Colombia: Spike in attacks against peace community shows conflict still alive

An unabated wave of threats, killings and forced displacement of hundreds of peaceful villagers in north-western Colombia is a frightening illustration that the armed conflict is far from over, months after a peace accord was signed, warned Amnesty International on the 20th anniversary of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó.

“Alarmingly, in large parts of Colombia, the armed conflict is as alive as ever. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country have yet to see any difference in their lives since the peace accords were signed,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

Alarmingly, in large parts of Colombia, the armed conflict is as alive as ever.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International



“The peace community of San José de Apartadó shows how Colombians have been bravely fighting for justice for decades, virtually alone. They are an example for the fight to protect human rights, so essential to all in Colombia.”

For the two decades since its foundation in the north-western department of Antioquia, on 23 March 1997, community members have sought to distance themselves from the conflict by formally refusing to allow military, guerrilla and paramilitary groups from entering their territory.

Despite trying to remain neutral, San José de Apartadó residents have been the victims of attacks, torture, sexual abuse and forced displacement at the hand of all parties to the conflict. More than 300 of their members have been killed or forcibly displaced from their homes in the last two decades.

Since late 2016, the community has reported an increase in paramilitary activity in the area – particularly from the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – despite statements from Colombian officials that paramilitary groups are no longer active.

The peace community of San José de Apartadó is an example for the fight to protect human rights, so essential to all in Colombia
Erika Guevara-Rosas.

“It is high time for Colombian authorities to face reality by recognizing that the conflict is still wreaking havoc for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people. The longer action is delayed, the more lives will be lost,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.