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Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
PO Box 1270
Nederland CO 80466-1270
Phone: 303 440 0913
Fax:303 258 7881

UA 181/98 Fear for safety 19 June 1998
COLOMBIA Human rights defenders in Meta Department, central 

There are grave fears for the safety of human rights defenders in 
Meta Department after a government official warned that 
paramilitary groups, which are intensifying their activities in the 
region, specifically
aim to exterminate everyone working in defence of human rights 

Intelligence gathered by the Cuerpo Tecnico de Investigaciones de la 
Fiscalia, Technical Investigations Unit of the Attorney General's 
Office, led the Unit's regional director to write to the Personero, 
People's Ombudsman, for Villavicencio, capital of Meta Department. 
The letter stated that paramilitary groups under the leadership of 
the Castano brothers were establishing themselves in the region and 
that one of their operational aims would be to 'reiniciar una labor de 
extermino en contra de miembros y organismos dedicados a la 
Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en el Meta', restart an 
extermination campaign against members and organizations 
dedicated to the defence of human rights in Meta. 

Reports suggest that despite this official recognition of danger and 
the persistent rumours of an impending paramilitary incursion into 
Villavicencio, no effective steps have been taken by the authorities 
to protect the human rights community in Meta. 

Increasing political violence in Meta has caused many people to seek 
refuge in Villavicencio. The security forces and their paramilitary 
often accuse internally displaced people and human rights workers 
who seek to defend them of being guerrillas or guerrilla 
sympathizers. In the past those facing such accusations have often 
been subject to death threats, 'disappearance' and extrajudicial 

The paramilitary groups led by the Castano brothers are reported to 
have been responsible for attacks on at least two towns in the 
department of Meta, Mapiripan (UA 228/97 issued 22 July 1997) 
and Puerto Alvira (UA 144/98 issued 6 May 1998) in which at least 
50 people were killed. Both attacks reportedly took place with the 
collaboration or acquiescence of the armed forces. 

Peasant communities in disputed zones in Colombia's long running 
civil conflict have frequently suffered attacks. Neither the left wing 
armed opposition groups nor the armed forces and their paramilitary 
allies recognize the civilian population's neutrality in the conflict. 
Those who seek to defend human rights in this climate often become 
victims of human rights violations themselves. On 13 October 1996, 
Josue Giraldo, president of the Comite Civico por los Derechos 
Humanos de Meta, Meta Civic Human Rights Committee, was killed by 
gunmen in Villavicencio. His death forced the Committee to suspend 
its activities and for many of its members to leave the area. 

Members of the Colombian army and security forces and their 
paramilitary allies continue to commit serious human rights 
violations with virtual impunity. Over the past five years several 
thousand civilians have been killed by paramilitary groups 
throughout the country. The Colombian government suspended the 
constitutional legal base for the formation of paramilitary 
organizations and issued directives to the armed forces to combat 
and disband such groups in 1989, yet they continue to work with the 
support of the security forces in many areas of the country.

President Ernesto Samper Pizano has repeatedly promised to 
improve the human rights situation and to dismantle paramilitary 
forces, but no steps have been taken to control their actions and to 
hold members accountable for serious and widespread human rights 
violations. The Attorney General recently stated that over 200 
outstanding arrest warrants issued against alleged paramilitary 
members have still not been acted upon by the security forces. 

telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail letters: - expressing 
concern for the safety of the human rights defenders working in 
Meta Department in light of the Fiscalia's warning of an impending 
paramilitary campaign against them; - urging the authorities to act 
on the Fiscalia's warning and take all appropriate measures to 
guarantee the safety of all human rights defenders in Meta;
- calling on the authorities to take effective measures to guarantee 
the physical integrity of the displaced communities living in 
Villavicencio; - calling for a full and impartial investigation into links 
between the security forces and paramilitary groups operating in the 
area and urging that those found responsible for supporting and 
participating in such groups be brought to justice;
- urging that the authorities take immediate action to dismantle 
paramilitary groups, in line with stated government commitments; - 
urging the authorities to act on the outstanding arrest warrants for 
the Castano brothers and other leaders of paramilitary organizations. 

President of Colombia:
Senor Presidente Ernesto Samper Pizano
Presidente de la Republica
Palacio de Narino,carrera 8 No. 7-26
Santafe de Bogota, Colombia \

Dear President Samper:

Telegrams: President Samper Pizano, Bogota, Colombia Telexes: 396 
44281 PALP CO
Fax: 011 57 1 284 2186/289 3377/286 7434 

Attorney General:
Dr Alfonso Gomez Mendez
Fiscal General de la Nacion
Fiscalia General de la Nacion
Diagonal 22B 5201,Apartado Aereo 29855
Santafe de Bogota, Colombia

Dear Dr.:

Telegrams: Fiscal General, Fiscalia General, Bogota, Colombia Faxes: 
011 571 570 2000 (when ansaphone picks up dial 2017 for fax)

Minister of the Interior:
Dr. Carlos Holmes Trujillo Garcia
Ministro del Interior
Ministerio del Interior
Carrera 8, No.8-09, Piso 2
Santafe de Bogota,COLOMBIA

Dear Minister:

Telegrams: Ministro del Interior, Bogota, Colombia Telexes: 396 
45406 MINGO CO
Fax: 57 1 281 5884/286 6524/286 0053/284 0214/286 0405 

Human Rights Organization:
Grupo de Apoyo a Organizaciones de Desplazados (GAD) Calle 61# 13-
54, piso 4
Bogota, Colombia

Ambassador Juan Carlos Esguerra
Embassy of Colombia
2118 Leroy Pl. NW
Washington DC 20008

Please send appeals immediately. Check with the Colorado office 
between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm, Mountain Time, weekdays only, if 
sending appeals after August 1, 1998.

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