IACHR to investigate alleged military role in 2001 massacre of civilians

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will review the Colombian state’s alleged role in a 2001 massacre of ten people in Cauca, southwest Colombia. The IACHR was established as an autonomous body of the Organization of American States (whose membership comprises different states in the Americas) to protect and promote human rights in the region.

On 15 January 2001, paramilitaries belonging to the so-called Bloque Calima (Calima Bloc) stopped a bus travelling between the regional capital of Popayán, where many people were returning from the main market, and the town of Cajibío. In the Rejoya zone, the paramilitaries forced passengers off the bus and executed ten of them, accusing them of being guerrillas.

Victims’ families have long sought justice through the IACHR, while former paramilitaries have testified that the attack was coordinated with the army. Families say that investigations have not gone far enough to establish the involvement of military officials. They are seeking accountability and reparations for those affected.

While seven paramilitaries have been convicted over the massacre, their testimonies around military involvement have not led to any further convictions. The violence displaced 300 families from Cajibío.

The region of north Cauca, where Cajibío is located, remains one of the most violent parts of Colombia. Since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016, more social activists and community leaders have been killed in north Cauca than in any other part of the country. Several armed groups compete to control drugs trafficking and other illegal economies, such as mining, in the region. In May 2019, a delegation of the Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor visited Cajibío to meet with communities affected by ongoing human rights violations.