Peasant Killed and Tortured by Army Troops

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 17 January 2012

On Monday January 9th trade unionist Victor Manuel Hilarion Palacios was tortured and murdered by army soldiers. Mr Hilarion, a herdsman and muletrain driver from the region of Sumapaz, just south of Bogota, was travelling for work from San Juan de Sumapaz towards Rio Nevado when he was killed by Colombian army troops. The soldiers later handed his body to the forensic investigation office in the town of Villavicencio, stating that he had been killed in a crossfire – yet his colleagues and relatives who went to collect his body discovered it bore signs of having been brutally beaten and tortured.

Mr Hilarion was a member of the Sintrapaz agricultural workers’ trade union, part of FENSUAGRO, the national Colombian Agricultural Workers Union. In February 2010 Mr Palacios’ name and photograph were found on a list of 18 social activists accused of being “FARC militia” in the area. All those listed were peasants and members of social and community organisations. At the time Mr Palacios was a member of the local neighbourhood association. This type of accusation is common place against trade union activists and often leads to assassination.

Mr Hilarion was a carer for his aged mother and leaves behind a young daughter. The Sintrapaz trade union calls him a “victim of democratic prosperity”, the name President Santos gives to his government’s policy. Sumapaz is one of the most heavily militarised regions in Colombia. Sintrapaz is calling on the state to investigate and punish those responsible and fulfil its obligations to international humanitarian law.

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