(Translated by Anne Schoeneborn, a CSN volunteer translator)
THE CONTINUED CRIMES OF THE NATIONAL ARMY WORSEN THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN THE STATE OF GUAVIARE
The Alternative Center for Research and the Protection of Fundamental Human Rights in Colombia, a non-governmental organization that works to defend human rights, granted us the permission to inform the national and international community about the following events which were recounted by those that experienced them in the rural area of Mata Bambú (in the municipality of Mapiripán and the State of Meta).
- On September 2, 2008, members of the National Army entered Mata Bambú, which is under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Mapiripán and the State of Meta, and gathered together all of its residents. They identified themselves as members of the Joaquín Paris Battalion.
- On the same day, the Marines entered the community. Some National Army troops locked up various community members in their houses where they were physically and verbally abused. After 20 minutes, they took all of the community members to the public restroom and refused to let them leave. Among the soldiers was one with the last name Barrera. After some time, the people were allowed to leave and they returned to their homes to find that they had been plundered. Everything of value had been taken, including, in some cases, cash.
- Some community members were brutally beaten by National Army troops in the Battalion Joaquín Paris, and many even had ropes tied around their necks and were threatened that they would be strangled if they did not say where the guerrillas could be found.
- During the raid the Marines and the National Army perpetrated in Mata Bambú, they extrajudicially executed the peasant LUIS GERARDO VALENZUELA CAMACHO, 50 years of age, and widely known in the region as a hard-working, honest person who worked collaboratively and in solidarity with all community projects being implemented in the area.
- Various community members spoke with a Marine Major (he refused to identify himself), in charge of the area, who promised to investigate the incidents and to give an explanation at 10:00am the next morning regarding why their houses had been robbed. However, his troops pulled out at dawn without giving the affected civilian population any explanation.
- The following day, community members located Captain Sánchez of the Joaquín Paris Batallion, who listened to all of their complaints, and also promised to look into the matter, although to this day the affected civilians have not received any response.
- Community members saw members of the Marines and the National Army take numerous gallons of gasoline from the house of Mr. Luis Gerardo Valenzuela Camacho, and then trade them for money or merchandise in the town.
- During the incursion, the National Army and Marines treated the members of the community as “supporters of the guerrilla,” and used this fact to justify abusing them.
- When a new group of National Army troops under the command of a Captain arrived, the community members complained about all that the others had done, and the response they received was: “ there are very bad people everywhere.”) When they asked about Mr. Luis Gerardo Valenzuela Camacho, they were answered that there wasn’t anything they could do now because he is dead, that he was a guerilla and that they had found on him in possession of guns. He proceeded to give them “permission” to call the family and tell them to make the necessary arrangements to pick up the body in San José del Guaviare.
The peasant population of the affected area is living under ever-worsening circumstances, and is experiencing intense abuse from the Army which, in the last two years, has caused a very high incidence of displacement. Members of the community are currently without food and are fearful of leaving because they might encounter those that committed the incursion and all of the cruelties against the innocent population during the period of September 2-6.
Historically abandoned by the Colombian government, these remote communities suffer the consequences of a lack of resources allocated to education, health, infrastructure, and productive social, environmental and economic projects that are just and fair. Since the conception of the poorly named “Democratic Security,” the entrance of Army troops in this region has caused a worsening of the conflict and of the humanitarian crisis. Today, more than ever, a governmental presence is needed that, beyond simply establishing a military presence, recognizes the civilian population as having rights, and supports projects geared toward the improvement of the quality of life of the peasant and indigenous peoples that occupy the territory.
We wish to remind the Colombian Government that:
ü The Colombian Political Constitution of 1991 establishes a wide gamut of rights, and turns over institutional responsibilities to the executive as the principle guarantor of those rights, and under which the Army is subject to the orders of the civilian government
As has always been demonstrated, the policy of “Democratic Security” works to increase the abuse of the institutional mechanisms in place, and encourages actions that violate human rights. Also, it increases the involvement of civilians in the armed conflict by creating webs of informants and by paying those providing information aimed at prosecuting social leaders who encourage people to demand their rights. This phenomenon has been exacerbated in the case of some peasant communities because President Uribe Vélez himself has, with the hope of resolving conflicts, ordered that informants be compensated.
Finally, we urge that the national government, in unity with the bodies of state control and UN human rights agencies, convene a high-level meeting with social organizations as soon as possible to discuss what the armed conflict means for peasant and indigenous communities. The goal is to find paths that lead toward a solution to the crisis or, at least, toward a minimization of the risk and anguish experienced by peasant, indigenous, afro-Colombian, and urban communities in the region.
OF THE COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT
· That the recommendations be carried out immediately regarding the respect of and compliance with Human Rights Legislation passed by the United Nations, the OAS, and other international organizations.
· That it stop the repressive measures and the fear-tactics to which the peasant communities of Guaviare are being subjected by the regular and irregular forces of the Colombian government.
· That the National Army be investigated for the extrajudicial execution of Mr. Luis Gerardo Valenzuela Camacho and others, and if guilt is established, that these crimes against humanity be taken as far as the international courts
OF THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF GUAVIARE
· That it stop the repressive measures and the fear-tactics to which the peasant communities in the remote regions of the State of Guaviare by the Army of the Colombian government.
· That it guarantee the right to life, personal security, physical and psychological integrity, personal and familial privacy, respect, and free movement of peasants in the region, especially now that they are being affected by the illegal and arbitrary action of the Colombian Army.
OF THE NATIONAL OMBUDSMAN
· That it fulfill its role of ensuring that human rights are respected. That it guarantee the right to life, personal security, physical and psychological integrity, personal and familial privacy, respect, and free movement of peasants in the region, especially now that they are being affected by the illegal and arbitrary action of the regular and irregular forces of the Colombian government.
OF THE OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (OHCHR)
· As part of its mandate, that it does all it can to ensure the Colombian government act in accordance to internal and external norms which it has agreed to respect and that they initiate all necessary investigations
WE URGE HUMAN RIGHTS AND POPULAR ORGANIZATIONS TO REMAIN ATTENTIVE AND ALERT IN REGARDS TO THE CRITICAL HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION FACED BY THE STATE OF GUAVIARE
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621