5 February 2002


UA 36/02 Fear for safety/possible 'disappearance'



Manuel Francisco Navarro Culma (m), leader of the displaced

community of Cienaga del Opon



Community leader Manuel Francisco Navarro Culma was reportedly

abducted in Barrancabermeja on 2 February, by gunmen believed to

be army-backed paramilitaries. His whereabouts are unknown, and

Amnesty International is seriously concerned for his safety.


According to witnesses, he was seen at 2pm in a place known as 'La

Rampa'. Three men in civilian clothing reportedly took him to the

Arenal neighborhood. The following day, at 10am, he was reportedly

seen near the football stadium, with men known to be members of the

paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), United

Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, who operate in the area. He was

seen again that day in different parts of the city, at 8pm and again at



Manuel Francisco is a leader of the forcibly displaced community of

Cienaga del Opon. People from the community reported his

abduction shortly after it took place. The police called off the search

at 5pm, a few hours later.


Cienaga del Opon is an area about 25km to the north of

Barrancabermeja, department of Santander. Armed opposition

groups are fighting for control of the area with the army and their

paramilitary allies. In November 2000, the conflict forced

approximately 126 families who live there to flee their homes. Since

then they have been living in Barrancabermeja.


According to press reports, 20 of these displaced families began

returning to Cienaga del Opon on 3 February to rebuild the

community's homes and their lives. This process is being assisted by

governmental and non-governmental organizations. Forcibly

displaced communities and their leaders are frequently labelled as

guerrilla collaborators by the security forces and their paramilitary

allies. These accusations have often been followed by serious human

rights violations committed by the latter. Displaced communities who

have been forced to abandon military or economically strategic areas

have frequently faced threats and human rights violations when they

have sought to return to their abandoned lands.


RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly

as possible:

- expressing concern for the safety of Manuel Francisco Navarro

Culma, who was reportedly abducted by army-backed paramilitaries

in Barrancabermeja on 2 February, and urging the authorities to find

out where he is;

- urging the authorities to order a full and impartial investigation into

his 'disappearance', to publish the results and bring those responsible

to justice;

- expressing serious concern for the safety of people from Cienega

del Opon, who have recently begun returning to their homes;

- urging the authorities to take all measures that the communities

themselves deem appropriate to guarantee their safety;

- expressing concern that the government and its security forces have

taken no effective action against paramilitary groups in the

department of Santander, despite repeated commitments and UN

recommendations to combat and dismantle these groups;

- calling for a full and impartial investigation into links between the

security forces and paramilitary groups operating in the department of

Santander, urging that the results are made public and those found

responsible for supporting and participating in such groups are

brought to justice.






President of Colombia:

Senor Presidente Andres Pastrana

Presidente de la Republica

Palacio de Narino

Carrera 8 No. 7-26

Santafe de Bogota, Colombia

Telegrams: President Pastrana, Bogota, Colombia

Telex: 396 44281 PALP CO

Fax: 011 57 1 566 20 71

Salutation: Excelentisimo Sr. Presidente/Dear President


Attorney General:

Dr. Luis Camilo Osorio,

Fiscal General de la Nacion

Fiscalia General de la Nacion,

Apartado Aereo 29855

Diagonal 22B 52-01 (Ciudad Salite),

Santafe de Bogota, Colombia

Telegram: Fiscal General, Bogota, Colombia

Fax: 011 57 1 570 2000

Salutation: Dear Dr. Osorio / Estimado Dr. Osorio


Governor of Santander Department:

Sr. Jorge Eliecer Gomez Villamizar,

Gobernador del Departamento de Santander

Gobernacion de Santander,

Calle 37, No. 10-30,

Bucaramanga, Santander


Telegram: Gobernador Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia

Fax: 011 57 76 339889 / 633 9666

Salutation: Dear Governor / Sr. Gobernador



National Advocate for the people:

Sr. Eduardo Cifuentes Munoz,

Defensor del Pueblo, Defensoria del Pueblo,

Calle 55, No. 10-32/46 office 301,

Santafe de Bogota, COLOMBIA

Telegram: National Advocate, Bogota, Colombia

Fax: 011 57 1 640 0491

Salutation: Dear Mr. Cifuentes Munoz / Estimado Sr. Cifuentes



Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno

Embassy of Colombia

2118 Leroy Pl. NW

Washington DC 20008

Fax: 1 202 232 8643


Please send appeals immediately. Check with the Colorado office

between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm, Mountain Time, weekdays only, if

sending appeals after March 19, 2002.


Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement

that promotes and defends human rights.


Please do not repost this appeal to any part of the Internet

without prior permission from Amnesty International. Thank you for

your help with this appeal.


Urgent Action Network

Amnesty International USA

PO Box 1270

Nederland CO 80466-1270

Email: uan@aiusa.org


Phone: 303 258 1170

Fax: 303 258 7881