Sierra Nevada image 

 Luis Eduardo Guerra

The Corporacion Juridica Libertad released the following account of the massacre at San Jose de Apartado. All human rights violations documented below took place between February 21 and 27, 2005 and are only now reaching the press. Please join the Colombian Support Network’s campaign to denounce this massacre of community leaders and their children.  You will find additional information on the San Jose de Apartado peace community on the Fellowship for Reconciliation’s web-site.

 

            On February 21, 2005 at 11:00 a.m. Luis Eduardo Guerra Guerra, member of the Internal Council of the Peace Community of San Jose Apartado, Deiner Andres Guerra Tuberquia (Luis Eduardo’s 11 year-old son) and Beyanira Areiza Guzman were abducted and held against their will in an area near the Mulatos River.

 

            The next day, people from the surrounding region found the mule Luis Eduardo used as transportation on the path to La Resbalosa. At a nearby farm owned by Alfonso Bolivar they discovered bloody prints leading to a shallow grave containing several bodies, including those of children. Some of the bodies had been mutilated. They believed that the grave contained the bodies of Deiner Andres, Luis Eduardo and Beyanira, along with the entire Bolivar family.

 

            At that point, several farmers were dispatched to San Jose Apartado where they informed the Internal Council of the Peace Community of their discovery. Simultaneously, neighbors of the Bolivar family installed themselves at the Bolivar farm to wait for a Judicial Commission to begin its investigation.

 

            At the time the Corporacion Juridica Libertad was notified of the massacre, the afternoon of February 23, 2005, we sent a message to the Director of the Human Rights and International Law Program, Vice-President, Dr. Carlos Franco, requesting the immediate convocation of a special commission to begin a criminal investigation and recover the cadavers. By the next afternoon, February 24, a commission comprised of one federal official, one attorney and 10 judicial technicians arrived in San Jose de Apartado. On February 25 at noon the helicopters from the Colombian Armed Forces finally arrived at the Bolivar farm. That afternoon they confirmed that five bodies were in the grave: those of two children (a 6 year-old and a two year-old), a woman and two men. They were identified as Natalia Andrea Tuberquia Munoz (6 years old), Santiago Tuberquia Munoz (2 years old), Sandra Milena Munoz, Alfonso Bolivar and Alejandro Perez Cuiles.  The adults showed signs of dismemberment.

 

            On February 25 at 5:30 p.m., the bodies of Luis Eduardo, Deiner Andres, and Beyanira were found by members of the peace community near the Mulatos Medio health center. The bodies were lying in an open field. This discovery was immediately communicated to Dr. Franco and a judicial commission was dispatched to the area. Nevertheless, the bodies were not recovered until the morning of February 27.

 

            On Monday, February 21, 2005 military troops from the XVII Brigade of the National Army arrived at El Barro where they held six families from the area until February 26. On February 26 a commission from the Peace Community arrived at the site and was able to procure the release of the families held captive. Those held by the XVII Brigade, including women and children, had not been allowed to leave for any reason, were continuously threatened and intimidated by the soldiers. They were not allowed to bring in any food to the children. Additionally, the soldiers dug two graves, telling their hostages that they would be killed and buried as soon as the soldiers received the go-ahead. During the time they held the six families, the soldiers made many threats against the Peace Community and their accompaniment.

 

            When the soldiers arrived on February 21, they told the residents they had killed three guerrillas –a man, a woman and a child. Since Luis Eduardo, the leader of the Peace Community, his girlfriend Beyanira, and his son had just left El Barro, heading toward Cantarrana where they had a cacao farm, the families told the soldiers that they had killed members of the Peace Community. Upon learning this, the soldiers decided that the three had been killed by paramilitaries. They then indicated that they had actually come from Las Nieves and had killed four people from a family there.

 

            The soldiers had scrawled anti-guerrilla graffiti signing as the Battalion 33 from the XVII Brigade. They removed the graffiti when the rescue commission arrived at the site.

 

            The Peace Community commission and the accompaniment team received a message sent by those held at El Barro imploring them to rescue the families, stating that they were being held totally against their will and without access to food. Once contact was established with the official responsible for the 33 Battalion, they told him that members of the Peace Community and accompaniment had arrived at el Barro to free the families held there, exactly where the troops were quartered. The official denied any families were at the site and stated it would be a waste of time to attempt to free them as the area was completely abandoned.

 

            Saturday, February 26, the area where Luis Eduardo, Beyanira and Deiner’s bodies were found was totally cordoned off by the Counter-Guerrilla Police of Uraba Battalion Velez and soldiers from Battalion 33. A soldier from the 33 Battalion found a bloody machete near the bodies, which he picked up. In front of all those present, he took the machete to the Mulato River and scrubbed it with sand. This accomplished; he told the soldiers that the machete was the weapon used to kill the victims. This incident was immediately communicated to Captain Castro of the Police Force. The next day the Federal Commission that had recovered the bodies, and members of the NGO that had participated in the commission, left documentation of the act they had witnessed –the alteration and concealing of evidence on the part of the soldiers.

 

            During the three days the Peace Community Commission and their accompaniment were present, it was confirmed that the only uniformed individuals in the area had been soldiers from the XVII Brigade, 33 Battalion. Many people testified that on Friday, February 18, 2005 a major military operation was launched from several angles with troops converging on Mulatos. They received testimony from farmers from Las Nieves, Mulatos and La Esperanza confirming that several families have disappeared. Families in La Resbalosa announced there were waiting for accompaniment and planned to leave the area.

 

            During the past twelve months, the Corporacion Juridica Libertad has repeatedly informed the national government that an effective means of protecting the Peace Community needed to be put in place. And, as stated on various occasions by the Inter-American Human Rights Court, there is an especially urgent need to remove the XVII Brigade from the area as their ties to the paramilitary have been amply demonstrated. The various state entities responsible for the coordination and implementation of provisional measures, including the central government, the Attorney General, and the Public Prosecutor, have been uniformly unwilling to comply with the suggestions made by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

 

Medellin, March 1, 2005

Corporacion Juridica  Libertad

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