Colombia this Week -- October 6, 20003

Fri 26 – 600 displaced in clashes between paramilitary factions; UK tourist escapes ELN captors.

· Reporting on testimonies from 600 displaced peasants in the municipality of San Roque (Antioquia), Semana magazine reports that more than 2000 fighters from different paramilitary groups are surrounding the combatants of the Bloque Metro and their commander Rodrigo. According to the displaced peasants, Colombian armed forces are not attempting to prevent the fighting, leaving civilians at high risk. Semana calls on the Human Rights Ombudsman's office to visit the area.

· A British tourist kidnapped by the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) 12 days ago has escaped, the Foreign Office reports. Matthew Scott, 19, who had been on a backpacking holiday in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, escaped while he was on a forced walk through the jungle, said General Carlos Alberto Ospina. Mr Scott, from London, was captured with another Briton and six other tourists on September 12.

· The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia reports on attacks carried out against four social and political leaders across Colombia. In a public statement, the Office also reported 11 cases of violent deaths of people running in local and national elections, calling on armed groups to respect them.

· Senator Rodrigo Pardo reports that members of the First Commission in the Colombian Senate, - in charge of the presidential law proposal to concede pardons and amnesties to the paramilitary commanders - have received direct pressure and threats from high-ranking paramilitaries to approve the proposal, El Tiempo reports.

· The Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ) expresses concern about the proposal presented by Uribe's government to give judicial powers to the armed forces. The fifth debate (of a total eight) is due to take place next week in the Colombian Congress. This proposal is in direct opposition to one of the 27 recommendations that the UN Human Rights Office in Colombia made to the Uribe administration in Geneva in March this year.


Sat 27 – Indigenous leader detained in Putumayo; 26 police officers sought in cocaine scandal.

· Arcadio Mutumbajoy, vice-president of the Organisation of Indigenous Communities in Putumayo (OZIP), is detained by Colombian armed forces. In a public statement, OZIP say that this is the "direct consequence of Uribe's speech accusing the NGOs of being supporters of terrorists groups".

· Twenty-six people, including several high-ranking police officers, are being sought in connection with the disappearance of at least 3 tons of seized cocaine and the murders of two informants. Drug traffickers allegedly paid a police captain and a lieutenant about $140,000 to leak the names of the informants, two of whom were later killed, according to an internal police investigation, El Tiempo reports.

· In a public statement the Diocese of Barrancabermeja strongly denounces the targeted robbery that took place on their premises. Among the things stolen were computer hard drives and confidential files.

· Colombian NGO Association for Research and Investigation NOMADESC reports threats received by Marta Lucia Renteria, human rights defender and civic leader in the municipality of Jamundi, (Cauca).

· The Human Rights and Political Violence Data Bank project argues that the government's measures under the "democratic security" approach have not reduced guerrilla activity. Moreover, they claim, the real content of Uribe's policy has been a massive increase in detentions of the civilian population, especially targeted against social sectors like trade unions, human rights organisations and political opposition.


Sun 28-11 die in nightclub bombing; massive increase in detentions under Uribe's administration

· A bomb blows up outside an upmarket nightclub in Florencia (Caquetá), killing at least 11 people and wounding 48. The device was attached to a motorcycle. Florencia police chief Rafael Parra says that the bomb was clearly targeting the civilian population, AP reports.

· According to the National Police, between 7 August 2002 and 30 June 2003, 207,474 individuals were deprived of their liberty. The Ministry of Defence states that 50,470 people have been detained on public order offences during the first whole year of Uribe's presidency (August 2002 - July 2003). This averages 140 public order detentions daily. A significant proportion of detainees are not released. Statistics from the authorities show that the prison population grew from 54,234 in January 2003 to 58,977 by June 2003, an increase of 4,743 people in six months. 25, 636 of these prisoners have not been sentenced.

· A senior State Department official reports that the US administration will not drop criminal charges against paramilitary leaders indicted in the United States. "We've said over and over again we don't want to see everybody get off," the official said, adding that the administration expects Uribe to be even-handed, offering the same terms to guerrillas that he is now proposing for the paramilitaries, Reuters reports.

· Colombia Solidarity Campaign (CSC) reports on an operation carried out by Colombian security forces in the municipality of Dagua (Cauca). Over 60 residents were detained and held in custody without being charged. They were either members of the local population or peasants, some of whom were trading at the Sunday market in the locality of Queremal, Cauca.

· Colombian Catholic NGO Justice and Peace reports that the communities in the basin of the Jiguamiando River (Choco) have reported that paramilitary troops are occupying the settlement of Nueva Esperanza, abusing the AfroColombians, using their houses and property, and putting the lives of civilians at high risk. They are calling upon the Colombian state to make their presence in the area felt.


Mon 29 –Human Rights Watch criticises US compliance with Uribe's amnesty proposal.

Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Jose Miguel Vivanco opposes the amnesty bill proposed by Uribe Velez to the Congress, calling it "amazing" that the Bush administration does not demand strict accountability despite investing heavily in developing the rule of law in Colombia. "This proposal specifically contemplates impunity -- not a single day in prison for those responsible for atrocities and who have been profiting from narco-trafficking all this time," HRW reports.

300 members of the indigenous communities of Putumayo marched peacefully in Mocoa calling for the liberation of their leader Arcadio Mutumbajoy. He was detained on Saturday and, along with another 30 members of the OZIP organization, accused of aiding the FARC group.


Tues 30 – ELN seek 'solution' to kidnap of foreign tourists; Mayoral candidate killed in Atlantico.

In a statement published on its website, the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) takes responsibility for the kidnapping of eight foreign tourists in northern Colombia "under the operation 'Allende Lives,' on the 30th anniversary of his death". President Uribe Velez has pleaded with the ELN to free the seven remaining hostages after one of them escaped from his captors in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The ELN has not made any demands and has said it is open to negotiations "to find a solution", El Espectador reports.

Gunmen kill a mayoral candidate in Soledad, near Barranquilla. Jose Castillo was a candidate for the Liberal Party. This is the 15th assassination of a candidate in Colombia's upcoming state and municipal elections. Both guerrilla and paramilitary groups have threatened candidates in more than 100 towns, AP reports.

US-based Colombia Support Network (CSN) strongly condemns the bomb placed in the city of Florencia, Caqueta, attributed to the FARC. In a public statement CSN once again calls upon all armed groups, including the FARC, the ELN, the AUC and all other paramilitary groups to stop attacks against the civilian population and to respect International Humanitarian Law.

Analysts suggest that Sunday's bomb in Florencia - along with a February bombing in Bogota that killed 36 people - underscores the government's inability to safeguard affluent neighbourhoods, despite President Uribe's pledges to restore the state's authority and to defeat illegal armed groups. The bombing has been blamed on the FARC as part of their nationwide campaign of violence aimed at thwarting regional elections scheduled for Oct. 25, El Espectador reports.


Weds 01 – Uribe defends amnesty proposal; Church accepts mediation in ELN kidnapping.

Widely criticised for his proposal to grant amnesty to paramilitary members responsible for violations of human rights, President Uribe Velez defends the idea in Washington and New York as an "essential part of achieving his country's long-sought peace". The Bush administration has not taken a public position on the details of Uribe's proposal, except to say that it expects "justice for the victims and accountability for the perpetrators of gross human rights violations and narco-trafficking", Washington Post reports.

Colombia's Catholic Church says it has accepted a government request to try to persuade the ELN group to free seven foreign tourists kidnapped in Sierra Nevada Santa Marta. Dario Echeverry, head of the Bishop's Conference Conciliation Committee, told local radio: "The proper thing to do is to wait for a statement from the ELN commanders, we want them to get in direct contact.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) reports that an outbreak of yellow fever hit northern Colombia in July. The first deaths were in Catatumbo (Norte de Santander). The Colombian Health Ministry asked the ICRC to help. Since then 2,372 people have received vaccinations and an epidemiological study has been initiated in the department of La Guajira.

After meeting with President Bush, Uribe Velez reports that the two governments will negotiate a free trade agreement before the end of the year. State Department officials said recently that Colombia must undertake a number of internal reforms to become eligible for a free trade agreement, Washington Post reports.

The Association of Indigenous Leaders of Northern Cauca (ACIN), the Regional Council for the Indigenous Leaders of Cauca (CRIC) and the Mayor of Toribio (Cauca) report on the armed clashes between the Colombian police forces and members of the FARC. The community has called upon the police force to abandon the public buildings they are occupying because they are putting the lives of civilians at risk. They have also made an appeal to the FARC to respect the community's right to remain outside the armed conflict.


Thurs 02 – Government cuts child prostitutes programmes; EU condemns bombing in Florencia.

Alexandra Rodriguez, regional director for the Colombian state family welfare institute (ICBF), reports that the government has decided to cut about $60,000 a year in funds used by the Renacer foundation to locate, assess and refer exploited children and abused young people who have turned to prostitution in the streets of Bogotá. The decision has outraged workers who say it reduces aid to those who need it most.

In a declaration by the Presidency of the European Union, the EU countries strongly condemn the bombing in Florencia, which killed 12 people, and reaffirm their support for the government of Uribe Velez in its attempts to address threats to democracy.

Patricio Zuquilanda and Carolina Barco, Foreign Ministers from Ecuador and Colombia, meet in Bogotá to identify a date to halt the fumigation campaign in the southern region of Putumayo, near the Ecuadorian border. On Tuesday, an official spokesperson from the Ecuadorian government reported that Colombia would suspend fumigations, La Hora reports.


Colombia This Week is a news summary produced and distributed by ABColombia Group. Sources include daily Colombian, US, European and Latin American newspapers, and reports from non-governmental organisations and the UN System. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the ABColombia Group.

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