Army Forces Peasants to Flee to Ecuador

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 21 June 2012

CPDH and the FENSUAGRO agricultural workers’ union have reported a series of violations of international humanitarian law in Putumayo, as well as the persecution of peasant leaders associated with the Patriotic March. On April 18th, Henry Diaz was disappeared after participating in the organisation of the Patriotic March which was held from the 21st to the 23rd of April in Bogota.

On June 11th in Teteye, near Puerto Asis in Putumayo air force aircraft bombed the village of La Union for 15 minutes. At about half past ten that evening, following the explosions the village was machine gunned from the air, with no consideration being shown for civilian lives or property as is stipulated in humanitarian law.

After the bombings army troops were helicopter-landed nearby. They promptly began a rough search of the house of Esther Julia Valdon Gutierrez who lives in La Union with her mother (an agricultural trade unionist) and her two children. The search was carried out illegally, without a search warrant.

The following day a human rights commission from the SINTCACFROMAYO agricultural workers’ union arrived in La Union to check the facts. They found the house and its surroundings occupied by troops of the 13th Mobile Brigade of the 27th Jungle Brigade of the Colombian army. The troops were questioning 8 men from the surrounding area about the location of Maria Lilian Gutierrez Nopia, the trade unionist they were looking for.

Shortly afterwards a helicopter landed nearby carrying police, who took a note of everyone present, and showed a warrant illegally signed by a lawyer - to be legal such a warrant must be signed by a judge. Troops then entered two other homes, stealing a brand new mobile phone from one house.

All the while the human rights commission was taking photographs, but a soldier then took the camera and deleted everything. An officer then prohibited them from continuing their work. At 2.30pm the troops and the police left, saying that their work was done. However, the village came under intermittent gunfire for the rest of the day, which forced several families to displace over the nearby border, to Ecuadorean territory.

Maria Gutierrez, the trade unionist the army had been searching for has been campaigning to find out what happened to fellow trade unionist Henry Diaz, who was disappeared on April 18th 2012. Despite requests to the Ministry of Defence and local military forces for information regarding his whereabouts (troops control the area and constantly search homes, and carry out (illegal) registrations of people in various sectors) no information has been forthcoming.



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