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Education under Attack 2010 - Colombia

Publisher UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
Publication Date 10 February 2010
Cite as UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Education under Attack 2010 - Colombia, 10 February 2010, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to Rafael Cuello Ramirez, first vice president of the teachers' union, FECODE, 360 teachers have been murdered, 342 threatened, 50 exiled and 25 "disappeared" (which means abducted without trace, presumed killed) over the past decade. In 2009, as of June, nine teachers had been murdered, and two had survived assassination attempts.366 The number of violations in the teaching sector rose from 193 in 2006 to 260 in 2007.367 These included assassinations, kidnappings, forced disappearance, illegal detention, torture and threats. National Police figures indicate 90 teachers were assassinated from 2006 to 2008,368 compared with 310 killed during the period from 2000 to 2006.369 This represents a decrease in the average number of teachers assassinated per year from 44 to 30. Figures from the Observatorio del Programa de DDHH y DIH, Vicepresidencia de la República, show the number of teachers murdered fell from 55 in 2006 to 23 in 2007 and rose to 29 in 2008, with ten killed in the first half of 2009. However, according to the National Trade Union School (Escuela Nacional Sindical), the number of death threats against education workers rose from 146 in 2007 to 269 in 2008, with 40 registered in 2009 by the end of July. The number of education workers forced to move for their own safety rose from 93 in 2007 to 149 in 2008 and fell to just three in the first half of 2009. In addition, from 2007 to 2009, five education workers were harassed to end their activities, five were arbitrarily detained, four were attacked without injury, three were forcibly disappeared, two were illegally raided and one was tortured, according to ENS.370

In the same period, the intelligence service, DAS, reported five attacks on education buildings. On 13 March 2006, FARC guerrillas burned down a school in Puerto Jordan that had been used as a voting centre in Congressional elections. On 7 June 2007, a bomb was detonated in the car park of the University of Technology, Pereira. On 29 October 2008, a grenade was detonated in the refectory of Alfonso Guiles College, Miraflores. On 15 June 2008, a village school was burned down by the ELN near Sabanalarga. On 24 January 2009, the Antonia Santos School was damaged during an attack by FARC guerrillas on security checkpoints. On 14 May 2009, another bomb was exploded at the University of Technology, Pereira.371

Universities were reported to have been infiltrated by paramilitaries and guerrilla groups during the reporting period. On 15 November 2008, the rector of Colombia's largest university, the National University, Bogotá, said it had received 312 threats from paramilitaries, the latest of which was a letter from Águilas Negras (Black Eagles) declaring that 32 of the university's students were military targets. The paramilitaries said they were imposing a curfew from 6pm to 6am on the campus for those they suspected of being left-wing activists.372

Human rights violations against students increased dramatically over the three years, according to a joint report by the University and College Union, the NGO Justice for Colombia and the National Union of Students, all of the UK.373 From 2006 to 2008 alone, 99 violations were recorded – more than the 93 violations recorded over two decades between 1985 and 2004. They included the assassination of 12 university students and the forced disappearance of another: on 14 June 2007, a 20-year-old student, Andres Felipe Villa Mesa, was taken away by six members of the DAS (intelligence service), which reports to the Colombian president, and has not been seen since. Another five students were killed in the first half of 2009.374

In the same period, 57 death threats were directed at individual student leaders or student organizations. Physical injury was caused in at least eight cases, as these threats were being made. In at least seven cases, students were forced to leave their universities. Diego Fernando Marin, the National Secretary of the ACEU (the largest student organization in Colombia) and student representative on the superior council of the National University of Colombia, was granted political asylum in Norway after a series of death threats against him. There were 20 incidents of students being detained without arrest warrants and subjected to physical abuse or in some cases torture. For instance, on 24 May 2007, Miguel Oswaldo Avellaneda Lizano, a student at the University of Los Llanos and a member of the Student Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, was detained, physically beaten, threatened and accused of being a guerrilla.375

Children were reportedly recruited by armed opposition groups FARC and ELN. A reported 200 children had not been demobilized by AUC and other paramilitary groups by the end of 2006. Child recruitment by FARC was recorded in eight departments. Girls were reportedly subjected to rape and forced abortion.376

A teacher was shot in front of her pupils in January 2006 in Tuluá, Valle, allegedly by FARC. Two adolescents were illegally arrested at their school in Trinidad, Casanare, by army personnel on 29 April 2006. The next day, the Brigade XVI military authorities produced their bodies and identified them as guerrillas killed in combat. On 7 March 2006, when army troops took up positions inside the Ecological School, Cuembí in Puerto Asís, Putumayo, FARC announced that they would attack it. On 12 July 2006 in Ricaurte, Narino, members of the No.3 Mechanized Cavalry Group seized 100 villagers in Cumbas and held them in a school for three days.377

According to War Child, 14,000 children were child soldiers in Colombia by 2007. About half the soldiers used by the two largest guerrilla groups, FARC and ELN, and in the paramilitaries were children. One in four was under the age of 15. Many child soldiers in Colombia appear to be recruited from schools. Some are kidnapped by armed groups who wait outside school buildings for students to leave at the end of the day.378

The UN Secretary-General reported in March 2009 that both FARC and ELN were recruiting child soldiers from school. In some cases, children were tortured or killed by these groups when they resisted recruitment or attempted to escape.379

According to the UN, illegal armed groups continued to attack or occupy schools for military purposes and target teachers from mid-September to the end of 2008. Schools were also often damaged as a result of military clashes between armed groups and the Armed Forces. For instance, in May 2008, two schools in Dagua Municipality, Valle del Cauca Department, were seriously damaged as a result of clashes between FARC and the national police and national army respectively.380 In June 2008, four teachers in Narino Department were abducted and killed by FARC, reportedly because they were suspected of being army informants. The UN had also verified information on the occupation of schools by the Armed Forces. For example, a school in Montana was occupied by troops, then attacked and seriously damaged by FARC on 13 June 2008.381

[Refworld note: The source report "Education under Attack 2010" was posted on the UNESCO website ( in pdf format, with country chapters run together. Original footnote numbers have been retained here.]

366 La Federacion Colombiana de Educadores (FECODE), "La Violacíon de Derechos Humanos No Ha Disminuido Con la Política de Seguridad Democrática," June 27, 2009.

367 Elver Herrera Arenas and Leydi Sanjuán, Informe Sobre las Violaciones a los Derechos Humanos de los y las Sindicalistas Colombianos en el Año 2007 (Medellin: Escuela Nacional Sindical (ENS), 2008).

368 OCHA, Colombia: Assassination of Non-unionized Teachers 2006-2008 (map, OCHA Colombia, December 31, 2008),$File/map17.pdf?OpenElement; and OCHA, Colombia: Assassination of Unionized Teachers 2006-2008 (map, OCHA Colombia, December 31, 2008),$File/map18.pdf?OpenElement.

369 Figures supplied by FECODE.

370 Figures supplied by ENS.

371 DAS data supplied by Observatorio del Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos (DDHH) y Derecho Internacional Humanitario (DIH), Vicepresidencia de la Republica de Colombia.

372 Adrian Alsema, "Paramilitaries Threaten University 312 Times," Colombia Reports, November 15, 2008, versity-312-times.html.

373 National Union of Students (NUS)/University and College Union (UCU)/Justice for Colombia (JFC), Colombia: Students in the Firing Line: A Report on Human Rights Abuses Suffered by Colombian University Students (2009).

374 Stephanie Peacock, "Colombia: Testimonies of Terror and Torture," May 4, 2009, http://www.

375 Ibid.

376 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia, E/CN.4/2005/10 (February 28, 2005); Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Violence and Discrimination against Women in the Armed Conflict in Colombia, OEA/Ser.L/V/II. Doc. 67, October 18, 2006; Defensoría del Pueblo/UNICEF, "Caracterización De Las Niñas, Niños, y Adolescentes Desvinculados De Los Grupos Armados Ilegales: Inserción Social y Productiva Desde Un Enfoque De Derechos Humanos," La Niñez y Sus Derechos Boletin 9 (Bogotá: Defensoría del Pueblo, November 2006); and United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia, A/HRC/4/48 (March 5, 2007); all as cited in Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008.

377 UNGA, Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia.

378 War Child, Child Soldiers: The Shadow of Their Existence (March 2007), 19.

379 UNSC, Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict (2009), 23.

380 Ibid., 24-5.

381 Ibid.

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