IACHR condemns massacre in Catatumbo

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has condemned the attack on a pool hall in El Tarra, northeast Colombia, on 30 July that left nine people dead, with another dying a few days later from their injuries. Among the victims was Freddy Quintero, a Community Action Board president and member of the ASCAMCAT small farmers organisation which JFC has supported over the years. Other victims included two former FARC guerrillas and crop substitution coordinators.
El Tarra is in the Catatumbo region, which has suffered high levels of political violence this year. Thousands of people have ben displaced from their homes, while schools and businesses have been shut down. Several social leaders have also been murdered in the region.
You can read the statement below (and here on the IACHR website).

IACHR Condemns Death of Nine Persons in Colombia

August 9, 2018

Washington, D.C. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the violent deaths of nine persons in the municipality of El Tarra, Colombia.

According to public information, on July 30, 2018, a group of armed men burst into a commercial establishment in the municipality of El Tarra, Catatumbo region, in the department Norte de Santander, leaving nine dead and two wounded with a reserved diagnosis.. The perpetrators or motives of these events are still unknown.

Among the victims already identified are Frederman Quintero, President of the Junta de Acción Comunal of the Vereda Km 48, and two demobilized ex-combatants of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). It was also reported unofficially that coca leaf scrapers that would be part of illicit crop substitution programmes, a passer-by and a woman working on the site, were among the people killed.

The Government and the Ombudsman’s Office have expressed their absolute rejection and repudiation of these acts of violence and an elite group has been formed to identify those responsible and clarify the facts. It was also reported that the police station will be reinforced with a special group. In this regard, the IACHR’s Rapporteur for Colombia and for human rights defenders, Francisco Eguiguren, said: “These serious acts of violence must be investigated promptly and thoroughly in order to punish those responsible and ensure that they do not go unpunished.

In this region, more than 4 months ago, there was a critical situation due to the confrontation between different armed groups. This situation has led to the displacement of thousands of people to the province of Ocaña and the city of Cúcuta. It has also been reported that in the neighbouring municipalities of Teorama and Hacarí, for the past 15 days, dozens of minors have not attended school because of the heavy fighting between the guerrillas operating in the area. The Commission condemns all forms of violence, such as those that cause displacement and impede the exercise of human rights. The IACHR calls on the State to adopt effective measures to guarantee citizen security in the region.

The Commission has already expressed its alarm at the murder of human rights defenders who were taking action to implement the Peace Agreement and condemns those attacks on social leaders that generate intimidation and in some way hinder the implementation of the Peace Agreement. The Commission recalls that the work of human rights defenders is essential to the strengthening of democratic societies.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.