacifico was backed in its activities  by concessions from successive Colombian governments and had the support of the armed forces and the judiciary.  Today the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities of Choco face a similar situation, this time with the presence of companies cultivating  oil palm for biofuels.  These companies have links with transnational capital and with foreign oil companies.  In particular, there is the presence of the US company Muriel Mining Co, backed by the armed forces and perhaps by paramilitaries.  Such paramilitary support has been given to US banana companies and to the Colombian businessmen who have instigated and financed the worst massacres and crimes against humanity in the Uraba region, with the aim of plundering natural deposits  of gold, copper and molybdenum in Jiguamiando and Cerro Careperro.

Muriel Mining Company is taking  advantage of a concession from the present National Government giving it access to about  16,000 hectares  of land.  This has been issued without reference  to prior agreements made with indigenous communities and Afro-Colombians long settled there and  holding  collective titles to these lands.  Such action is in contravention of our National Constitution and national laws and international agreements.   As if by coincidence, Muriel Mining Co has been established  in Medellin, sharing business with Mineros de Antioquia, since the mid-1990s, when the governor of that region was Alvaro Uribe Velez.
Precisely to prevent abuses and the rapid destruction of  the ecosystem by national and foreign companies, representatives of the Afro-Colombian communities succeeded in obtaining through Law 70 of  1993 their collective entitlement to their ancestral lands and the right to prior consultation on any projects or work within them or affecting them.  
Consequently, we Afro-Colombian  who are leaders of base organizations and  representatives on regional and national consultative commissions must give our support to  the struggles of  the Afro-Colombians and indigenous people  of  Jiguamiando-Cerro Careperro. We also demand  that the National Government act in accordance with the Constitution  and the laws which respect and protect their rights.
In addition, we believe that the National Consultative Commission, in its self-governing bodies , has been slow to denounce  these violations of human, collective and civil  rights before the relevant international bodies and before public opinion. It has to abandon its pro-government stance and bear in mind that consultative bodies represent community interests that should be strenuously defended.  Its attitude should therefore be vigilant, determined and critical.  Above all, it must stop being obsequious to a government like the present one, which has been hypocritical, faithless and repressive in its dealings with our communities.    
Also, we share the concern of the Association of Afro-Colombian University Students (CEUNA) about the apparent indifference, and even silent complicity, of the National Consultative Commission of the Afro-Colombian Commission,  Espacio Autonomo, regarding the Free Trade Treaty between our country and the United States. That treaty is not limited to commercial agreements.  It includes many harmful regulations affecting socioeconomic, cultural,  environmental and judicial aspects of our society.  

1. It privileges the use of US capital, to the detriment of our national development and the generating of opportunities for income and employment.
2. It privileges the rights of intellectual property to transnational companies, which creates  a dangerous risk to ancestral knowledge and to Colombian intellectuals, researchers and scientists.
3. It transfers important powers from our tribunals of justice to supranational bodies in labor and environmental matters.
4. It would  liberalize public and private services, bringing with  it  dangerous control by US companies of key sectors of our economy and social life. This would result in the permanent decapitalization of our country and the degradation of the majority of Colombian families, who would find great difficulty in paying bills, as is now happening with the banking system  and in telecommunications.  
5. Education – including technical, technological and university education – is at risk of being totally privatized and largely managed by foreign companies, which  would convert it into one of their less important branches. At worst this would restrict access to, and continuation in,  education for the children of workers and peasants and others on low incomes.  It would strengthen the tendency to models and kinds of education favouring colonial interests and divorced from our national realities and our aspirations for the welfare and socio-economic progress  of our communities.  
6. It obliges us to patent fresh vegetables to transnational companies, which will put at risk knowledge and practices stemming from our traditional culture as well as the safety of our food supply.

7. The treaty does not require compliance with international treaties and conventions on biodiversity and the environment, since the United States has refused to sign these and is not a party to them. This could lead to the rapid destruction of our ecosystems and the general balance of our environment  through the voracity of transnational companies.

8. Our peasants and other producers would be at a disadvantage compared to the North Americans, who receive large state subsidies and have at their disposal much more advanced technology. Not only would the safety of our food supply be endangered  but this would lead to the bankruptcy of  Colombian businesses and their takeover by US companies which, because of their greater use of technology and their colonialist attitudes, would greatly reduce opportunities for employment.

9. The treaty sees everything as commerce, a matter of business and subject to the market, including water, which would be at risk of being privatized, with the use of our water supply  being handed over to transnational companies, which would turn it into just another profitable business, creating an imminent danger to life itself.
10. Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities and their organizations, with their existing agreements and their defence of the environment and ecological balance, become obstacles to the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement.  They can be accused of breaking it, which could lead to many of our leaders, and even our country, being brought before international tribunals. In view of this, we should not be surprised at the arrogant behaviour of Muriel Mining Co – they may very well see the treaty as an established fact.
We cannot forget that the final victory of the Afro-Colombian people depends on  structural changes in Colombian society. This obliges us to learn of, and concern ourselves with, great national problems, to see ourselves in the context of the most important situations in the country and in the world.  We must march hand-in-hand with the rest of the popular, democratic and progressive movement.  We must, at the same time, call attention to our own particular demands.

We believe that a great lesson was given by the American Civil  Rights Movement to other Black and popular movements in the world.  That movement’s greatest achievements were in the improvement of the social standing and the living  conditions of great numbers of Afro-Americans, in the establishment of a large Afro-American group in Congress, and  in bringing about the Obama presidency.
In conclusion, our leaders, represented in base organizations and especially in self-governing councils, should openly oppose the Commercial Trade Treaty between Colombia and the United States as damaging the interests  of our communities and our country.  They should demand that it be revoked because its signing took no account of clear constitutional and legal mandates, of international treaties and conventions, and of established agreements by which our communities should take part in decisions affecting them and their lands.

The Colombian State now owes  a great and historic debt to the Colombian people, and especially to our Afro-Colombian and indigenous  communities, because the present government, at a high level, is trying with great cynicism and irresponsibility to put us in the hands of colonial merchants who are interested only in maximizing their economic and financial profits.  We must press for our country to establish and maintain all kinds of relations, if ethically possible and mutually beneficial,  with all the countries in the world  as far as they contribute to the development of our people and the attainment of social wellbeing.   

Source: Barometro Internacional


Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Friday, February 13, 2009

Send a Valentine to President Obama and Congress


The White House : comments@whitehouse.gov

Secretary of Commerce : www.commerce.gov or call (202) 482 2112

Secretary of Labor : www.dol.gov or Fax ( 202) 693 6111 Tel (202) 225 5464

Wish a Happy Valentine to your Members of Congress : send them the poster and click on CSN’s Action Center

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Unknown numbers, but thousands of dead

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
Monday, February 2, 2009

Polo Democratico web page

While the scandal of the so-called “false positives” of the Colombian army continues, the Polo newspaper reveals how, in declassified documents of the CIA and the State Department, there is evidence of the increase in the practice of extrajudicial executions in Colombia for more than twenty-five years.
The country is not confronting a new phenomenon, but rather a policy of the State that ended up by becoming a military “sub-culture” and an illegal tactic upon which numerous army officers relied in order to demonstrate results.
Gloria Helena Rey
During the XX Century, mankind obtained all its rights, but also invented all the ways of violating the laws that consecrated them. More than 60 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, and since then hundreds pf treaties agreements and protocols have been developed and signed that prohibited torture and maltreatment, but many of those good intentions remained on paper.
Torture, one of the oldest scourges and one of the most pestilent cancers in the history of humanity, survived all the “chemotherapies” imposed by the speed of progress and the social, scientific and technological advances accomplished by man in the century of stress, vertigo and long-distance communication that ended in 2000.
In the so-called First and Third Worlds, torture and maltreatment continue being employed in the middle of the XXI Century, despite being considered crimes against humanity.
Colombian Sophistication

In Colombia torture has become sophisticated and now is camouflaged in threats and intimidations, which produce fear, in forced disappearances, in massacres, in punishments meant to be examples, which sow terror in the communities, and in kidnappings, which martyr the lives of hundred of families.
What they are trying to do here I to make “torture happen without being noticed and that it be assimilated as part of the everyday reality of the war, and it is precisely this that we must avid at all costs,” affirms Gloria Amparo Camilo, Director of the Avre Corporation, an NGO that, together with the Vinculos Corporation and with the support of the European Commission, prepared a study about the new forms of torture that are being practiced in our country. The important thing about the study is to make torture visible, to demonstrate that it exists and that it’s alive in the XXI Century, to make our society sensitive to it so they will denounce it and fight against it in every form in which is it found and oblige the Colombian State to assume its responsibilities in this respect. The existence of torture in whatever country “is a dangerous sign of the loss of the sense of humanity,” said Camilo.
To accept torture as a part of war “would be t help nourish a climate adverse to the defense of life, of human rights and in so doing, to legalize all violations in this respect” she warned.
Torture as a Mechanism of Social Repression

In Colombia, torture is one of the few things that has evolved in all these years of conflict. It went from being a method to gain information to being a mechanism of social repression that destroys the social fabric, generates distrust, isolates leaders, and attempts to put the brakes on the actions of human rights defense groups. Today, for example, a unionist is not murdered, but is constantly threatened. This creates a growing pressure in their family and in the social environment in which they develop which, in the end, immobilizes them and prevents them from developing their work as defenders of labor rights. Like that one, there are an infinite number of subtle forms of torture but the problem is that these practices are not considered torture by the Colombian State or by civil society in general.
Almost always, they are justified as actions related to the armed conflict, and when they are carried out security is placed before respect for life and rights. This is very serious because torture is being legalized in a soup of growing impunity and corruption” says Camilo. In Colombia, impunity is social, political and judicial, and translates into “making torture invisible, in the silence of the state authorities, in the absence of guarantees that was has happened will not be repeated, in the lack of implementation of judicial and social strategies to prevent this, in the absence of sanctions against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments,” according to the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners Foundation FCSPP, a human rights NGO legally recognized in Colombia 36 years ago.
Impunity and rewards increase torture

In many cases, after an investigation is initiated and despite the existence of elements that merit the application of the legal process of provisional suspension of those who have practiced torture, “this is not done and the victims are left in a situation of greater vulnerability and defenselessness in the face of the aggressor, who on occasions has the power and can count of the conditions to continue torturing and/or intimidating them,” they add.
“The procedures used by the judicial authorities in and for the Department of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science in Colombia tend to treat these cases as personal crimes, in this way hiding the practice of this crime against humanity,” the complain. The policy of “democratic security” of Alvaro Uribe has further complicated te situation, according to FCSPP.
“The demands on the public security forces for results, added to the policy of rewards for information, captures or killings, the institutional will to visit punishment, pain or vengeance on those they consider or accuse of being members of the insurgency and the necessity that the current government has to demonstrate results to public opinion, since it has based its popularity on a policy of war, help to increase it,” they maintain.
Further, stigmatizing the victims of torture, isolating them from the rest of society, considering them obstacles to achieving peace, accusing them of being part of the guerrilla forces, complicates even more any real and effective combat against torture, according to Camilo.
Returning to the past

In Latin America the military regimes no longer exist that with such shameless cruelty carried out torture, forcible disappearance and extrajudicial executions, and that systematically violated all rights in the decades of the 60s and 70s, but unfortunately, their ominous inheritance of abuses remains intact and torture continues being practiced with total impunity. Because of all this we have entered into a dangerous historic retreat. It’s as if we were living what Umberto Eco defined as “the crab’s passage,” as if we had learned nothing from the horror of so many years of violence and ignominy that characterized them. Israel and the United States are the only countries in the world that made torture an official policy, but Colombia is practically legalizing it under the shelter of the armed conflict. It’s employed, in all its forms, by all the actors in the conflict.
The illegal groups, of both the left and the right, use it, and the State security agents. That reinforced the chilling and permissive vicious circle of “I torture, you torture, and we all remain silent,” and legalizes a permissive impunity, sponsored by the vengeful law of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
Torture is also used in Colombia as a method of political persecution: under the form of sexual violence, against the prisoners in the jails, and against the persons who are victims of kidnapping, according to a recent report presented to the Human Rights Committee of the United nations by several NGOs, defenders of human rights who are active in our country.
There is torture in Colombia was also the denunciation of Amnesty International in their 2008 report, and its practice and the obstacles that are put in the way of defending human rights continue being very worrisome, Kerrie Howard, adjunct director of Amnesty International for the Americas, with headquarters in London, admitted to POLO during a telephone interview. “Torture exists in Colomia, it is become sophisticated, and frequently treaties, agreements and protocols to fight it are not respected,” said Howard, who recognized that things would be much worse if none of those existed. “At least there are rules that we can use to pressure the State for respect of fundamental rights,” she said. “We can’t stand y with our arms crossed as if nothing were happening. We must denounce, train the communities to recognize and fight against the new forms of torture.”
Physical torture as usual

Torture is a war crime, according to International Humanitarian Law but it is practiced in Colombia, especially against campesinos, children, prisoners in jails and against the homosexual population. In 2007 93 cases of torture were proven, in which 66 persons lost their lives, according to a recent report of the Colombian Commission Against Torture, a non-governmental organization made up of a number of NGOs, both domestic and international. The Commission revealed that nearly 400 Colombians were victims of torture between 2004 and 2007 and that only 92 of them survived.
They pointed to the Colombian State as one of the most responsible for the practice of torture, although other investigations make the same accusation against the illegal armed groups, or they even attribute it to domestic violence. The diverse actors in the conflict deny that they practice torture but the stories of the formerly kidnapped about the tortures they received at the hands of the armed illegal groups and the testimonies collected by the Coalition against torture continue to be chilling.
Colombia has not signed the protocol against torture

One of the ways of approaching the combat against torture revolved around “all the work that can be done with the sectors involved: the health and social sectors, so that they have the needed alertness and willingness to identify the different modalities of torture and to orient them about the best way to fight it,” said Camilo.
Torture produces very serious harm not only at the physical level but also at the psychic level. Even more, among the human rights violations, torture is one of the practices that generate insuperable traumas. Treatment of the victims is not easy, and the goal is that they not be paralyzed so they can survive. It is a responsibility of the Colombian State to recognize that torture exists, but the government of Alvaro Uribe has refused to sign the international protocol against torture, maltreatment, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, which came into effect in June of 2006. “Perhaps because it represents a commitment, a great responsibility, which makes the country subject to0 the judgment and evaluation of the international community,” says Howard, the head of the Office for the Americas of Amnesty International.
The government of Uribe does not want to sign the protocol “because is they do it, that would be a recognition that there is torture, that there are violations of human rights, and that agents of the State commit those violations, which makes evident that the policy of Democratic Security has been involved in violations of human rights,” affirmed Camilo. Also, because it is a government that has been questioned constantly. In the “efficacy” of the policy of Democratic Security violations of human rights and infractions of international humanitarian law enjoy high levels of impunity, she added. She warned that “not signing the protocol is very serious because what it allows is, again, to make torture invisible and guarantee impunity, which at the same time generates more injuries.” The FCSPP believes that “the Colombian government lacks a public policy of prevention and sanction of torture and even seems to be more on the side of not recognizing that it occurs or of continuing to implement mechanisms that hide it, make it invisible, and even get in the way of judging it.”
Bodies of men, women and children, many of them disappeared, continue appearing disfigured, tortured or mutilated in places distant from our great cities…
Some terrible examples of torture:
1. Last January 4th, five political prisoners kept in a high and medium security jail en Valledupar where taken from their buildings and savagely beaten by guards, according to the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners Foundation.
José Adelmo Esquerra Lozano, one of the mistreated prisoners, was not able even to open his mouth to ask for water,” after the beating, claimed the organization, which assured us that this was not the first time that this had happened and accused the government, the Attorney General and the Inspector General of ignoring all the denunciations that have been presented with respect to this case.
2. On march 26, 2007, the self-proclaimed “Black eagles” paramilitaries arrived. The criminals wounded two ten-year-old girls and sexually violated one of them, named Gabriela Alzate Perea. When the girls asked for help, José Mendieta immediately ran up and was murdered by the “paras.” Mendieta and the two girls lived in the settlement of displaced persons called Altos de Oriente, located in the rural community of Granizal, in the municipality of Bello.
3.On June 25, 2007, in the municipality of Tuluá (Valle) Vilma Helena Márquez and Martha Eulalia Márquez were tortured and violated sexually by members of the Third brigade of the National Army. The soldiers entered the house where they were, together with the campesinos Alcides Granada Durango and Gerson Ladino Suárez. A Lieutenant Manatoas attacked and accused Vilma Helena of being a Guerrilla and forced her to be interrogated alone with him, pointing a weapon at her. When she complained of an acute stomach pain, the lieutenant asked if she was pregnant and hit her brutally in the belly, causing her to faint and to bleed vaginally.
Later another soldier from the same operation with the alias “Bombs” interrogated Martha Eulalia aggressively and threatened her with a knife. He demanded of her that she turn over some weapons that did not exist, and forced her to take off her bra in order later to grab her and press her breasts and buttocks, without any respect for her dignity as a person. The campesinos who were with the women were brutally beaten by the soldiers whi, before releasing them, took their pictures and opened cases against them for narcotics trafficking.

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Monday, February 09, 2009

Military Justice interfering in Palace of Justice case

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)

The government, by means of the military criminal justice system, is interfering with the legal action against Col. Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega, based on the forced disappearances at the Palace of Justice.
The undersigned organizations apply to the international community, to inter-governmental human rights organizations, to non-governmental organizations and to the national community, to report on the effects of the most recent events related to the prosecution that was being carried out by the Colombian justice system.  The prosecution is based on the disappearances at the Palace of Justice, and it seeks to determine the responsibility of Col. Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega (now retired).
1.  On January 19, 2009, the Primary Judge of the Divisions of the Colombian Army, retired Major Mauricio Cujar Gutierrez, filed with Branch Three of the Criminal Court for the Bogota Circuit, a formal application to take over the criminal proceeding that was pending against retired Colombian Army Col Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega.  The prosecution is based on the forced disappearance and kidnapping of eleven (11) workers and visitors in the cafeteria at the Palace of Justice and one (1) insurgent from M-19, during the retaking of the Palace of Justice, carried out by the armed forces on November 6 and 7, 1985 in Bogota.
2. This application was based on a motion by Attorney Andrés Garzón Roa, Col. Plazas Vega’s defense attorney.  On January 13, 2009, Attorney Garzón moved to have the proceeding against Plazas Vega transferred to the Military Criminal Justice System.
3.  The Military Criminal Court Judge, Cujar Gutierrez, an employee of the Ministry of Defense, takes the position that the proceedings ought to be conducted by the Military Criminal Justice System, arguing as follows:
“At the time of the events in question, the military forces were part of the Thirteenth Brigade. Thus there is a subjective factor, in that all of those forces were on active duty as part of the armed forces, and also a functional factor, in that the crimes that took place were all directly related to the military service and were carried out in the exercise of military functions.
“The acts that are being investigated originated in a military operation, and only to the extent that the actual occurrence of actions of disappearance or kidnapping are verified,  can the civilian criminal justice system have jurisdiction.
“ . . . but in this case it has been shown repeatedly that it will not be possible to establish even a minimal degree of convincing proof that there has been any conduct leading to disappearance or to aggravated kidnapping, as has been claimed throughout the proceeding.
4.  On January 20, the judge for Branch Three of the Criminal Court for the Bogota Circuit, in an open hearing in the proceeding against retired Col. Plazas Vega, decided to suspend the proceeding, in order to avoid any future argument that there have been procedural irregularities.
5.  This application by the Military Criminal Justice System to take over the Plazas Vega proceeding comes 23 years after the events and just before a decision in which this Colombian Army officer’s responsibility for the forced disappearance of 11 people inside the Palace of Justice was to be determined.
6.  On October 22, 2008, in the proceeding against Plazas Vegas, the Superior Tribunal of Bogota had concluded that “the presentation of charges of the crime of forced disappearance, along with aggravated kidnapping, confers jurisdiction on the regular civilian criminal justice system to carry out the proceeding.”
7.  This action of the Military Criminal Justice System is cause for concern, since that system is an integral part of the Ministry of Defense.  In addition, the Military Criminal judge has prejudged the events at the Palace of Justice, even before having any familiarity with those events.  In the document referred to earlier, Major Mauricio Cujar Gutierrez indicates as follows:
“Therefore, if the actions were acts of combat, regulated by tactics and military discipline, we are confronting that which is known as actions of military service, acts that ought to be considered by the Military Criminal Justice System.
“In the military operations carried out as part of the recapture of the Palace of Justice, there were no ultra vires acts or any abuse.
“We repeat that everything done by the armed forces was, without any doubt, a legitimate activity in a military operation.
“In view of the foregoing, it has been clearly demonstrated that, according to the provisions of the Constitution, the actions taken by the members of the armed forces (Colombian Army), during the recovery of the Palace of Justice from the hands of terrorists, were acts entirely within the constitutional mission of the Colombian Army and within the legal purpose for the existence of the armed forces. At that moment, it was necessary for the armed forces to preserve the legal order, which had been obviously and seriously damaged, and to act within the established limits of military techniques, tactics and strategies. These acts were undoubtedly acts related to the service when they were committed by members of the armed forces as part of their duties.”
8.  The judge of Branch Three of the Criminal Court of Bogota, Maria Stella Jara Gutierrez, indicated that on Friday January 23, 2009 at 9 a.m., she would announce in an open hearing her decision on whether to accept or reject the jurisdiction of the Military Criminal Justice System to take over the proceeding.  If the application is rejected, the proceeding would be referred to the Board of Judges, who would finally determine which judge has jurisdiction to handle this criminal proceeding.
This action by the Military Criminal Justice System constitutes an abuse of power.  It stems from a failure to recognize the law established by International Human Rights law, Colombian criminal law, the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Justice relative to the character of forced disappearance as a crime against humanity, and fails to recognize the duty of government to see that this type of crime is judged by civilian tribunals.
In addition, the absence of independence and impartiality is also demonstrated in the prejudgment on the part of the Military Criminal Justice System judge.  He refuses to recognize the existence of evidence that points to the responsibility of members of the armed forces in the forced disappearance of 11 workers and visitors in the Palace of Justice cafeteria and of one M-19 insurgent who left the building alive.
This action by the Military Criminal Justice System, which is part of the executive branch, the same branch in which Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega was recently employed as Director of Drug Enforcement, is an act that engenders indignation, astonishment and repulsion, because is violates the rights to truth, justice and reparation, which the families of those who were disappeared have been demanding for 23 years.
The Colombian Military Criminal Justice System acts as an institutional mechanism for impunity. That is shown by their application to judge the actions of retired Col. Alfonso Plazas Vega, one of the officers who commanded the retaking of the Palace of Justice, and who took control of the people who left the building alive and who were led to the House of the Florist, the location established as the armed forces command post during the events.
It is worth remembering that the Military Criminal Justice System is directly dependent administratively on the executive branch, headed by the President of the Republic and the Minister of Defense, and that retired Col. Alfonso Plazas Vega was part of the current national government, holding the office of Director of Drug Enforcement, appointed by the President of the Republic, Dr. Alvaro Uribe Vélez.
It is troubling, as various communications media have pointed out, that the Board of Judges is under the control of the Executive.  This situation could compromise its independence and impartiality in resolving this matter.
The complete document submitted by the Primary Judge of the Divisions of the Colombian Army, retired Major Mauricio Cujar Gutierrez, can be seen at
http;//www.dhcolombia.info/IMG/pdf/COLISIONDECOMPETENCIAS.pdf <http>
a).  On November 6 and 7,  1985, Carlos Augusto Rodríguez Vera, Cristina del Pilar Guarin Cortes, David Suspes Celis, Bernardo Beltrán Hernandez, Hector Jaime Beltrán, Lucy Amparo Oviedo, Ana Rosa Castiblanco, Gloria Estela Lizarazo Figueroa, Luz Mary Portela Leon, Norma Constanza Esguerra, Gloria Anzola de Lanao, employees and visitors in the cafeteria, and Irma Franco, an insurgent of M-19, according to facts established in the criminal investigation, walked out of the Palace of Justice alive, and were taken away in the custody of the Army.  Since that day and after 23 years, they have not been seen, and their families continue to search for some trace of them.
b).  It has been established and is a well-known fact that Col. Alfonso Plazas Vega, the Commander of the Cavalry Academy of the 13th Brigade, was one of the Colombian Army officers who commanded the recapture operation of the Palace of Justice on November 6 and 7, 1985, and that he had control over the civilians who had been freed from the Palace of Justice.
c).  It has been established through the testimony of soldiers who took part in the events, and by the victims themselves, that civilians were transferred from the House of the Florist and from other parts of the city to military garrisons, where they were arbitrarily detained and subjected to torture.
d).  Because of the foregoing, the families of those who were disappeared requested that the Colombian Attorney General open an investigation in order to establish the responsibility for these acts.  In 2005, the investigation was assigned to the Fourth Special Prosecutor before the Supreme Court of Justice, Angela Maria Buitrago.  On February 11, 2008, she decided to charge retired Col. Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega with responsibility for the crimes of forced disappearance and aggravated kidnapping.
1).  Given the seriousness of the actions here complained of, and given the risk to the rights of the victims of crimes against humanity, we request that Colombian authorities be addressed as follows:
2).  That the President of the Republic, the Vice-President of the Republic and the Minister of Defense reject the decision of the national government to interfere in the prosecution of retired Col. Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega, and that, to that end, they give specific directions to the Military Criminal Justice System to abstain from continuing to promote the clash of jurisdictions in this case.
3).  That the Procurator General exercise continual observation of the actions being taken by the Primary Judge of the Divisions of the Colombian Army, retired Major Mauricio Cujar Gutierrez, and order the opening of an appropriate disciplinary investigation, in that the decision to promote a conflict of jurisdictions constitutes an abuse of power, by refusing to recognize the law established in Article 3 of the Military Criminal Code, as well as the repeated decisions of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Justice.
4).  That the Attorney General order the opening of an investigation of the Primary Judge of the Divisions of the Colombian Army, retired Major Mauricio Cujar Gutierrez and those who aided his action, in that the decision to promote a conflict of jurisdictions constitutes an abuse of power, by refusing to recognize the law established in Article 3 of the Military Criminal Code, as well as the repeated decisions of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Justice. In addition, he has attempted to create an error in the administration of justice and  has refused to carry out his legal and constitutional duties.
5).  That the Board of Judges reject the application filed by the Primary Judge of the Divisions of the Colombian Army, retired Major Mauricio Cujar Gutierrez, making this decision as quickly as possible, in order to guarantee the victims the right to rely on due process of law, without unjustified delay.
Families of the Disappeared at the Palace of Justice
Association of Families of Those Detained and Disappeared – ASFADDES
Ecumenical Committee for Justice and Peace
Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective
Utopian Legal Corporation
Nomadesc Association
Forgetting is Forbidden Campaign
Sembrar Corporation
Mining and Agriculture Federation of Southern Bolivar
Legal Corporation for Freedom
Remembrance Against Silence and Impunity Campaign—No More Government Crimes
Seeds of Liberty Human Rights Collective – CODEHSEL
Alvaro Uribe Vélez
President of Colombia
Carrera 8 No. 7-26 Palacio de Nariño Bogota
Fax. 5662071
Francisco Santos
Vice President of Colombia
Carrera 8 No. 7-57 Bogota D.C.
Juan Manuel Santos
Minister of Defense
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogota D.C.

Attorney General of Colombia
Diagonal 228 No. 52-01 Bogota D.C.
Fax. 570 20 00
Alejandro Ordoñez Maldonaldo
Procurador General de la Nación
Cra. 5 No.15 – 80 Bogota D.C.
Fax 342.97.23 – 342.97.23
Angelino Lizcano Rivera
Prsidente Sala Disciplinaria
Consejo Superior de la Judicatura
Calle 12 No. 7 – 65 Bogota
PBX: (57 1) 565 8500 Ext. 4831

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Saturday, February 07, 2009

CSN 's statement on release of FARC hostages


February 7, 2009

The Colombia Support Network (CSN) applauds the efforts of Colombianas y Colombianos por la Paz, and especially the tireless efforts of Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, in spearheading the successful effort to obtain the release by the FARC guerillas of six persons long held as hostages. We also are pleased at the positive role played by the Government of Brazil and the International Committee of the Red Cross in providing fundamental supporting facilities and services without which the release of the hostages would not have taken place. The persons the FARC released included former Meta Governor Alan Jara and former Valle del Cauca Assembly Member Sigifredo Lopez, whose lengthy captivity under wretched conditions was unconscionable. We hope the freeing of these hostages will lead in short order to freeing of the remaining hostages being held by the FARC.

CSN repeats its categorical opposition to kidnapping, which is a violation of international law and of the human rights and basic human values of the hostages, whether they were kidnapped for money or as a political bargaining chip. We renew our demand as conscientious human beings that all FARC captives be released and that the FARC renounce kidnapping as a tactic once and for all. We also call upon the Colombian Government to pursue a negotiated solution to the Colombian conflict and to seek to facilitate hostage releases in the future. And we pledge to do whatever we may to help achieve the release of the remaining hostages and the establishment of the groundwork for peace.

John I. Laun, President of CSN, on behalf of the CSN Board of Directors and Membership



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