Colombia This Week -- September 15, 2003

Fri 05 – Former prosecutor in Nogal investigation killed; FARC kills social activist in Nariño.

· Un-identified gunmen kill former Colombian prosecutor German Camacho. Camacho resigned from the State prosecution service a month ago after participating in the investigation into the bombing of El Nogal, which killed 35 people in February El Tiempo reports.

· Representatives of the Afro-Colombian communities at the Pacific Coast blame the FARC group for the killing of José Luciano Castillo in Roberto Payán (Nariño). He was an independent Mayoral candidate in this village and a community leader for more than 30 years.

· House of Representatives President Alonso Acosta and Sen. Carlos Holguín, President of the Conservative Party, report that they have received word from three sources that the FARC group intends to free former Sen. Ingrid Betancourt in the next few days.

· A Venezuelan soldier is injured during a clash between a Venezuelan army patrol and Colombian paramilitaries near the border. The incident occurred in the Ayacucho municipality of Tachira State, Vanguardia Liberal reports.

· David Tomkins, a British mercenary and arms trafficker who allegedly worked for the Cali drug cartel in the 1990s, is arrested as he tries to attend a chemical weapons safety class in Texas, U.S. Since the 1990s, he stands accused of trying to buy an aircraft to bomb a prison housing Pablo Escobar, the then-leader of Medellin's drug cartel, Washington Post reports.

· President Uribe Vélez promises to increase the military presence along the Venezuelan border to prevent kidnappings. He also announces a new battalion of 400 soldiers to protect the Colombian borders.


Sat 06 – Army kills 16 FARC members in Chita (Boyacá); "social cleansing" in Cazucá, Soacha.

· Authorities report that soldiers killed 16 suspected guerrilla members outside the village of Chita (Boyacá). Government troops fired on suspected FARC guerrillas in their rebel camp in the mountains near the Casanare department.

· A report from local residents in Soacha, a municipality bordering the capital Bogotá, claims that seven men dressed as civilians, six of them masked, fired indiscriminately at a group of boys and young men inside a computer games store, killing youths aged between 13 and 22 years old.

· Six US NGOs send a letter to the Colombian President expressing their concerns about the political violence carried out by paramilitary forces in the city of Barrancabermeja (Santander), despite the extensive presence of state security forces. Between August 22 and August 28, the Regional Public Ombudsman received reports of the forced disappearance of six civilians.

· Police report that they have netted 50 suspected FARC members in Medellin, Urrao and Chigorodo (Antioquia) in a joint operation with the army. Some of those captured are accused of participating in the executions of a kidnapped State Governor, a former Defence Minister and eight Colombian soldiers during a failed rescue attempt by the Colombian Army in May, Associated Press reports.


Sun 07–Armed forces arrest 120 people in Caquetá; US: AUC are not keeping to cease-fire.

· Colombian armed forces raid the village of Cartagena del Chairá (Caquetá), arresting more than 120 people accused of being members of urban militias. Among those detained is the former Mayor of the city, Victor Oime Hormiga

· U.S. State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher reports that paramilitary groups like the Self-Defence Armed Forces have not kept the cease-fire they made in December last year. This group is on the US authorities list of terrorist groups.

· The Justice and Peace Commission in the Diocese of Quibdó (Chocó) reports on the irregularities and abuses committed by the armed forces present along the Atrato river. The abuses are reported to have been directed against the communities of Tadía and Murindó, in Chocó, and the Commission calls upon the Colombian government to guarantee the safety of these people. According to the reports, helicopters have been indiscriminately bombing the village of Murindó Viejo.

· A spokesperson from the army says that armed forces killed six paramilitary fighters in Sucre.

· Celso Amorim, the Brazilian Foreign Minister, reports that Brazil is prepared to host an official meeting between the United Nations and the FARC group. However, Brazilian Ambassador to Colombia Maria Celina de Azevedo has cautioned that arrangements are still at a "very primitive stage" and that "many months will pass" before any U.N. and FARC representatives will actually sit down in Brazilian territory for negotiations.


Mon 08 – NGOs launch "The Authoritarian Curse"; Uribe attacks Human Rights Groups.

· 80 Colombian NGOs launch a jointly written book, "The Authoritarian Curse". The book accuses the armed forces of using excessive force and putting civilian lives at risk. It also accuses the government of ignoring the plight of thousands of people displaced by the fighting and says the government's explanation that the military campaign is designed to strengthen democracy is a disguise for repression and the militarization of society.

· In a speech during a military ceremony President Uribe denies the charges listed in the NGO's book and accuses some of the authors - without specifically naming them - of acting "in the service of terrorism". He says, "When the terrorists begin to feel weakened, they immediately send their spokespeople for the human rights (groups)." He challenges them to "take off their masks ... and drop this cowardice of hiding their ideas behind human rights."

U.S. State Department spokesperson Jo-Anne Prokopowicz says that Washington will not have any contact with the FARC until the group hands over those involved in the 1999 killing of three U.S. citizens. Washington classifies the group as "terrorist" and has indicted many of its leaders on drug trafficking and murder charges.

Security forces rescue eight kidnapping victims held by FARC group in Trebol (Caldas), El Tiempo reports.

Two bombs explode in Pasto (Nariño), killing two people. The explosions occurred outside a police station and a media statio, El Espectador reports.

Security forces capture 80 FARC guerrillas near Cartagena del Chaira, Caquetá.


Tues 09 - General Mora criticises human rights activists; EU backs human rights groups.

The Commander of Colombia's armed force pile on further criticism of NGOs and human rights groups and argues that Colombian people do not support their viewpoints. Gen. Jorge Enrique Mora says rights groups resort to allegations of complicity between his troops and paramilitary factions to justify their own existence. He cited Defence Ministry figures to support his claim that the NGO book released the previous day erred in accusing security forces of rights violations.

In a public statement the delegation of the European Union in Colombia re-affirms its support to the civil society groups and the strong commitment that European countries have with Colombian human rights organizations.

In a public statement The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) deplores Uribe Vélez' comments linking human rights defenders to terrorism. The Office argues that his comments are indiscriminate and unjust, adding that "if the government has evidence to suggest that any particular organization is engaged in illegal activity under Colombian law, that evidence should be presented to a court of law and judged accordingly".

Jorge Rojas, head of the Office for Human Rights and Forced Displacement, (Codhes) says the President's failure to specifically name the organizations supposedly linked to terrorist groups has placed the nation's entire humanitarian community in danger. "Human rights groups are in a very precarious situation following the president's speech," Associated Press reports.

The Attorney General's Office acquits police coroners Mauricio Santoyo and Eduardo Flórez, ex-commanders of the Gaula anti-kidnap unit in Medellin, under investigation for illegally tapping more than 2,000 telephones belonging to NGOs and social activists between 1997 and 2001. Five other police officers are on trial. This case follows the disappearances of human rights defenders from the Association of Relatives of Detained-Disappeared, (ASFADDES), Angel Quintero and Claudia Monsalve in October 2001.


Weds 10- UNICEF warns: more children involved in armed conflict; alert from Arauca's NGO's.

Nils Kastberg, new director of UNICEF for Latin American and Caribbean countries visits, Cali and Bogotá. He reports that the policies developed by the Colombian State to prevent the incorporation of children into armed groups has failed and, calling for new measures to be taken, he highlights that in the last three years the number of under-age children fighting for the guerrillas and paramilitaries has doubled from 7,000 in 2000 to 13,000 today.

The Central Workers Union CUT, the Peasants' Association ADUC, the Arauca Association of Traditional Leaders and Authorities ASCATUDAR, the Youth and Student Regional Association ASOJER and the Civic and Community Associations in Arauca sign a letter reporting persecution and direct intimidation by military and police forces and "delinquents" working in their service, directed against the headquarters of social organisations, institutions, corporations, and social and community cooperatives.

In response to the speech given by President Uribe Vélez, Amnesty International says in a statement that Colombian human rights defenders have gained great respect internationally for their commitment and courage in their work on the ground, and it is regrettable that the government should launch a campaign that leaves them more exposed to danger: "Intolerance to criticism risks creating a more authoritarian society".they note.

Gloria Cuartas, social activist and member of the Permanent Committee for Human Rights, (CPDH) reports that the President's refusal to accept criticism has vindicated the report's underlying claim - that he has a penchant for autocratic rule.

Presenting the Colombian Government's annual report on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, Defense Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez criticises the UN human rights recommendations and the US State Department human rights conclusions, dismissing the allegations made by those institutions regarding the collusion between the armed forces and the paramilitaries.


Thurs 11 – UNDP in Colombia launches the 2003 Development Report; bomb kills eight in Chita.

UNDP publishes its annual Human Development Report for Colombia with the title "The conflict - a dead end street that DOES have a way out". The central message claims, controversially, that guerrilla forces and the Colombian State lost this war a long time ago. However, it points to a possible way forward for peace, by which the conflict should be clearly placed at the centre of State concerns (and not just the military or negotiation agenda) and a systematic response should be developed to tackle the areas currently abandoned by the State.

A bomb strapped to a horse explodes in a market in the town of Chita (Boyacá), killing at least eight people, including a two-year-old child. Fifteen people are also injured in the blast. Residents were crowded into the area in preparation for the town's weekly market when the incident occurred. Colombian authorities blame FARC group for the attack, BBC reports.

While visiting Chita (Boyacá), Uribe Vélez renews his criticism of human rights defenders and NGOs, accusing them of supporting terrorism in Colombia.


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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