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Colombia: Fear for safety / possible extrajudicial executions

, N° d'index: AMR 23/040/1998

There is serious concern for the safety of inhabitants of the municipality of Simití, department of Bolívar, following an attack on 11 June 1998 by gunmen believed to be members of a paramilitary group. During the attack Ermes Villamizar, accused by the paramilitaries of being a guerilla sympathizer was abducted and later believed killed. His sister-in-law Olga Palencia Ermes Villamizar was also reportedly killed when trying to prevent his abduction

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 23/40/98
UA 176/98 Fear for Safety / Possible Extrajudicial
Executions 12 June 1998
Olga PALENCIA Ermes Villamizar (reportedly killed)
Civilian population of Simití, Bolívar department.
There is serious concern for the safety of inhabitants of the municipality
of Simití, department of Bolívar, following an attack on 11 June 1998 by gunmen
believed to be members of a paramilitary group.
The armed group, who wore army-issue uniforms and were heavily armed, launched
the attack against the community of Cerro de Burgos, in the municipality of
Simití and were reportedly in possession of a lista negra, "black list" of
intended victims - those they accuse of being guerrilla sympathizers. Those
believed to be guerrilla sympathizers and collaborators by the Colombian
security forces or their paramilitary allies often become victims of human
rights violations.
Ermes Villamizar, whose name was believed to be on the black list, was reportedly
beaten and forcibly abducted by the armed group. He is subsequently believed
to have been killed. When his sister-in-law, Olga Palencia Ermes Villamizar,
attempted to intervene to prevent his abduction she was also reportedly beaten
and killed. Several houses were then reportedly ransacked and set alight before
they proceeded to force three boatmen to take them to the nearby hamlet of
Though a Colombian Army and Police post situated in the town of Simití were
informed at the time of the attack against Cerro de Burgos, patrols failed
to arrive in the area until the morning of 12 June. Reports also suggest that
two Colombian Navy boats docked opposite Vijagual failed to take any action.
The paramilitary incursion has resulted in a large number of people fleeing
their homes to seek refuge in the municipal capital.
Despite warnings to the Colombian authorities by local people, state officials
and Amnesty International (see UA 156/98, AMR 23/43/98, 18 May 1998), of the
possibility of an attack against the community of Simití, the authorities
nevertheless failed to take decisive preventive action.
The fact that this attack follows so soon after the paramilitary incursion
into Barrancabermeja in the department of Santander, in which over 30 people
were killed or "disappeared", on 16 May heightens concerns for the security
of inhabitants of Simiand San Pablo as well as others in the south of the
department of Bolívar and the communities of Yondó (department of Antioquia)
and Cantagallo (department of Santander) which are close to Barrancabermeja
and have also been threatened with large-scale paramilitary attack.
Peasant communities in disputed zones in Colombia’s long running civil conflict
have frequently suffered attacks. Neither the left wing armed opposition groups
nor the armed forces and their paramilitary allies recognize the civilian
population's neutrality in the conflict.
Members of the Colombian army and security forces and 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. The Colombian Government suspended the constitutional legal
base for the formation of paramilitary organizations and issued directives to the
armed forces to combat and disband such groups in 1989, yet they continue to work
with the support of the security forces in many areas of the country.
President Ernesto Samper Pizano has repeatedly promised to improve the human rights
situation and to dismantle paramilitary forces, but no steps have been taken to
control their actions and to hold members accountable for serious and widespread
human rights violations. The Attorney General recently stated that over 200
outstanding arrest warrants issued against alleged paramilitary members have still
not been acted upon by the security forces.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in SPANISH or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of inhabitants of the municipality of Simití
and San Pablo in the department of Bolívar, Yondó, department of Antioquia,
Cantagallo and Barrancabermeja, department of Santander;
- urging full and impartial investigations into the reported killings in the
municipality of Simití on 11 June 1998, that the results be made public and
that 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
found responsible for supporting and participating in such groups be brought
to justice;
- urging that the authorities take immediate action to dismantle paramilitary
groups, in line with stated government commitments.
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 1 284 2186 / 289 3377 / 286 7434
Salutation:Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente / Dear President Samper
Minister of the Interior
Dr. Alfonso López Caballero, Ministro del Interior
Ministerio del Interior, Carrera 8, No.8-09, Piso 2
Santafé de Bogotá, COLOMBIA
Telegrams: Ministro del Interior, Bogotá, Colombia
Telexes:45406 MINGO CO
Faxes:+ 57 1 281 5884 / 286 6524 / 286 0405
Salutation:Sr. Ministro / Dear Minister
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 de Defensa, Bogotá, Colombia
Telexes: 42411 INPRE CO / 44561 CFAC CO
Faxes: + 57 1 222 1874
Salutation: Sr. Ministro / Dear Minister
Alternative Legal Association
MINGA, AA 40303, Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia.
and to diplomatic representatives of COLOMBIA accredited to your country
If possible please also write to your own political representatives including
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
- expressing concern that though a number of warnings of possible attacks against
the community of Simití were issued, including by Amnesty International, the
Colombian authorities nevertheless failed to take decisive action thereby
leaving the communities listed above under threat
- urging your government to take immediate action to press the Colombian
Government to take immediate measures to protect the civilian community..
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 24 July 1998.

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