(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN volunteer translator)
Sent by the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
On Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 10:37 p.m.
Our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó has been making a record before the nation and the world for the last 19 years, a record of continual attacks by the Colombian government. Those attacks have always been intended to destroy us, to defame us and to stigmatize us. They are not content with murdering more than 300 comrades, friends in solidarity, and neighbors in our social and geographic surroundings, besides destroying our crops, burning many of our houses, raping women, carrying out judicial frame-ups and illegal captures, torturing, threatening and displacing, disappearing and profaning the bodies and the memory of our dead.
Now their attacks are being broadened in a troubling manner to the civilian population that live near us. The 17th Brigade is pressing the repression even of legitimate complaints and social protests with deceitful methods that pretend to be legal, setting off a real persecution, like the one that took place at the end of the ‘70’s, using the Security Statute of the unfortunately famous, criminal and corrupt President Turbay Ayala. Once again, we are making a record before the nation and the world of this widening repression against our campesino population and against the members of our Peace Community.
• On Sunday, January 31, 2016, the national communications media announced that the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was ready to receive ex-General RITO ALEJO DEL RIO, who has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for crimes against humanity, to carry out his sentence here as part of restorative justice, part of the peace process. According to the media, sectors very close to the FARC would press for this gesture as a sign of reconciliation. The Community was never consulted on this proposal and we ask ourselves if they are trying to make it appear that the Community is an organization close to the FARC. Trying to push a proposal that would have zero viability.
• On Tuesday, February 2, 2016, at 4:00 p.m., the campesino JOHN JAIRO CARDONA CORREA, who lives in the town of Alto Bonito in the District of San José, was captured by the police in downtown Apartadó.Apparently they are accusing him arbitrarily of being a FARC guerrilla, or maybe of the crime of insurrection. On January 6, 2006, John Jairo was arrested in the town of Alto Bonito in the District of San José de Apartadó. He was also charged with insurrection ad sentenced to several years in prison. This shows that I his case they are violating one of the guiding principles of universal justice, “non bis en idem”, or “double jeopardy”, which prohibits prosecuting a person twice for the same crime. His prior case contained serious legal errors and now the illegality is augmented.
• On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, during morning hours, the local radio reported the arrest of John Jairo Cardona. He is accused, without any basis whatsoever, of being a guerrilla in the 5th Front of the FARC.
• On Friday, February 12, 2016, in the urban part of San José de Apartadó at 4:00 p.m. soldiers from the military base in San José arrested the campesino CARLOS ALBEIRO MONTOYA and his wife FRANCIA ELENA TAMAYO, who live in the town of Bellavista in the District of San José. In spite of the insistence of several civilians that the soldiers explain the reason for the arrest, the government agents used deception do take them away from the populated center to the restaurant in Caracolí. There they claimed that he had to sign some documents in order to be set free, but they already had a vehicle there to take him away. Minutes later, they set Sra. Tamayo free and they took the campesino Montoya to one of the jails in Medellín.
• On Tuesday, February 16, 2016, during morning hours Colonel GERMAN ROJAS DIAZ, the commander of the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade used the local radio to reveal his way of thinking and of interpreting various aspects of the law and official policy, such as strategies and methods of deceit that permit a complete understanding of the features of his current repression.
On of his asides refers to his way of thinking of and reacting to social protests and to the defense of human rights.
They claim to be defenders of human rights; but obviously you can tell that they are the only ones that have violated human rights in San José de Apartadó; in several activities where officials have been present they obstruct, they knock down trees; they grab children and involve them in blocking traffic, they incite them to take part in marches. I don’t think you can call such people defenders of human rights.
That clearly shows the Colonel’s ideas about social protest and his profound disrespect for it. He actually identifies social protest as a violation of human rights. His perverted conscience is very evident when he denies the victims the right to protest and to demand their rights. He states in a speech that the victims must submit to the arbitrary actions of their victimizers, keeping in mind that we live in a country where the claims of those who are excluded and of the masses whose rights are ignored are never listened to, but rather silenced and punished.
In another one of his asides the Colonel refers to the complaints that the people make about the violations by the Colombian Army of human rights and of international humanitarian law and particularly violations by the 17th Brigade:
• I have always have told such people that if they have any special situation, well, they should file a complaint. They don’t do it because their complaints are baseless. They don’t have enough evidence to say that we are violating their human rights and international humanitarian law. They always explain, through the media or by the internet, defaming us, because they are not capable of doing it before a competent authority. I have invited them, given them various opportunities, to go to the Attorney General’s Office, the Inspector General’s Office, the City Clerk, if we in the 17th Brigade have violated their human rights at any time.
The Colonel appears to be unaware of the way justice has been carried out in Colombia and especially in Urabá. He seems not to know that for decades the campesinos have filed complaints of thousands of crimes against humanity and of war crimes with the competent judicial authorities, crimes committed by the Colombian Army, by other agents of the government, and by their criminal arm, the paramilitaries, and there has never been any justice.
He seems not to know that the only result of the complaints has been that the witnesses are murdered, as well as the complainants and their families, and the communities and the victims’ organizations that have dared to complain are destroyed. He seems also to ignore – which he has no right to ignore – the frame-ups that have been cooked up at the 17th Brigade against a multitude of innocent campesinos, often using torture and bribery. The Colonel has no right to ignore the extreme corruption in the legal system and the manner in which prosecutors, judges, magistrates, agents of the Inspector General, public defenders, and judicial officials have trampled constitutional principles of due process, the guiding principles of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the principles of international human rights treaties, as well as the most elementary universal morality.
It should be noted that this Colonel has not read the book “Rifle or Toga; Toga and Rifle”, where all of the horrors suffered y the Peace Community are detailed, with names, dates, and file numbers. The Colonel is unaware of the extreme corruption of the legal system and that is why he simply invites the victims to take refuge in such a corrupt legal system, because that corruption has been and continues to be the greatest support of impunity for its horrendous crimes. But besides that, it is the Colonel himself and the Minister of Defense, who have contemptuously refused to comply with the Constitutional Court’s Decision 1025/07, in which they are obliged to turn over the names, ranks, and serial numbers of the members of the Armed Forces who were present at the dates, times and places in which the crimes were committed. Refusing provide these names, under repeated orders of the Constitutional Court, no tramples the National constitution, but also changes his agents into hooded thugs in the worst paramilitary style in order to avoid justice.
In another one of his asides, the Colonel’s revelations try to hide the role he has played in the current wave of persecution against the campesinos in the area. He uses the practice of frame-ups, now completely routine in this Brigade:
• We have carried out a series of arrests and they were not made up by the command in the 17th Brigade. Here we have no criminal legal devices or anything like what they are saying ( . . . ). We will continue to carry out a series of arrests that have been ordered by the Attorney General’s Office. We cannot ever avoid our duty. The people we have arrested can, at the appropriate time, prove before a prosecutor, or before a judge, that they are completely innocent. It’s not up to us to judge. I’m not a prosecutor, nor a judge who could come and decide if they are guilty or innocent. The respective authorities or the respective officials in our Attorney General’s Office, through a trial—they are in charge of deciding whether these people are guilty or not guilty.
The 17th Brigade has a very long tradition of usurping judicial power, being themselves part of executive power. Numerous campesinos have been taken to the Brigade’s installations – in open violation of the law – where they are subjected to every kind of torture, blackmail and pressures to force them to admit to actions they never committed, but under false promises that they would soon be freed. A multitude of times it has been proved that in this same Brigade phony evidence has been planted, with false statements, and there are even copies of numerous accusatory concoctions that people who had been tortured were forced to sign, without reading them, or who did not even know how to read, with promises to stop the torture or for a quick release that never took place.
At this time, even though Colonel Rojas proclaims to the four winds that he has nothing to do with the arrests that are multiplying, nobody believes him. Many of those arrested or who are on the enormous lists of people who are to be arrested, they are people who are objects of his hatred because they have filed complaints or because they have organized protests against his attacks. REINALDO AREIZA earned his hatred by having refused their blackmail when they tried to force him to help them destroy the Peace Community. They threatened to cook up a false charge of drug trafficking or insurrection.
ARLEY CARTAGENA earned their hatred by organization demonstrations and roadblocks to force the Brigade to comply with several constitutional principles that it is systematically violating, but Arley had already been threatened by Colonel Rojas ever since 2000 (when Rojas commanded the Voltígeros Batallion) and in August 2014 he was threatened with death by a call from cell phone 3144676586 and in that same month, soldiers present in the urban part of San José said that there was a five million peso reward for anyone who could kill Arley.
JUAN CELADA and NORBEY GOEZ were on lists of those to be captured and murdered that were circulating in Nuevo Antioquia and other towns in October of 2015. The lists were spread by the paramilitaries who have always had extremely close ties to the Brigade, ever since the paramilitaries originated.
The arrogance and high-handedness with which Colonel Rojas announced the arrests and the similar characteristics of the lists demonstrate to those who know that he is the one who decided who was to be arrested. The lists were full of arbitrariness. He often includes people who many year ago were sentenced for the same charge and many of those were entirely different from what they actually did. Besides that, the methods used to arrest, saturated with tricks and swindles, refer back to an author with a perverted conscience, who appears to have the profile of the Colonel.
Some people have been telephoned to come and pick up returns or repayments from the GANA Company and when they get there, they are arrested. Sra. LAURA CATANO, the President of the Community Action Committee in San José and the daughter of the founder of San José de Apartadó, the patriarch Bartolomé Cataño (hated by the Colonel for having been a Council member who belonged to the Patriotic Union Party) who was murdered by soldiers and paramilitaries. Sra. Cataño was arrested when she went to visit Arley Cartagena, who had been arrested several hours earlier.
In the case of the arrest of NORBEY GOEZ, the “vox populi” in the District who, when he found out about the warrant for his arrest, he called the judge in the case and the judge demanded an enormous sum of money to decide in his favor. Norbey actually was able to pay part of it, but he was arrested anyway on his way to Medellín. Since the judge didn’t keep her promise, he had to pretend hat he was on his way to the capital to surrender. The shady deals between the military and the judiciary are nothing new in this rotten legal system. Rather they are common currency.
• On February 22, 2016, several civilians approached the Peace Community to let us know about the rumors that were being circulated by the soldiers in the urban part of San José. They were saying that someone had stolen weapons from the military base in San José, that some people from San José were responsible and they would have to pay for that.
• On February 23, 2016, at 1:00 p.m. a member of the Internal Council was arrested illegally by a military patrol on the road that leads from Apartadó to San José at the place known as La Balsa. The soldiers claimed not to know about the existence of the Peace Community or of the protective orders issued by the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. He questioned the irregular and permanent military presence at the La Balsa school where that day they had set up a military checkpoint without any sign or signal.
• On Friday, March 4, 2016, in the Mangolo neighborhood in Apartadó at 4:00 p.m. and for more than two hours, a member of the Internal Council of the Peace Community was detained illegally by officers of the National Police. After several minutes they took him to the local Police station and forced him to disavow one of the most sacred principles of the Community when they forced him to drive an armed police officer in the back of his vehicle. At the station he was photographed and later subjected to insults and verbal and psychological abuse. They arrested him because the police officers do not understand the requisites demanded by banking corporations for banking transactions. They also thought it was necessary and obligatory that anyone who carries money must carry weapons and have bodyguards to defend him. That would violate the principles of our Peace Community, which does not admit or carry weapons or go in the company of people carrying weapons. After their outrageous treatment they tried to force him to sign a form stating that he was treated well, which he firmly refused to do, so wrote his reasons for not signing at the bottom of the sheet.
• On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at 12:00 noon, in the Las Colinas neighborhood in the city of Apartadó, police officers went up to a member of the Internal Council. They photographed him and tried to get him to sign a phony census. He resisted, and explained the Constitutional Court’s Decision that prohibits photographing civilians and trying to get them to sign a phony census. Finally they let him go, but not before threatening that they would be back to get him some other time.
Many people who are friends of the Peace Community have asked us if the information that has been going around about payment of damages to the families of the victims of the massacre that took place on February 21, 2005. Our Peace Community has always refused forms of reparation that are exclusively monetary, because that turns the victims into merchandise that can be bought and sold. That takes away their human dignity, their right to justice and to having their distinctive plans and projects remedied. Besides that, our Community has experienced the extreme corruption of Colombian justice and that is another reason why we don’t seek its services.
Nevertheless, families of some of the victims have consulted private attorneys, who profit from the legal system and who have filed suits against the government for economic damage. Even though the Defense Ministry denied responsibility for the massacre, contrary to all the evidence, the Council of State forced the to negotiate and the government agreed to pay damages of various billions of pesos, much of which would go to legal fees. They only agreed. to “responsibility by omission” which is very far from taking responsibility for the crude reality. Our Community took no part and will not take part in that spurious proceeding.
Once again we thank all of the people and communities that sustain us with their moral strength, in this country and in the world in this particular time that we are experiencing here in Colombia. Our Community wishes to reiterate our conviction, best expressed by our comrade Eduar Lanchero, who died in 2012: “Peace has no future; only the present. We do not build peace tomorrow, we build it NOW, to the extent that we are building COMMUNITY, TODAY.”
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
March 17, 2016