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Colombia: News & Updates
Colombia has the world's second largest population of internally displaced persons (five million) due to the half-century internal armed conflict—the longest-running war in the Western Hemisphere (since 1964). Control for territory and popular support among the three main groups (left-wing rebel forces FARC & ELN, right-wing paramilitaries, Colombian police/military) has left 220,000 killed, 75% of them non-combatants. Since 2000, the US has exacerbated the violence by sending more than $9 billion in mostly military assistance. Colombia, which has both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, holds strategic interest for the US for global trade and military posturing.
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November 7, 2021
On Sunday, November 7, 2021, the InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF) will hold a special online gathering to mark the 41st anniversary of the ultimate sacrifice made by two Cleveland women in El Salvador (Jean Donovan and Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel of Cleveland), along with Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke. The four women paid with their lives for their decision to stay in solidarity with poor, marginalized victims of the US-sponsored armed violence, which eventually claimed the lives of 75,000 Salvadorans and the led to the mass exodus of 1 million refugees. IRTF was founded by people of faith and conscience to honor their powerful witness and carry forward their legacy of solidarity. Please join our guest speakers from Honduras as we celebrate IRTF’s four decades of solidarity with the people of Central America and Colombia: promoting peace, justice, human rights, and systemic transformation through nonviolence.
October 17, 2021
Data from the Victims Unit show that 192,638 Indigenous People and 794,703 Afro-Colombians were affected by the war experienced in recent years. The guerrilla made life impossible for several indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians, and massacres such as that of the Awá in Nariño and Afro-Colombians in Bojayá, mined collective territories, communities stripped of their territories and young people and children recruited are some examples of the FARC's violent acts carried out against ethnic peoples. Almost a third of the national territory is categorised as indigenous reserves, and most of them have to face serious environmental conflicts and land grabbing due to extractive activities in the zone.
RRN Case Update
September 30, 2021
SEP 2021: RRN letters summaries
SEP 11 2021. COLOMBIA. assassinated: student leader Esteban Mosquera . SEP 12 2021. HONDURAS. forced eviction: campesino families in Guaimaca . SEP 23 2021. HONDURAS. intimidation and assault: Donny Reyes, defender of LGBT rights. SEP 24 2021. GUATEMALA. assassinated: campesino and land rights leader Ramón López Jiménez. SEP 25 2021. COLOMBIA. death threats: journalist José Alberto Tejada. SEP 26 2021. HONDURAS. threatened: journalists Deyni Menjivay and Héctor Madrid
September 25, 2021
The targeting of journalists—especially if the police are involved—raises serious issues about freedom of the press and the ability of the press to hold Colombian authorities to account for the brutal treatment of demonstrators these past several months. José Alberto Tejada’s investigative reporting has been crucial in denouncing human rights violations committed by government security forces against demonstrators during the Colombian National Strike that began in April. High level government officials publicly accuse him of spreading “fake news.” Meanwhile, the InterChurch Commission for Justice and Peace has received credible information about an ongoing plan to assassinate the journalist from Channel 2 in Cali; a sum of thirty million Colombian pesos has already been paid to hitmen. Last month, a team of volunteer security guards observed a man on a red motorcycle drawing a gun near the journalist’s residence at 1:30 a.m. When they intercepted him, the motorcyclist fled to a nearby public establishment where several police officers were gathered. When the man arrived, the officers departed.
September 11, 2021
Student leader Esteban Mosquera was killed in Popayán, Cauca Department, when he left the house to walk his dog at 6pm on a Monday. In Popayán, Esetban had played an organizing role in recent protests over inequality and state violence. The 26-year-old was shot dead just several yards from the Humanitarian Refuge for Life meeting, which had been organized by social activists and former combatants with the aim of strengthening human rights and peace. In 2018, Esteban lost an eye when, during student mobilizations demanding a larger budget for public universities, he was attacked by the ESMAD anti-riot squad police, an event which sparked a wave of indignation towards the police and solidarity with the young man. In the three months of the national strike this spring, Institute for Peace and Development Studies (INDEPAZ) reports that 83 protesters suffered eye damage, along with at least 44 citizens murdered, and 1,832 people arbitrarily detained by police. We demand a thorough investigation that leads to the intellectual authors of this heinous crime.
September 2, 2021
Emma Banks details the findings of #MisionSOSColombia, an international verification mission investigating human rights violations since the protests began on April 28. #MisionSOSColombia built on the findings of three similar preceding missions, covering a wider geographic area and collecting hundreds of personal testimonies that demonstrate the systematic political and violent repression of protests in Colombia. It found clear evidence of disproportionate use of force by police, violence from paramilitaries and armed civilians, and arbitrary detentions of protestors. #MisionSOSColombia calls on the Colombian government to immediately halt their efforts to end the protests through violence against protestors and the persecution of social movement leaders. The international community must demand that the Colombian government comply with the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. International allies of the Colombian government should cut aid packages if human rights abuses continue.
August 31, 2021
Colombia’s human rights crisis continued throughout August 2021, as social activists, trade unionists, students and FARC former combatants were targeted in violent attacks. The month saw several targeted killings and massacres, with authorities seemingly unable to contain deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions in various parts of the country.
August 31, 2021
A court in Colombia has rejected a move by the attorney general’s office to bring charges against a former army commander for his alleged responsibility in 104 extrajudicial killings because it does not have jurisdiction, it said on Tuesday. At the start of August the attorney general’s office said it would bring charges against retired General Mario Montoya, 72, in connection to a number of so-called false positive killings that took place from November 2007 to November 2008. Despite orders from the defense ministry and military command to prioritize captures, Montoya did not pass them on and continued to incentivize combat deaths, the attorney general’s office said previously. Montoya, who remains free, was commander of Colombia’s army between 2006 and 2008. He submitted himself to Colombia’s transitional justice court (JEP, set up after the Peace Accords of 2016) in 2018. However according to the high court in capital Bogota, while the attorney general’s office can investigate such crimes, the JEP is the only organization that can charge Montoya, the attorney general’s office said.
Colombia: Prosecutors pursue murder charges against former army chief in ‘False Positives’ killings of civilians
August 25, 2021
The charges, pursued by an attorney general closely aligned with President Iván Duque, could signal that the government is now willing to come to terms with one of the darkest aspects of its military’s history, said Adam Isacson, director of the Defense Oversight program for the Washington Office on Latin America. At least 6,402 Colombians were killed as false enemy combatants between 2002 and 2008, according to a postwar court created in 2016 as part of the peace deal with the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The court, known as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, is charged with investigating the facts of the war and holding those who committed crimes accountable through restorative sentences and, in some cases, prison time. In July, the tribunal charged 11 top military leaders, including a general, in the deaths of at least 120 people in Catatumbo, Norte de Santander. The kidnappings and killings of innocent people, many of them unemployed, homeless or disabled, were carried out in response to pressure to meet body counts as measures of success, the court said. Military leaders incentivized soldiers to kill by offering medals, awards and even vacation time.
RRN Case Update
August 16, 2021
AUG 2021: RRN letters summaries
Please see this summary of the letters we sent to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries. We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice. IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.