Soldiers Physically Attack Trade Unionists

News from Colombia | on: Saturday, 3 January 2009

Three trade unionists have been physically attacked by a group of drunken soldiers in the southern Colombian region of Caloto, Cauca department. The three, which included the President of a local trade union, were beaten and threatened by troops of the 8th 'Batalla de Pichincha' Infantry Battalion of the Colombian Army who were under the command of a Lieutenant Moreno, who was also allegedly intoxicated.

The incident, at 8.30 in the evening on January 1st, occurred as the three men were travelling from the town of El Palo to a nearby village. The soldiers arbitrarily detained them and attempted to force Julian Sanchez, President of the Peasant Association of Caloto, to walk down a dark path with them away from the road. When he refused they began to beat him and aimed their loaded guns at him.

At this point Gerardo Barona Avirama, the head of human rights for the same Association and an active member of the South East Colombian Human Rights Network, intervened and told the soldiers that they should respect International Humanitarian Law and that they had no right to attack or take away Mr Sanchez. The troops then attacked him, beating and physically abusing him. The soldiers then attempted to take away union member James Barona Avirama who was also physically attacked.

The Army Battalion involved has a history of abusing human rights in Cauca department as previously reported on by Justice for Colombia:

March 2008: Army Attacking Civilians in Cauca Department

February 2008 Fear for Civilian Population in Cauca Department

January 2008 Ongoing Assault against Indigenous People in Cauca department

January 2008 Colombian Army Battalion Executes Five Civilians

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