Colombia: another killing at San Josecito Peace Community

From the Colombia Support Network (CSN), July 14:

On July 13, 2007 at 12:15 PM two men who had the previous day identified themselves as members of the “Black Eagles” paramilitary organization, stopped a public transport vehicle, forced Peace Community member Dairo Torres out of the vehicle, and shot and killed him. Dairo was the coordinator of the Alto Bonito humanitarian zone, located about four hours walk from the San Josecito Peace Community, since 2004. He was a serious, responsible leader in the hamlets in the San Josecito area.

Dairo was murdered less than two minutes drive from a police checkpoint on the road between Apartadó and San Jose. His murderers had been seen at about 9:10 AM talking to and sitting next to the police at the checkpoint. It is clear that the police were complicit in the murder of Dairo.

Please write to President Uribe to tell him the international community supports the Peace Community and is watching what happens to Community members. Ask him why the paramilitaries keep killing with impunity in association with the Police, as has frequently happened and as if no demobilization of paramilitaries had happened at all. We all expect an investigation to be carried out by his government, with the murderers arrested and tried for their heinous crime. We also expect the Uribe government to bring the Police to justice for their collaboration with the paramilitaries in this killing.

Please also write to your representatives in Congress to tell them of the collaboration of Uribe¹s police force with murderers and ask them to stop funding of the Colombian military and police until these crimes stop and prosecution of those responsible is carried out.

See our last posts on Colombia and the paras, and San José de Apartadó Peace Community.

  1. Further details on killing at San Josecito Peace Community
    From the Fellowship of Reconciliation Colombia Program:

    Paramilitary gunmen killed Dairo Torres, a leader of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community, on Friday, July 13, shortly after 12 noon, according to the community. Torres was a passenger on one of the jeeps that serve as the only public transport between the city of Apartadó and San José, when it was intercepted by two paramilitaries – the same men who detained the jeep the previous day and made threats against the Peace Community. The community said that gunmen told Torres to get off the jeep, which he did; they told the driver to continue, and then they killed Torres on the spot.

    The killing occurred only two minutes from a police checkpoint, where earlier in the day witnesses saw the gunmen sitting and conversing with police.

    Torres was a leader of the humanitarian zone of Alto Bonito, a hamlet of San José de Apartadó. He is the fourth San José humanitarian zone leader to be killed in the last 20 months. Humanitarian zones are sites established by the Peace Community where civilians can go in case of combat between the armed groups that are active in the area, and be respected under the norms of international humanitarian law.

    The killing occurred just four days after an attack by FARC guerrillas on the police post in the town center of San José de Apartadó, which killed a policeman, Hernán López Cardona, and wounded another policeman. In April 2005, the Peace Community displaced to land a mile from the town center when the police post was installed, precisely because it would make the civilian population a military target for the FARC.

    Extensive Colombian media reports of the FARC attack conflated the Peace Community – which has no presence near the police post – with the San José town center where the police are located. La Patria, in a July 12 tribute to the fallen policeman, wrote “San José de Apartadó, [is] a population denominated as a Peace Community. Nevertheless, the guerrillas patrol there and this was demonstrated by the attack.” El Tiempo also stated that the attack took place “in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó.” None of the media reports mentioned that the Peace Community had displaced away from the town center when the police post was established, so as not to live with any armed group.

    The day after the attack, according to the community, police told several people in San José that the attack had originated from the Peace Community’s settlement and that it would pay for it. On July 12, according to a community statement, paramilitary gunmen on the Apartadó-San José road identified themselves to public transport passengers as ‘Aguilas Negras’ (Black Eagles), and said “that SOB peace community would begin to pay very dearly.” ‘Aguilas Negras’ is the name used by a paramilitary group newly active in several parts of Colombia.

    The Peace Community first announced the establishment of humanitarian zones in Alto Bonito and seven other hamlets in February 2005. Ten days later, two families, including Community leader Luis Eduardo Guerra, were massacred by men whom witnesses said were army soldiers. Army soldiers killed Arlen Salas, coordinator of the Arenas Altas humanitarian zone, in November 2005, in what it said was an accident; soldiers killed his successor, Edilberto Vásquez in January 2006, claiming he was a guerrilla killed in combat. Seven soldiers subsequently have been charged with his murder. Francisco Puertas, another humanitarian zone leader, was killed by a paramilitary gunman on May 13 of this year.

    The shameless challenge to Washington’s purported values of human rights could not be more direct. The hundreds of violations, including more than 180 killings, against the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, have been the subject of mandatory protective rulings by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and six collective letters from dozens of Members of Congress to Colombian officials and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. More than $70 million of U.S. military aid was suspended in 2005, in large part as a result of outrage over the massacre in San José in February 2005. Members of Congress have visited the Peace Community. FOR and many other NGOs have focused the attention of thousands of people to urge the Colombian government to put an end to the violence and impunity against this community.

    If this is what happens to a community that Colombian and US officials say they are acting to protect, what is the fate of the many communities in Colombian conflict zones that are not the subject of so much human rights concern? After all this, why should the United States continue to support Colombia’s military and police forces when clear collaboration between state and paramilitary forces routinely results in the murder of members of this small and neutral peasant community?

    Please take action!

    Write an email or fax to the US Department of State, expressing sorrow for the killings of Hernán López Cardona and Dairo Torres, and urging:

    * That State Department officials make a public declaration expressing concern about reports of police collaboration in the assassination of Dairo Torres,
    * That State Department officials publicly support the establishment and honoring of humanitarian zones in areas of conflict as instruments for upholding the principle in international humanitarian law of protection of civilians from adversaries in armed conflict.

    The Fellowship of Reconciliation believes that the United States should suspend assistance to the Colombian National Police until the reported links of its members to paramilitary groups or other illegal armed groups are fully investigated and prosecuted.


    Jonathan D. Farrar
    Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
    Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
    Email: Fax: 202-647-5283

    Charles S. Shapiro
    Deputy Assistant Secretary
    Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affiars
    Email: Fax: 202-647-0791

  2. Another killing at San José de Apartadó
    On Aug. 31, Alfonso de Jesus Bedoya Florez, 19, a campesino at the village of San José de Apartadó, left his home at the vereda (hamlet) of La Miranda to gather firewood, and never returned. On Sept. 2, his family was informed by agents of the the Colombian prosecutor’s Technical Investigative Corps (CTI) that his remains had arrived at the hospital in Apartadó town. The agents said the body had been brought to the hospital by the army’s 17th Brigade, and had been tortured. Interrogated by the CTI, the youth’s family denied charges that he was involved with the guerillas.

    The Peace Community said that “Alfonso did not belong to our community, but was a campesino known in the zone.” (San José de Apartadó Peace Community statement, Sept. 4, via Colombia Indymedia)