Soldiers Execute Indigenous Brother and Sister

News from Colombia | on: Friday, 30 May 2008

In the latest of a series of abuses committed against indigenous people in Colombia, soldiers have murdered two members of the Nasa indigenous group in the department of Cauca. The two victims, brother and sister Silvio and Luz Amparo Chaguendo Ipia, were killed on the afternoon of May 29th near the village of 'La Cominera' in the Tacueyo indigenous reserve by a unit made up of troops of the 'Codazzi' and 'Pichincha' Battalions. It is thought that soldiers from both battalions, which have a long history of perpetrating extra-judicial executions, have received military training from the UK.

Both murders occurred during a period of heavy fighting in the region between soldiers and leftwing FARC guerrillas, though indigenous organisations, including the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), have now confirmed that both were killed by soldiers who forced their way into a house where the siblings were sheltering. According to communiqués from regional indigenous organisations (the CRIC and ACIN), hundreds of civilians subsequently surrounded the house to prevent military officials from altering the scene of the crime.

People living in the department of Cauca, and indigenous people in particular, have been at the receiving end of regular abuses at the hands of the Colombian military and their paramilitary allies. Despite Colombian Government claims that paramilitaries no longer function in Colombia this is clearly not the case in Cauca department. To follow is a resume of the numerous reports from the area that have been sent to the Justice for Colombia office in recent weeks:

May 21st a statement from the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), accuses the Colombian regime of a campaign of "systematic violations" against indigenous people. The statement also condemns recent comments made by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in which he alleged that indigenous people were in some way linked to the FARC guerrilla group – therefore putting them in danger of attacks by rightwing paramilitary death squads. The statement also says that the Government is ignoring the territorial and other rights of indigenous groups despite public promises to respect these.

May 21st members of the ESMAD special anti-disturbance police unit attack a group of around 500 indigenous people that are protesting near the 'Emperatriz' ranch in the Nilo area of northern Cauca. The police open fire with live rounds against the demonstrators who are protesting that their land has been stolen from them. At least eight people are injured including Alexander Mendez, Eulogio Ramos and Luis Enrique Ramos who are all hit by gunfire and Luis Eduardo Ramos who is severely beaten by the police. Local police commander, Colonel Bravo, attempts to justify the shootings by saying that his men believed that the indigenous people might be armed.

May 5th General Jaime Esguerra, the regional military commander in Cauca, tells television news that there are links between several indigenous communities in Cauca and the FARC guerrilla group. Communities that are labelled as guerrilla sympathisers are regularly the victims of severe human rights violations.

April 28th at 7pm around 15 paramilitaries backed by troops of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the 24th Brigade of the Colombian Army arrive at the home of peasant leader Telesforo Saavedra Araujo in the village of El Encanto in the municipality of Argelia. After finding that he is not in, the paramilitaries leave, but return at midnight and raid his house destroying furniture and clothes and stealing money, ID documents and the television. The paramilitaries wait all night at the house for him to return but he does not. Mr Araujo is a well-known community leader and activist in the Democratic Pole opposition party for whom he was a candidate in the 2007 regional elections.

April 27th the body of a woman is found on the bank of the River Micay on the outskirts of the village of El Pepinal in the municipality of Argelia.

April 25th the body of a man with his stomach cut open is found on the bank of the River Micay on the outskirts of the village of El Pepinal in the municipality of Argelia.

April 24th/25th a large group of heavily armed paramilitaries backed by troops of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the 24th Brigade of the Colombian Army go to the villages of Perlas, El Sinai and Puerto Rico, all in Argelia municipality, where they call residents together and tell them that anyone suspected of helping local FARC guerrilla units will be killed immediately.

April 20th at 10am, paramilitaries backed by troops of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the 24th Brigade of the Colombian Army arrive in the village of El Plateado in the municipality of Argelia where they murder a man who is visiting from the neighbouring municipality of Balboa. The same day the body of an unidentified man or approximately 40-years-old is found on the outskirts of the village.

April 16th at 4.40am, soldiers of the 'Codazzi' and 'Pichincha' Battalions raid the home of Mariela Campo Discue in an area known as El Jagual near the community of El Descanso in Corinto municipality. The soldiers banged on her door and said that if she did not open it they would break it down and kill whoever they found inside. The soldiers had no warrant.

April 15th paramilitaries backed by troops of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the 24th Brigade of the Colombian Army kill three unidentified people in the village of El Plan in the municipality of Argelia.

April 15th at 6am soldiers of the 'Codazzi' and 'Pichincha' Battalions arbitrarily detain Libardo Gomez and Jose Ferney Ortiz Gomez at a roadblock near the community of El Descanso in the municipality of Corinto. The soldiers later use both men as human shields in fighting with members of the 6th Front of the FARC guerrilla group. During the fighting the soldiers also establish a firing position in the home of old age pensioners Jose Gonzaga Ospina Holguin and Deyanira Arenas putting the lives of both, and their home, in grave danger.

April 14th at 5pm Feliciano Valencia, a senior indigenous leader on the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), is threatened by a group of men in a jeep with blacked out windows as he walks with his wife and some friends in the town of Santander de Quilichao.

April 13th paramilitaries backed by troops of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the 24th Brigade of the Colombian Army establish a roadblock on the road from the Las Perlas neighbourhood of the town of Argelia in southern Cauca where they stop two men travelling on motorcycles. Both are taken to a nearby paramilitary camp where they are told that from now on anyone transporting goods on the road will have to pay the paramilitaries a tax and that those who do not will be killed. The paramilitaries also say that they have a list of people in the area who support the FARC guerrilla group and that they are giving those on the list 15 days to leave the region or be forcibly disappeared along with their families. The two men are released some hours later and told to circulate the message to others in the area.

April 12th at 6pm near the village of Vetica in the indigenous reserve of Canoas, Santander de Quilichao municipality, two masked men stop a bus and pull Mr Victor Buitron off. They make him lie down on the road and then shoot him four times, killing him instantly. The two men then tell the conductor of the bus that he will die next unless he leaves the region for good.

April 12th a group of heavily armed paramilitaries arrive in the neighbourhood of Las Perlas on the outskirts of the town of Argelia. Later they go to the 'La Cabana' bar in the town of Argelia and shoot Emigdio Santiago Munoz, Jorge Inchima and Miller Bertulfo Bolanos. Mr Munoz dies instantly whilst the other two are seriously injured.

April 9th a large group of heavily armed paramilitaries arrive in the Huellas Caloto indigenous reserve in the municipality of Caloto where they patrol the area around the villages of Selvita, Bodega, La Trampa and Toez issuing threats to residents. To get into the area the paramilitaries had to pass through a military police roadblock. At 6.30pm the same day, in the Lopez Adentro indigenous reserve in Corinto municipality, troops of the 'Codazzi' Battalion detain and torture two indigenous men, Christian Vicente Sotero and Jaime Jesus Diaz, near the village of Pueblo Nuevo. The men are only released after members of the community simultaneously descend on the area and demand that they are freed – they are later taken to the Corinto hospital to receive medical treatment for their injuries.

For previous Justice for Colombia coverage of the human rights situation in Cauca department see the following stories:

Army Attacking Civilians in Cauca Department (March 28th 2008)

Bombing Injures 25 Civilians (March 27th 2008)

Heavy Fighting Endangers Civilian Population (March 21st 2008)

Paramilitary Alleges Army Involvement in Massacre (March 11th 2007)

Indigenous Man Killed (March 5th 2008)

Women and Teachers Targeted in Cauca department (Feb 29th 2008)

Fear for Civilian Population in Cauca Department (February 14th 2008)

Health Workers Union Leader Assassinated (February 13th 2008)

British-Trained Soldiers Assassinate 3 Indigenous People (Feb 4th 2008)

Fumigation Poisons Water and Food in Rural Communities (Jan 18th 2008)

British-Trained High Mountain Battalion Uses Civilians as Human Shields (Jan 17th 2008)

Ongoing Assault against Indigenous People in Cauca department (Jan 8th 2008)

Two trade unionists assassinated over the weekend (Nov 6th 2007)

October 10th 2007 Urgent Action on Cauca

Two more indigenous people murdered (Sep 25th 2007)

Indigenous leader assassinated (Sep 15th 2007)

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