(Translated by Emma Strenski, a CSN Volunteer translator, Edited by Jack Laun)
On August 23, 2016, in the settlement of Diamante, in the municipality of Simiti in southern Bolivar, four people were arbitrarily detained by members of the National Army. They were campesinos: Noreby Guerrero Vargas, 26 years old and father of two small children; Ruben Amos Guzman, who turned 18 the day before his capture; Jhonier Padilla Javier Noguera, 19 years old; and Jhonatan Jaimes Ardila Jerez, 23 years old and the father of a one month old daughter. Each of these people were members of the Community Action Board of El Diamante.
The campesinos were detained around 10:00 a.m., while doing community work in the main area of the settlement. They were taken by members of the National Army belonging to the Nueva Granada Anti-Aircraft Battalion No 2 based in Barrancabermeja. At the time they were detained, they were threatened with being shot by the soldiers. Subsequently they were transferred to the Barrancabermeja Police Station, where they were handcuffed with one arm up without the ability to sit down or lie down, and they were forced to stay in this uncomfortable position all night. They state that while they were in the cell, they felt as if some substance had been scattered that caused a burning sensation on their skin and in their eyes and throat.
The peasants also stated that the police forced them to sign a sheet without telling them the contents. It seems that the forms they signed were statements allowing the police to seize items of the peasants. Preliminary hearings were held in Barrancabermeja on August 24, 2016. The campesinos were accused of the crime of rebellion, based on allegations from an unknown “human source”, who in generic fashion was said to belong to the ELN, going back again to the questioned faceless justice procedure.
In the settlement, military personnel carried out a search in a home without a warrant or the presence of the public prosecutor. There they reported the alleged discovery of a pistol, a communication radio, a computer, several cell phones and some rubber boots. The property in question does not belong to any of the detained campesinos, who were not inside either, because they were apprehended in a different place.
In accord with these facts as presented by the four campesinos to the Peoples Legal Team (Equipo Juridico Pueblos) it is evident that the Army continues the systematic practice of carrying out set-ups or “judicial false positives” for the purpose of showing results for public opinion. Meanwhile, the National Police in Barrancabermeja practice the international crime of torture by placing the people taken into custody in handcuffs, and using “interrogation techniques” that were thought to have been discontinued in Colombian reality. Currently these four young men are deprived of freedom, being held in the Palogorodo–Giron prison, far from their families and suffering the rigors of the Colombian prison system.
The Equipo Juridico Pueblos (EJP) draws attention to the work of the Attorney General’s Office through the National Unit Against Terrorism, in supporting this type of procedure, with the sole purpose of showing capture of numbers of persons in the fight against the National Liberation Army, through serious violations principally of human rights of the campesino population.
Bucaramanga, September 29, 2016.
EQUIPO JURIDICO PUEBLOS