Serious Humanitarian Crisis in Colombia Magdalena Medio’s Region
Movimiento de acompañamiento internacional en solidaridad con las comunidades en proceso de autodeterminación en Colombia.
The International Peace Observatory expresses its extreme concern over constant Human Rights Violations and breaches of International Humanitarian Law committed by the parties in conflict with the rural communities accompanied by our organization in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia.
Throughout the two years that IPO has accompanied the peasant farmer (campesino) communities that live in these zones of armed conflict, the violations against the civilian population have not diminished. On the contrary, especially during the last few months, they have intensified, reaffirming our conviction that, in effect, the campesinos are the armed conflict’s primary victims.
There have been 10 assassinations since August, 2005:
• Sigifredo Castaño Patiño, killed August 8, 2005 in the village of Caño Tigre, Remedios municipality, Antioquia department.
• Róbinson Sánchez, killed February 15, 2006 in the village of Campo Bijao, Remedios municipality and found one week later.
• Carlos Trujillo, killed July 25, 2006 in the village of Altos de Manila, Remedios, Antioquia.
• Pablo Emilio Agudelo Sánchez, killed September 4, 2006 in the village of Dosquebradas, Remedios, Antioquia.
• José Manuel Girón, killed September 5 in the village of Caño Dorada, Cantagallo municipality, Bolívar department.
• Alejandro Uribe, killed September 19 in the village of Mina Gallo, Morales municipality, Bolívar.
• Guillermo León Benitez, killed November 25, 2006 in the village of Cruz Bajitales, Remedios, Antioquia.
• Heriberto Correa, killed January 6, 2007 in Cruz Bajitales, Remedios, Antioquia.
• William Hernán Sánchez Montelier, killed February 6, 2007 in the village of El Tamar, Remedios, Antioquia.
• Edgar Lozano Castelblanco, killed March 13, 2007 in the village of El Campo, Yondó municipality, Antioquia.
Five forced disappearances have taken place:
• Alberto Mesa, disappeared February 13. 2006, in the village of Lejanías, San Pablo municipality, Bolívar.
• Mercedes Rojas Naranjo, disappeared May 26, 2006 in La Corona, El Bagre municipality, Antioquia.
• Gustavo Castañeda, disappeared June 15, 2006 in the village of Puerto Nuevo Ité, Remedios, Antioquia.
• Javier Francisco Castro, disappeared June 23 in the village of Puerto Matilde, Yondóo, Antioquia.
• Ovidio Betancur, disappeared November 21 in the village of Alto Cañabraval, San Pablo, Bolívar.
There have been a great number of arbitrary arrests of campesinos in the region by the Colombian Army. We call special attention to the detention of two leaders pf the Campesino Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC): Eulises Porras, arrested on March 11, 2007 in the village of Villanueva, San Pablo and Oscar Duque, arrested October 5, 2006 in the village of La Concepción, Yondó, Antioquia. Both leaders were illegally arrested by soldiers of the army’s Fifth Brigade.
Dozens of direct threats have been made against campesinos by the Colombian Army and by paramilitary groups. These include threats that forced several families from northeast Antioquia to take refuge in a temporary shelter set up in the village of Altos Manila, in the municipality of Remedios, Antioquia, during the months of August and September, 2006.
Throughout the Magdalena Medio, persons in civilian clothing, assumed to be paramilitaries, are searching, lists in hand, for threatened campesinos, allegedly in order to kill them. Among the names on these lists are many members of the campesino associations and social organizations that work in the region.
Several incidents of the Colombian Army robbing from the civilian population have occurred. These included the case of the looting of the school in Dosquebradas, Remedios municipality, Antioquia, on February 14, 2006, which was publicly denounced by the village residents.
Several building materials, food items and animals were stolen from Mr. Pedro Canole on September 29, in the village of Santo Domingo, Yondó, Antioquía. On October 8, 2006, in the village of Caño Dorada, Cantagallo municipality, Bolívar, soldiers stole a shotgun from a man and demanded three hens in exchange for its return. According to the local campesinos, the people responsible for all these thefts are members of the Calibío Battalion, of the Colombian Army’s 14th Brigade.
Complaints persist of economic, food and medical blockades perpetrated by the Army throughout the region. Reduced quantities of food are allowed to be transported, and only under the control of the armed forces. The harsh restrictions are applied most notably to the entry of medicine necessary for the treatment of tropical diseases such as malaria, hepatitis and leishmaniasis.
In the village of San Francisco, Yondó, Antioquia, troops from the Calibío Battalion, of the Colombian Army’s 14th Brigade, have been present in the village center since 2006, and have dug trenches near the houses, thus violating International Humanitarian Law as stated in Protocol II of the 1949 Geneva Convention. For example, the troops have a trench that comes within two meters of a campesino dwelling, breaking even the army’s own internal regulations.
Despite the commitment to remove the trench expressed to the community by Sargent Rubén Ruiz on January 31, 2007, the trench remains in the same place at this time.
Taking into account all these violations and infractions, and reiterating our deep concern for the critical humanitarian situation in the region:
We ask that all the corresponding Colombian state institutions investigate the events reported by the accompanied campesinos and organizations, in order to effectively guarantee the civilian population’s human rights and right to life in the Magdalena Medio region.
As the majority of the victims are grassroots members of the ACVC (which has filed an injunction with Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the Colombian state) and of the organization Humanitarian Action for the Coexistence and Peace of Northeast Antioquia (CAHUCOPANA), we ask that the Colombian government guarantee these organizations’ safety and freedom of association, so that they may continue to carry out their legal and legitimate work of social development and the defense and promotion of human rights in the Magdalena Medio region.