Ten years after the fact, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) found the Colombian government guilty of the assassination of Jesús Maria Valle Jaramillo, an attorney and human rights defender of Medellín, in the northwestern department of Antioquia. The ruling—issued Nov. 25 and announced on Christmas Eve—is the first handed down by the special tribunal of the Organization of American States (OAS) against Colombia for the murder of a human rights activist. Valle was assassinated on Feb. 27, 1998, when he presided the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Antioquia, a post he assumed after the killing of his three predecessors, Héctor Gómez, Luis Vélez Vélez and Carlos Gónima.
Between 1994 and 1998, the attorney had publicly denounced the illegal activities of the "security cooperatives" known as "Convivir"—peasant self-defense groups formed in 1990 to combat the guerrillas, and backed by the governor of Antioquia at the time, current President Alvaro Uribe.
Valle had on several occasions reported joint operations of the military and extreme right-wing paramilitaries in the area of Ituango, scene to civilian massacres for which CIDH found the Colombia state guilty in 2006. Consequentially, Valle was branded "an enemy of the armed forces" and prosecuted for "slander"; he was assassinated by a paramilitary group in his office 24 hours after giving testimony before a Medellín court. (Spero News, Dec. 28 from MISNA; EFE, Dec. 23)
The Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá (ACCU) killed 19 campesinos in the corregimientos (rural districts) of El Aro and La Granja in Ituango municipality in two incidents between 1996 and 1997. The ACCU paramilitary also burned houses, robbed cattle and dislocated some 1,200 people in these incusrions. In its July 2006 ruling, the CIDH found the Colombian state responsible for failing to protect the victims of the attacks, and ordered it to pay indemnification to 123 survivors. Ituango is one of several self-declared "peace communities" in Colombia which refuse collaboration with any armed faction in the civil war. (Ituango Tierra de Paz blog, July 28, 2006)
See our last posts on Colombia, the paramilitaries, and citizen peace initiatives.
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