Eight members of the Patriotic March detained: Call for their release and for the safety of the movement
/ Miércoles 28 de noviembre de 2012
British NGO that campaigns for human rights, workers’ rights and the search for peace with social justice in Colombia.
On 25th November this year, eight members of the Patriotic March social and opposition movement were detained in Manizales prison, falsely accused of links to the FARC guerrilla group. Those held include the academic Carlos Andrés Ospina, the teachers Johan David Ruiz, Alexander Pérez, Vladimir Castaño and Julio Cesar Murillo and the doctors, Liliana Blandón, Lesmer Almenares y Andrés Felipe Álvarez.
This case is one of several cases of March members detained in recent months and follows numerous assassinations, disappearances and threats against March members as well as false accusations by senior Colombian government ministers. Earlier this year Colombian Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon accused the March of being funded by the FARC guerrillas.
The last organisation to receive such an accusation – the Patriotic Union – saw around 5,000 members assassinated by the Colombian military and death squads following a previous peace process.
We are concerned that these latest detentions appear to be part of a witch-hunt against the Patriotic March, where its members are falsely accused of links to the FARC to justify the attacks.
We must rally round Patriotic March members to ensure their safety, for an end to the false accusations against them, and the release of those unjustly detained.
Please sign the below postcard to Colombian President Santos, to add your support.
A copy will also be sent to the Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for Latin America.
Dear President Santos,
I am writing to express my concern about for the security of members of the Patriotic March social and political movement and to urge you to ensure guarantees for their safety.
In particular I am concerned by the recent detention of eight March members - the academic Carlos Andrés Ospina, the teachers Johan David Ruiz, Alexander Pérez, Vladimir Castañ o and Julio Cesar Murillo and the doctors, Liliana Blandón, Lesmer Almenares y Andrés Felipe Álvarez, accused of links to the FARC and held in Manizales Prison. The case against them is based on evidence from FARC deserters, promised reduced prison sentences in exchange for their testimonies, making it highly dubious.
I am aware that these detentions are one of many judicial cases and false accusations against members of the Patriotic March, many of them made by senior members of your government. Of particular concern is a statement made by Minister of Defence Juan Carlos Pinzon, accusing the Patriotic March of being funded by the FARC.
I know that such allegations put activists in grave danger, and indeed, since the Defence Minister’s statement, several March activists have been assassinated, disappeared, and many more threatened.
I also note that despite the clear risks caused by such statements, your government has made no effort to condemn them, or to provide protection for members of the Patriotic March endangered by them.
The Patriotic March is a leading opposition movement and the safe participation of its members must be guaranteed. I urge you to do your utmost to protect them. Please make public statements condemning the false accusations and attacks against March members, guaranteeing their safety and ensure the release of those unjustly detained.
cc: Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office