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Colombia: Fear for safety / extrajudicial execution / disappearance

, N° d'index: AMR 23/009/1998

Extrajudicial execution or ‘disappearance' of more than 26 inhabitants of Puerto Asís, department of Putumayo including:Johnny Delgado(minor, student), Luz Marina (minor, student)Sandra Milena Hurtado(minor, student),Carlos Acosta (16 year-old), Luis Emiro Mosquera, Gilberto Sánchez, Serafín Merino Rosero and Genaro Saenz: There is grave concern for the physical safety of the inhabitants of Puerto Asís and the surrounding region in Putumayo department, after around 300 paramilitary gunmen arrived in the area at the end of January 1998 and began to selectively kill community members, who they accuse of being guerrilla auxiliaries.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 23/09/98
UA 52/98 Fear for safety / Extrajudicial execution / Disappearance
17 February 1998
COLOMBIAFear for safety: Inhabitants of Puerto Asís
Extrajudicial execution or ‘disappearance’ of more than 26 inhabitants of Puerto
Asís, department of Putumayo including:Johnny Delgado(minor, student), Luz
Marina (minor, student)Sandra Milena Hurtado(minor, student),Carlos Acosta
(16 year-old), Luis Emiro Mosquera, Gilberto Sánchez, Serafín Merino Rosero
and Genaro Saenz.
There is grave concern for the physical safety of the inhabitants of Puerto
Asís and the surrounding region in Putumayo department, after around 300
paramilitary gunmen arrived in the area at the end of January 1998 and began
to selectively kill community members.
According to reports, the paramilitaries have a “blacklist” of 250 names of
intended victims, who they accuse of being guerrilla auxiliaries. Those accused
of being guerrilla sympathizers and collaborators by the Colombian security
forces, or their paramilitary allies, often become victims of human rights
violations.
Among the first to be killed were two secondary school students: Johnny Delgado
and Sandra Milena Hurtado, the latter was killed for reportedly being the
girlfriend of a guerrilla fighter. On 8 February 1998 paramilitary gunmen began
openly patrolling the streets of Puerto Asís. On the same day one such patrol
killed Carlos Acosta in broad daylight, then immediately shot and killed a
witness who was attempting to flee. Since then there are reports that
paramilitaries have killed more than 40 residents of the town, and a further
10 in nearby Valle del Guamuez. Many of the victims were reportedly tortured
before being killed. The Defensoria del Pueblo, the National Advocate for the
People has so far officially confirmed the killing of 26 people. The paramilitary
violence has led many more residents to flee the area.
The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, (FARC), Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia, an armed opposition group, has long had a strong presence
in the southern jungle department of Putamayo. During a summit in 1996
paramilitary leaders stated their intention of attacking the FARC stronghold
of Putumayo. Residents of the department reported the appearance of paramilitary
gunmen in 1997, but security force officials then and now continue to deny
there has been any increase in paramilitary violence. Since December 1997 the
area has been heavily militarized by the Colombian army, after 18 soldiers
were taken hostage by the FARC. The mayor of Puerto Asís, Néstor Hector, has
alleged that the main paramilitary force arrived in the town in military
helicopters. The Ministry of Defence has denied this claim.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Members of the Colombian army and security forces, together with their
paramilitary allies, continue to commit serious human rights violations with
virtual impunity. Over the past five years several thousand civilians have
been killed by paramilitary groups throughout the country. Although in 1989
the Colombian government suspended the legal base for the formation of
paramilitary organizations and issued directives to the armed forces to combat
and disband such groups, in many areas of the country they continue to work
with the support of the security forces. President Ernesto Samper Pizano has
made repeated promises, including as recently as December 1997, to improve
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the human rights situation and to dismantle paramilitary forces. However,
no steps have been taken to control their actions and to hold members accountable
for serious and widespread human rights violations. The Fiscal General, Attorney
General recently made public that there are over 200 outstanding arrest warrants
against alleged paramilitary members which the security forces have not acted
on.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in SPANISH or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of the civilian population of Puerto Asís
and Valle del Guamuez in the department of Putumayo;
- calling for a full and impartial investigation into the killing of more than
26 inhabitants of the region by paramilitary gunmen, for the results to be
made public and for those responsible be brought to justice;
- calling for a full and impartial investigation into links between the security
forces and paramilitary groups operating in the area and urging that those
members of the security forces responsible for supporting and participating
in such groups be brought to justice;
- urging the authorities to take immediate action to dismantle paramilitary
groups, in line with stated governmental commitments.
APPEALS TO:
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, Bogotá, Colombia
Telexes: 44281 PALP CO
Faxes: + 57 1 284 2186/289 3377/286 7434
Salutation: Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente / Dear President Samper
Minister of Defence
Dr.Gilberto Echeverri Mejía
Ministro de Defensa Nacional, Ministerio de Defensa Nacional
Avenida Eldorado CAN - Carrera 52, Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams: Ministro Defensa, Bogotá, Colombia
Telexes: 42411 INPRE CO; 44561 CFAC CO
Faxes: + 57 1 222 1874
Salutation: Sr. Ministro / Dear Minister
Attorney General
Dr.Alfonso Gómez Méndez
Fiscal General de la Nación,Fiscalia General de la Nación
Diagonal 22B 5201, Apartado Aéreo 29855
Santafé de Bogotá,Colombia
Telegrams:Fiscal General, Fiscalia General, Bogotá, Colombia
Faxes:+ 571 570 2000 (ext 2017)- when ansaphone picks up dial 2017 for fax
Salutation: Estimado Dr./Dear Dr.
COPIES TO:
Governmental: Advocate for the People:
Dr.José Fernando Castro Caycedo
Defensor del Pueblo,Defensoría del Pueblo,Calle 55 No.10-32
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
and to diplomatic representatives of COLOMBIA accredited to your country.
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PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 31 March 1998.

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