URGENT ACTION: TARGETED ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON PEACE COMMUNITY OF SAN JOSE DE APARTADO. TAKE ACTION NOW.

URGENT ACTION: TARGETED ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON PEACE COMMUNITY OF SAN JOSE DE APARTADO. TAKE ACTION NOW.

As you know, FOR Peace Presence has been accompanying the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó (SJA) for over 15 years, living and working alongside its members. At 10:15 am this past Friday December 29th, a group of five neo-paramilitaries armed with guns and machetes came to the bodega where the Peace Community operates its cacao business, and tried to assassinate community leader and legal representative Germán Graciano Posso. The Peace Community had received information regarding the planned assassination, and had denounced the threat on their website about a week earlier.

We need your help to denounce the grave events that have transpired in the Peace Community, and to demand an adequate response from the Colombian government. Please write to the Colombian embassy in your home country, and to your country’s embassy in Colombia (if you are European, please also write to the European Union Delegation to Colombia). We have provided a letter template here. You can copy and paste the letter, with your full name, into the body of an email addressed to the relevant persons. Please find all contact information here.

On the day of the attack, one of our SJA team members was present, and witnessed the struggle between the gunmen and community members. Representatives from another international accompaniment organization, Operazione Colomba, also witnessed the attack. As German Graciano and several other community members were struggling with the attackers, a gun was fired. Though no one was shot, there were some minor injuries to community members. The Community was deeply shaken by these events, but managed to mobilize almost all of its members to spend the next night together in solidarity.

Incredibly, unarmed community members were successful in disarming and detaining two of the five men; the three others escaped. After turning the two men over to the custody of the District Attorney’s Investigative Technical Body, community members were dismayed to learn that the two were released from custody just shortly after their arrest. It is unclear what actions, if any, the District Attorney’s office has taken to investigate this crime. Less than two days after this incident, the Peace Community received yet another threat; neoparamilitaries in the San José area have vowed to attack community leaders again soon.

The Governor of Antioquia responded to last Friday’s attack by claiming that the assailants were not neoparamilitaries but in fact members of the very same Peace Community. He accused the community of “crying wolf”. Despite the plethora of information provided by Peace Community members and international accompaniers about the details of the incident, the governor based his remarks on reports from the military and police. “There were no paramilitaries,” the governor said, “ just a couple of kids…”

The Governor’s dismissive response is consistent with the Colombian government’s history of refusing to recognize grave human rights violations committed against community leaders. The alarming attack this past Friday is emblematic of the ongoing systematic targeting of activists and communities in Colombia who strive to build nonviolent futures. This attempt comes just weeks after the assassinations of Mario Castaño and Hernán Bedoya, both of whom were land rights leaders in the Bajo Atrato region of northwestern Colombia. According to the United Nations, over 100 human rights activists were killed in Colombia in 2017 alone.

The international community must act now to urge the Colombian government’s effective response to the continuing violence facing human rights activists, especially during the implementation of the Peace Accords. As the lives of social leaders in Colombia are in constant peril, so is peace itself.

Take action today to demand:

  • Immediate, effective protection for Germán Graciano Posso of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, and all social leaders and human rights defenders throughout Colombia.
  • Acknowledgement from the Colombian government of the grave threat presented by neoparamilitary groups in San José de Apartadó and throughout Colombia, and the implementation of an effective plan to dismantle these groups.
  • A thorough and complete investigation into the attack on December 29th, and prosecution of those involved.

We need your help to denounce the grave events that have transpired in the Peace Community, and to demand an adequate response from the Colombian government. Please write to the Colombian embassy in your home country, and to your country’s embassy in Colombia (if you are European, please also write to the European Union Delegation to Colombia). We have provided a letter template here. You can copy and paste the letter, with your full name, into the body of an email addressed to the relevant persons. Please find all contact information here.

 

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