Hundreds Forced to Flee as Soldiers Endanger Civilians

News from Colombia | on: Sunday, 24 June 2012

Human rights organisations in Narino Department have reported that hundreds of peasant farmers have been displaced after soldiers placed themselves around civilian houses during fighting with the FARC.

On June 21st, in the municipality of Leiva, soldiers stationed themselves next to several houses. After being asked to leave by the community, soldiers responded by threatening them that paramilitaries were on their way. Several houses were damaged by explosives and gun fire. The following day, 135 locals were forced to flee the village of La Garganta after more fighting.

The following days, June 23rd and 24th, hundreds more residents were forcibly displaced after more combat in neighbouring villages.

Additionally, on June 23rd, soldiers from the 19th Mobile Brigade of the Colombian Army arbitrarily detained several peasants in the village of El Salto, in Magui Payan municipality, also in Narino Department. Many of the soldiers had their identification numbers covered and were wearing balaclavas or had their faces painted in disguise. Those detained were local community members, Luis Antonio Botina, Luis Arnold Ramos, and Mario Jesus Cruz Rodrigo.

The Colombian Army has been criticised repeatedly for using civilians as human shields and fighting from civilian areas, in violation of international humanitarian law.

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