Human Rights Worker Assassinated in Antioquia

May, 2000

Jesús Ramiro Zapata Hoyos, human rights defender of the northeastern region of Antioquia was detained and killed, presumabluy by paramilitary forces operating in the area.

Jesús Ramiro Zapata Hoyos, human rights defender from the township of Segovia, Antioquia was the president of Comité de Derechos Humanos de Segovia, and member of Colectivo Semillas de Libertad and of the Comité de Derechos Humanos del Nordeste Antioqueño. He was abducted from a place of public gathering on Segovia's main street by a group of armed men on May 3, 2000 at 8:30 p.m. In the early morning hours of May 4, Jesús' family received a phone call in which they were told to pick up his body in Providencia, one of the surrounding areas of the Segovia township.

There has been an increasing numbers of threats and attacks on Colombian social and community leaders, particularly those who denounce the abuses of Colombian security forces and the paramilitaries. Since 1994, a number of the members of human rights defense organizations in northern Antioquia, such as those mentioned above, have been killed or received death threats.

Most of these are carried out by the paramilitaries, and involve the participation of active or retired members of the Colombian armed forces who have worked in the Antioquia region. A month before his death, a group of approximately 500 paramilitary men entered Segovia and the neighboring township of Remedios, with no reaction from the members of the armed forces. In fact, Officer Arvelaez who was in military command of the army in Segovia during 1995 and 1997, and Captain Hernandez, who was an intelligence commander in the military base of Segovia during these same years, were reportedly commanding the paramilitary groups present in the Segovia region during Jesús Ramiro's assassination.

On the day of his assassination, Jesús Ramiro had reported to human rights organizations that members of the paramilitary with whom he was not familiar, had been looking for him, inquiring in eight separate instances about his whereabouts between April 15 an April 28. Although he brought this to the attention of the local authorities, they did not offer any measures of protection to assure Jesús Ramiro's well being.

We call on the Colombian government to investigate and bring those to justice responsible for this crime, and to condemn the acts of the illegal paramilitary forces. We call on all parties - including the guerrillas, the paramilitary groups, and members of the Colombian security forces - to respect the legitimate wok of social leaders and human rights and peace advocates. We also reiterate our call on all parties to respect international humanitarian law, including internationally recognized principles of respect for the lives of non-combatants.






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