This Peacemaker has been targeted by Paramilitaries for Death -- Please Help Save His Life by Writing a Letter/Sending a Fax As Soon As You Can
COLOMBIA: SAN JOSÉ DE APARTADÓ PEACE COMMUNITY
June 23, 1998
Today ICCHRLA calls on our supporters to act immediately in response to anurgent appeal from Father Javier Giraldo of the Inter-Congregational Commission on Justice and Peace. This request comes after yet another ominous report of intimidation directed against inhabitants of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community and death threats against a member of the Inter-Congregational Justice and Peace Commission who is providing accompaniment to this community.
Approximately one month ago, on May 24, troops under the command of General Martín Orlando Carreño Sandoval (head of the 17th Army Brigade) entered a farm located near the village of San José de Apartadó. While on the farm, they shot a cow and proceeded to carve it up, stating to all those present that they would do the same to EDUAR, a member of the Missionary Team of Justice and Peace. In a letter sent to General Carreño, Father Giraldo protested the action and called on the military to stop its harassment of the community.
Despite the request, this past June 17 at 12:30 p.m., a unit of soldiers from the 17th Brigade arrived in San José de Apartadó. They sought out Eduar, demanding that he give them a statement and identify the witnesses of the earlier incident so that they too would provide their statements. The military did not hide the fact that among them were the very soldiers who reportedly threatened Eduar.
In a further letter sent a few days ago to Colombian government authorities, Father Giraldo expressed his indignation at this harassment, stating:
"These sort of investigations, carried out by members of the same institution accused of the crime, do not meet the minimum requirements of impartiality which any system of the administration of justice would require. On the contrary, their only effect is to terrorize even more the victims who for so long have seen their rights violated by members of the Army operating for extensive periods in the zone together with paramilitary groups...Far from demonstrating a willingness to control his subordinates to avoid such criminal actions, the response of General Carreño -- through this caricature of "justice -- only increases the fear of the Community and the risk to the persons threatened.
San José de Apartadó is a small village located 7 miles from Apartadó in the northern region of Urabá. A few years ago, the villagers organized a co-operative called BALSAMAR to market and process their crops. In February 1997, members of a paramilitary group arrived in the village and ordered everyone to leave, shutting down the market, forbidding the selling of food for small amounts, and accusing the villagers of running a supply post for the guerrillas. To make their point, the paramilitaries dragged out of their homes the 4 elected board members of the co-operative, killed them and threw their bodies into a shallow grave.
The community responded. On March 23, on Palm Sunday, after high mass, the inhabitants of San José and its rural settlements declared themselves a Comunidad de Paz, Peace Community, in front of a delegation which included members of Pax Christi International, the Dutch Parliament, the Diocese of Apartadó, Justice and Peace, CINEP and the Mayor of Apartadó, Gloria Cuartas.
The San José de Apartadó Peace Community was created as an alternative of the civilian population to express resistance, autonomy, a dignified life and peaceful opposition to the status quo. It is a novelty in Colombia because it redefines popular power focusing on exercising fundamental rights as citizens in a democracy and breaks the dynamics of war and injustice, creating a space to survive. But this position has not been without a cost: Since it declared itself a Peace Community, San José has seen the death of 46 members -- the majority of these by paramilitary units supported by the Army.
The most recent of the killings occurred on May 9, 1998 when a unit of soldiers arrived at the home of Dario Goez in Arenas Altas, a hamlet close to San José de Apartadó and reportedly opened fire on those inside, wounding him in the leg. They then ordered everyone to leave including his wife, claiming that they would provide medical assistance to the injured Dario Goez. Later that day, rumours began to circulate that the army had killed "a guerrilla fighter in combat. Efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to obtain information from the regional military headquarters concerning the whereabouts of Dario Goez failed. On May 14, his body was discovered in the morgue of a hospital in the nearby town of Turbo.
Dario Goez, who had been a member of the Peace Community for over a year, had recently returned to his farm in Arenas Altas to harvest his cacao crop. Political violence in the area had forced him and his family to flee Arenas Altas the previous year, along with other peasant farmers, to seek refuge in San José de Apartadó.
In the midst of this incredibly tense situation, the Inter- CongregationalJustice and Peace Commission, headed by Jesuit Father Javier Giraldo, has provided accompaniment to the San José de Apartadó Peace Community since its creation. This most recent threat against a member of Justice and Peace's missionary team comes only weeks following a raid on the organization's offices in Bogotá conducted by special counter-insurgency troops from the 13th Brigade of the Armed Forces. During the raid on Justice and Peace, those present were forced to kneel down with guns pointed at their heads while they were photographed and their documents reviewed.
Please send messages to the Colombian government, expressing deep concern and calling for guarantees for the safety of the inhabitants of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community and for the members of the Inter-Congregational Justice and Peace Commission which is providing accompaniment to this community. Demand that an impartial investigation into the threats and attacks against members of this community be carried out by the competent civilian authorities and that those responsible be duly sanctioned regardless of their status or rank.
Send your messages to:
ANDRES PASTRANA ARANGO Presidente de la Repśblica Kra.8 n.7-26 Santa Fe de Bogot‡, Colombia Tlf: 571/ 284 33 00 Fax: 571/ 286 7434 or 286 7937 or 284 2186
For those in Canada, please also communicate your concern in a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy. Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, 125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario CANADA, K1A 0G2. Faxes can be sent to (613) 992-7559.
ICCHRLA 129 St. Clair Ave, W. Toronto, ON M4V 1N5 tel: (416) 921-0801 fax: (416) 921-3843 email: email@example.com Go to ICCHRLA's homepage
Added by CSN: For those in U.S. also, communicate your concern in a letter to the Secretary of State, Madelaine Albright, 2201 C St NW, Washington DC 20520, Fax 202 647-7120, and U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Curtis W. Kamman, U.S. Embassy, Bogota Colombia, Fax 571-315-2209 (please send copies of correspondence to CSN, PO Box 1505, Madison WI 53701)
Join Noam Chomsky and others! International memberships now available in the San Jose de Apartado Comunidad de Paz!
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