Trade Unionist Tortured and Murdered

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 25 June 2012

According to local human rights organisations and trade unions, attacks by the the Colombian Army have continue to grow against the civilian population in the region of Miranda in Cauca Department, in the South West of the country.

On 14th June, Gerardo Martinez, an activist in the local branch of the Colombian Agricultural Workers’ Union, FENSUAGRO was assassinated.

For several months now, soldiers of the Colombian Army’s 17th and 28th Mobile Brigades have been occupying civilian houses and farms, installing a military base in the village of Calandaima. In recent days, soldiers also began to occupy several houses in the nearby village of Monteredondo. Since June 8th, in Calandaima, around 2000 peasants and indigenous activists have been protesting and demanding they give them back their land. Several activists have reported finding landmines, placed around where the peasants are grouped.

On June 14th, trade unionist Gerardo Martinez left the demonstration to visit his family in a neighbouring municiaplity. He never arrived home. His body was found the following day on a nearby farm. He had been shot five times, twice in the head, and his body showed signs of having been tortured before being murdered.

Another activist, the regional President of FENSUAGRO Fredy Chate, has been followed and threated by unknown men. On June 19th, he was detained by soliders at a military checkpoint, accusing him of being a guerrilla. It was only when colleagues came to protest that he was finally released.

On the morning of June 22nd, army helicopters began to circle the village of Calandaima and machine gun the area where peasants are organised.

The Colombian Army regularly occupies civilian houses and infrastructure, uses civilians as human shields, and involves the civilian population in the conflict - in violation of international humanitarian law.

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