Conscientious Objector Alert
IFOR branches continue to provide and support protective accompaniment for human rights defenders in Colombia. FOR Peace Presence released the following statement on December 29, 2017:
FOR Peace Presence expresses its concern regarding the increasing presence of illegally armed groups, including neo-paramilitary groups, in the district of San José de Apartado, which culminated in a targeted assassination attempt against numerous Peace Community members, including leader Germán Graciano Posso. The attack occurred on December 29, 2017 at 10:15AM when four armed men entered the Peace Community’s central bodega, where cacao is bought and sold to and from local farmers in the region. The location of the bodega, which makes up part of La Holandita with direct access to the central road leading to San José, is one of the open and busy places in the Peace Community.
FORPP stresses that these violent attacks are not accidental, but rather targeted and systematic, reflective of a long history of attacks against peacebuilders and human rights defenders in Colombia. In fact, the region surrounding the Peace Community has seen an increase in attacks and assassinations in just this past month. On December 8th, two community leaders were assassinated in the Bajo Atrato. Both were threatened due to their work defending their territories.
At the time of the attack, Germán Graciano, legal representative of the CdP, was located in the bodega along with a handful of other Peace Community members. At 10:15 AM four armed men arrived, identified as neo-paramilitaries by locals, and entered the bodega. Amongst them was alias “Felipe”, a known paramilitary commander in the region, as well as Ricardo David. These men have been formally identified as: JAMES CARDONA HIGUITA and HUMBERTO ANTONIO LONDOÑO ÜSUGA. The men first attempted to force Peace Community members into a small closet, using arms and weapons to do so, but eventually were overtaken by Peace Community members.
In their attempts to disarm the men, various Community members were injured, including Germán. FORPP expresses its grave concern regarding attacks and threats toward Peace Community members which have increased throughout this past year, and have specifically targeted Peace Community leaders. Since the signing of the peace accords last year, as the FARC abandoned the region, the presence of other illegal neo-paramilitary groups has increased in and around the region. These groups have been the main source of concern and risk toward civilians and Peace Community members. FORPP stresses the importance of pressuring local and international authorities about the continued presence of illegally armed neo-paramilitary groups, especially as Colombia enters further into the post-peace accord period. FORPP believes that neo-paramilitary groups are creating the most pressing and urgent threat to the Peace Community and the creation of sustainable, long-lasting peacebuilding.