Colombia: tribunal rules for Peace Community

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 Jos茅 de Apartad贸 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 Apartad贸 municipality of Antioquia’s northern Urab谩 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 脕guila 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 Apartad贸 municipal authorities agreed with charges of the San Jos茅 villagers that the army allowed the paras to operate in the zone with impunity. The public prosecutor’s office, the Procuradur铆a, 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鈥攖he anniversary of the massacre鈥攃ommunity 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)

  1. 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 Jos茅. Approximately 25 troops remained on the site, which is atop a crest between the settlements of La Uni贸n (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鈥檚 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 Jos茅 was established in 1997, and does not support any actor in Colombia鈥檚 armed conflict. More than 180 community members have been killed, and in 2000 the Inter-American Human Rights Court issued measures for the community鈥檚 protection, recognizing ity鈥檚 choice not to participate in the war, and specifically requiring that the Colombian state consult with the community about measures for its members鈥 security. Fellowship of Reconciliation has had a permanent observation team in San Jos茅 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 Jos茅 residents, including the peace community鈥檚 co-founder and three children. (FOR, April 30)