Colombia: Justice system rules against San José de Apartadó Peace Community while impunity prevails
Colombia’s Constitutional Court must urgently analyze the recent sentence delivered by a local judge in Apartadó against Germán Graciano Posso, the legal representative of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community, and must above all guarantee the rights of victims of grave human rights violations, Amnesty International said today.
Germán Graciano, a renowned human rights defender, is facing charges brought by the Colombian army’s 17th Brigade. The charges were brought against him because he has denounced both nationally and internationally the presence of paramilitary groups in his community’s territory as well as the inaction of the Colombian state, which has neither investigated effectively nor taken adequate measures to protect his community.
The Colombian justice system must work in favour of the victims of conflict and must not become another means to re-victimize and criminalize them
“Germán Graciano and the Peace Community have been fighting for justice for over two decades in a context of armed conflict. The Colombian justice system has not fulfilled its duty to investigate the deaths of over 300 members of the community, nor has it responded effectively to reports of paramilitary groups and their activities in the area, or the Colombian military’s lack of action to stop them,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“Reports of collusion between the military and paramilitary groups in Colombia are long-standing and credible. And despite the threats on their lives, communities and human rights defenders continue their brave reporting. The Colombian justice system must work in favour of the victims of conflict and must not become another means to re-victimize and criminalize them.”
For over 21 years, the San José de Apartadó Peace Community has reported that it has repeatedly suffered grave violations of international law, yet these cases remain in impunity. This, in addition to the slow action of the Colombian justice system, is why the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and Colombia’s Constitutional Court have all granted the community protective measures.
The 17th Brigade took legal action against Germán Graciano so he would retract his public reports of paramilitary activity in the region. A local judge ruled in favour of the 17th Brigade and gave Graciano two options: retract his reports or offer evidence of what he reported. These measures are not appropriate when grave human rights violations have been alleged. However, when Graciano refused to comply with the ruling, a judge ordered his arrest, sentenced him to five days in prison and imposed a fine equivalent to five days of minimum wage.
“This case is a true reflection of how common impunity and vulnerability have been and remain in Colombia when victims report human rights violations and the state does not fulfill its duty to investigate and protect them. We will continue to accompany the Peace Community in solidarity and support its human rights defenders,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.
This case shows the broader context of how the people and communities like the San José de Apartadó Peace Community who defend human rights suffer from vulnerability and stigmatization. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the state to investigate the interrelated actions of paramilitary groups and the Colombian military, and to guarantee victims’ rights to truth, justice and holistic reparation.
This case is a true reflection of how common impunity and vulnerability have been and remain in Colombia when victims report human rights violations and the state does not fulfill its duty to investigate and protect them
The San José de Apartadó Peace Community is a model of dignified and peaceful resistance in the face of armed conflict in Colombia. Since 1997, community members have declared their position of neutrality before armed actors operating in their region. This position of neutrality has been recognized internationally.
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