(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
INTERECCLESIAL COMMISSION FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
DEATH THREATS TO MEMBERS OF ZRC (Campesino Reserve Zone) BY THE ARMED FORCES AND PARAMILITARIES
Monday, January 27, 2014
Our Historic Report and Moral Censure of the serious consequences that are resulting from the continuation of the hostilities and the military operations by the armed forces from the 27th Brigade and the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC EP is the Spanish acronym) against the campesino population in the Campesino Reserve Zone (ZRC) in Perla Amazónica, in the Municipality of Puerto Asís. This has caused serious infractions of humanitarian laws, damage to the environment, and serious violations of human rights.
Bogotá, D.C., January 24, 2014
JUAN MANUEL SANTOS
President of Colombia
Vice President of Colombia
AURELIO IRAGORRI VALENCIA
Minister of the Interior
MARÍA ANGELA HOLGUÍN
Minister of Foreign Relations
ALFONSO GÓMEZ MÉNDEZ
Minister of Justice
LUZ HELENA SARMIENTO
Minister of Environment
Minister of Agriculture
Attorney General of Colombia
Inspector General of Colombia
JORGE ARMANDO OTÁLORA
Public Defender of Colombia
SANDRA MORELLI RICO
Comptroller of Colombia
A blind man cannot guide another blind man. A person who cannot see the light is not able to be a guide. He would simply lead everyone into the darkness. That is what happens when the authorities have no legitimacy.”
Ref. Death threats by the military to the members of the ZRC, threats of killings by military or paramilitary operations and by infractions of humanitarian law.
Our Historic Report includes the consequences of the FARC guerrillas’ ignoring precautionary measures when they sabotaged the petroleum infrastructure. That affected the waters of the Putumayo River, water that serves the ZRC campesino communities.
Our Historic Report includes the failure of the 27th Brigade to recognize the rights of the people when they ignored the principle of precaution, of prevention, and of proportionality in their operations reacting to the FARC guerrillas. They were trying to protect the company that is exploiting the petroleum, without consulting or obtaining the consent of the communities, as required by United Nations principles governing private businesses and human rights.
Our Historic Report includes the persistent violations of the human rights of the members of the Campesino Reserve Zone, ZRC, in La Perla Amazónica by the soldiers who threatened to kill them and warned them that paramilitaries would be coming to annihilate them.
Our Historic Report includes the risk to the population posed by their continuing corporate operations, militarizing the whole territory. This affects community life and the environment without respect for the residents of the ZRC, or for their environmental plans and their fundamental rights.
Here is the factual basis for this Historic Report:
*On Thursday, January 16, there was a public pre-hearing on widening the area of petroleum extraction on the fields belonging to 13 of the 36 communities of the Colombia Energy Consortium, Petroleum Bloc Quillacinga Cohembi Quindé.
The company, ignoring territorial, cultural and environmental unity, stated that its social and environmental responsibility only covered some communities, excluding the ZRC.
*Friday, January 17, around 7:00 p.m. in the town of La Rosa in the Campesino Reserve Zone, ZRC, you could hear explosions near Petroleum Platform 9 in the Platanillo field operated by Amerisur Resources of Colombia, where a military base has been installed to guard the operations and oil wells belonging to this company.
According to some versions, the FARC guerrillas had attacked the location at that time.
At about 8:20 p.m. military units attached to the 27th Jungle Brigade fired nearly 12 salvos from the Platform and those exploded near the town of La Rosa, right next to the school and the homes of the campesinos.
*Saturday, January 18 at about 10:30 a.m. military units from the 27th Jungle Brigade went into the village of La Rosa, ZRC. They were accusing the civilians of being responsible for the guerrilla attack on the night before.
The soldiers accused the civilians of being supporters and accomplices of the guerrillas, claiming that they knew from which houses the explosives had been fired on the day before.
They added, without real evidence, that the campesinos were accomplices of the guerrillas and were protecting them.
The soldiers warned them that the explosives had fallen close to the residents, referring to those they had fired back at the guerrillas, saying, “When one of these falls here, it will blow up the whole town.”
The soldiers kept repeating that “The Black Hand” would be coming to the village, referring to the name of a paramilitary group.
The soldiers asserted that “The Black Hand” would be coming to kill more than one of the people who live there.
*Saturday, January 18 in the afternoon, the ZRC communities noticed a spill of crude oil in the Putumayo River from the Aguablanca stream, following its course through the Lorenzó River and the Cuembi River.
According to reports from the communications media, the FARC guerrillas intercepted 21 tank cars that were carrying crude oil. It spread onto the highway, but some of the tank cars fell into two streams.
The contamination of these water sources made domestic use of the water for cooking food or watering animals impossible in the ZRC communities of Bajo Lorenzó, San Salvador, La Piña, and Bocana del Cuembi.
In spite of the alarm raised by the communities, the competent environmental authorities never showed up.
*Sunday, January 19, at around 4:00 p.m., in the town of La Rosa, a group of soldiers came up to a public establishment, where some members of different communities in the ZRC were talking to each other.
One of the soldiers announced that they were going to kill one or two of the people who lived in La Rosa. The soldier told them that they had been using marijuana and cocaine and while they were high, they could kill them.
“We keep ourselves high with marijuana and while we’re high, it won’t bother us a bit to come and kill one or two of the people of La Rosa.”
Monday, January 20, at about 11:00 a.m., military units fired three salvos of explosives. One of them fell in the Putumayo River, another on the houses in El Palmar, and one of them in the Province of Sucumbios, in Ecuador.
The shell that exploded in Ecuador hit the patio of a house belonging to the CUCHIMBA family. There were two elderly people inside the house, a two-year-old child, and the mother. The fragments damaged the house.
According to the residents, members of the International Red Cross were traveling in the region.
Around noon, regular Army units entered the town of La Rosa, ZRC. The campesino community complained to them about the continual shelling with explosives that were endangering their lives and safety.
They expressed their concern about the effects of the shelling on the Ecuadorian family.
Responding to the people’s complaints, the soldiers said that nothing had happened and that “it certainly was the guerrillas who were firing the explosives”.
The community repeated that the explosives were fired from the place where the soldiers were located at the Petroleum Platform.
Our Moral Censure includes the guerrilla operations that keep infringing on human rights with damage to the environment and property that the civilians need for their survival.
Our Moral Censure includes the continuation of operations that, using the pretense of attacking the FARC guerrillas, continue to affect civilians directly, resulting in a violation of human rights.
Our Moral Censure includes the damage done to civilians who are not Colombian nationals by the carrying out of operations that cross the frontier of our country.
Our Moral Censure includes the continuing violations of the human rights of the people who live in the ZRC, through intimidation, death threats, announcements of paramilitary operations or the soldiers’ committing murders while under the influence of drugs.
Our Moral Censure includes the Energy Company’s refusal to recognize the territorial rights of the ZRC communities, while they try to expand their mining operations in the Petroleum Bloc Quillacinga Cuembi Quindé, paying no attention to the fact that it was virgin land.
In accordance with your institutional responsibilities, we ask that you respond to the following, as is contemplated by Article 23 of the National Constitution.
1. What is the status of the investigations of the series of events constitutiing serious infractions of humanitarian law against the communities that make up the ZRC? Which units, under whose command, are connected to the criminal and/or disciplinary investigations? What administrative measures have been adopted?
2. With respect to the above-cited events, please let us know the following: What are the names of the operations in which explosives were used? Which explosives were used? What precautions and proportionality were adopted? What are the names of the commanders of the armed operations? What are the names of those who authorized and commanded the operations?
3. Regarding the death threats, announcements of possible executions by the soldiers themselves in the town of La Rosa, what URGENT and IMMEDIATE measures will be adopted?
4. Regarding the use of marijuana and cocaine by the soldiers, what methods will be adopted for investigation and punishment? Within what time limit? Who will be responsible?
5. Regarding the announcement by the soldiers of the 27th Brigade of paramilitary operations in the ZRC territory, what steps will be taken, given the fact that there is a paramilitary presence in Puerto Asís?
6. Regarding the eventual business operations in the territories of the Campesino Reserve Zone, who can say with precision and accuracy that the process of informing the communities has been carried out? Who can certify that a social and environmental impact study exists? Who can certify that the process has been adequate and effective and that compensation has been fair? If there are reports of social impacts and environmental reports defining protection of ecosystems, etc., who is familiar with these studies? Who agreed to prepare them, whether individual actors or social and institutional groups? If there are resources, whose are they and what are they for? Who will administer them?
7. The Amerisur, Vetra, and Energy companies have been told of violations of human rights and infractions of humanitarian law, part of the armed conflict in the ZRC. Which entity made those reports? Is there a document? Please provide a copy.
8. For these businesses there has been some kind of proceeding that contemplates United Nations compliance on human rights and social and environmental matters. Which ones? Who is monitoring them? If there is any monitoring, are there reports on the workings of the business on ZRC land? What reports exist? Please provide copies.
9. Regarding tax payments, what are the companies required to pay? What have they paid for their explorations in the ZRC? Where have the payments gone? Who has benefited? How?
10. With regard to security, is there any contract or agreement between the Ministry of Defense, the Division, the Brigade or the Battalion to pay for the operations of the armed forces in the Putumayo, or in the ZRC? If one exists, please provide a copy. If the use of these resources is monitored, by whom? How have they been used in Putumayo, and specifically in operations in the ZRC?
It is with deep concern and hoping for the time it will be possible to end the armed conflict, and asking that you intervene to avoid irreparable harm to the lives and well-being of the inhabitants of the Campesino Reserve Zone, so that they can use and enjoy and plan for their environment, that we submit this Report and Censure to your offices.
Interecclesial Commission for Justice and Peace.