Mass Detention of Trade Unionists and Leading Human Rights Defender in Colombia

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Over twenty people have been detained by the Colombian security forces in a roundup of civil society leaders in the region of Arauca. Among those taken away by soldiers and the secret police was Martin Sandoval, the regional President of the Permanent Human Committee for Human Rights (CPDH), Colombia's largest human rights organisation, and numerous local trade union activists.

The most recent detentions occurred at 5.30am on November 4th when members of the DAS secret police began rounding people up in the municipality of Arauquita. As well as Mr Sandoval those targeted including local trade union leader Guillermo Diaz, and eleven others including community leaders and trade unionists.

These arbitrary detentions, which have been criticised by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, followed the detention on October 23rd of ten other local people, again including several trade unionists, in the villages of Esperanza, Holanda and Bucare in the neighbouring municipality of Tame. On that occasion the roundup was carried out by troops of the 5th Mobile Brigade.

Justice for Colombia intends to raise the plight of those detained, all of whom have been accused of 'rebellion', at a meeting with the Colombian Ambassador to London next week. We are particularly concerned about the fate of Mr Sandoval who has been the victim of systematic persecution by the police and army in recent years due to his high profile human rights work. Mr Sandoval is also well known to several British trade unionists, lawyers and political leaders having helped arrange visits to Arauca for several Justice for Colombia delegations.

In addition to Mr Sandoval and Mr Diaz, the others that have been detained to date include:

Olegario Araque

Esteban Bernal Aguirre

Carlos Botero

Adan Jose Castellanos

Reinel Cifuentes Caceres

Santiago Gomez

Gonzalo Constantino Gonzales

Fredy Gonzalez Nosa

Samuel Guillen

Alexander Hernandez Gaitan

Argemiro Hernandez Pena

José Vicente León Florez

Gonzalo Losada

Jose Santos Ortiz

Joaquin Alberto Vanegas

Reinaldo Vargas Barbosa

Eduardo Zabala

Wilder Zapata Murillo



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