UN: Colombia’s land victims in danger

The UN representative to Colombia said Feb. 27 the country’s victims law has “holes” because threats and violence against displaced campesinos seeking to reclaim land are impeding successful implementation. The law, officially know as Law 1448, allows victims of violence committed by guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, and state security forces after 1985 to claim financial compensation. It also allows for displaced people to reclaim land that was stolen or obtained through intimidation and force by illegal armed groups. Todd Howland said, “the risk and vulnerability of leaders in the process of land restitution are extremely high, given the criminal interests in properties subject to restitution.”

Last week, several human rights workers and campesinos in Nariño department reported receiving threats from former paramilitaries for their advocacy of land restitution. In response, Colombia’s Interior Minister Germán Vargas pledged that the government will protect those seeking to reclaim land. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 28; Colombia Reports, Feb. 27)

Also Feb. 27, three former top Colombian officials were called to testify about the 2005 massacre at the San José de Apartadó Peace Community in Urabá region. Former Minister of Defense Jorge Alberto Uribe, and former army commanders Gen. Reinaldo Castellanos and Carlos Alberto Ospina Ovalle were all called to testify before the Prosecutor General. The massacre, which left three children and eight adults dead, was carried about by paramilitaries allegedly in collaboration with the 17th Brigade of the Army. The officials are being asked to testify in the trials of former commander of the 17th Brigade Gen. Hector Jaime Fandino and Col. Nestor Ivan Duque Lopez. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 27)

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