Stop the infamy against the victims and the defensors

We want to share our deep concern about the character so ruthless, humiliating, inhuman and unethical way of how the Law is applied at the international and national level. It affects the situation of human rights victims and its supporting organizations, such as the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz and the way humanitarian law is applied.

From different places in the world, 22nd of February 2013

Mr. President Juan Manuel Santos,

Please accept our best regards,

We know about Cacarica communities in Chocó, particularly the Association of Community Self-Determination, Life, Dignity, CAVIDA, where was born the Ethical Commission to which we belong today. We went there and we know their territories. Some of us have been part of the Peoples Tribunal which took place for one session in this beautiful place of Afro-Colombians. We went to places where we saw the remains and the burning of their huts due to the forced displacement. Then we listened to their testimonies. We have collected prooves and then we have judged. It is impossible to doubt the serious abuses done by paramilitary groups with the 17th Brigade. Those crimes were done with the complicity of companies such as Maderas del Darién Pizano SA who was protecting its interests sharing criminal strategies.

We know well the situation of the Curvaradó black communities. We know their efforts to protect life and territories, its actions in front of the national Law and the serious abuses with the clear responsibility of the 17th Brigade, which also use paramilitary strategies.

In both areas we have heard testimonies and made some technical inspections. With those controls we have observed and certified the gravity of the situation, including paramilitary operations in Curvaradó, in Cacarica (Tumaradó on the Atrato River).

We know the ethical value of these communities which in the middle of the armed conflict have faced serious breaches of humanitarian law perpetrated by the government and the guerrillas. These communities have built new experiences as the Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones. For this reason they are victims of stigmatization and judicial plots.

We have observed the development of the Inter-American Court Hearing on the Marino López case and others (Operation Genesis). We express our deep concern about the so disrespectful way of how the Colombian State agents treated the witnesses Sofia Vivas and Bernardo Roa. They have been revictimized and they tried to show them as false witnesses.

This situation has been repeated with the state agents complicity against Curvaradó communities and witnesses who have sustained military operations, paramilitary and corporate agribusiness of palm, banana, cassava, extensive farming, and mechanized deforestation. In addition, we want to mention the vulnerability of the human rights defenders of the Comision Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz who support these communities as Father Alberto Franco, Liliana Avila, Abilio Peña, Manuel Garzon, Danilo Rueda, and Father Javier Giraldo from the CINEP (Investigation and Popular Education Center). A few days ago, the defender Franco was victim of an armed assault attempt with a silent weapon with a threatening message. Other human rights defenders have also been threatened, pursued and illegaly followed. The Danilo Rueda’s honor and freedom have been afected in the public space by “intelligency” agencies. Those ones tax the human rights defender of buying witnesses to accuse the soldiers of the 17th Brigade, the General Rito Alejo del Rio, paramilitary and Maderas del Darién businessmen as responsible for the displacement in Cacarica in February 1997; terrible mechanism to ignore the truth of the victims and the evidence that exists against the responsible of the black community displacement. For its return, in 1999, the black community formed the organization CAVIDA.

Mr. President, one thing is to defend the interests of the State in a due process and another thing is to develop a legal strategy of psychological war in a judicial space. The truth of the victims in this case, is a real, historical and collective truth that cannot be invented and for which the witnesses should not be attacked in their dignity.

Mr. President, the message of its agents is absolutely disastrous for the victims, for the society, for the community of nations. How can we understand that you proclaimed a victims law, and at the same time, you let your agents ignoring the basic principles of the recognition of the facts?
Mr. President, what is your position about the victims? What is your position about the blindness in the defense of the institutions and about the mentality of thousands of state employees in the armed forces and police, who refused to act in law, who acted covertly, using their authority to develop criminal strategies?

Mr. President, what are the government guarantees for the Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó Black communities victims living in Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones when troops are accusing them of being guerrillas, of being accomplices or helpers? Without any legal step of a due trial and through judicial plots based on Intelligency reports, many of us know what are the consequences for these suffering communities.
Mr. President, as you know, a democratic state of law is distinguished from a state of barbarism by the respectful actions of the authorities towards their citizens. Do you really consider that the Colombian State representatives actions reflect this respect? What happens in the lower Atrato black communities territories and what happened in the Interamerican Human Rights Court is absolutely shameful and has already sent a terrible message to the victims .

Facing these circumstances we believe that a presidential directive binding the military and police forces and ensuring an unrestricted respect for the victims and organizations that support them is really necessary.

We attest that the actions of the Cacarica communities joined in CAVIDA, and others communities councils that inhabit the Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity in Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó are far from the wrongdoing, disrespectful, unethical and illegal ways of the Colombian State delegates.

Mr. President any attempt on life and integrity, any secret psychological and physical threats is the responsibility of the governement. If your wish is to inscribe yourself in History as Peace builder, the least that should happen in this case, is to ensure and provide guarantees for human rights defenders of the Comision intereclesial de Justicia y Paz. After 25 years of high ethical legitimacy and recognition, the Comision must be able to continue its work, in 13 conflictual regions of Colombia. The minimum that must happen is a clear message in favor of the rights to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition. It must be proclaimed with force against the men and women whose mentality continue to be inspired by hate and the belief that internal enemies are the citizens demanding for a strong State of Rights, for justice and respect for the common good of humanity.

With the consideration of the Ethics Commission of Truth,

Adolfo Perez Esquivel – Nobel Peace Prize – Argentina

Bernardine Dhorn, lawyer and professor at Northwest University Chicago, director of the Justice Center for children and family, United States

Camilo da Silva Bernardino – Attorney Landless Movement – MST, Brazil

Carlos Fazio, Professor University of Mexico – UNAM, Mexico

Ethics Committee against Torture in Chile

Community of St. Thomas Aquin, Pilar Sanchez, Andres Redondo, Spain

Enrique Santiago Romero – Lawyer, Spain

Enrique Nuñez, express and explicit grouping policies of Chile

School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), Elizabeth Deligio, Charity Ryerson, U.S.

Catalunya-Comissió Espai Ethics, Vicenta Font de Gregori, Antonio Pigrau Spain

France Amerique Latine, France

Gilberto López y Rivas, professor at the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico, Mexico

Freedom Sánchez Gil, Association of Recovery of Historical Memory and Shire Merida, Spain

Lorenzo Loncon, Mapuche, Argentina

Mary Bricker-Jenkins, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Temple University, Poor People’s Campaign for economic and human rights (Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign), United States

Miguel Alvarez, SERAPAZ, expert on peace and negotiation, Mexico

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo – Founding Line, Mirta Baravalle, Argentina

Pierluigi Di Piazza – Responsible Balducci Center – Udine – Italy

Rick Ufford-Chase, Executive Director, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, United States

Stephen Haymes, DePaul University, Chicago, USA