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Colombia: Possible "Disappearance" / Fear for Safety

, Index number: AMR 23/088/1999

Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Edgar Quiroga and Gildardo Fuentes who have been abducted by paramilitaries and whose whereabouts are now not known.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 23/88/99
EXTRA 169/99 Possible “Disappearance” / Fear for Safety 29 November 1999
COLOMBIA Edgar QUIROGA leader of a peasant farming community
Gildardo FUENTES, peasant farmer.
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Edgar Quiroga and Gildardo
Fuentes who have been abducted by paramilitaries and whose whereabouts are
now not known.
The men were reportedly first detained by the army (Batallón No.45 Héroes de
Majagual, No 45 Battalion Majagual Heroes), in the Caño Azul area of the
municipality of San Pablo, department of Bolívar in the morning of 28 November
1999. They were then, according to witnesses, handed over to the Autodefensas
Unidas de Colombia, (AUC), United Self-defence Groups of Colombia, a
paramilitary organization operating in the area. Unconfirmed reports indicate
that Edgar Quiroga was seen alive later that night in the custody of paramilitary
forces. The Colombian Army denies detaining the men.
Edgar Quiroga and Gildardo Fuentes had returned from the capital Bogotá the
day before. There they had met with state and government officials to denounce
the serious human rights violations and violations of international
humanitarian law taking place in the department of Bolívar. This had included
the forced displacement, in October, of thousands of peasant farmers as a result
of paramilitary attacks. Edgar Quiroga had also reportedly met with
representatives of the United Nations Human Rights Office and the German and
Canadian Embassies. Gildardo Fuentes had used the visit to denounce to the
judicial authorities his abduction by paramilitaries on 8 October which had
occurred at a paramilitary checkpoint just metres away from an army road
checkpoint where he had just been stopped and searched. He was apparently forced
into a paramilitary vehicle which was then able to drive unimpeded through
the army checkpoint.
Edgar Quiroga, leader of a peasant farming community, had been involved last
year in negotiations with the government on behalf of displaced peasant farming
communities from the department of Bolívar and neighbouring areas. This had
lead to a signed agreement by the government that it would guarantee their
safety and take action to combat the paramilitary groups responsible for their
displacement. The government, however, has failed to take any effective action
and several of the representatives of the communities have reportedly since
been killed or threatened by paramilitary forces in the region. Edgar Quiroga
and other leaders had called on the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights
of the Organization of American States to take measures to guarantee their
safety.