EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 23/67/93
UA 383/93 Fear for Safety 29 October 1993
COLOMBIA The young people of Villatina, neighbourhood of Medellín
Department of Antioquia.
Amnesty International is concerned by recent acts of intimidation and shootings
which point to a continuing campaign of violence against young people on the
streets of Villatina, a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Medellín,
On 25 September 1993 a taxi carrying several men dressed in civilian clothing
and armed with long-range weapons, reportedly drove around the streets of the
neighbourhood of Villatina. On 29 September armed men dressed in civilian
clothing in a jeep shot at a group of youths who were talking in the street.
No-one was injured.
Amnesty International believes that these incidents form part of a continuing
campaign of victimization of the young people of Villatina. Community leaders,
students and unemployed youths in shanty towns surrounding the major cities
have increasingly been targeted by "death squads". Reports of "death squad"
style attacks on young people in shanty towns surrounding Medellín increased
dramatically after Pablo Escobar and several other leading drug-traffickers
escaped from prison in July 1992. After the escapes, attacks on police agents
in Medellín escalated. In a three-month period over 60 police officers were
killed in Medellín by gunmen reportedly employed by Pablo Escobar. The police
took their revenge indiscriminately killing youths in the shanty towns from
where they apparently suspect the drug-traffickers recruit their gunmen. Only
hours after two police agents were shot dead in the centre of Medellín in November
1992, 12 masked men armed with automatic rifles raided Villatina and killed
9 children, aged 17 and under. The youngest victims were a boy and a girl,
both aged eight. Seven of the children were members of a religious youth
organization, "Builders of the Future". The press reported the massacre and
quoted a member of the local administration as saying that the victims "were
innocent, only students, and young people who had nothing to do with the war
the government has declared on the outlaws". Following this on 31 December
1992, a similar act of intimidation as those that have occurred recently, took
place. There has been no attempt by the authorities to put a halt to these
events nor to bring those responsible to justice, and the population of Villatina
is fearful for its children.
In recent years widespread and systematic human rights violations have occurred
in Colombia, including torture, arbitrary arrest, "disappearance" and
extrajudicial execution. President César Gaviria Trujillo has repeatedly
pledged his government's commitment to protect human rights. However, members
of the Colombian armed and security forces continue to commit serious abuses
with virtual impunity. Civic leaders, trade unionists, human rights activists
and those considered "social undesirables" are amongst the groups frequently
targeted by the security forces, including the National Police, for arbitrary
arrest and other forms of human rights abuse.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail
letters either in Spanish, English or in your own language: