Violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and persecution of campesino leaders by law enforcement in Putumayo

Translated by: Rudy Heller, CSN Volunteer Translator

Edited by: Michael Hill, CSN Volunteer Editor

Follow-Up Report:

Violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and persecution of campesino leaders by law enforcement in the Putumayo Department

The Permanent Commission for the Defense of Human Rights (CPDH) and the National Federation of Labor Unions – Agricultural Division (Fensuagro) denounce before human rights organizations, government entities and the national and international communities the recent violations of IHL and the persecution of campesino leaders that have taken place in the vereda La Unión in the township of Teteye, Municipality of Puerto Asís, Department of Putumayo, based on the following.



1. On June 11, 2012 at 10:15 p.m., the community in Vereda La Unión in the township of Teteye, Putumayo Department, was surprised by intense bombing by the Colombian Air Force (part of the Colombian Army). The bombing lasted about 10 to 15 minutes and it was followed by 6 strong explosions and then the entire town was machine gun strafed from aircraft. This was a very clear violation of IHL standards, among them the principle of forewarning, respect for civilian property, and prohibition of indiscriminate aggressions that can affect the civilian population and its property.

2. After the bombing, the National Army disembarked and illegally seized and searched the home inhabited by ESTHER JULIA BALDEON GUTIERREZ, her children and her mother MARÍA LILIAN GÚTIERREZ NOPÍA, campesina and union leader, president of the Union of Campesino Workers in the Putumayo Border Region (SINTCACFROMAYO, affiliated with FENSUAGRO) and member of the Putumayo Department Directorate of Social, Campesina, Afrodescendent and Indigenous Organizations. This action disregards the constitutional principle of inviolability of residence, wherein the Army does not have any judicial police duties. In addition, fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees were clearly violated, These are rights and guarantees stipulated in the Constitution, including Article 53 which recognizes mandatory compliance with international treaties ratified by Colombia, as confirmed in Decree C1024 of 2002.

3. On June 12, 2012 at 11:40 a.m., the Human Rights Commission of SINTCACFROMAYO arrived at the home of MARÍA LILIAN GÚTIERREZ NOPÍA and found Mobile Unit 13, a part of the 27th Jungle Brigade, which had searched, seized and occupied the dwelling without any judicial order, and in addition had detained 8 men who were being questioned about the whereabouts of the union leader.

4. Then, behind the house landed a helicopter which brought officials of the CTI headed by Sub-Intendent PEDRO SOLEDAD. They asked the members of the Human Rights Commission for IDs and then they were written up in a notebook that the CTI officials had with them.

5. Sub-Intendent SOLEDAD then showed the Human Rights Commission a search and seizure order code FGN-50000-F-18 VERSIÓN 01, signed by a prosecutor. They did not allow the prosecutor’s name to be seen. It must be noted that the General Prosecutor’s Office has no competence to issue search and seizure orders. Item 3 of Article250 of the Constitution states that the Investigation Body (in this case, the prosecutor’s office) requires additional measures when human rights are affected (limited or restricted), including obtaining an authorization from a Judge who will ensure that guarantees are honored. Thus, in order to abide by the principle of Judicial Reserve and the protection of privacy rights, search and seizure orders must be signed by judges who have those duties.

6. Among the people detained were Mr. ROBERTH VALENCIA, who arrived at the house to remove two children who were in the house next door to the house of union leader MARÍA LILIAN; Roberth’s house was also entered by the National Army, and he states that at that point he lost a new cellular phone which had not even been taken out of its original box; in that same manner they also entered the home of another resident of Vereda la Unión called CARMEN ORTÍZ.

7. The Human Rights Commission of SINTCACFROMAYO is on location to take statements from the people who live on this vereda. They are also taking pictures to document the acts of the National Army. When doing so, one of the CTI policemen approached the Human Rights Defender snapping pictures and roughly took away his camera and proceeded to erase all its content. In addition, the Sub-Intendent forbids the Commission from continuing to perform its role of observers.

8. The commission proceeds to take note of all events which are taking place in this vereda and asks the CTI rep to sign the notes. They answer in an uncouth manner that they do not sign anything and do not receive anything and if they want further information they should address their concerns to the Prosecutor’s Office.

9. At 02:30 p.m on the same day (June 12) the Armed Forces leave, en masse, heading for the location of the helicopter. The Commission asks the soldiers what they will do next at the vereda, in order to protect the safety of its residents, and the members of the Armed Forces answer that they have already completed their mission and they are leaving. The commission members thus proceed to leave the location and resume their daily activities.

10. A few hours later the harassment continues with non-directed shots being fired by the National Army, and several families that reside in the area are thus forcibly displaced and they head for homes in Ecuador.

11. SINTCACFROMAYO is the base union of disappeared leader HENRY DIAZ. The people affected by this denunciation, campesino leaders, continued expressing their outrage for his disappearance.



1. On May 29, 25 and 23, 2012 in the Canacas, Buena Vista and Alea veredas, indiscriminate bombing stories by the Air Force took place, leaving one person dead from a heart attack and two people wounded. They are presently in the Puerto Asís hospital. This is yet another instance of IHL violations by the Armed Forces which continues to include the civilian population in the armed conflict. These situations have also taken place in the municipalities of Puerto Guzmán, Valle del Guamuez, San Miguel, Orito and Puerto Asís.

2. Since May 07, 2012, 36 families of the La Paz, Aguas Negras and Campo Ají veredas were forcibly displaced to Vereda Puerto Bello in the township of Piñuña Blanca, municipality of Puerto Asís, due to constant violations of Human Rights by the National Army’s Mobile Brigade 13 of the Jungle Brigade for Putumayo and the anti-narcotics units of the National Police which continue to stigmatize the population by ordering them to de-mobilize, by pressuring and intimidating them to provide information about explosives and mined fields, without acknowledging that the families are not privy to this kind of information. They are also constantly impeding the free movement of these families in the veredas. It is for this very reason that since April 14, sixteen families from the Valle del Guamuez municipality have been in forced displacement in the urban area of La Dorada.

3. On April 18, 2012, Puerto Vega experienced the disappearance of the recognized campesino leader HERMÁN HENRY DÍAZ, founder of SINCACFROMAYO, Vicepresident of ASOMAYO, affiliated with the JAC in the Puerto Colombia vereda, who was part of the Executive Board of the Putumayo Department Directorate of Social, Campesina, Afrodescendent and Indigenous Organizations, member of FENSUAGRO and leader of the social and political movement Marcha Patriótica who, the day before, April 17, had been in the political commission and the move forward committee of Marcha Patriótica which had met in Bogotá in order to coordinate and finalize everything related to the launching of this movement, slated for April 21, 22, and 23. On April 22, 2012 a mechanism was set into motion to urgently seek before the People’s Ombudsman and the local prosecutor and Sijín. However, the latter two agencies did not act for three days and it was only on April 25th that the mechanism was activated. On April 23 an action was started before the National Prosecutor in which the forced disappearance was denounced and a mechanism of emergency search was requested. The same request was made of the Ministry of Defense and the local military bases, by providing them with information to assist in the location of the disappeared HENRY, keeping in mind that surveys are done on a regular basis in the area from which he had disappeared. However, only two military bases responded stating that they had no knowledge because they had no registry of residents. The other military bases did not respond, nor did the Ministry of Defense. Result: there is still no information about where our campesino leader may be.

4. From the start of the political and social movement called Marcha Patriótica, the National Army has been asking the people all over the Department who its leaders are.

5. In places where the National Army and the manual eradicators of coca are present, many members of the civil population have been mortal victims of anti-personnel mines.

6. From 2011 to 2012, forty leaders have been arrested, including campesino, indigenous and afrodescendant leaders, of which 37 are being tried for the crimes of rebellion, narco-trafficking, terrorism, among others, and 3 were convicted of the crime of rebellion. These are social leaders who have dedicated their lives to agricultural development and to the ongoing denunciation of human rights that are committed throughout the Department of Putumayo.

7. Since May 10, 2012 in the Puerto Asís municipality, there has been manual erradication of coca and in the San Miguel municipality there has been areal spraying with glyphosate. It has been said that after June 1 all municipalities in the lower Putumayo will be sprayed and in all cases, the order to submit contingency plans prior to spraying, as order by Warrant 218 of the Constitutional Court has been ignored.

8. In the Department of Putumayo, the fundamental rights to education and health are constantly under attack because of the State’s clear inefficiency and non-fulfillment of its duties in guaranteeing these rights.

9. The transportation sector has expressed its concern regarding the prohibitions of free transit that are gravely affecting their right to work.

10. Since there is a paro armado in the Putumayo River and in the Puerto Asís la Alea corridor, this has given the Armed Forces an excuse to increase the harassment of the civilian population.



1. Immediately cease all transgressions of International Humanitarian Law and look out to protect the civilian population. There is a need to recognize that International Humanitarian Law involves human rights and it is made up of international standards supported by conventions with the purpose of “protecting the fundamental rights of human beings, regardless of their national origin, both by their own State and by contracting States.”

2. That respect is given for the constitutional principles for campesinos who reside in Putumayo where there is a direct impact of the political, social and armed conflict the country is presently experiencing.

3. That constitutional guarantees are granted, among them the constitutional block in order to be respectful of IHL and other human rights agreements ratified by Colombia. That the offices of prosecutors and other official controlling bodies investigate events that are denounced and find the individual guilty parties.

5. That the State manifest itself given the events that have been denounced regarding the violations of ILH and violations of human rights by the Armed Forces.

6. That the State show commitment and true acts of Peace that lead to a political and negotiated solution to the country’s internal conflict. That it understands that the real victims are the campesino communities, singled out and stigmatized by the members of the Armed Forces that are present in the area.

7. That the investigations continue until the campesino leader Herman Henrry Díaz is found.



1. Demand from the Colombian State compliance with human rights treaties that it has ratified and that are constantly being violated.

2. Propose implementation of a full campaign to denounce the humanitarian crisis we are experiencing in Putumayo in relation to the inclusion of the civilian population in the internal conflict.

3. Build an agenda that allows for humanitarian visits so as to create a campaign for the defense of the department of Putumayo.

4. Demand from the Colombian State a definitive answer about the actions of the Armed Forces and the investigation of IHL violations they have committed.

5. Conduct ongoing follow-up and monitoring of the behavior of the Armed Forces towards campesinos and union workers and activities.






Author: Permanent Commission for the Defense of Human Rights

Location: Putumayo

Date Published: June 19, 2012

Source: Comite Permanente para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Colombia



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