The eight dead included one leader of the community, his partner and son. The other victims were two adults and two children of the same family and another man.
On Friday 25th February over 100 members of the community went to the sites of the massacres and watched the exhumation of 5 mutilated bodies that had been buried in a shallow grave. At the site of the second massacre were the bodies of Peace Community Leader, Luis Eduardo Guerra, his partner and his son. All three had been horribly mutilated and there were signs of torture.
The bodies were dressed in civilian clothes and were unarmed. And they were not killed in the crossfire of
an attack. They were cold bloodedly tortured and murdered by their own military. As one elderly community member said "the government say that they are fighting terrorism but what terrorism can be worse than this?"
The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado currently take a neutral stance in the Colombian conflict. They refuse to participate with any armed groups and have managed to maintain a degree of economic independence. Their lives are supposed to be protected under measures sent down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In recent months they have begun a project to extend the boundaries of the Peace
Community and incorporate more members from the surrounding hamlets. The people killed in these massacres were heavily involved in this process and the community believes that their killings were the government's way to warn them not to go ahead with this project.
The sad truth is that the Colombian military act with almost complete impunity in Colombia. There are hundreds of massacres that have been attributed to them and virtually none have been successfully prosecuted. Outside pressure is often needed for any kind of action to be taken. Due to this the community has no faith that perpetrators of this massacre will ever be prosecuted.
In addition to any messages of outrage, the community has asked that the international community pressure the central government of Colombia on two matters. Firstly, to demand that they respect the measures that the Inter-American court have set up to protect the right of these civilians to live and work on this land and secondly to ensure that the project of extending the boundaries of the community be allowed to progress without further atrocities.
The email addresses of the President of Colombia, the Vice President, the Colombian Ministry of Defence and the Colombian Embassy in London are below:
President Alvaro Uribe Velez - firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President Francisco Santos- email@example.com
Colombian Ministry of Defence- firstname.lastname@example.org
Colombian Embassy in London- email@example.com -Ambassador is Alfonzo Lopez Caballero
Furthermore, those of us who are British can do something else. Whilst the US is the biggest contributor of military aid to Colombia, our government still gives a sizeable amount every year. Our taxes are going to train and aid these forces. Last year over 200 MPs signed Early Day Motion 333 to parliament asking that all military aid to Colombia be stopped due to concerns about the human rights record of the military and its links to paramilitary death squads. This motion was blocked by the Foreign Office. It is time to again pressure the Foreign Office to stop using our money to put more and more sophisticated weaponry at the disposal of these forces. The Foreign Office representative to Colombia is Bill Rammell and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The community is calm but determined. Like many poor rural communities there, this is not the first time they have been massacred. They have worked hard in the eight years since they declared themselves neutral in the conflict to carve out a safe space in that ravaged part of the country. This attack shows once again that neutrality is a concept not understood by the Colombian State. If you possibly can please respond to this atrocity in the way you feel most appropriate, so that the people there can at least witness that not everyone in the world values their lives so pitifully as their own government seems to.