Monthly Report September 2020

CURRENT SITUATION

The investigation into Mario Paciolla’s death, the UN Verification Mission’s collaborator in Colombia found dead on July 15th in San Vicente del Caguán in circumstances yet to be clarified, is going on. The Colombian newspaper El Espectador has recently reported the decision of the Prosecutor's Office in Rome to launch an inquiry for murder, thus dumping the suicide hypothesis and expressing the intention to shed light on Mario’s death. Also, the Vice-Minister of Cooperation and Foreign Affairs, Marina Sereni, has declared that “the United Nations must cooperate to uncover the truth” since what happened shows a series of “inexplicable facts” and “it is very hard to believe it was suicide.” A beautiful account of Mario’s vocation and life has been realized by Valerio Cataldi (Tg3 Rai) through an article narrating Mario's professionalism and passion in his work in Colombia.

Meanwhile, violence has not stopped in the South American country and not only against social leaders and Human Rights Defenders: clashes between pacific protesters and ESMAD special forces erupted during a demonstration for the death of Javier Ordóñez, 46 years old lawyer, killed last September by police officers. The young lawyer was stopped by two officers for violating quarantine restrictions and then beaten to death. This included the use of a taser. The images of the aggression went viral on the Internet and sparked a series of demonstrations in Bogotà and in the suburbs where ten protestors died and more than 400 people among protesters and police officers were injured. According to some reports, firearms were employed by police forces against the civil population. Some social organizations have denounced the arbitrary arrests of social leaders and the UN has openly criticized the use of excessive force. The same accusation has been voiced by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that officially reminded the Colombian Government of its duty to guarantee the right to life, integrity and freedom of expression. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has also stressed that isolate cases of vandalism cannot turn social movements’ demonstrations into a threat to public order since they exercise their right to protest.

At the end of September, two other massacres extended the list of the victims killed by illegal armed groups operating in the country. In Cauca (Bueons Aires) six people, including one minor, were killed with rifles and grenades by what the army identified as a FARC cell. A few days later, on September 22nd, other four people were killed, including an indigenous guard, in San José de Uré (Cordoba). Last July, this rural area knew a massive exodus of civilians (about 279) pushed out of their lands by two neo paramilitary groups, the Gulf Clan and Caparrós. According to the data provided by Indepaz (Study Institute for Development and Peace), this year 246 people lost their lives in more than 61 different massacres.

While ex-President Álvaro Uribe Vélez is still under house arrest for witness tampering, senator Ivan Cepeda (spokesperson of MOVICE, the Movement of Victims of State Crimes) have received serious threats. These threats were directed towards him, his family, several collaborators and some magistrates of the High Court of Justice who sentenced Uribe to detention. Libera Association has joined the Colombian civil society in demanding the “implementation of all necessary measures to guarantee the protection of Ivan Cepeda and his family."

Last June, General Héctor Jaime Fandiño died before his involvement in the Mulatos and Resbalosa massacre (21 February 2005), where 8 members of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó lost their lives, was clarified. The massacre was perpetrated by the paramilitary organization Bloque Héroes de Tolová and the national army under the command of General Héctor Jaime Fandiño. Despite everything and regardless of the presence of illegal armed groups and the pandemic, the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó continues  to cultivate its dream of peace and justice.