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UA 34/93 - Colombia: death threats / fear for safety: Saul Pico Gomez, Humberto Geovo Almanza

, Index number: AMR 23/010/1993

Saul Pico Gomez and Humberto Geovo Almanza, mayor and ombudsman respectively of San Vicente de Chucuri, Santander department, have been reportedly harassed and threatened with death by paramilitaries under the command of the armed forces. Since November 1992 Mayor Saul Pico has been constantly harrassed; two of his assistants were reportedly killed in recent weeks. A sufragio (invitation to his own funeral mass) arrived at the office of Humberto Geovo on 28 January 1993, threatening him with death if he did not resign his post. As ombudsman he has a human rights monitoring role. The men have not been able to get clear guarantees of their safety from the authorities. The army has been conducting a series of joint operations with paramilitaries against insurgents in the area.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 23/10/93
Distr: UA/SC
UA 34/93 Death threats/Fear for safety 10 February 1993
COLOMBIA: Saúl PICO GOMEZ, mayor
Humberto GEOVO ALMANZA, ombudsman
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Saúl Pico Gomez and Humberto
Geovo Almanza, mayor and personero (ombudsman) respectively of the town of San Vicente
de Chucurí, Santander department. They have been subjected to serious harassment
and death threats by paramilitary forces under the command of the Colombian army.
In Colombia the personero is a municipal appointment and has a human rights monitoring
role.
Mayor Saúl Pico has been the victim of constant harassment and death threats since
November 1992 and two of his assistants (whose names are not known to Amnesty
International) have reportedly been killed in recent weeks. On 13 November 1992 at
8.15 pm Mayor Saúl Pico was in his office with his wife and several others, when
the electricity supply was cut off. Fearing an imminent attack, the mayor took cover.
From outside the building shots were fired into the office. Fortunately no one was
hurt. On the days leading up to the attack it was reported that known paramilitary
leaders were in San Vicente and had been seen entering and leaving the headquarters
of the army's Luciano D'Elhuyar battalion, Batallón Luciano D'Elhuyar, outside the
town. On 28 January 1993, a sufragio (an invitation to his own funeral mass) arrived
at the office of Humberto Geovo, threatening him to resign his post or be killed.
Because of these threats and acts of intimidation both Humberto Geovo and Mayor Saúl
Pico were forced to leave San Vicente. They tried to seek clear guarantees from
the armed forces that if they returned they would be able to carry out their public
functions without fear for their lives. However, in a meeting with the Secretary
General of the Army, Secretario General del Ejército, General Rogel Sánchez, they
were told that "there could be no commitment to guarantee protection to these local
officials. The decision to return was theirs alone", "no podía existir compromiso
de prestarle seguridad a estos oficiales locales. Era decisión suya si regresar o
no." A further request for protection has been made through the Procurator Delegate
for the Military Forces, Procurador Delegado para las Fuerzas Militares. Despite
this lack of guarantees, Mayor Saúl Pico has returned to San Vicente. There is serious
concern for the safety of both men.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
In October 1992, Amnesty International learned that the armed forces were carrying
out a series of joint military operations with paramilitary forces in several
localities around San Vicente and neighbouring Carmen de Chucurí. Peasant farmers
in the region were told by military and paramilitary commanders that they must
cooperate with paramilitary forces and participate in their counter-insurgency
operations. Those who refuse have been tortured, "disappeared" or killed. Many others
have fled the region. (Please refer to UA 16/93, AMR 23/03/93, 21 January 1993 and
follow-up AMR 23/04/93, 4 February 1993.)
San Vicente de Chucurí is at the heart of the largely rural area of the Magdalena
Medio in central Colombia. This area has been a focus of political violence for several
years following the emergence of guerrilla groups in the 1960s and the subsequent
militarization of the region during the 1980s. Peace talks between the remaining
active guerrilla groups and the government broke down in early 1992 and there has
been a resultant increase in guerrilla activity and in the armed forces
counter-guerrilla operations. The government declared a national state of emergency
in November 1992, the period of which has just been extended. In areas where guerrilla
forces are active, the local population is often perceived by the armed forces as
potential guerrilla collaborators and has, as a result, been
Page 2 of UA 34/93
subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, "disappearance" and extrajudicial execution
by army personnel and paramilitary forces.
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 operate with the support of the Colombian armed forces.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail letters
either in Spanish, English or in your own language:
- expressing concern at the reported intimidation and threats against Saúl Pico Gómez
and Humberto Geovo Almanza by paramilitary personnel;
- requesting an immediate and thorough investigation into these acts of intimidation
and urging that those responsible be brought to justice;
- urging that the Colombian authorities take all possible measures to protect the
lives of civilian officials and ensure that they are able to carry out their lawful
activities;
- urging that the Colombian government take effective measures to ensure that
paramilitary forces be dismantled as per the directives issued in 1989;
- requesting that an investigation be conducted into the alleged links between the
Colombian armed forces and paramilitary groups in the region of San Vicente and Carmen
de Chucurí in Santander department, the results of which should be made public.
APPEALS TO
1) Minister of Defence:
Dr. Rafael Pardo Rueda
Ministro de Defensa Nacional
Ministerio de Defensa Nacional
Avenida Eldorado - Carrera 52
Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams: Ministro de Defensa Pardo
Rueda, Bogota, Colombia
Telexes: 42411 INPRE CO;
44561 CFAC CO
Faxes: + 57 1 222 1874
Salutation: Sr. Ministro /
Dear Minister
2) Commander of the army's II Division:
Mayor General Harold Bedoya Pizarro
Comandante de la Segunda División del
Ejército
Bucaramanga
Santander, Colombia
Telegrams: Comandante II División del
Ejército, Bucaramanga,
Santander, Colombia
Salutation: Sr. Comandante / Dear Sir
3) President of Colombia:
Señor Presidente César Gaviria Trujillo
Presidente de la República
Palacio de Nariño
Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams: President Gaviria, Bogotá,
Colombia
Telexes: 44281 PALP CO
Faxes: + 57 1 286 7324,
+ 57 1 286 7434,
+ 57 1 287 7937
Salutation:Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente
/
Dear President Gaviria
4) Procurator General:
Dr. Carlos Gustavo Arrieta Padilla
Procurador General de la Nación
Procuraduría General
Edificio Banco Ganadero
Carrera 5, No. 15-80
Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams: Procurador General Arrieta,
Bogotá,
Colombia
Faxes: + 57 1 284 0472
Salutation:Sr Procurador de la Nación/
Dear Dr. Arrieta
COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO: diplomatic representatives of Colombia accredited to your
country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your
section office, if sending appeals after 24 March 1993.

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