A Month of Terror for Peace Community

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 25 December 2007

A paramilitary death squad is operating alongside of the Colombian army and police to terrorise the San Jose Peace Community a region in north-eastern Colombia that has declared itself neutral and asked all armed actors in the Colombian conflict to stay away from their communities.

In the past month paramilitaries have been seen circulating freely with members of the state security forces in the area and both the death squads and the army have carried out a series of murders. In addition members of the Peace Community have been tortured, threatened and told to leave the region or be killed.

In a series of press releases received in recent days the Community has accused the Colombian security forces of attempting to wipe them off the map through a campaign of terror. The most recent incidents are outlined below:

December 23rd, soldiers detain 48-year-old mother of three, Maria Margarita Giraldo Usuga in the hamlet of Arenas Bajas as she gathers food from a field near her house. The soldiers then went to her house and opened fire on the two of her children who were there (who escaped without injury) before stealing money and animals and subsequently destroying the house. The following day her body is presented in the city of Turbo as a guerrilla killed in combat though her body shows signs of torture.

December 23rd, at 11am armed paramilitaries establish a roadblock for three hours on the main road into the Peace Community five minutes away from a police roadblock.

December 22nd, at 10am paramilitaries threaten the widow of Juan Javier Manco, assassinated by the Army eight days before (see below), and say that she must leave the region and remain silent about the murder of her husband or she will be killed.

December 20th, at 10am soldiers based in the Peace Community threaten various members of the community and say that a military action is planned that will destroy the Community.

December 20th, paramilitaries tell residents of the Peace Community that they will be carrying out a massacre to destroy the community once and for all due to those in the community "speaking too much about what we are doing here in the zone".

December 19th, at 11am two paramilitaries assassinate Alfonso Usuga in the Mangolo area on the road between Apartado and the community of San Josesito. Police officers stationed two minutes away did nothing.

December 18th, police officers arrive at the local hospital at 10am and take away Alba Lucia Giraldo who was receiving treatment for a deeply cut finger after an accident. Two other members of the community who had accompanied her to hospital were also taken. The three were only released after members of Peace Brigades International, an international human rights organisation that works in the Peace Community, arrived to collect them and take them back to the Community.

December 14th, at 7am soldiers execute Juan Javier Manco Molina in the hamlet of La Balsa. Two hours after his murder a gun is placed in his hands and the army report that they have killed a guerrilla in combat.

December 10th, at 4pm soldiers arrive at the home of Yurladis Tuberquia, a pregnant 16-year-old girl, in the village of La Union. The soldiers accuse her of being a guerrilla and order her to leave the zone or be killed. They also say that her unborn child is a "mini-guerrilla" and that it too will have to be murdered. The soldiers leave saying that if they return and find her there again they will "take her away".

November 24th, a heavily armed group of uniformed paramilitaries that has been based in the 'Nueva Antioquia' area of the Peace Community for some days told five members of the community that they must leave their homes in the hamlets of Esperanza and Playa Larga as they would shortly be carrying out a massacre there. The paramilitaries said that their threat should be taken seriously as they had already murdered four people in the area in the past ten days a pensioner, two women and a young man.

November 24th, soldiers detained and beat community activist Fabio Graciano near his home in the hamlet of Mariano. The soldiers told him to forget about his home and leave the region and said that he would be killed if he did not.

November 23rd, soldiers tortured a 10-year-old boy in the community as we reported on here (http://www.justiceforcolombia.org/news/article/83/-)

UPDATE: January 10th

At 11.30am on January 6th soldiers arrived at the house of Maria Margarita Giraldo in the hamlet of Arenas Bajas. Ms Giraldo had been assassinated by the army on December 23rd (see above). At the house the troops found Leidy Jimenez Giraldo, the daughter of Ms Giraldo, and Alberto Jimenez, her husband.

The soldiers told them that if they did not agree to say that Maria Margarita was a guerrilla that they would both be killed too. They also said that soon the Peace Community would be destroyed as they were killing off people one by one. Both the dead woman's daughter and partner refused to agree to say that Ms Giraldo had been a guerrilla so the soldiers offered them money to do so. Again they refused and again the soldiers threatened to kill them. After two hours the troops left.

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