EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 23/14/93
UA 47/93 Fear of "disappearance"/fear of torture 24 February 1993
COLOMBIA: José Arquimedes BELTRAN BEJARANO, aged 37
Alvaro MARTINEZ, aged 40
Fabián SARMIENTO, aged 30
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of José Arquimedes Beltrán Bejerano,
Alvaro Martínez and Fabián Sarmiento, who have not been seen since 11 February 1993,
when witnesses observed their detention by heavily armed men believed to be members
of the Colombian security forces, close to the town of Villavicencio, Meta department.
According to information received, the three men, all campesinos, peasant farmers,
were travelling with another seven people from Villavicencio to the town of Monfort
on a public service vehicle, which was stopped at an army control post on the outskirts
of Villavicencio. They were held for more than an hour while their identity documents
were checked. During this time the soldiers are reported to have made a telephone
call to the base of the army's Albán Battalion, Batallón Albán in Villavicencio,
reporting that amongst those in the vehicle was a man named Fidel Ortiz, accused
by the army of collaborating with guerrillas. However, Fidel Ortiz's only known
association with the guerrillas is that they bought food from his shop
After an hour, the vehicle was allowed to go. About one kilometre further on another
vehicle, which had reportedly been previously seen parked next to the military control
post, overtook and blocked the road, forcing the public service vehicle to stop.
Witnesses state that six heavily-armed men got out and forced the passengers to leave
the vehicle and lie on the ground. José Arquimedes Beltrán Bejerano, Alvaro Martínez
and Fabián Sarmiento were then forced into the second vehicle and taken to an unknown
destination. It is believed that one of them may have been taken in the mistaken
belief that he was Fidel Ortiz. Their whereabouts remain unknown and there is serious
concern for their safety.
The vehicle in which they were taken is believed to belong to the security forces'
Anti-extortion and Kidnap Unit, Unidad Antiextorsión y Secuestro (UNASE). On 18
February the Colombian Attorney General, Procurador General, announced that his office
was bringing disciplinary charges against 150 members of UNASE for abuses including
false detention, torture, extrajudicial execution and extortion.
Amnesty International has received an increasing number of reports in recent months
of human rights violations against members of the civilian population in the department
of Meta including arbitrary arrest, torture, "disappearance" and extrajudicial
execution. This coincides with an escalating offensive by the Colombian armed forces
against the armed opposition group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC),
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, in the area.