(Translated by David Van Den Brandt, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
Source: Congreso de los Pueblos
Public complaint no. 3: The Situation Worsens for Human Rights Defenders
April 30, 2014
El Congreso de los Pueblos [People’s Congress] informs organizations that defend human rights, public opinion, national and international organizations, and state entities responsible for the protection of human rights of the current situation regarding the national strike in Colombia. In the current situation, the human rights of campesinos/as, indigenous peoples, workers, social leaders, and protestors involved in the context of the National Strike are being systematically violated by the State’s security forces.
1. Catatumbo and Cúcuta:
The campesinos/as that travel to Berlín via the road that leads from Cúcuta to Pamplona continue to be the victims of threats and persecution by the hands of police agents, who are under the command of major Vergara. Using threats, he has prohibited drivers from transporting the peasants, forcing the them to undertake long treks. He has also warned shopkeepers not to sell nor offer food and drink to demonstrators, seriously risking their health.
The police deny passage of vehicles even when they meet all the demands and legal requirements to pass. The demonstration has been pursued by motorized civilians that constantly photograph the community.
At 7pm, near el Diamante, on the road towards Pamplona, the Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios (ESMAD) [Mobile Anti-Disruption Squadron], using an armored car, blocked the passage of a bus full of the same group of peasants. The squadron alleged that there was an order to not transport the peasants, seriously risking the lives of those in the mobilized community.
2. San Pablo—Bolívar
The peasants that from San Pablo set out to the national strike conference were hassled by more than four police squads, besides being intimidated with military piranha boats. These boats tried to capsize the canoes in which people were being transported on the Magdalena River. At 3am, on the road that connects Bucaramanga to Barrancabermeja, the National Police stopped three busses coming from Curumuta.
3. Sogamoso – Boyacá
At 11:45 on Tuesday, in the area known as Richiquito, an exit from which the municipality of Sogamoso leads towards the municipality of Tibasosa and Duitama in the Boyacá province, a group of approximately 30 students from the Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia (UPTC) [Pedagogical and Technological University of Colombia] were marching in accompaniment of and awareness for the Agrarian, Ethnic and People’s Strike. The march was growing through different streets throughout the municipality and was going to end in Richiquito. When the demonstration arrived there, a group of soldiers proceeded to photograph and videotape the group of demonstrators. In the same location, police chief Jesús Ruiz stated that members of public security forces dressed as civilians would mobilize on motorcycles. Immediately afterwards, they left the area.
4. North of Santander—Hacarí
In the area known as Los Molinos, a group of uniformed personnel, carrying neither identification nor badges, presented itself as part of the Santander battalion, under the command of colonel Torres. They proceeded to seize the bus and then took photographs of the peasants that were demonstrating.
At 6pm on April 28, 2014, in the town of El Morro in the jurisdiction of Yopal, two people—among them Jeinsson Fabian Perez Vega, identified with cédula de ciudania [citizenship ID card] no. 1118559811—were intercepted by personnel appointed by the military and the National Police. The personnel hid their identification badges with vests. The victims were intimidated under the threat of a bullet to the head. Furthermore, the interceptors stole a hat and robbed the two of 300,000 pesos [~$158 USD]; immediately after, the captors separated the two and began to interrogate them, forcing them to remove their shirts and subsequently marking them as guerrillas. After approximately an hour, a Policía Nacional (National Police) patrol moved into the area, and the two were handcuffed and transferred to the headquarters of the Registraduría Civil [Civil Registry] in the city of Yopal. Inside the Registry, in the back of the building, the two persons intercepted were again subjected to interrogation. A municipal official and the mother of one of the victims showed up, and the two were subsequently let go under the condition that they sign an affidavit proving that they had received good treatment.
During the night of the same day, in the city of Yopal, a vehicle established a permanent presence near concentrations of campesinos and rice farmers. It [was] white with license plates ODS 517. According to witnesses, the occupants dialogued with uniformed National Police officers.
On the 29th of April, at 11:00am, a group of around 300 habitants and campesinos from the region performed a peaceful march between the small towns La Yopalosa, jurisdiction of the Nunchia municipality, and La Chaparrera, jurisdiction of the Yopal municipality in the province of Casanare. The demonstrators were continually followed by members of ESMAD [Mobile Anti-Disruption Squadron] and security police, in addition to an overflying military helicopter.
Likewise, beginning at 7am in the area known as Charte, near the borders between the municipalities of Yopal and Aguazul, a group formed by 4 men maintained a presence. They identified as members of SIJIN [Criminal Investigation Department of the National Police]; throughout the entire day these civil servants were registering all people who traveled on the El Charte—Plan Brisas route.
Later, at 11:30am, in the area known as La Yopalosa, of the Nunchia jurisdiction, a group of 12 indigenous people belonging to the Chaparral Barro Negro de Comunidad U’wa Reservation in the province of Casanare were intercepted by four members of the SIJIN, who requested to see the citizenship documents and proceed to register them, putting entries in a book.
On April 28th, 2014, on the Huerta Vieja path, in the municipality of Parajito, around 4pm, a group of campesinos had met. The road leads from Sogamoso, Boyacá towards Aguazul, Casanare. A group of soldiers, assigned to the Silva Plazas Battalion—which belongs to the first brigade of the National Army—arrived to the area. They were moving in two busses, one of them green without plates, from which a soldier with the last name Delgado stepped out. He gathered the campesinos and inquired them for the leader, arguing that they could not be there, calling them a militia from a guerrilla group. The community presented the soldiers a permit from the mayor’s office, along with the legal capacity from the police chief that authorized them to demonstrate peacefully. The soldiers’ presence was prolonged until noon on the 29th of April, 2014; with a white cell phone the soldiers captured photographs of the demonstrators. Subsequently, the soldiers were relieved by another group who continued to take photos, this time with a black cell phone.
On the 29th of April, at 7:30am, at the meeting place for communities in Berlín, national police members arrived under the command of Lieutenant Julián Sánchez Delgado, to carry out a registration of residency. The demonstrators were opposed to the measure because such a registration is an illegal and arbitrary procedure. Consequently, the official threatened them with removal by force and called members of ESMAD [Mobile Anti-Disruption Squadron] to assault the people. Likewise, the president of the Foundation for Human Rights Joel Sierra Seccional Santander, was intercepted on the street by Lieutenant Julián Sánchez himself, who after requesting from Joel her identification document, tried to examine her cell phone and laptop computer.
Some hours later at 3:30pm, in the urban area of Corregimiento Berlín, in the municipality of Tona, Santander, members of ESMAD established a presence in front of the private house in which groups of communities participating in the peaceful mobilization meet. ESMAD prevented them from leaving to the town to carry out an awareness campaign regarding the national mobilization.
In the context of the national protest, the National Police in Berlín Santander framed the campesino Franklin Martínez Sánchez by putting marijuana in one of his bags in an illegal requisition in the place where he was staying. This was the perfect excuse to physically assault the demonstrators and detain the campesino.
After a half hour passed the police chief of the Berlín Police Station stated to the community that they would let Martínez Sánchez free because he “unfortunately had no more than the allowed amount”.
The community denounced that the police were going to perform physical exams to find out if he was a user of the drug, an illegal procedure that violates human dignity.
On April 29, at 9:30am, the communities that mobilized in a march through the municipality of Pinchotes towards Socorro in the province of Santander were attacked indiscriminately by ESMAD. ESMAD launched tear gas and stun grenades directly at the bodies of the demonstrators and inside the area where the demonstrators were preparing food. During the assault, twelve persons were injured, among them the campesinos Juan Pablo Bernal, Rubiela Becerra, and Mauricio Meza. Furthermore, the campesino Miguel Angel Silva from the municipality of Socorro was held prisoner, and only let free some hours later.
The student leader and member of ANJECO [National Association of Young People of Students of Colombia], Julián Tangua, was threated by the Major of the National Police Jorge Quitian. The major, in reprisal of the complaint that Tangua made before the attorney general’s office regarding the abuse of authority by the public security forces when dealing with the demonstrators, said in a written message, “Chinese son-of-a-bitch, ask for trouble inside or out of the demonstrations and you will see that I will use it against you.”
In the same way, the leaders of the protest were photographed, including the defender of human rights Alvaro Florez, who is an observer of the situation.
In Saravena and Tame, province of Arauca, beginning at 9 in the morning, mass marches were carried out through the streets of the municipal centers. While these marches developed, members of the SIJIN [Criminal Investigation Department of the National Police] rode on motorcycles without plates, along with infiltrators of the marches, photographed the demonstrating leaders and community.
We demand once again that the National Government provide guarantees so that all of the campesino (peasant), worker, and people’s organizations can carry out their work, in compliance with Article 107 of the 1991 National Political Constitution of Colombia, which states that “The right to found, organize and develop political parties and movements, along with the freedom to affiliate or withdraw oneself with them, is guaranteed to all citizens. (…) Political parties and movements will be organized democratically and will have as guiding principles transparency, objectivity, morality, gender equality, and the duty to present and divulge their political platforms. (…) Also, the right to demonstrate and participate in political events is guaranteed to social organizations”.
Therefore, we demand again respect for human dignity enshrined in article 1 of the Political Constitution of Colombia, in article 10 of the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights (PIDCP) and in Article 5 Number 2 of the Interamerican Convention on Human Rights; the right to not be subjected to forced disappearance, torture, nor to cruel, inhumane, or degrading penalties or treatment, in agreement with the decree in article 12 of the 1991 constitution, and in article 5 of CIDH [Interamerican Commission on Human Rights].
We request that:
-international organizations that defend human rights intervene and demand a quick and real solution to the situation that is developing in the country.
-the National and International community and organizations defending human rights declare themselves on our side, considering the events that this complaint references.
– the National and International community and organizations defending human rights demand guarantees for the participants and spokespersons of the National Strike.
We hold responsible:
The Colombian state, under responsibility of Mr. Juan Manuel Santos Calderón and the Human Rights Office Branch of the National Police, for the violations of International Law on Human Rights (DIDH) and infractions of International Humanitarian Law (DIH), without prejudice to the crimes considered in the Colombian penal code, committed by members of the regular forces of the Colombian state in the operations of the police units that direct them, and the possible violations that could happen to members of this organization in the future.
Comisión de Derechos Humanos [Commission on Human Rights]
Congreso de Los Pueblos [People’s Congress]
(This translation may be reprinted as long as its content remains unaltered and the source, author and translator are cited.)