JFC statement on paramilitary massacre in Catatumbo on 18 July

Justice for Colombia condemns in the strongest terms the reported massacre in northeast Colombia which saw eight people killed on Saturday including the community leader Ernesto Aguilar Barrera, a member of the local peasant organisation ASCAMCAT. 

These killings have once again laid bare the social and human cost of the Colombian State’s failure to advance the peace process sufficiently and address the total collapse in security currently being experienced in many regions. JFC urges all international supporters of the Colombian peace process to intensify their efforts to support the full implementation of the agreement as the best route to resolve the human rights crisis which has intensified to horrifying levels during 2020.  

The attack on Saturday 18 July was reportedly carried out by the paramilitary group known as Los Rastrojos who have a heavy presence in the Catatumbo region. Paramilitary and paramilitary successor groups with historic links to actors within Colombian state institutions continue to operate in many regions of Colombia and have consolidated control in certain areas during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Justice for Colombia calls on its supporters to be on high alert after repeated reports of a return to levels of paramilitary violence not seen for many years. 

It is extremely worrying that during 2020 the Colombian army has also been implicated in at least two killings of civilians in the Catatumbo region. 

Particular emphasis must be placed on the Colombian state’s immediate obligation to participate more fully in the National Commission of Security Guarantees and develop concrete measures to dismantle paramilitary or paramilitary successor groups. As repeatedly recommended by the United Nations Verification Mission, the National Commission must be convened regularly to fulfil its function. 

Furthermore, all necessary resources must be provided to investigate and hold to account the intellectual authors, as well as the material assassins, of these crimes, the vast majority of which remain shrouded in impunity.  

Justice for Colombia 

London, 23 July 2020