Leader of Coffee Growers’ Association Disappeared

News from Colombia | on: Friday, 11 January 2008

Soldiers have forcibly taken away the President of the 'Association of Organic Coffee Growers of Colombia' along with his five children. Their whereabouts are currently unknown although shots were heard from the direction the soldiers went in after their detention.

At 9am on January 10th troops of the 3rd 'Batalla Palace' Artillery Battalion of the Colombian Army arrived at the community of San Marcos in the municipality of Tulua in Valle department. The soldiers detained Rigoberto Hoyos Ruiz along with five of his children: Jaime Luis Hoyos Galeano, Néstor Hoyos Galeano, Carlos Hoyos Galeano, Jorge Luis Hoyos Galeano and Oscar William Hoyos Galeano. All six were forced to go with the soldiers.

Witnesses have reported that shots were heard shortly afterwards from the direction in which the troops and their prisoners went. Residents of the community subsequently formed a commission which went to a nearby Army camp to ask what had happened to the six detainees. However, the Army denied all knowledge of the incident.

Justice for Colombia is extremely concerned for the safety of Rigoberto Hoyos Ruiz and his five children. In December 2006 a delegation of British trade unionists and lawyers arranged by Justice for Colombia met with Mr Hoyos who explained that the Army had threatened him. The Colombian Army regularly executes civilians and later claims that they were guerrilla fighters killed in combat. We ask supporters to e-mail the Colombian Embassy in London (mail@colombianembassy.co.uk) demanding that the Army explain where these six civilians currently are and calling for them to be released immediately.

In November human rights organisations in Valle department reported that troops of the 'Batalla Palace' Battalion had entered the communities of San Rafael, Tivoli, La Coca, Venus and Puerto Frazadas and that they had accused peasant farmers in the region of supporting the FARC guerrilla group. The troops allegedly threatened to return and begin murdering those suspected of guerrilla sympathies.

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