EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 23/37/93
UA 191/93Extrajudicial execution/Torture and 15 June 1993
ill-treatment/Fear for safety
COLOMBIA: Gregorio NIEVES, his family and other members of the Arsario Indian
Amnesty International is concerned at the killing of Arsario Indian Gregorio Nieves and
the torture and ill-treatment of several members of the Arsario community by members of
the Colombian armed forces on 13 April 1993. Information concerning human rights violations
against the Arsario community has only now become available to Amnesty International due
to the remoteness of the region in which they live.
According to eye-witness testimony, a group of soldiers from the La Popa battalion, Batallón
La Popa, which is based in Valledupar, Cesar department, arrived at the Arsario community
of Marocazo, northern Colombia, on 13 April. The soldiers were believed to be in pursuit
of three armed individuals who had just been seen running across land where Gregorio Nieves
and three other Indians were working. The soldiers later stated that they were involved
in an operation to find a missing journalist, believed to have been kidnapped by guerrillas
operating in the area.
The soldiers, several of whom were hooded, ran across the land where the Indians were working,
firing at them, shouting, "those are guerrillas too - kill them" (esos también son
guerrilleros, mátenlos). Gregorio Nieves was wounded and all four were made to lay face
down on the ground. The Indians state that they were made to turn face up and that one
of the hooded men singled out Gregorio Nieves, saying, "that wounded one is the guerrilla"
(ese que está herido es el guerrillero). Gregorio Nieves was reportedly then shot through
the head by the soldiers at point blank range and his dead body kicked.
The other Indians state that they were then threatened, beaten with gun butts, kicked and
ordered to take the soldiers to the community's leaders. They also state that the soldiers
radioed for plastic bags which were then used to cover the Indians' heads, to cause a feeling
of suffocation. The soldiers demanded information as to the whereabouts of the kidnapped
journalist, the guerrillas and their weapons. Gregorio Nieves' wife, who witnessed the
killing, was also threatened with death, subjected to ill-treatment and accused of being
a guerrilla. Her home was reportedly ransacked by soldiers. Her sister-in-law, whom she
states was recuperating in the house after giving birth a still born child, was reportedly
forced out into the rain and made to wade across a river with the soldiers. She is now
Gregorio Nieves' wife reports that soldiers, at first unwilling to hand over his body to
her, returned and photographed a gun alongside the body, making it appear that he had died
in a confrontation with the army. In response to a request by the Arsario community to
buy a coffin for Gregorio Nieves in a nearby town, the soldiers are reported to have said,
"if you want to bury him, dig a hole and bury him there, or throw him into the river, it's
full enough" (si quieren enterrarlo háganlo, abran un hueco y entierrenlo ahí, o si no
héchenlo al rio que bastante agua lleva).