Another Massacre as New Report Says Army Executing Civilians in Colombian Region of Arauca

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 2 April 2009

Three men have been massacred in the Colombian department of Arauca just days after the release of a new human rights report focusing on the region that accuses the Colombian Army of carrying out widespread killings of civilians in the area. The three were killed at around 10.30am on the morning of March 30th in Saravena, one of the principle towns in the region. It is not clear why or by whom then men were murdered though the new report, produced by the 'Humanidad Vigente' collective of human rights lawyers, claims that soldiers of both the 18th Brigade and the 5th Mobile Brigade of the Colombian Army are frequently killing unarmed civilians.

The three dead individuals, Edwin Hinestroza Camacho (34), Jair Jazief Velazquez (21) and Luz Dary Duarte Angarita (19), are the latest in a long list of murder victims in Arauca which is one of the most dangerous regions of Colombia. Just two days before their murder another civilian, Manuel Diaz, was assassinated in the neighboring municipality of Arauquita and Justice for Colombia has reported extensively on other abuses in the region here, here and here.

Just days before the massacre 'Humanidad Vigente' released an in-depth investigation into the high levels of extra-judicial executions in the region in which they comprehensively detailed around 60 cases of civilians that they claim have been murdered by soldiers and police officers in Arauca between 2002 and 2008. Among the report's findings are:

  • That around 90% of the murdered civilians were killed by two units the 5th Mobile Brigade and the 18th Brigade of the Colombian Army, whilst the remainder were murdered by members of the police;
  • That in several cases Army units operate together with paramilitary death squads in the region as was the case when a joint group of soldiers of the 18th 'Pizarro' Battalion and local paramilitaries killed community leader Alirio Sepulveda Jaimes;
  • That it is common for the Army to subsequently dress the bodies of their victims in guerrilla uniforms and claim that they were guerrilla fighters killed in combat;
  • That a high proportion of the victims are trade unionists or community leaders including: Ismael Monsalve Suarez, an activist in the public sector workers trade union SINTROEPAR, who was killed by soldiers in September 2006 in the municipality of Arauquita; Alfonso Lopez, a local human rights activist and community leader, who was killed by soldiers in October 2007 in the municipality of Tame.; Luis Alberto Gonzalez, a local school governor, killed by soldiers in October 2007 in the municipality of Tame; Leonal Goyeneche, the treasurer of the CUT trade union federation in Arauca killed by soldiers in August 2004 in the municipality of Tame; Jorge Eduardo Prieto, the president of the health workers trade union ANTHOC in Arauca who was killed by soldiers in August 2004 in the municipality of Tame and Hector Alirio Maritinez, the president of the regional agricultural workers trade union who was killed by soldiers in August 2004 in the municipality of Tame;
  • That although the majority of victims are male some are also female including Edilia Pena Rubio the mother of four children aged 5 months, 18 months, 4 years and 6 years old, who was murdered by troops in May 2006 in the municipality of Fortul, and how other women have been sexually abused by soldiers including Inocencia Pabon who was raped just minutes after troops had murdered her husband Francisco Antonio Guerrero.
  • That in the vast majority of cases nobody has been brought to justice for the crimes committed.
  • The full report, in Spanish, is available here.

    Also see Colombia's Most Dangerous Region: One Assassination Every Two Days in Arauca

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