Army Violates Law During Fighting

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 17 February 2011

Two children were wounded, and civilian homes and public buildings damaged during recent fighting in Cauca. Local communities of mestizo and indigenous peasants organised in the Caloto Peasant Reserve Association, affiliated to FENSUAGRO, have accused the armed forces of repression and threats as well as placing civilians in danger by using their homes during fighting with the guerrillas.

On the 3rd of February the village of El Pedregal was rocked by 4 hours of fighting between the FARC’s 6th Front and troops of the army’s 14th Mobile Brigade. According to the community, army troops illegally deployed around the village school and among the houses of the village which then provoked the fighting. This turned these civilian buildings into military targets, and led to seven homes being damaged by shrapnel and bullets. The intense fighting also forced some peasants to flee the area.

The following day at 11am the fighting renewed, and the army again occupied the village. The fighting lasted until 6pm. During the course of the fighting two children were wounded. Sixteen year-old Rocio Coicue Campo was wounded in both arms, and thirteen year-old Genier Yatacue Trochez was also wounded. The fighting again led to some families fleeing the area, becoming forcibly displaced.

The local community places responsibility for this at the feet of the armed forces, who violated their civilian rights by occupying their village for military purposes, turning it into a battlefield. The occupation of the village also violates the Inter-American Commission Protective Measures that the 179 families of the villages of El Vergel and El Pedregal have been placed under since August 2010.

Locals and human rights organisations have also denounced the repression and threats against the peasant population by the armed forces. In November 2010 troops shot at two children on their way to Holy Communion preparations. On the 25th December 2010 troops forced local resident Holmes Escue to undress at gunpoint and questioned him about the whereabouts of the guerrillas. They also threatened to blow up his house. Three days later his farmstead was shelled, killing a valuable calf. On the 2nd December 2010 6 teachers at the El Pedregal village school received threats from the Black Eagles paramilitaries to their mobile phones. More recently on the 17th of January 2011, troops detained Albeiro Ipia, accusing him of being a guerrilla. A neighbour later told him that the soldiers had been carrying photographs of him and several other villagers. Peasants report that despite taking these cases to the authorities nothing has been done.

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