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Report on the attack against civilians in Ocaña: fatalities and casualties of shooting by state forces to repress the demonstrators of Catatumbo

Two people dead, two arrested and eleven injured are the consequence of a further attack by the state forces on Saturday 22 June against the 7,000 peasants who had assembled in the sector of Aguas Claras, in the province of Ocaña, Norte de Santander, during a peasants' strike throughout the region of Catatumbo which has been ongoing for 12 days.

According to information receive from various sources, including the Rural Press Agency (Agencia Prensa Rural) and the Lawyers' Collective Luis Carlos Pérez (Colectivo de Abogados Luis Carlos Pérez) the army and the police fired bursts of gunfire for a period of 10 minutes against the demonstrators, who had tried to take the airport of Ocaña at about 1pm as a way halting the disembarcation of members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios - ESMAD) of the National Police, who had sought to suppress the demonstrators on the previous Wednesday 19th June (see:

Subsequent to these events, at about 4pm, the state forces again fired against the peasants and the Mission of Verification comprised of NGOs and independent journalists, amongst whom were The Catatumbo Peasants Association (Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo - ASCAMCAT), The Forum for Strengthening the Organizations for the Displaced People of Norte de Santander (Mesa de Fortalecimiento de Organizaciones de Población Desplazada de Norte de Santander), The Association of Displaced Persons of the Province of Ocaña (Asociación de Desplazados de la Provincia de Ocaña - ASODEPO), The Colombia-Europe-United States Co-ordination (Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos), the National Movement for Victims of State Crimes (Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado - Movice), The Federation of University Students of Colombia (Federación Estudiantes Universitarios de Colombia -FEU) and the Collective Corporation of Lawyers Luis Carlos Pérez (Corporación Colectivo de Abogados Luis Carlos Pérez).

The indiscriminate conduct of the state forces against the demonstrators caused the death of Dionel Jácome Ortíz, from the rural area ("vereda") of Banderas in San Calixto, who was transferred in a critical condition to the municipal hospital of Convención, and of Edison Franco Jaimes from the village of El Caracol, also in San Calixto. Both died of gunshot wounds.

These events took place one day after the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, stated that the FARC guerrillas had infiltrated the social protests going on in the region of Catatumbo. The measures taken against the civilian population were co-ordinated, according to information received, by the Director of Citizen Security of the National Police, General Rodolfo Palomino López; the National Commander of the ESMAD, Colonel Rafael Méndez Castro, and Captain Óscar Merchán, all of whom were in Ocaña.

The Rural Press Agency reported that the injured who arrived at the Emiro Cañizares Hospital, in Ocaña, were Audel Rodríguez (from vereda El Rosal, municipality of El Tarra), Jimmy Jaimes (from Mesa Rica, municipality of Hacarí) and Nayi Abril (from Las Palmas, municipality of Convención), as well as Germán Peñaranda (from vereda Playitas, San Calixto) who was shot in the mouth; and Wilmer Ricardo Romero. Three other casualties, also wounded by gunfire are yet to be identified.

In total, with the events of Wednesday 19th June, there have been 15 casualties treated at the hospital of Ocaña. Only one of these, Vladimir Pérez, 40 years of age, remains in a delicate condition (see:

According to the Collective Luis Carlos Pérez, during the night of Saturday 22nd June, two of the injured who were released from hospital, Wilmar Omar Paredes Franco and Édgar Alonso León Sanguino, were taken to the Prosecutor's Office in Ocaña and would be the subject of criminal proceedings.

In addition, Radio Nizkor received confirmation that a third member of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron (ESMAD) - wounded on Wednesday 19th June by the explosion of what witnesses described as a fragmentation grenade - died on Friday at the hospital in Ocaña. The authorities, however, have maintained silence about this fact, confirmed by reliable sources. The Police reported three wounded during the events of 22nd June, notwithstanding that the NGOS in the area advised that no-one in uniform was affected by the incident.

At the time of writing this report, various sources suggest that an indeterminate number of peasants were for some hours on the night of 22nd June at the airport of Ocaña. Two of these complained to the Commission of Verification that members of the Army took photographs of them after having put ELN emblems on them, as a result of which they now fear indictment.

On the morning of Saturday 22nd June, the mayor of Ocaña, Jesús Antonio Sánchez, during a statement given to RCN radio station, reported that a total of 30 people had been injured during the disturbances which had been going on since the previous Wednesday 19th June.

For their part, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Colombian Red Cross issued a joint press release in which they asked for respect for the medical mission in the Norte de Santander and stressed the need "to allow access to the health services whenever necessary in order to prevent serious humanitarian consequences for the civilian population ". "Limiting the work of the health professionals will risk the lives of many people", stated Jordi Raich, head of the delegation of the ICRC in Colombia.

The peasants' demands

At dawn on Sunday 23rd June, according to the Rural Press Agency, over 600 peasants from Catatumbo joined the protests of the 13,000 demonstrators in the region.

Amongst the principal demands of the peasant community are:

    1.- The establishment of a forum for analysis, dialogue and agreement to study the declaration of the Catatumbo Peasant Farmer Reservation Zone.

    2.- The suspension of eradication of illicit crops until the financing of productive projects has been determined which guarantee income to families in a socially compromised situation and, where necessary, the granting of temporary subsidies.

    3.- The identification of alternatives which permit the continuity of work for those families who carry out legal activities on their lands and have been affected by the effect of eradication.

    4.- The establishment of a Commission of Verification of Human Rights made up of representatives of the OAS, the UN, the Office of the Attorney General, the ombudsman of Ocaña and Cúcuta and the Bishop of Tibú.

[Source: Radio Nizkor, 23Jun13]

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small logoThis document has been published on 20Aug13 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.