EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 23/90/94
UA 423/94 Fear for Safety/Possible Extrajudicial Execution 1 December 1994
COLOMBIA Rodrigo MONTES ROMERO, municipal councillor-elect
Fernando GOMEZ BARRIOS, aged 30
Further evidence has emerged from Ovejas region that members of the armed forces
are working in cooperation with paramilitary forces to kill civilians, and
has increased fears for the safety of opposition activists in the area. On
21 November 1994 municipal councillor-elect Rodrigo Montes Romero and Fernando
Gómez Barrios were shot dead in Ovejas by armed men, one of whom was reportedly
carrying documents suggesting close links with the security forces.
At 8.10pm on 21 November, seven armed men arrived on foot in the community
of La Peña, Ovejas, Sucre department, and went into a billiards hall opposite
the house of Rodrigo Montes Romero, member of the opposition party Corriente
de Renovación Socialista (CRS), Movement for Socialist Renewal. The armed
men lined up all those in the hall against a wall. They then separated Rodrigo
Montes and Fernando Gómez Barrios from the others and shot them dead.
As the gunmen left, one of them was shot by witnesses and later died of his
injuries. On his body were found various documents, including names and
addresses of members of paramilitary groups based in the nearby town of San
Pedro, names of "state agents", "agentes", and the name and telephone number
of an army major from the Batallón de Infantería de Marina No 5, Marina Infantry
Battalion No 5, based in Corozal, about 30 km from Ovejas.
On 22 November, during the burial of the three dead men, two trucks, reportedly
owned by the state security service DAS, Departamento Administrativo de
Seguridad, arrived. The occupants disinterred the body of the dead gunman
and took it with them, apparently with the cooperation of the Ovejas police.
Formerly an armed opposition group, the CRS signed a peace agreement with the
Colombian government in May 1994 and returned to civilian life. Since then,
a number of CRS members have been killed.
Despite repeated government pledges to protect human rights, members of the
Colombian and security forces together with their paramilitary allies continue
to commit serious abuses with virtual impunity. Many paramilitary groups have
their origins in the civilian "self-defence" squads which the army created
in the 1980s to act as auxiliaries during counter-insurgency operations. 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, who
assumed office on 7 August 1994, has made repeated promises, both during his
election campaign and since taking office, to improve the human rights
situation. His promises include a commitment to dismantle paramilitary forces.
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