Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Colombia

Summary executions

Assassinations/attempted assassination of trade unionists39

Attack on Mr. Alirio Rueda.40 On 12th January 2003, Mr. Alirio Rueda, chairman of the Oil Industry Workers Trade Union (USO) in Barrancabermeja, escaped gunfire shots when in a vehicle travelling from Bucamaranga to the oil port. At Patio Bonito, 80 kilometres from Barrancabermeja, paramilitaries had placed a roadblock but the occupiers of the vehicle decided not to stop. The paramilitaries fired at the vehicle but nobody was hurt.

Assassination of Mr. Juan Antonio Bohorquez Medina.41 On 20th February 2003, on the road running between Alban and Bituima, in the department of Cundinamarca, the Trade Union leader of Bituima, Mr. Juan Antonio Bohorquez Medina, a member of the Union of the Federation of Teachers of Colombia (FECODE-CUT) was kidnapped. His body was found in the Alban jurisdiction where he worked.

Assault on Mr. Elber Alberto Granja.42 On 20th February 2003, Mr. Elber Alberto Granja, former chairman of the SINTRAMUNICIPIO workers union and head of the Vijes Action Council, in the department of Cauca, escaped from an assault when he was in his garden. An armed individual fired on him from the street, but a young person passing by disturbed him. Mr. Alberto Granja immediately lay on the ground and was able to escape unharmed.

Assassination of Mr. Marco Tulio Diaz.43 On 15th June 2003, Mr. Marco Tulio Diaz, former Chairman of the Workers Trade Union (USO) in Tibù and chairman of the National Association of Pensioners of the Colombian Oil Industry (ECOPETROL), was assassinated in his mother's home. His brother was seriously wounded. Mr. Marco Tulio Diaz had worked for more than twenty years for ECOPETROL.

Assassination of Mr. Alberto Marquez.44 On 15th July 2003, Mr. Alberto Marquez, member and leader of the Tolima Agricultural Workers Union (SINTRAGRITOL) and of the Association of Indigenous Leaders of Tolima (ACIT) was assassinated along with his body-guard, Mr. Nelson Castiblanco, in Natagaima, by the Tolima paramilitary group. Mr. Alberto Marquez had received many death threats from paramilitary groups in the region which forced him to be constantly on the move with his family. He earned recognition for his work on behalf of the indigenous and peasant rural population.

Assassination of Mrs. Zuly Codina Pérez.45 On 12th November 2003, Mrs. Zuly Esther Codina Perez, national leader of the Health and Social Security Trade Union (SINDESS), was assassinated in Santa Marta, in the Magdalena department, on her way to her work at the Santa Maria Central Hospital.

Assassination of Mr. Carlos de la Rosa Elles.46 On 30th November 2003, Mr. Carlos de la Rosa Elles, treasurer of the Atlantic Transport Undertaking Workers Trade Union (SINTRAATLANTICO), affiliated to the CUT, was assassinated in Barranquilla. This assassination should be placed in the context of a conflict of recognition between the trade union and the Atlantic Transport Company.

Assassination of Mr. Severo Bastos.47 On 14th December 2003, Mr. Severo Bastos, former employee of the Colombian Institute for Agrarian Reform (INCORA), member of SINTRADIN, the trade union of the employees of said institute, Arauca section, of which he was the alternate representative, was assassinated by heavily armed hired assassins, in the town of Rosario, Norte de Santander, a place he had been living in for some time. The employees of this trade union are particularly under threat. On 16th November 2003; Mr. Mario Sierra, alternate treasurer of this trade union was assassinated. In 2002 and 2003, Messrs. Rodrigo Gambos, Jairo Vera Arias and Mario Sierra Anaya, directors of the SINTRADIN sector were also assassinated.

Assassination of representatives of civil society.

Assassination of Mrs. Miryam Castano de Caldono.48 On 24th January 2003, Mrs. Miryam Castano de Caldono, leader of the peasants' association "The Conquest" was assassinated in Cajibio, Cauca department. She was active in promoting human rights and had taken part in training courses organized in the region by Justice and Peace. After taking one of the children who lived in her house, three armed men got onto her plot of land and shot at her five times.

Assassination of Mr. José Absalo Achury.49 On 11th May 2003, after having received telephone threats related to his work as an attorney, Mr. José Absalo Achury, defender of political prisoners in Colombia left Bogotá for the estate of members of his family in Granada, in the Meta Department. He stayed there until 15th May 2003 practicing his profession. On 16th May, Mr. Absalo Achury went to a friend's house to attend a meeting. On returning home, he was approached by six men travelling in a van and on two motorbikes. After stabbing him several times, these men broke into his car and took it to the road that leads to San Martin. There was no news of Mr. José Absalo Achury, from the 16th, the day he disappeared, until 28th May when his body was found in the rural area of San Juan de Arama. His body bore traces of torture and of bullet wounds to the head. This case has been passed to the department of human rights in Bogotá and to the Villaviciencio Support Unit. As of the end of December 2003, the enquiry had produced no results.

Assassination of Mr. Jairo Roberto Moncaya Pascuaza.50 On 16th September 2003, Mr. Jairo Roberto Moncayo Pascuaza, leader of the student movement and member of the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CPDH, Comité Permanente de Defensa de Derechos Humanos) in Nariño, was assassinated in Pasto, by two men on a moped. Mr. Moncayo Pascuaza figured on the programme of the Ministry of the Interior for the protection of trade unionists, social leaders and human rights defenders. He worked with communities who had been forcibly displaced and took part in projects to strengthen and support human rights in particular in cooperation with the Vice-President of the Republic, Redepaz and the Ombudsman.

Assassination of Mrs. Esperanza Amaris Miranda.51 On 16th October 2003, about 7.30 p.m., three armed paramilitaries in a public service vehicle arrived in front of Mrs. Esperanza Amaris Miranda's domicile in the Versalles district. After having intimidated her, they forced her to get into the vehicle. Five minutes later she was shot down opposite the Camilo Torres Restrepo school and her body was thrown out onto the road. Mrs. Amaris Miranda was a member of the team of the Women's House of the Popular Women's Organization (OFP, Organización Femenina Popular) located in the Primero de Mayo district of Barrancabermeja. She had lodged a complaint with the judge's office concerning threats made against her by paramilitary groups. According to the information obtained in December 2003 on the enquiry, only the driver of the public service vehicle, in which Mrs. Amaris Miranda was abducted, has been arrested. Furthermore, following threats directed at Mrs. Amaris Miranda's family, her children have been moved to another region. The OFP informed the judge of these threats.

Assassination of an indigenous leader.52 On 12th August 2003, Mr. Reinaldo Perdomo, a human rights defender from Ariari and a community leader in the region, was assassinated by an armed man who shot him three times in the head. Mr. Perdomo had been displaced since 2002 because of military action in Ariari.

Arbitrary Detentions

Arbitrary detentions of trade unionists

Arbitrary detention of Mr. Policarpo Camacho and Mrs. Gloria Holguin.53 On 8th January 2003, Mr. Policarpo Camacho and Mrs. Gloria Holquin, leaders of the Agricultural and Animal Rearing Unitary Trade Union Federation (FENSUAGRO), were detained in Calacarà, Quindio department, after their flat had been searched. In the course of the search, copies of the weekly newspaper VOZ, trade union newsletters and other documents related to their trade union work were stolen. Since then they have been in custody in the Armenia district.

Arbitrary detention of Mr. Hernando Hernandez.54 On January 15th 2003, the office of the judge general of the Nation issued an arrest warrant for suspected links with the guerrilla for Mr. Hernando Hernandez, International Affairs Secretary of the Workers Trade Unions (USO).

Arbitrary detention of Mr. Hermes Vallejo Jímenez.55 On 12th August 2003, Mr. Hermes Vallejo Jímenez, a member of the Association of small and medium sized Tolima farmers (ASOPEMA), was arrested in Bogotá. As of the end of December 2003, Mr. Vallejo Jímenez is being held in Picalena de Ibague prison.

Arbitrary detention of leaders and members of FENSUAGRO.56 On 17th August 2003, several members and leaders of the Trade Union Federation FENSUAGRO were arrested in Chalàn, Colosò and Ovejas in the department of Sucre during an operation conducted jointly by the police, the marine infantry and the judge's office which involved arresting 156 people.

Arbitrary detention of several trade unionists.57 On 21st August 2003, during a military operation, hundreds of soldiers and police officers from the Administrative Security Department (DAS) and the Public Prosecutor, accompanied by masked individuals, entered dozens of houses in Saravena (Arauca), and proceeded to detain 42 persons, 28 of whom were still in prison on 27th August. At least 16 human rights defenders, reporters and leaders of social movements were arrested including: Mr. José Murillo Tobo, Chairman of the "Joel Sierra" Human Rights Regional Committee in Arauca58; Mr. Alonso Campino Bedoya, leader of the Central United Organisation of Colombian Workers (CUT), Arauca section and member of the "Joel Sierra" Human Rights Regional Committee. Both were entitled to protection under the measures adopted by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission; Mr. Willian Jímenez, leader of the Public Workers Union of the district (SIDEM); Mrs. Blanca Segura, Chairman of the National Trade Union of Education Workers (SINTRENAL) and Mr. Jairo Machado Durán, chairman of the Community Action Council of the Libertadores de Saravena district.

Arbitrary detention of Mrs. Amparo Arciniegas.59 On 24th August 2003, Mrs. Amparo Arciniegas, secretary general of the Tolima section of the Agricultural Workers Trade Unions (SINTRAGRICOL) was detained in the Tolima department, during a military operation which took place in the Coello, Cajamarca and Anaime districts when 58 persons were arrested including a number of social and trade union leaders.

Arbitrary detention of Mr. Rudy Robles Rivero.60 On 14th October 2003, Mr. Rudy Robles Rivero, secretary general of the Agricultural Workers Union (SINDEAGRICULTORES) was arbitrarily detained in Colosó, department of Sucre. In December 2003, he was still in the Vega prison, in Sincelejo, in Sucre. On 15th September 2002, Mr. Robles had already been arrested by the army in the department of Sucre, in the Chalàn municipality.61 Furthermore, on 23rd October 2003, Mrs. Yorman Rodriguez, wife of Mr. Rudy Robles Rivero, was stopped and questioned by the police between Tolù Viejo and Colosò. During lengthy questioning, the police officers attempted to sexually abuse her, and physically and psychologically illtreated her and insisted that she "cooperate with the authorities". They kept the mobile phone she had on her and which had been given to her husband Mr. Ruddy Robles Rivero, under the Ministry of the Interior protection programme for social leaders. On 28th July 2003, Mr. Rudy Robles had read a report on the human rights situation in the Montes de María region in front of the "verification commission" composed of non-governmental organizations, Government and United Nation's representatives.

Arbitrary detention of Mr. Eduardo Hernández Cabrera.62 On 14th October 2003, Mr. Eduardo Hernández Cabrera, trade union leader of public enterprises in the Espinal district of the department of Tolima, disappeared. Mr. Eduardo Hernández Cabrera was approached by strangers who were apparently members of the Unified Action Group for Personal Freedom (GAULA), composed of Administrative Security Department (DAS) agents, of the Technical Enquiry Corps (CTI), the judge's office and the military forces to prevent and fight kidnappings. In November 2003, it was established that he was being held at the Ibague prison. The same day, in Villavicencio, in the department of Meta, his sister, Mrs. Rocío del Pilar Hernández Cabrera was also detained.

Arbitrary detentions and accusations against members of civil society

Arbitrary detention of the chair of the CPDH, Arauca section.63 On 3rd March 2003, Mrs. Teresa Cedeño Galíndez, chairperson of the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human rights (CPDH, Comité Permanente de Defensa de Derechos Humanos) and member of the "Eduardo Umaña Mendoza" National Association of Attorney Defenders was arrested in Bogotá and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by members of the national police force. The national police issued an arrest warrant against her based on the "state of emergency" clauses enshrined in the new police code, whereby a person may be detained for 24 hours. Mrs. Cedeño had protested against acts carried out by the national police which fall within the powers of the Technical Enquiry Corps (CTI).

On 4th March 2003, Mrs. Cedeño was released after strong pressure from members of her family, human rights organizations, civil servants from the Vice Presidency of the national police, the United Nations and other bodies. On 30th July 2003, Mrs. Cedeño was again arrested in Bogotá and charged with "procedural fraud".

Up to 1st August 2003, the defence had not been informed of the precise charges being pressed against the lawyer, nor the facts which gave rise to the charges. Several hours before her arrest, Mrs. Cedeño had gone to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make a speech before representatives of the Colombian State in charge of implementing protection measures. In her address, she had denounced the persecution of lawyers defending human rights in the department of Arauca by members of the Support Unit of the judge of the Nation's office, military commands and security bodies.

On 1st August 2003, the lawyer was taken into hospital. On 2nd August, she was transferred to the "El buen pastor" national women's prison. On 6th August 2003, the judge's office issued confirmation of the charges against Mrs. Cedeño and ruled that she could be released on bail on 8th August. As of the end of 2003, Mrs. Cedeño's case is pending.

On 29th October 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had decided to grant Mrs. Cedeño protection measures, in the light of the constant threats which she had been subjected to by the paramilitaries in her region who accuse her of defending guerrilleros.

Arbitrary detentions of an OZIP leader.64 On 26th September 2003, during a highly mediatized military operation, Mr. Arcadio Mutumbajoy, Vice-chairman of the Indigenous Organization of the Putamayo Area (OZIP, Organización Zonal Indígena de Putamayo) and 18 other indigenous people and peasants, accused of being members of the guerrilla forces (FARC, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), were arrested. Before he was detained, Mr. Arcadio Mutumbajoy had learned that he was on the list of persons charged, and hence he decided to immediately report to the judge's office in Mocoa, where he received assurances that no procedure had been instigated against him. Previously, Mr. Mutumbajoy had been threatened by the FARC who had accused him of being a military informer.

Arbitrary detention of members of the "Joel Sierra" Human Rights Regional Committee's Foundation and other defenders.65 On 21st August 2003, in the framework of a military's operation during which dozens of inhabited houses in the Saravena municipality were "burgled" by some army members, members of the police of the Security Administrative Department (DAS), and of the "Public Prosecutor's Office", Mr. José Murillo Tobo, Chairman of the "Joel Sierra" Human Rights Regional Committee's Foundation was, among others, detained. Mr. Murillo is entitled to protection under the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In another raid, on 12nd December 2003, around 5.30 p.m. several police officers entered the "Joel Sierra" Human Rights Regional Committee's Foundation and other social organizations to carry out what they termed an "optional search" at the time a workshop on human rights within the framework of the Training School, sponsored by the "José Alvear Restrepo" Lawyers Collective was underway. Those present reportedly refused to give access to the police as they had no search warrant.

Later, around 7 p.m. an undetermined number of policemen led by Captain Buitrago returned to the building and entered the premises without a warrant, but under the pretext that they had spotted some riots coming from the Foundation building to the Police station nearby. Alleging in fragante delicto they immediately arrested everyone present. Amongst the prisoners was Mr. Yilson Torres, Chairman of the "Joel Sierra" Human Rights Regional Committee's Foundation and Mr. Isnaldo Gonzàlez, the Vice President of the same Committee and Mr. Andrés Rivera, an assistant to the Lawyers' Collective pedagogical team; Mssrs Beimar Martínez, Emmanuel Riveros, Arnulto Duarte, Luis Parmenio Gonzàlez, members of various sections of the "Joel Sierra" Foundation.

During the detention period, Captain Buitrago adopted a threatening and offensive attitude towards all the people held, in particular to the co-ordinator of the pedagogical team and lawyer of the Group. He demanded her identity papers and then copied the details saying that "it was to keep him informed" and added that "this was the way he treated those who defended that kind of cause and that previous evidence existed against the organization".

Later, the prisoners were transferred to the Saravena police station, where until 10 p m. the same day they were denied their right to legal assistance, even though a defence lawyer was pressing for an interview. Eventually, at 11.30 p.m., all the prisoners were allegedly released.

Accusations against members of the Justice and Peace Commission.66 On 21st August 2003, the general commandant of the military armed forces, Mr. Jorge Enrique Mora Rangel, called a press conference during which he accused the members of the Justice and Peace Commission (CJP, Comisión Justicia y Paz) of a breach of trust and the setting up of illegal groups, qualifying the Cacarica communities "FARC concentration camps administrated by an NGO called Justice and Peace". Subsequently, it was found that there were four criminal proceedings against the CJP, including two for the crime of rebellion, one for setting-up terrorist groups and another for breach of trust.

These complaints listed 15 members of the Cacarica Community Coordination and 5 members of Justice and Peace: Messrs. Danilo Rueda, Daniel Vàsquez, Ana Marià Lozano, Enrique Chimonja and Abilio Pena. At the end of 2003, the persons named were freed. However, it is feared that they may be the victims of attacks given the grave accusations made against them. These proceedings rest solely on unsubstantiated evidence. Some of the witnesses involved have admitted receiving money for their testimonies.

The CJP was subject to legal proceedings in 1997 and 1999 for the presumed offence of libel and slander. Similarly, the headquarters of the CJP in Bogotá was searched in 1998. Its members received death threats on several occasions and one of them, Mr. Danilo Rueda, was followed and escaped abduction in 2002.67

These threats and accusations may well be linked to the large volume of legal work done by the CJP in the region. Indeed, the CJP is involved in the trial of the Maderas del Darién firm which is accused of illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Cacarica river basin, and has entered a claim for damages in a number of trials against military men presumed responsible for grave violations of human rights, like General Rito Alejo de Rio. As regards the first case, the Constitutional Court, in its ruling T-955/2003 of December 2003, ruled that the rights to diversity, cultural identity, property, participation and subsistence of the black communities of Caracarica are mandatory.

General Mora Rangel's statements were taken up in the press and through various media they contributed in stigmatising and discrediting the CJP both nationally and internationally. It is important to underline that an article which appeared in the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, dated 14th November 2003, accuses members of the CJP of collaborating with the FARC.

The Justice and Peace Commission which works on the self-determination Communities project, life and dignity (CAVIDA, Comunidades de Autodeterminación Vida y Dignidad), is composed of religious people from the Catholic and other churches and lay missionaries. That NGO provides a presence and ongoing support to the communities of long displaced persons who live in the Cacarica area, in particular in the camps known as "God's Hope" and "New Life".68

Since 13th May 2003, the XVII Army Brigade has been undertaking a military operation to terrorize members of the "God's Hope" area and has already begun proceedings against their members without the latter having any defence rights. As part of this campaign, the military pressurizes the inhabitants of Turbo, Riosucio and Cacarica and offers rewards to those who testify against the Justice and Peace Commission.


Threats against trade unionists

Threats/Harassment against the CUT

Occupation of the offices of the CUT69 and threats against the leaders of the CUT in Cali.70 On 10th January 2003, the officers of the Administrative Security Department (DAS) and of the Department of the Public Prosecutor occupied the offices of the Central United Organisation of Colombian Workers (CUT) in Cali.

On 12th March 2003, at a public hearing in Cali on impunity and failure to dismantle municipal enterprises of Cali (EMCALI, Empresas Municipales de Cali), department of the Cauca Valley, members of Brigade III disarmed the body-guards of the trade union leaders present and immobilized their vehicles. Without any explanation, a number of them were thus left unprotected like Mr. Otoniel Ramírez, chairman of the sub-department of the CUT in the region and Mr. Ariel Díaz, an official of the same entity and in charge of human rights. The military said that they were obeying orders from superiors and that the State authorities have never provided any explanation as to this behaviour.

Insecure position of Mr. Domingo Tovar Arrieta71 and threats against the National Executive Committee of the CUT.72 On 28th February 2003, in a letter addressed to the State authorities, Mr. Domingo Tova Arrieta, a member of the National Executive Committee of the CUT and Director of the Human Rights Department who enjoyed the protection measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), reported the shortcomings of the Ministry of the Interior's Protection Programme for Trade Union Leaders and Human Rights Defenders. As a sign of protest and so as to make the Colombian State responsible for what might happen to him, he announced that he was returning the bullet-proof vehicle and foregoing the body-guards.

Because of his high risk situation, Mr. Tovar had been provided with a bullet-proof car and four armed bodyguards but the transport manager of the Administrative Security Department (DAS) had notified him that he would no longer be supplied with fuel for the vehicle which was supposed to protect him.

On 30th October 2003, Mr. Tovar Arrieta received an anonymous call telling him he would pay for the "loss of the referendum" with his life.73 He had indeed taken a very active part in the active abstention campaign in the 26th October 2003 referendum.

On 29th April 2003, the CUT received an e-mail which threatened the National Executive Committee signed "Honest Colombian politicians". This mail was probably prompted by CUT's work to defend and protect its members whose lives are under threat.

Death threats against members of the USO74

On 6th May 2003, the Workers' Trade Unions (USO) received an email signed by paramilitary leader Mr. Carlos Castaño, which accused the Union leaders of having links with subversive organizations and declaring that they were a military target. This threat included the leaders' children.

On 15th August 2003, the USO workers found at the headquarters of the Organization in Barrancabermeja a letter of condolence referring to Messrs. Mauricio Alvarez, Victor Jaimes, Juvencio Seija and Elkin Menco which contained the following message: "M.D.U. the armed Group M.D.U. (death to the USO leaders), confident of the decision taken after having carefully studied the USO leaders has ordered the killing of the first martyrs on our list: Messrs. Mauricio Alvarez, Victor Jaimes, Juvencio Seija and Elkin Menco. 14th August 2003".

These threats were made during the negotiation of the collective agreement submitted by the USO Union to the Colombian Public Oil Undertaking (ECOPETROL) which gave rise to the militarisation of the Cartagena and Barracabermeja refineries.

Harassment of members of the SINALTRAINAL

Accusations against members of SINALTRAINAL.75 On 6th August 2003, the prosecuror of section 61 charged Messrs. Luis Javier Correa Suárez, Jorge Humberto Leal, Juan Carlos Galvis, Luis Eduardo García, Alvaro González, José Domingo Flórez and Edgar Alberto Páez Melo, leading members of the National Food Industry Trade Union (SINALTRAINAL) with slander and libel. The ruling was made following a complaint lodged by PANAMCO Colombia S.A. and by the Santander bottling plant (which bottles Coca Cola in Colombia).

Attempted assassination and threats against Mr. Juan Carlos Galvis and assassination of a member of his family.76 On 22nd August 2003, Mr. Juan Carlos Galvis, chairman of the CUT in Barrancabermeja and Vice chairman of SINALTRAINAL, was the victim of an attempted assassination as he left the headquarters of his trade union at Barrancabermeja. Individuals aimed their guns at the Ministry of the Interior's protected vehicle in which Mr. Galvis was travelling and forced it to stop. The body-guards showed their official papers with details of their registration with the Administrative Security Department (DAS). Despite that, these individuals opened fire before escaping.

On 25th August 2003, the Communist party adviser, Mr. David Ravelo Crespo received an anonymous death threat call and was informed that while Mr. Galvis had got away this time, next time he would not escape.

Recently, on 4th November 2003, Mr. Galvis received a number of telephone calls at his domicile. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adopted protection measures for Mr. Galvis.

On 3th December, about 9 p.m. in the Bosque de la Tira district of the town of Barrancabermeja, two unknown men arrived by foot at the domicile of Mr. Jesús Rojas Castañeda, the brother of Mrs. Jacqueline Rojas, Chairman of the Popular Women's Organization "OFP", partner of Mr. Juan Carlos Galvis, and member and militant of the Association of Municipal Educators (ASDEM). They asked for him and when he was on his way out they shot him dead in the presence of his partner. It would seem that this crime was related to a dispute between Panamco Colombia S.A., the Santander S.A Bottling plant (the Colombia Coca Cola bottling plant) and SINTRAINAL.

Kidnapping and ill-treatment of the son of a SINALTRAINAL leader.77 On 10th September 2003, at 1 p.m., David José Carranza Calle, aged 15, son of Mr. Limberto Carranza, director of SINALTRAINAL and an employee of Coca-Cola in Barranquilla (Department of Atlantico) was brutally approached by four unknown individuals wearing hoods on Boulevard Simòn Bolívar (La Esmeralda shop) in Barranquilla. The four men forced David José Carranza Calle to get off his bicycle and forcibly threw him in a white van. They drove off, tortured and threatened him and demanded to know the whereabouts of his father, Mr. Limberto Carranza. At 4.30 p.m. the same day, they dumped him at Canón de la Ahuyama where he was found by a passer-by who took him to the police station.

At the time of the abduction, Mr. Limberto Carranza received a telephone call saying: "trade unionist, son of a bitch, we'll see you off and if not you, your house".

Subsequently, complaint number 2705 was lodged with the Department of the Public Prosecutor 16, Law 30/86 on public security, under number 166873.

Harassment of Mr. José Onofre Esquivel Luna.78 On 22nd October 2003, Mr. José Onofre Esquivel Luna, member of the Management Committee of SINALTRAINAL, Bulagrande section, was a victim of harassment. Two individuals driving a motorbike with no registration plates attended his domicile claiming to come from the judge's office.

On 28th October 2003, two individuals claiming to be officers from the metropolitan police of Santafé de Bogotá (SIPOL) came to his place of work and asked where he was. After checking with the judge's office, it was ascertained that no such order had been issued. Several days before the events, the name of Mr. Esquivel Luna had been included in a communiqué of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC, Autodefensa Unidas de Colombia) which designated him as a military target.

Threats against Mr. Herberth Suarez.79 On 30th October 2003, Mr. Heberth Suarez, Chairman of SINALTRAINAL, Cali section, received threats by telephone with the following message: "Tell this son of a bitch trade unionist that we are going to kill him". Previously, Mr. Suarez had been subject to intimidation. In September 2003, an individual claiming to be a special agent sent from Bogotá by the government, had warned him saying that he should take great care in the town of Padrera because "it was full of paramilitaries".

Harassment of members of the SINTRAUNICOL

Death threats against Mr. Alvaro Enrique Villamizar Mogollón.80 On 25th February 2003, a communiqué from the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) circulated in the Industrial University of Santander (UIS) in which several persons were designated as "military targets" included the Chairman of the University Employees Union of Colombia (SINTRAUNICOL) Sub-management Unit of Bucaramanga, Mr. Alvaro Enrique Villamizar Mogollón. In the same communiqué, the AUC also declared that student representatives were also military targets. Mauricio Rivera and Juan Lozano, members of the higher and academic councils of the University, Mrs. Rosmerlin Estupinàn, member of the Executive Committee of the Colombian Association of University Students (ACEU), as well as other students, Messrs. Mauricio Pinto and Príncipe Gabriel González.

Abduction of Mrs. Bessy Pertuz.81 On 30th September 2003, as she was leaving the National University of Colombia in Bogotá and was walking towards a taxi, Mrs. Bessy Pertuz, vice chairperson of SINTRAUNICOL, was abducted. For two hours she was driven round the town and advised to cease all trade union activity. Finally, she was left in a southern district of the town. Her mobile phone and floppy disks containing information on the activities of the trade union were confiscated.

Furthermore, since 26th September 2003, Mrs. Bessy Pertuz had received several telephone calls at her office from persons who did not speak or hung up as soon as they heard her voice. Mrs. Pertus is also part of a social support network to trade unionists and of the Human Rights Department of the CUT. She is also co-ordinator and creator of the Human rights teaching post at the Universities of the departments of Valle, Nacional, Atlàntico and Fusagasugà.

Threats against SINTRAUNICOL and other trade union organizations.82 On 26th November 2003, the national headquarters of the SINTRAUNICOL in Bogotá, received a letter dated 11th November, containing threats against the following organizations: ANTHOC, USO, UNEB, SINDESENA and SINTRAUNICOL. The text which invokes "military action" asserts that this action will hit all those who have been detected and warned: Mr. José Mùnera, Mr. Antonio Flòrez, Mr. Luis Otalvaro, Mrs. Elizabeth Montoya, Mr. Norberto Moreno, Mrs. Bessi Pertuz, Mr. Luis Ernesto Rodríguez, M. Alvaro Vélez, Mr. Mario Puerto, Mr. Alvaro Villamizar, Mr. Eduardo Camacho, Mr. Pedro Galeano, Mrs. Ana Milena Cobos, Messrs Carlos Gonzales and Alirel Díaz".

Threats against Mr. Walfredo Santoya García83

On 28th February 2003, the secretary of the trade union association of professors of the Popular University (ASPU, Asociaciòn Sindical de Profesores de la Universidad Popular), received a call asking him to tell the professor and treasurer of the association Mr. Walfredo Santoya García, to leave the union and that his days were numbered.

These threats should be taken seriously because on 22nd October 2001, the former chairman of the association, Mr. Miguel Angel Vargas Zapata and professor Luis José Mendoza Manjarrez, member of the National Management Council were assassinated. Mrs. Myriam Segura Molina, chairperson ad interim was forced into exile because of constant threats.

Threats, searches and discredit of NGOs

Campaign to discredit the work of human rights organizations conducted by the Colombian authorities84

On 10th April 2003, during a conference which took place in Washington under the auspices of the U.S. Army, Brigadier General, Mr. José Aruto Camelo, executive director of the department of military criminal justice accused human rights NGOs of waging a "legal war" against the military. He even asserted the NGOs were the friends of "subversion" and that they acted within the context of a strategy orchestrated by the guerrillas.

Similarly, the Colombian Ambassador to Portugal, Mr. Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza made on many occasions unsubstantiated claims against NGOs, and in particular against Human Rights Watch, the Colombian Jurists Commission and the "José Alvear Restrepo" Lawyers' Collective.

On 8th September 2003, during the Human Rights Week and on the occasion of the installation of the new commander of the air forces, President M. Alvaro Uribe placed human rights defence organizations in three categories: "theoretical" NGOs, "respectable" NGOs which deserve State protection and the "NGOs made up of writers and political schemers who in fact serve terrorism and who, in a cowardly fashion, hide behind the banner of human rights" and who thus should not qualify for State protection.

He went on to say that: "every time a security policy is put in place in Colombia to combat terrorism and that terrorists begin to feel weakened, they immediately send their spokesman forth to invoke human rights; They have no shame or limits. They publish books in Europe full of rumour and slander. They know that their only weapon is the slander they hypocritically conceal behind Human rights". "These individuals should realize that we are determined to fight against terrorism and its perpetrators and that one of our strategies aims to isolate the terrorists and that to that end we shall not waiver in arresting all those who become accomplices by commission or omissions". "When I began to combat terrorism as governor of my province (...) lawyers' groups, terrorist spokespersons, emerged either as such or in other guises. They were not combating terrorists, but only the will of the departmental government to put an end to their activities".

This address was made at a time when the President had come under severe criticism on his first year in office from the 80 NGOs which compose the "Colombian Development and Democracy Platform" in the book Authoritarian Bewitchment published on the same day as well as in a report issued by the UNDP (U.N. Development Programme).

It would seem that the President places these 80 NGOs in the third category of NGOs, "NGOs of writers and political schemers who in fact

serve terrorism and in a cowardly fashion hide behind the banner of human rights" and are the spokespersons for the terrorists. President Alvaro Uribe Vélez ended his address by urging the new commander of the armed forces to ignore human rights in vanquishing terrorism: "General Lezmez: You have become the Commander of the armed forces to vanquish terrorism. Do not allow the human rights traffickers you detain deceive you. May all the Colombian armed forces aid our great Nation to rid itself once and for all of this nightmare".

On 30th September 2003, President Alvaro Uribe Vélez made an address to the General Assembly in New York in which he drew the same distinction between good and bad NGOs and claimed "the State's right to refute biased reports". For his part, the Minister of Defence announced in Washington that the State "intended to look into the activities of thousands of organizations operating in Colombia". In the context of the previous statements and the tremendous insecurity that reigns in Colombia, such plans augur a growing criminalisation of the social sectors of the country.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed its concern about the President's statements. On 17th September, the Commission sent a letter requesting explanations from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Carolina Barco.

In the current circumstances, such statements constitute an incitement to violence. Thus, on 29th September 2003, in a communiqué headed "Why do dogs bark?", the United Self-defence Groups of Colombia (AUC) of the Bolivar Central Block, in turn, profited from these stands to criminalize several Colombian and foreign NGOs.

In the communiqué, the paramilitaries welcomed the Presidents attack on "some humanitarian bodies who seem to have chosen their camp in the conflict and for whom the only people guilty of Human rights violations are the sworn enemies of the communist guerrilla and those who fight against it". Inter alia, the AUC listed the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers' Collective, the Colombian Jurists Commission, the Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights (CREDHOS, Corporación Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos) and the Popular Women's Organisation (OFP). The communiqué also listed several international organizations accused of operating like "veritable consulates acting on behalf of the Colombian terrorist guerrilla".

Threats against a member of ASFADDES85

On 9th January 2003, a boy ostensibly sent by a paramilitary group active in the Medellín region, turned up at the domicile of Mrs. Maria Eugenia López, member of the Association of Families of Disappeared Prisoners in Colombia (ASFADDES, Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos), Medellín section, to invite her to an appointment with "Mr. Barney", a paramilitary well known in the region. Back on 24th December 2002, a man and a woman came to the domicile of Mrs. López but, finding no one at home, left. Mrs. López has often received threats from paramilitary groups. This time, she decided to leave Medellín.

Threats against several members of the OFP86

On 5th February 2003, the headquarters of the Popular Women's Organization (OFP, Organización Feminina Popular) hosted in Cantagallo, a meeting convened by the Ombudsman of Barrancabermeja and of Magdalena Medio to look into the threats received by the OFP from the paramilitaries in the Cantagallo district, where two female coordinators were threatened and harassed over the last two months. This meeting was attended by about fifty people from various bodies such as the Regional Ombudsman's Office, the townhall, the military and police authorities, two representatives from the UN High Commission on Human Rights, two representatives of the World Trade Union Federation, the National USO delegates, the Unitary Workers Union, the SINALTRAINAL, the International Peace Brigade, the German Delegation for Life and Peace, the Defence of Children International, the Magdalena Medio Development and Peace Programme, the Regional Corporation for the defence of Human rights (CREDHOS), the diocesan Life and Peace Comission, the Juanist sisters and the OFP district priest.

The meeting was interrupted by members of an armed group, apparently of paramilitaries, who left the premises thanks to an intervention on the part of the women and other participants at the meeting. However, they threatened to return in the evening to set fire to the premises of the OFP and to assassinate any leaders of the organization who happened to still be there. These threats were compounded with those already received by Mrs. Cleotilde Moròn, the new coordinator of the OFP in Cantagallo, Mrs. Yolanda Becerra, general coordinator of the OFP and Mrs. Jackeline Rojas coordinator in charge of the Cantagallo region. Despite these threats, the director of the OFP, announced that she would remain in office. On 10th May 2003, the paramilitaries ordered someone to go to the North West Women's House to tell the "bitch" Mrs. Yolanda Becerra "that she would get a headfull and that they were going to abduct twenty women from the OFP to shut them up".

On 26th May 2003, several men, under the orders of a paramilitary commander, arrived at Mrs. Graciela Afaro's home, member of the OFP and threatened her by saying that all the members of the OFP were members of the guerrilla. The OFP lodged a complaint with the judge but due to a lack of evidence the men are still at large.

On 29th May, a paramilitary who is well known in the Cerro district approached Mrs. María Emilse Alvarado, member of the OFP, and told her that she should "be careful because the paramilitaries have decided to kill several members of the OFP".

Search of Mr. Marco A. Nieves' domicile87

On 7th July 2003, a search without a warrant took place at the domicile of Mr. Marco A. Nieves, vice chairman of the Communal Action of the Doña Lilana district, legal representative and founder of the National Association of the Colombian Displaced (ANDESCOL, Asociaciòn Nacional de Desplazados Colombianos), located in Bogotá. The perpetrators were agents of the police intelligence unit (SIJIN, Sección de Intelligencia de la Policía), including agent Wilson Rico who was identified. During the search, ANDESCOL documents, documents of the communal action committee and of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) having to do with joint action were confiscated.

Harassment of a member of ANDAS88

On 19th November 2003, when on his way to the Magdalena Medio region with his family, Mr. Teófilo Rangel Ferreira, a member of the National Association of Solidarity Aid (ANDAS, Asociación Nacional de Ayuda Solidaria) was intercepted by paramilitaries. The paramilitaries detained his brother for hours.

Harassment of members of PBI89

On 9th December 2003, about 2.30 p.m., Mr. David Raboso, a Spanish national and Mrs. Dorotea Timmer, a Dutch national and volunteers of Peace Brigades International (PBI), were travelling in a vehicle clearly marked with the symbols of the organization and accompanied by a member of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community, when they were attacked by four heavily armed individuals wearing civilian clothes. In the course of the attack, two of the assailants aimed their guns at each member of the PBI and ordered them to get out of the vehicle. They forced them to hand over their mobile phones and the keys to the vehicle. The incident took place between Mangolo and Tierra Amarilla, a place already reported several times as a check point of the self-defence group and from where an economic blockade on the San José Peace Community has been run repeatedly over a long period.

Subsequently, the assailants forced the member of the Peace Community to get out of vehicle so as to talk to him. Faced with the insistence of the PBI members who explained to the armed men that they were in constant contact with the regional authorities, the assailants replied that "they knew all about that", that "it didn't matter much", and carried on insulting them. Finally, the armed men took the mobile phone away from the PBI and several million pesos which belonged to the Peace Community and which was intended for their community projects, as well as copies of the identity papers and bankbooks of some members of the community.

Since August 2003, the PBI organization has been the victim of declarations and harassment in the region of Urabá. During that month, the media screened videos on the population of the Cacarica communities asserting these were concentration camps in which national and international visitors, like members of the PBI, prevented State security bodies from freely moving around. Hence, members of the PBI and other international humanitarian organizations such as Médecins sans Frontières France and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees were described as colluding with the guerrilla.

Subsequently, on 14th November, the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal published an article in which the Cacarica and San José de Apartadó communities were described as the political arm of the insurgents supported by members of Amnesty International and the PBI. This article was translated into Spanish and distributed in the town of Turbo during a public demonstration on 21st November 2003.

On 22nd November 2003, acts of harassment were perpetrated against a member of the PBI of Spanish nationality, while he was travelling on a public service bus on the road between Turbo and Apartadó. On that occasion, two men who said they were members of the self defence group, questioned him about whether he was a member of the Police of the International Red Cross saying "here we are the ones who impose the law" and they ordered him to get off the bus at a place called "El Tres" in the Turbo community, because they wanted to talk to him. Faced with this situation, the volunteer said he was a member of PBI.

PBI-Colombia had sent a team to the Urabá region in July 1998, in response to requests made by the Inter-congregational Peace Commission (Comisión Intercongregacional de Paz) and the Research and Popular Education Centre (CINEP, Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular). Since then, the PBI team, in the context of its international mission, regularly visits the displaced populations of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community.90

Break-in at offices of the Woman's House Corporation91

At approximately 7.15 pm on 19th December 2003, four unknown armed men entered the offices of the Woman's House Corporation (CCM, Corporación Casa de la Mujer) in Bogotá, and forced Mrs. Emilce Marroquín, then pregnant, Mrs. Myriam Pérez and Mr. Richard Alarcón to lie on the floor under the armed surveillance of one of the intruders.

While the employees of the Woman's House Corporation were detained in this way, the other three intruders went directly to the second floor where the computer's hard disk (CPU or central processing unit) and terminals were located. They cut the telephone lines and removed five hard disks, containing information on the projects in which the Woman's House Corporation is involved, the organizations and women's leaders with whom the CCM works, the demonstrations in which they have taken part, database of national and international organizations with which the CCM has links, as well as accounting, financial and bank-related information.

Although there was other computer and communications equipment (printers, photocopiers, fax, laser, video) on the premises, only the CPUs and terminal were stolen.

The whole operation was over in just seven minutes. Once the intruders had left the CCM, the victims called the police from a public telephone and two police officers promptly appeared. However, the police officers failed officially to record the incident and they did not pursue an investigation based on the descriptions and the details which could have allowed the intruders to be identified and/or apprehended.

Threats against lawyers who support human rights

The criminalization of defence.92 In an environment where armed conflict and the violation of common law are frequent, Colombia's lawyers are among the most exposed on the planet. They are forced to endure an insidious and unpredictable round of intimidation, threats, harassment, lawsuits, disappearances, assassination, and more. Their vulnerability is exacerbated by the absence of any professional institution capable of offering them collective protection and of disseminating a culture of respect for the law and the rights of the defence. In this they are an almost unique case in the whole of Latin America, in that they have no professional order to represent them with regard to the authorities, regulate their activity, punish dereliction of professional integrity in a framework of mechanisms which ensure the independence of the defendant, and protect access to the defence which lawyers can provide. The legal profession and the right to practice law are regulated only by the high council for the judiciary, which is also responsible for promoting ethical practice and punishing unethical activity. The difficulties encountered by lawyers in enforcing respect for the mechanisms necessary for the exercise of the rights of the defence, and their own safety, are part of the stigmatization to which they are subject. The authorities, armed groups and certain sectors of society, especially the media, have no respect for the legal profession, and often are ignorant of the Basic Principles which underpin it. Article 18 of these principles, which states that the lawyer must not be identified with the case she or he is defending nor attacked for this reason, is largely unknown. All too often lawyers are the subject of threats, especially those who are defending persons indicted for their alleged participation in the armed conflict, or who accept cases related to the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict, and most notably leaders of the armed forces. Lawyers who defend trade union members or who are involved in lawsuits concerning land disputes are also subjected regular threats. Many lawyers have been driven into exile just to ensure their survival.

Threats against Mr. Denys Alberto Monsalve Garzón.93 Due to the threats he was subjected to, Mr. Denys Alberto Monsalve Garzón, a lawyer with the smallholder's association of Arauca (ACA, Asociación Campesina de Arauca), Saravena section, was forced to flee Saravena and remain in hiding for 8 days.

Nothing was heard of Mr. Denys Alberto Monsalve Garzón from 7th to 15th January 2003 after he had approached a taxi to go from Saravena to Pueblo Nuevo in Tame region. On his reappearance, Monsalve Garzón stated that he had learned that the paramilitaries were looking for him and he had been forced to flee. He had been receiving harassment from the Saravena police for some months, and had been arrested on several occasions and taken to the police station where he was accused of collaborating with the guerrilla forces and orchestrating "several crimes against the forces of order".

Threats against ACADEUM lawyers

Threats against Merrs. Waldir Sinisterra and Albert Hoyos Suárez.94 On 4th February 2003, Mr. Waldir Sinisterra and Mr. Albert Hoyos Suárez, lawyers with the Colombian defence lawyers association (ACADEUM, Asociación Colombiana de Abogados Defensores de Derechos Humanos Eduardo Umaña Mendoza), and their families received threats from the "Bloque Calima" of the United Self Defense forces of Colombia (AUC). Two individuals who identified themselves as belonging to the Calima group came to the lawyer's offices to make the threats. Sinisterra and Hoyos Suárez are known for their work in denouncing human rights violations by armed groups, and for their legal and humanitarian support of victims in Tulúa, Valle del Cauca province. This province lies in the heart of a region where peasants have been massacred and illegal executions have taken place continuously, with the security forces – army and police – making no effort to put an end to the crimes and bring those responsible to justice. Fearing for their safety, the two lawyers left town. On 26th March 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) invoked Article 25 of its constitution to press the Colombian government to take the necessary measures for protecting the right to live and the personal integrity of the two lawyers.

Threats against Mr. Daniel Ernesto Prado Albarracin.95 On 18th November 2003, on his return to his Bogotá office after an ACADEUM meeting, Mr. Daniel Ernesto Prado Albarracin, a legal adviser to ASFADDES, the Colombian association for the families of missing and imprisoned persons and a member of Colombian defence lawyers' association ACADEUM, found that a window had been broken – by gunfire, as he found a bullet on the floor. In the weeks leading up to 18th November, Mr. Prado had been followed by an unknown person and had received strange phone calls both at his office and his home. This was not the first time that Mr. Prado had been a victim of harassment, while the authorities to whom he had complained failed to take any action.

These threats against ACADEUM occured at a time when the association was involved, together with other legal and human rights organizations, in the national and international campaign for the free exercise of the legal profession and access to justice in Colombia. The campaign took its slogan, "without lawyers there is no justice", from the increase in persecution and threats faced by those working in the legal profession.96

Mr. Prado is entitled to protection under the interior ministry's programme for defending human rights, but has received no such protection in any tangible way, despite the dangers and threats with which he is constantly faced. ACADEUM and the "José Alvear Restrepo" Lawyers' Collective have canvassed the Inter – American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to order measures for the protection of Prado.

Assassination attempt and threats against CAJAR members

Assassination attempt and threats against Mrs. Soraya Gutiérrez Arguello.97 On 14th February 2003, Mrs. Soraya Gutiérrez Arguello, a lawyer with the "José Alvear Restrepo" Lawyers' Collective (CAJAR, Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo"), was intercepted by a vehicle from which several men armed with submachine guns emerged. Mrs. Gutiérrez managed to shake off her attackers but several shots were fired at the windscreen of her vehicle. In the days preceding the attack, Mrs. Gutiérrez Arguello had received anonymous phone calls to her home, consisting either of silence or macabre laughter. Mrs. Gutiérrez Arguello reported the incident to the national police and her vehicle was taken to the security authorities for ballistics tests.

On 20th February 2003, Mrs. Gutiérrez's housekeeper received three phone calls from a man asking where Mrs. Gutiérrez could be found.

On 3rd March 2003, a man phoned Gutiérrez's home and asked the housekeeper what time Mrs. Gutiérrez's daughter got home from school. A few minutes later, when the housekeeper left to get the girl from school, she realized she was being followed by a taxi. Having pulled up alongside, the taxi driver asked her if she was going to get Soraya's daughter. He then parked the taxi and got out. When the girl arrived, the taxi drove off.

On the same day, the porter of the apartment building where Mrs. Gutiérrez lives told her that a man who said he worked for Cablecentro had asked which apartment number she lived in. A check revealed that Cablecentro had not sent anyone to the address in question, and that all its technicians wear a uniform. This extremely worrying development was reported to the Judge of the Nation (Fiscaliá General de la Nación), who is responsible for investigating the harassment and threats to which CAJAR members are subjected. By December 2003, Mrs. Gutiérrez had still not been summoned to give testimony.

It would appear that the legal action carried out by Mrs. Gutiérrez on behalf of the communities of Bocayá department has inconvenienced the military hierarchy in the region, which would explain the threats she received.

Threats against Mrs. Adriana Cuéllar.98 On 24th November 2003, between 2.13 and 2.22 a.m., Mrs. Adriana Cuéllar, a journalist and communication officer with the action group, received three death threats on her telephone answering machine: "bigmouth... you're going to die, we're going to get your family...". On 25th November 2003, between 8.15 and 10.00 a.m., unknown individuals managed to get into her building and entered her apartment by forcing the lock. They rummaged through documents and stole a television and video but left other valuables (jewellery, appliances etc.). To these threats we can add that on 24th October, as she was walking with a lawyer from the action group, Mrs. Cuéllar was filmed and photographed by unknown individuals near the group's offices.99

The CAJAR action group is covered by the provisional measures prescribed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a result of the number of death threats received by its members, some of whom have even been forced into exile for their own protection.

Mr. Alirio Uribe Muñoz, chairman of CAJAR, received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in March 2003 for his work on behalf of victims and his efforts to combat the dangers which they face.

Threats against indigenous and rural community leaders

Threats against Mr. Enrique Pertuz.100 On 18th March 2003, Mr. Enrique Pertuz, who has denounced the rise in human rights violations in Arauca department since its classification as a rehabilitation zone, received a phone call from a person speaking on behalf of the AUC, who told him: "If you have the misfortune to run into a paramilitary roadblock you will be killed". Mr. Pertuz had previously issued numerous denunciations of the selective assassination of civilians in the region and the impunity with which these crimes are committed.

Threats against an indigenous leader.101 On 2nd July 2003 in Coyaima, Tolima department, a group of armed paramilitaries threatened Mr. Abelardo Tacuma, a member of the Chenche Zaragoza Centro indigenous council, warning him that if he did not leave the region he would pay with his life. Paramilitary groups make regular incursions into the indigenous villages of Coyaima, threatening the inhabitants and daubing AUC on the doors of houses and schools.

Persecution of the president of ACA.102 On 29th July 2003, Mrs. Luz Perly Córdoba, president of the Arauca rural association (ACA, Asociación Campesina de Arauca) was harassed by paramilitaries as she was leaving division 18 of the army in Arauca, after having made a two-hour declaration before the judge. The president of the ACA had been called to testify after the arrest of ACA lawyer Apolinar Herrera on charges of insurgency on 5th July.

Paramilitaries well-known in the region followed her by car. They were escorted by a national army vehicle, which provides clear testimony to the complicity between the armed forces and the paramilitary groups which infest Arauca region. These links have been constantly denounced by community associations and unions, and even by the inhabitants of the region.

Threats against Mr. Jorge Dicue.103 On 28th October 2003, Mr. Jorge Dicue, a co-ordinator with the advisory bureau for AIC beneficiaries of the health programme for indigenous leaders of Norte del Cauca (ACIN, Asociación de Cabildos Indógenas del Norte del Cauca), was threatened by telephone by a person who told him: "We give you four days to get out of here, otherwise we send the paramilitaries to shoot you full of lead". In the following days he continued to receive telephone threats. On 4th November, unidentified individuals entered Dicue's house and went through his papers. On 4th, 5th and 7th November 2003, anthropologist Mrs. Luz Angela Palacios, who works on the same institution's health programme, also received telephone threats against herself and her family.

Threats against civil servants involved in human rights protection

Safety concerns for members of the public prosecutor's office and the CTI.104 The human rights unit of Colombia's public prosecutor's office was founded in 1994. Its purpose is to combat impunity by acting as a specialist unit with specific expertise for investigating the more serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law within Colombian territory, with legal proceedings, after preparation, referred for judgement by the competent territorial jurisdictions. The members of the public prosecutor's office and the Technical Enquiry Corps (CTI) investigation committee who are involved in inquests into the actions of armed insurgents, and in particular the paramilitary groups and/or military hierarchy, find their personal safety seriously compromised. Justice activists who continue with their endeavours are exposed to threats which can take a variety of forms: the inclusion of their names on the blacklists of armed groups which regularly circulate in Colombia; threatening telephone calls; or the inclusion in legal cases undergoing preparation of alarming information on execution orders emanating from paramilitary group informers.

Public defenders.105 Public defenders defend people who cannot afford to pay a lawyer of their choice. The mechanism was implemented by the Colombian government to fulfil its obligations under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Public defenders are practising lawyers who sign service contracts of a set term with the State, under which they agree to take on a certain number of cases in exchange for a monthly wage of $ 600, minus a social security levy of around $ 50.

Until 2001 the contracts were for a term of one year. They were then shortened, which puts public defenders in an extremely precarious situation. They have not been paid since October 2002, on the grounds that the funds intended for their wages have run out. The State does not seem particularly concerned about this.

Martha Lucía Rentería threatened and harassed.106 In July, August and September 2003, Mrs. Martha Lucía Rentería, a human rights defender and a member of Citizen Watch107 from the municipality of Jamundí, in Valle Department, received threats and was harassed by men who followed her in a car on several occasions.

On 26th September 2002, two men had entered the regional office of the people's defender in Cauca Valley and demanded to know the whereabouts of Martha Lucía Rentería. When they received no answer from the staff at the reception, they entered the office of a senior civil servant and said to him in a threatening tone: "Don't worry. We'll find her today, wherever she is".

On 8th, 10th and 25th September 2003, several cars had followed Mrs. Rentería for a number of hours. Previously, on 10th August 2003, four men had followed her by car to downtown Cali and had called out her using her first name. They had opened all four doors of the car and had got out at the same time in an attempt to abduct or intimidate her. Mrs. Martha Lucía Rentería constantly receives calls on her mobile phone from different people who do not identify themselves but who demand to know who is speaking. On 29th September 2000, an attempt had already been made on her life in Jamundí. The investigation into the attack is in its preliminary phase.108

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

39. Incomplete list of serious cases where Trade Union leaders were involved.

40. See Colombia Special Appeal December 2002-January2003.

41. See Colombia Special Appeal February 2003.

42. See Colombia Special Appeal February 2003.

43. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003.

44. Idem.

45. Idem.

46. Idem.

47. See Urgent Appeal COL 009/1203/OBS 069.

48. See Colombia Special Appeal February 2003.

49. See Colombia Special Appeal May 2003.

50. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003.

51. See Urgent Appeal COL 006/1003/OBS 053.

52. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003 and Open Letter to President Alvaro Uribe of 2nd September 2003.

53. See Colombia Special Appeal December 2002-January 2003.

54. Idem.

55. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003 and Open Letter to President Alvaro Uribe of 2nd September 2003.

56. Idem.

57. Idem.

58. See below.

59. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003.

60. Idem.

61. See Annual Report 2002.

62. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003.

63. See Colombia Special Appeal March-April 2003 and Urgent Appeal COL 002/0803/0BS 037.

64. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003.

65. See Colombia Special Appeal June – November 2003, Open Letter to President Alvaro Uribe of 2nd September 2003 and Urgent Appeal 009/1203/OBS 069.

66. See Urgent Appeal COL 004/0903/OBS 046 and Annual Report 2002.

67. See Annual Report 2002.

68. The inhabitants of the camps were brutally removed from their lands in February 1997, during the "Genesis" operation led by the XVII Army Brigade, commanded by General Rito Alejo del Rio and supported by armed civilians (paramilitaries). This operation led to the exile to Panama, deportation to Bahia Cupica and the assassination and disappearance of more than 85 members of the communities.

69. See Colombia Special Appeal December 2002-January 2003.

70. See Colombia Special Appeal March-April 2003.

71. See Colombia Special Appeal February 2003 and June-November 2003.

72. See Colombia Special Appeal March-April 2003.

73. See Regional analysis.

74. See Colombia Special Appeal May 2003 and Urgent Appeal COL 003/0803/OBS 040.

75. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003.

76. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003 and Open Letter to President Alvaro Uribe of 2nd September 2003.

77. See Urgent Appeal COL 005/0903/OBS 047.

78. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003

79. Idem.

80. See Special Appeal February 2003.

81. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003.

82. Idem.

83. See Colombia Special Appeal February 2003.

84. See Press releases of 12th September 2003 and of 2nd October 2003 and Colombia Special Appeal March-April 2003.

85. See Colombia Special Appeal December 2002-January 2003

86. See Colombia Special Appeal February 2003 and May 2003.

87. See Colombia Special Appeal June-November 2003.

88. Idem.

89. See Urgent Appeal COL 010/120/OBS 070.

90. The San José Peace Community has been under constant harassment from paramilitaries, the guerrilla and the government army. From 1997, a year during which the population was declared a Peace Community, it began to undergo serious and systematic human rights violations such as massacres, selective killings, and later an economic blockade strategy in the form of verifications, thefts and illegal check points which have not ceased despite the intense militarization which is underway in the region. Because of this situation, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission has granted protection measures to that community.

91. See Urgent Appeal COL 011/1203/OBS 071.

92. See Joint International Investigation Mission Report by the Observatory and Avocats sans Frontières/France: Colombia: Administration of Justice or Impunity?, March 2003.

93. See Special Appeal Colombia, December 2002-January 2003.

94. See Special Appeal Colombia February 2003 and March 2003.

95. See Urgent Appeal COL 007/1103/OBS 064.

96. See Special Appeal Colombia May 2003.

97. See Special Appeal Colombia February 2003.

98. See Urgent Appeal COL 008/1103/OBS 065.

99. See Urgent Appeal COL 008/1103/OBS 065.

100. See Special Appeal Colombia March-April 2003.

101. See Special Appeal Colombia June-November 2003.

102. See Special Appeal Colombia June-November 2003.

103. Idem.

104. See Joint international investigation mission report by the Observatory and Avocats sans Frontières/France: Colombia: Administration of Justice or Impunity?, March 2003.

105. Idem.

106. See Special Appeal Colombia June-November 2003.

107. The Colombian institution "Citizen Watch" (veeduría ciudadana) is a group of citizens actively involved in monitoring State practices to ensure that they are transparent, comply with the legislation, achieve the outcomes announced, etc.

108. See Annual Report 2000.


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