PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 23/30/00
UA 108/00 Fear for Safety/Extrajudicial Execution 5 May 2000
COLOMBIAHuman rights defenders
Killed: Jesús Ramiro ZAPATA HOYOS, human rights defender
Human rights defender Jesús Ramiro Zapata Hoyos was abducted and killed by
gunmen on 3 May. Amnesty International is extremely concerned for the security
of other human rights defenders in the department of Antioquia.
Jesús Ramiro Zapata Hoyos was a leading member of the Comité de Derechos Humanos
del Nordeste (Northeastern Human Rights Committee) and the Colectivo de Derechos
Humanos Semillas de Libertad (Human Rights Collective, Seeds of Liberty), an
umbrella organisation of human rights NGOs.
He was apparently abducted from a bar in the municipality of Segovia, department
of Antioquia. The next morning an unidentified caller told his family to collect
the body from the outskirts of Segovia.
The day he was abducted Jesús Ramiro had reported to local authorities that:
“Del 15 de abril al viernes 28 han preguntado 8 veces por mí algunos paramilitares
nuevos que no me conocen”, “Between 15 and Friday 28 April new paramilitaries
in the area who do not know me have enquired about my whereabouts eight times”.
On 3 April 2000, a group of 500 paramilitaries had reportedly entered the
municipality of Segovia and the neighbouring municipality of Remedios and camped
in the area of Otu, in Remedios. A large number of troops are stationed in
the area, but did nothing to confront them.
The Segovia Human Rights Committee, a non-governmental human rights
organization, has played an important part in denouncing human rights violations
in the area, including a joint armed forces-paramilitary incursion in the town
of Segovia in April 1996 during which at least 17 people were killed or
“disappeared”. An army captain was convicted last year for his part in the
massacre in collaboration with paramilitary forces, after judicial
investigations. Human rights defenders and others who denounce human rights
violations and the strong links between the armed forces and paramilitary forces
have themselves been accused of human rights violations committed by the
security forces or their paramilitary allies.
Paramilitary groups have killed several thousand civilians over the past five
years, and the Colombian army and security forces and their paramilitary allies
continue to commit serious human rights violations with virtual impunity. The
Colombian government suspended the constitutional legal base for the formation
of paramilitary organizations and issued directives to the armed forces to
combat and disband such groups in 1989, yet they continue to work with the
support of the security forces in many areas of the country.
The security forces and their paramilitary allies have frequently labeled human
rights organizations as guerrilla collaborators or supporters, so they can
present them as legitimate targets in the counter-insurgency war. At least
25 human rights defenders have been killed or “disappeared” in the last three
years. Some armed opposition groups also refuse to respect the legitimacy and
independence of organisations which belong to civil society.
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