Mother of army murder victim survives assassination attempt

The mother of a young man murdered by the Colombian army has survived an assassination attempt. On Friday 11 January, Alfamir Castillo was travelling by car between Palmira and Pradera, in the department of Valle del Cauca, when two people on a motorbike opened fire at the vehicle. The passengers suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the attack.

Alfamir has received a number of threats for campaigning for truth and justice and her participation in the transitional justice court, known as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), established in the 2016 peace agreement. The JEP is investigating general Mario Montoya Uribe over his role in the so-called ‘False Positives’ programme, in which thousands of young and poor Colombians were lured by offers of work and subsequently murdered by the army. They were then dressed in guerrilla fatigues to imply success in the military campaign and in return for financial rewards. As many as 10,000 people could have been murdered this way.

In 2008, Alfamir’s son Darvey Mosquera Castillo and his friend Alex Hernandez Ramirez Hurtado were murdered near the city of Manizales. Although seven soldiers were imprisoned in 2014, Alfamir and other mothers of False Positive victims continued to campaign to uncover the state’s full role in the atrocities. For several years, they have received death threats and intimidation as a result.

In a statement, human rights groups said that Alfamir ‘since 2012 has been the victim of threats, harassment, forced displacement, forced exile and two attacks, always in the context of criminal hearings against members of the Army, leading to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granting precautionary measures so that the Colombian State adopts effective measures for her protection’.

Alfamir also received text messages threatening her life shortly before attending the JEP as a victim. The attempt on her life comes as Colombia faces high levels of violence against human rights defenders, with at least eight people murdered already in 2019, and around 400 killed since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016.