Members of the Community Council of the Jiguamiando and Curbarado are presumed disappeared.
The covert army operation continues. One hour after the armed incursion, with no civilians inside the settlement, there were battles between the state soldiers and the guerrillas.
One Commission made up of the Ombudsman's Office, humanitarian organizations and international observers from Canada and other countries and our Commission Justicia y Paz managed to get to the hamlet known as "Nueva Esperanza". In the last few days this has become a provisional settlement for the familes of the Community Council of Jiguamiando and 9 communities of Curbarado. On 6th. June the people were the target of a paramilitary-style covert military operation in which, apart from looting, threats and a siege of the settlers, four peasants disappeared and the entire community was forcibly displaced. An hour later the place turned into battle scene with FARC EP.
The families of "Nueva Esperanza" set themselves up downstream of the River Jiguamiando, on the left bank, as a temporary settlement within the Collective Territory for those displaced, giving it the same name as the place they were forced to leave over 2 years ago. The site which, since 2001, is now called "Nueva Esperanza" is situated within the Collective Territory as a result of the open and undercover offensives of Brigade XVII. Nueva Esperanza is the nearest hamlet to the oil palm plantations, which continue to be cultivated illegally contrary to Law 70 of the Afro-Colombian Communities.
In the last fifteen days the settlers have been targets of further aggression and irreparable damage by the covert paramilitary-style military units who, since 1996 have been strengthened from Mutata, Belen de Bajira, Chigorodo, Riosucio, Carmen del Darien and Bellavista (since 2002 in the latter case), as a result of their co-ordinated actions with the Brigade XVII and the army's failure to act under the excuse of military confrontation with FARC EP.
*On Thursday 5th June, probably during the afternoon, 200 armed "civilians" invilved in the covert military strategy managed to assemble at a point located 100 metres from the Nueva Esperanza. Here they fitted out makesshift tents ('cambuches'), provisional kitchens and left packets of biscuits, boxes of toothpaste, tins of sardines and tuna, bags of tomato sauce and empty drink containers; lighters, razor blades, used gauze and cotton wool; two lengths of camouflage material and tent material. It is believed that they spent the night there.
*On Friday 6th June at 5.30, a uniformed member of the paramilitary, was seen by peasants, in a small boat belonging to the Community moving from the left downstream bank to the right bank. On the right bank they encountered three other armed 'civilians' dressed in camouflage who threw themselves to the ground when they saw the peasants on the opposite bank.
The peasant members of the Community Council immediately informed the other community members of the paramilitary presence, some of whom were found asleep and others leaving to carry out their work sowing the fields. From that moment, women, children and adults started to run - one of their methods of self protection - towards the forest.
At about 6.00, two Afro-Colombians from the hamlet of "Pueblo Nuevo", who were heading in their boat to the area known as "La Grande" were detained at the jetty of "Nueva Esperanza" at the moment when 150 men in camouflage with rifles and handguns, were trying to cross the River Jiguamiando to surround the hamlet of "Nueva Esperanza".
One of the Afro-Colombians, Cristobal Blandon Borja, was detained by the armed men, while the other managed to flee, leaving behind his personal belongings. The paramilitaries took his identity documents and those of his wife; they also took the documents that had been submitted to the national government and the international bodies on the Humanitarian Zones; they damaged the community's boat, which had been financed by European co-operation.
Upon surrounding and then entering the hamlet, the armed "civilians" split into different groups. Some carried out a house to house search, looting some of them and taking community and family property. They took money from the sales of family crops in the amount of 202,000 pesos (US$65), 120,000 pesos (US$42) from a community fund and bars of soap, deodorant, biscuits, sweets, AM and FM radios; from the Community shop they also took two dozen packets of cigarettes, a box of candles, one case of oil, 40 batteries, 2 cases of beer, 10 cases of biscuits, and 10 small boxes of condiments.
Another group went to the house of Jose Francisco, dressed in light blue jeans, who was still there trying to save an old woman from the hands of the armed group. They pointed a gun at him and shouted at him "Which s.o.b. told you all that we were coming, what's the name of the toad who saw us? Why are you afraid of us if you're all civilians? When will you get used to seeing us?" One of the women replied "we run because of everything you have done to all the peasants". At the same time they took an elderly woman of 65. They took them both to the house opposite the community school.
Meanwhile, other groups had detained a teenager. Deivis Jimenez Diaz, 18 years old, a health promoter trained by Medecins du Monde - France who after managing to escape towards the forests returned for his identity documents and documents related to his job. Deivis dressed in a sweatshirt with bright red colours around the front pockets and a blue tee-shirt, was also taken to the house where Cristobal and Jose had been taken.
While trying to leave "Nueva Esperanza", slowed down by the number of elderly and children accompanying him, Lisandro Martínez, a 36 year old peasant, wearing faded blue work jeans and a check shirt, 1.77 metres tall, was detained along with his wife, 4 children (all minors), his elderly mother-in-law and a woman neighbour who was leaving with her children.
This group of Community Council members were surrounded by the armed men, who intimidated them and shouted "Why are you running?" One of the women replied "we're afraid because when you arrive, nothing good ever comes from it." One of the armed men said to them "how nice it is to see the trees fall....we came for this" The armed group took them all to the same house as the rest of the detainees making a group of 20 people in total: 5 women, 2 teenagers, 2 adult men and 11 children.
The armed men linked to the "covert military strategy" told them "You are a group of toads, it's worthwhile killing the lot of you s.o.bs." While the women were crying for their lives and claiming they were civilians one of the group shouted "Make that bitch shut up". Yet another woman cried out for them to let them live, at which point the armed group replied "We have sinned for more than this, why not sin for these 20?"
When asked about the presence of any guerrilla groups, the civilians replied "We are just civil population, there are none here, you know there are none here". While the group threw a can of beer to each other which they had taken out of one of the houses, they said "this is for the guerrillas," and while they drank, they repeated "it's not worth going without killing you". They continued, "Tell us where the rest of the community has gone, where the informer is, here we only have you lot, where are the rest, here we've only got old women and children, where are the young women?" They questioned Lisandro in the centre of the group and asked him about the ownership of the motors which had been supplied by the national government and from international community donations. They intimidated him and questioned him about the names of the Community members; "Give us the names, tell us where they are(...)why are you running, why were you going to go?"
Among the paras, who were dressed with waistcoats with the symbol AUC on the back, there was one who they all called "H20", another they called "el perro" ("the dog") and another called "R15".
One of the paras separated Jose and Deivis from the rest of the group. Jose was asked his age and job, and they looked at his hands and back. They told Deivis to raise his shirt and then said "you don't look like a peasant".
While the 20 members of the Community Council were held, the paras prepared their heavy weapons and aimed them at the mountainside.
One of the group ordered that CRISTOBAL, LISANDRO, JOSE and DEIVIS be taken in the direction of the jetty where they had come in and told the others to disperse in the hamlet.
Four paras escorted them, two in front and two behind. The rest dispersed throughout the hamlet leaving the women and the children alone who took the opportunity to flee.
At about 6.55, while those 16 people, children, women and elderly, were escaping they heard shots from another part of the mountain.
According to the peasants from areas near the hamlet, explosions and shots were heard until 12.00 midday.
Some of the peasants were able to observe from a distance that one hour after leaving the hamlet, guerrillas descended down one side of the mountain.
*On Saturday 7th June at 7.00, some of the peasants started to return to the hamlet and found damaged roofs of house, broken pots, fallen banana plants, damaged clothes, holes in the ground of about 50 cm in diameter caused by explosions, a community motorboat provided by the Red Solidaridad Social (Social Solidarity Network) perforated through the top, the microscope with three bullet holes, perforated water tanks, and empty bullet cartridges on the ground.
Since that night only 8 families have returned to the hamlet, another 30 still vacillate between fear, anxiety, the possibility of carrying on and losing everything once and for all.
Since Friday 6th June at 6.55 the four members of the Community Council have disappeared in the hands of the armed group involved in the covert military strategy and were taken in the direction of Pavarando and Belen de Bajira.
On Friday 13th June at 11.50 hours there was a rumour that Deivis and Lisandro were taken to other parts of Uraba Antioqueno and Choco, while Cristobal and Jose were in Pavarando where the state security forces are present and where there are various paramilitary bases nearby.
The testimonies speak for themselves. The rights to life and to property in a region of conflict continue to be denied.
We ask the international human rights and humanitarian organizations to monitor the functioning of the state mechanisms responsible for the implementation of all necessary measures in cases of forced disappearances.
We ask the Colombian Government to respond to the Provisional Measures resolved by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in March 2003, in favour of the Community Councils of Jiguamiando and nine families of Curbarado.
We ask the State Prosecutor to explain why no investigations have been carried out concerning the forced displacements; if they exist, which state agents are connected to the displacements, whether by act or omission; what investigations have been carried out with respect to the military bases in Pavarando, Mutata and Belen de Bajira, Carmen del Darien and Riosucio which operate near military and police compounds, as well as civil authorities' headquarters.
We ask the Ministry for the Environment what administrative proceedings it has implemented to avoid the extension of cultivation of oil palm contrary to the will and the rights of the Afro-Colombians of Jiguamiando and Curbarado.
Bogota, D.C. junio 13 del 2003
Inter-Ecclesiastic Commission of Justice and Peace
(Comision Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz)
Community Council of the Jiguamiando and Curbarado
(Consejo Comunitario del Jiguamiando y 9 comunidades de Curbarado)
Excerpted and translated into Spanish by Equipo Nizkor on 14Aug03.
Published online on 22Aug03 by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights