The Administrative Tribunal of Colombia’s Antioquia department on Feb. 8 ordered the national army to hold a public ceremony officially apologizing for the massacre at San José de Apartadó Peace Community, almost exactly eight years after it was carried out. In the Feb. 21, 2005 attack, six adults and two children were killed at the village in Apartadó municipality of Antioquia’s northern Urabá region, where residents had declared their non-cooperation with all armed actors in Colombia’s civil conflict.
Demobilized paramilitary fighters have named in testimony four of their confederates, who went by the aliases Águila 6, Cobra, Cuatro Cuatro and Makeison, as responsible for the massacre. The army argued that it bore no responsibility, as the massacre was carried out by an illegal armed group. But Apartadó municipal authorities agreed with charges of the San José villagers that the army allowed the paras to operate in the zone with impunity. The public prosecutor’s office, the Procuraduría, also stated that there was “flagrant responsibility by the State for the extrajudicial execution of these persons.” (El Colombiano, Feb. 8)
The US-based pacifist group Fellowship of Reconciliation is calling for pressure on Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, urging him to order the armed forces to comply with the ruling. “We all look forward to a public event that honors this recent ruling, helps restore the good name of the peace community and ensures its protection in the coming years,” FOR said, calling the ruling “the first real move toward real reconciliation.” (FOR blog, Feb. 21)
Meanwhile, the community continues to suffer paramilitary harassment. On Feb. 21—the anniversary of the massacre—community leaders issued a public protest reporting that some 50 presumed members of the Gaitanistas paramilitary group had occupied the vereda (hamlet) of Miramar, illegally detaining and maltreating a campesino there for 12 hours. (Radio Caracol, Feb. 21)
inadequacy of government apology
I’ve just picked up this 30 May BBC report – not yet in English:
Thanks for all your coverage of peace and justice movements in Latin America.
Colombia: protest militarization of Peace Community
From at least April 1 until approximately April 22, Army troops from the 24th Mobile Brigade, part of the Nudo de Paramillo Task Force in the 7th Division, established an encampment on private property within a farm belonging to the Peace Community of San José. Approximately 25 troops remained on the site, which is atop a crest between the settlements of La Unión (where a Fellowship of Reconciliation team and Peace Community members live) and Arenas Altas. During that time, the army regularly landed helicopters on the site.
Last July, the Colombian Constitutional Court issued a ruling, Auto 164/12, which requires the state to address its non-compliance with earlier rulings by both the Constitutional Court and Inter-American Court regarding the Peace Community. The Constitutional Court’s requirement to issue a retraction of statements by President Uribe stigmatizing peace community members is expected to lead to a public retraction by the current Santos administration. Furthermore, the Court ordered the Ministry of Interior to coordinate a multi-agency effort to ensure that the Colombian Armed Forces abide by International Humanitarian Law provisions, particularly as they relate to the principle of distinction and the respect for humanitarian zones.
The peace community of San José was established in 1997, and does not support any actor in Colombia’s armed conflict. More than 180 community members have been killed, and in 2000 the Inter-American Human Rights Court issued measures for the community’s protection, recognizing ity’s choice not to participate in the war, and specifically requiring that the Colombian state consult with the community about measures for its members’ security. Fellowship of Reconciliation has had a permanent observation team in San José since 2002, while Peace Brigades International and other international groups have also accompanied the community for many years. In February 2005, members of the army and paramilitary groups carried out a massacre of eight San José residents, including the peace community’s co-founder and three children. (FOR, April 30)