PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 23/29/98
UA 150/98 Fear for Safety 13 May 1998
COLOMBIAMembers of SINTRAMUNICIPIO-CARTAGO trade union and other municipal
Members of SINTRAMUNICIPIO-CARTAGO, Union of Municipal Workers of the
municipality of Cartago, department of Valle del Cauca, and other municipal
workers involved in industrial disputes for better working conditions and wages
have received death threats in recent weeks and could be in danger.
One death threat reads: "... no merecen nuestra consideración perros comunistas
mejor huir que morir no hay tiempo aplicaremos justicia para ejemplo", "...
you do not deserve our consideration communist dogs - better flee than die
- there is no time left for you - we will impose justice as an example". It
was signed by a paramilitary group calling itself COOPROSEG, an apparent acronym
the meaning of which is unknown.
Trade unionists who reported the threats to the police were reportedly told
by the Cartago police commander that "... cualquier cosa que suceda en la ciudad,
si se roban una bicicleta, si hay un incendio, cualquier delito que se cometa,
será responsabilidad de ustedes", "... anything that happens in the town, if
a bicycle is stolen, if there is a fire, any crime which is committed, will
be your responsibility".
In recent years widespread and systematic human rights violations have occurred
in Colombia, including extrajudicial executions, "disappearance", torture and
President Ernesto Samper Pizano has repeatedly pledged his government's
commitment to protect human rights and to tackle impunity. However, members
of the Colombian armed and security forces continue to commit serious abuses
with virtual impunity.
Trade unionists, popular leaders, civic activists and human rights workers
are among those whose human rights are frequently violated by the security
forces and their paramilitary allies. Perpetrators are very rarely brought
to justice; most members of the armed forces responsible for gross human rights
violations remain in active service.
Guerrilla organizations have also been responsible for serious human rights
abuses, including deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians and the holding
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in Spanish or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of SINTRAMUNICIPIO-CARTAGO trade unionists
and other municipal workers;
- urging that all measures deemed appropriate by those under threat be undertaken
to guarantee their safety;
- urging that full and impartial investigations be undertaken into the death
threats, that the results be made public and that those responsible be brought