• Campaigns

Colombia: Fear for safety

, Index number: AMR 23/011/1996

On 28 February 1996 a written death threat, addressed to Margarita Arregoces, was received by her lawyer, Reinaldo Villalba. It was signed by a paramilitary group called Colombia sin Guerrilla (COLSINGUE). Margarita Arregoces and her sister Lina Maria Arregoces, both teachers and popular activists, have recently been released from detention after being accused of being members of an armed opposition group. There is now grave concern for their safety.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 23/11/96
UA 53/96 Fear for Safety 29 February 1996
COLOMBIA Margarita ARREGOCÉS (f), teacher, popular activist
Lina María ARREGOCÉS (f), teacher, popular activist
Reinaldo Villalba, human rights lawyer
On 28 February 1996, a written death threat addressed to Margarita Arregocés,
was received by human rights lawyer, Reinaldo Villalba. The threat was in
the form of an invitation to a funeral mass for Margarita Arregocés to be held
on 29 February. It was signed by a paramilitary group called Colombia sin
Guerrilla (COLSINGUE), Colombia without Guerrillas.
The death threat was sent to the office of Reinaldo Villalba and was received
just before an appeal court ordered the immediate and unconditional release
of Margarita Arregocés and and her sister Lina María, who have been in detention
since November 1995. The two sisters were arrested in Planadas de Mosquera,
department of Cundinamarca, accused of "concierto de delinquir", "conspiracy
to commit a crime" and of being members of the armed opposition group, the
Frente 53 de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, 53 Front of the
Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces.
Margarita and Lina María Arregocés are both teachers working in poor communities
and had founded the Liceo de Sabana - Sabana School in Planadas de Mosquera,
department of Cundinamarca. Amnesty International is seriously concerned for
their safety, given that in the past people who have been detained and accused
of subversion by the security forces and then released by the courts have become
the victim of human rights violations at the hands of the security forces and
their paramilitary allies.
There is also serious concern for the safety of Reinaldo Villalba. As the
judicial investigations into the charges against the two women are confidential,
it is not clear how it is known that Reinaldo Villalba is the lawyer representing
the sisters. The fact that the death threat was sent to his office is seen
as a veiled death threat against him. Lawyers representing people accused
of subversion are often accused of being guerrilla sympathisers, accusations
which are often followed by extrajudicial execution, or at times "diappearance".
In recent years widespread and systematic human rights violations have occurred
in Colombia, including extrajudicial executions, "disappearance", torture and
arbitrary arrest. Teachers and popular activists together with peasant farmers
are amongst those who have frequently been the victims of human rights
violations.President Ernesto Samper Pizano, who assumed office on 7 August
1994, has publicly stated that tackling the human rights situation will be
a priority for his government. However, members of the Colombian armed and
security forces, together with their paramilitary allies, continue to commit
serious abuses with virtual impunity. Only exceptionally are perpetrators
brought to justice; the vast majority of members of the armed and security
forces responsible for gross human rights violations remain in active service.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in Spanish or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of Margarita Arregocés who was sent a death
threat on 28 February 1995, her lawyer, Reinaldo Villalba and her sister Lina
María Arregocés;
- urging that full and impartial investigations are undertaken into the death
threat, that the results of these be made public and that those responsible
be brought to justice;
- urging that immediate action be undertaken to dismantle the paramilitary
group COLSINGUE, that those members responsible for human rights violations
be brought to justice together with members of the security forces responsible
for collaborating with the paramilitary group, such a move would be in line
with governmental commitments to dismantle paramilitary groups.
President of Colombia:
Señor Presidente Ernesto Samper Pizano
Presidente de la República
Palacio de Nariño
carrera 8 No. 7-26
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams: President Samper Pizano, Bogotá, Colombia
Telexes: 44281 PALP CO
Faxes: + 57 1 289 3377/286 7434
Salutation:Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente/Dear President Samper
Minister of the Interior
Dr. Horacio Serpa Uribe
Ministro del Interior
Ministerio del Interior
Carrera 8, No.8-09, Piso 2
Santafé de Bogotá
Telegrams: Ministro del Interior Serpa, Bogota, Colombia
Telexes:45406 MINGO CO
Faxes:+ 57 1 286 00 53/ 286 04 85
Salutation:Sr. Ministro/Dear Minister
Attorney General
Dr. Alfonso Valdivieso Sarmiento
Fiscal General de la Nación
Fiscalia General de la Nación
Calle 35 No. 4-31
Apartado Aéreo 29855
Santafé de Bogotá
Telegrams:Fiscal General Valdivieso, Fiscalia General, Bogotá, Colombia
Faxes:+ 57 1 245 5292 or 287 0939 or 288 2828
Salutation: Estimado Dr. Valdivieso/Dear Dr. Valdivieso
Procurator General:
Dr. Orlando Vásquez Velásquez
Procurador General de la Nación
Procuraduría General
Edificio Banco Ganadero
Carrera 5, No. 15-80
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams: Procurador General Vásquez, Bogotá, Colombia
Faxes:+ 57 1 342 9723/281 7531/284 0472/
Salutation:Sr. Procurador de la Nación/Dear Dr. Vásquez
Lawyers' Association:
Corporación Colectivo de Abogados
AA 44456
Santafé de Bogotá
and 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 25 April 1996.

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