Human Rights Organizations Respond to The Wall Street Journal

Written by Marcelo Virkel
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
Thursday, January 14, 2010
An article written by Mary Anastasia O’Grady and published by The Wall Street Journal last December has generated a forceful response from Community and Human Rights Organizations.  The article reproduces the accusations against the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado in Colombia poured out by Daniel Sierra Martinez (alias “Samir”), an ex-commander guerrilla who was demobilized in 2008.
            According to O’Grady, Sierra Martinez stated during an interview, “The Peace Community was a refuge for wounded or ill rebels and for storing medicine.”  He continued to say, “the community aided the FARC in their efforts to label the Colombian military men as human rights violators.”  O’Grady apparently accepts these assertions as fact and even suggests that Peace Brigades International (PBI), Amnesty International and the local Peace and Justice organization facilitated activities which supported the guerrillas in the area.  
In a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, the director of Peace and Justice, Father Javier Giraldo Moreno, stated that those accusations are part of a defamatory campaign headed by the government and the military men.  He added that the supposed ties between the Peace Community and the guerrillas is only a way for the Colombian Army to try to justify the crimes they have committed in the region.
            Peace Brigades International rejects “the affirmation that the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado collaborates with the guerrilla organization known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).”  The international organization emphasizes in their declaration that many national and international courts have recognized on various occasions not only the legality and legitimacy of the community, but also the need to protect its members.
             Colombia Support Network also made a public statement regarding the article.  According to this CSN, “O’Grady presented a description of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado in which false information and allusions to suspected acts that have no base in reality abounded.”  CSN’s response also points out, “More than 30 residents of the Peace Community have been assassinated since 1997 because the Community does not permit armed forces within the community limits and does not support any armed group.”
            In her article published by Upside Down World on the 29th of December entitled “Mary O’Grady Incites Violence in a Peace Community in Colombia,” Belen Fernandez describes the piece in The Wall Street Journal as an “ad honorem public relations initiative in the name of the Latin American right.”  Moreover, Fernandez asserts that Sierra Martinez “is now a fundamental accomplice of the Colombian government in its efforts to show that the farmers are terrorists.”
            The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado was founded in 1997 in the department of Antioquia, in Northeast Colombia, as a nonviolent and civil resistance to the internal armed conflict with a goal of preventing forced displacement.  Peace Brigades International (PBI) has given fiscal and political aid to the Peace Community since its conception.  Nevertheless, in its nearly twelve years of existence, more than 280 members of the community have been assassinated.

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