Document - Colombia: Apparent extrajudicial executions / fear for safety

EXTERNALAI Index: AMR 23/59/97


UA 261/97 Apparent extrajudicial executions / Fear for safety7 August 1997


COLOMBIALuis Alberto LOPERA MUNERA, human rights activist, teacher

Carlos Rojo URIBE, former mayor

Rosa MEJIA (f)

Ofelia RIVERA (f)

Jairo PEREZ

Alberto SILVA

And two others, names unknown



On 1 August 1997, members of a paramilitary group are reported to have extrajudicially executed eight people in the municipality of Remedios in the north-east department of Antioquia. The killings have raised deep concern for the safety of other civilians in Remedios and neighbouring communities, particularly local human rights activists.


Unidentified individuals wearing army-issue uniforms reportedly entered Remedios on 1 August, broke into several houses and abducted the people listed above. The detainees were then reportedly taken to the Remedios football ground where five of them were shot dead. Luis Alberto Lopera Munera and Carlos Rojo Uribe were allegedly taken to the outskirts of the Marmajito district of the neighbouring municipality of Segovia where they were tortured before being killed.


Luis Alberto Lopera Munera was a member of the Comité de Derechos Humanos del Nordeste Antioqueño, Human Rights Committee of Northeast Antioquia. In recent months, members of the Committee have fled Segovia and Remedios following death threats and serious human rights violations against other human rights workers. Carlos Rojo Uribe was a former mayor of Remedios.


The latest killings took place despite the fact that the area has a heavy military presence. In recent years, paramilitary groups operating with the support and under the coordination of the security forces have been responsible for numerous human rights violations against the inhabitants of Segovia, Remedios and neighbouring communities (see UA 241/95, AMR 23/63/95, 19 October 1995 and follow-ups). Paramilitary groups in the area have recently announced their intention to target those they consider to be guerrilla sympathizers or collaborators.


On 15 July 1997 a Consejo de seguridad, security council meeting, was held, attended by the Governor of Antioquia, other local authorities, the Ministers of Interior and Defence, human rights workers and trade union representatives. At the meeting, the authorities committed themselves to dismantling paramilitary groups operating in the northeast of Antioquia and to arresting paramilitary group members. The failure so far by the authorities to take effective action against the paramilitaries and those members of the security forces working with them, leaves the civilian population at serious risk of further human rights violations.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION


Over the past five years, several thousand civilians have been killed by paramilitary groups throughout the country. Although in 1989 the Colombian government suspended the legal base for the formation of paramilitary organizations and issued directives to the Colombian armed forces to combat and disband such groups, paramilitary forces have continued to kill and "disappear" perceived opponents with impunity in many areas of the country and continue to work with the support of the security forces. President Ernesto Samper Pizano has made repeated promises to improve the human rights situation and to dismantle paramilitary forces. However, no steps have been taken to control their actions and to hold members accountable for serious and widespread human rights violations.


RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail letters in SPANISH or your own language:

- urging that all appropriate measures be taken to guarantee the safety of the inhabitants of Remedios and Segovia, including members of the Comité de Derechos Humanos del Nordeste Antioqueño;

- calling for full and impartial investigations into the killings of those listed above (name some, if possible), for the results to be made public and those responsible to be brought to justice;

- calling for full and impartial investigations into links between the security forces and paramilitary groups operating in the northeast Antioquia, and for members of the security forces responsible for supporting such groups to be brought to justice;

- urging the authorities to take immediate action to dismantle paramilitary groups, in line with stated governmental commitments.


APPEALS TO:


Governor of Antioquia

Sr. Alvaro Uribe Velez

Gobernador del Departamento de Antioquia

Gobernación de Antioquia

Calle 42B, # 52-106

Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia

Fax: + 57 4 381 1342

Telegrams: Gobernador del Departamento, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia

Salutation: Sr. Gobernador/Dear Governor


Where possible, in appeals to the Governor, acknowledge that guerrilla forces in Colombia have violated international humanitarian law. Underline that such abuses can in no way justify human rights violations by the security forces and their paramilitary allies.


Minister of the Interior

Dr.Carlos Holmes Trujillo García

Ministro del Interior

Ministerio del Interior

Carrera 8, No.8-09, Piso 2

Santafé de Bogotá , COLOMBIA

Telegrams: Ministro del Interior Serpa, Bogota, Colombia

Telex: 45406 MINGO CO

Fax: + 57 1 281 5884/286 6524/286 0405

Salutation:Sr. Ministro/Dear Minister


Minister of Defence

Dr.Gilberto Echeverri Mejía

Ministro de Defensa Nacional

Ministerio de Defensa Nacional

Avenida Eldorado CAN - Carrera 52

Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia

Telegrams: Ministro de Defensa, Bogotá, Colombia

Telexes: 42411 INPRE CO; 44561 CFAC CO

Salutation: Sr. Ministro/Dear Minister


COPIES TO:


Alternative Legal Association

SEMBRAR, AA 34692, Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia.


and to diplomatic representatives of Colombia accredited to your country.


Human rights violations against the civilian population of Segovia and Remedios have been brought to the attention of several governments. It would be helpful to express your concern at the events related above to your own government and to your local political representatives, urging them to use their good offices to urge in turn that the Colombian authorities take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of civilians in these areas, to ensure that immediate action is taken to dismantle paramilitary groups operating in the region, and to bring those responsible for human rights violations to justice.


PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 20 September 1997.

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