Updates from WOLA tagged “False Positives”

Blog entries, commentaries, and statements from WOLA’s Colombia team

International Civil Society Organizations Welcome the Progress of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and Support the Legitimate Work of Human Rights Organizations and Victims of Extrajudicial Executions

February 28, 2021

On February 24, over 25 international civil society organizations, including WOLA—through the Cooperation Space for Peace (Espacio de Cooperación para la Paz—published a statement commending the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, JEP) for its February 18 order on how it plans to investigate and prosecute the at least 6,402 extrajudicial executions it has identified in macro-case 03.

The original Spanish-language statement is here.
The English-language version of the statement is below.

The undersigned international civil society organizations welcome the progress made by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, JEP). On February 18, 2021, through Auto 033 of 2021, the JEP made public its prioritization strategy within Case 03, known as “false positive” extrajudicial executions. According to information gathered by the Chamber for the Acknowledgment of Truth and Responsibility (Sala de Reconocimiento de Verdad y Responsabilidad), “at least 6,402 people were illegitimately killed to be presented as combat casualties throughout the national territory between 2002 and 2008”.

The courageous and rigorous work of Colombian human rights and victims’ organizations has been key in clarifying the truth about these painful events, which the Colombian people continue to mourn and must be prosecuted. Seeking to reduce the JEP’s work as an attempt to “discredit” the leader of the Democratic Center (Centro Democrático) political party, not only constitutes an affront, but it is also untrue and puts at serious risk, once again, the lives and work of human rights defenders, whose truth is key to definitively overcoming the conflict in Colombia. 

We reject this new stigmatization and alert the state and the Government of Colombia about the serious security consequences it may have on the victims and defenders who have been denouncing these cases for years.

It is important that the JEP does not falter in its work, which, as stated by the spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssel, “is taking important steps in the fight against impunity, which will help Colombia to address past serious violations of international law and prevent the recurrence of such violations”. 

As international civil society organizations that have accompanied Colombian human rights organizations for many years, we reiterate our support for their legitimate work, which we consider essential for consolidating peace and strengthening the rule of law in Colombia.

All sectors and actors should refrain from issuing stigmatizing statements that put lives at risk and further polarize Colombia. We encourage all to contribute with determination from their different roles and mandates to the definitive overcoming of the conflict in Colombia.

Tags: False Positives, Politics of Peace, Special Jurisdiction for Peace

16 International and Colombian Civil Society Organizations Denounce the Military’s Murder of Indigenous U’wa Leader Joel Aguablanca Villamizar

June 11, 2020

On June 2, 2020, EarthRights and 15 other international and Colombian civil society organizations, including WOLA, published a statement condemning the murder of Indigenous U’wa leader Joel Aguablanca Villamizar and the militarization of the ancestal U’wa territory.

Joel Aguablanca Villamizar was murdered on May 31, 2020 in the Department of North Santander during a Colombian military operation against fronts of the National Liberation Army (Ejército Nacional de Liberación, ELN). The Indigenous community has adamantly stated that their leader had no link to the armed group.

The militarization of the territory has had a detrimental impact on the indigenous U’wa population. The organizations demand that authorities investigate and punish those responsible in a timely manner and implement the necessary measures to prevent other senseless murders from occurring in the future.

Below is the text of the statement:

Human rights organizations condemn the murder of indigenous U’wa leader Joel Aguablanca Villamizar and the militarization of ancestral U’wa territory

Washington D.C, June 2, 2020: Last Sunday, indigenous leader Joel Aguablana Villamizer was murdered by the Colombian army in the Chitagá municipality of Norte Santander, Colombia. Joel was an indigenous leader and education coordinator for the U’wa Association of Traditional Authorities and Cabildos (ASOU’WA). The army murdered Joel as part of a mission to capture Darío Quiñonez, alias Marcial, third leader of the Efraín Pabón Pabón Front and commander of the Martha Cecilia Pabón Commission of the National Liberation Army (ELN). Earthrights Executive Director Ka Hsaw Wa issued the following statement in response:

“In carrying out this operation, the Colombian National Army and the ELN did not respect the basic principles of international humanitarian law, threatening the life and security of the U’wa civilian population, including five minors.

“The military operation that resulted in Joel’s murder was carried out in close proximity to the U’wa United Reservation, which is part of the U’wa Nation ancestral territory. This highlights the impacts that the Colombian government’s fight against armed forces still has on the indigenous U’wa population. The U’Wa have been declared an endangered group by the Constitutional Court of Colombia.

“The organizations below stand in solidarity with the U’wa voices who denounced this heinous act and who stated that ‘[they] are not going to allow this unfortunate situation to be considered a false positive for the Colombian State, since the murdered U’wa brother was never linked to the ELN insurgent group (A​ SOU’WA Communiqué​).’

“We are concerned and outraged at the frequency of events such as this one. According to the Catatumbo Peasant Association (Ascamcat), with the death of Joel Aguablanca there have already been three cases of extrajudicial executions in the department of Norte Santander in 2020 (​El Tiempo, 2020​).

“We demand that authorities investigate and punish those responsible in a timely manner and implement the necessary measures to prevent other senseless murders from occurring in the future. Likewise, we will bring the situation to the awareness of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. EarthRights is currently supporting the U’Wa in a long-standing land rights case at the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights”

Signatures:

  1. Almáciga (Spain)
  2. Alma y Corazon (USA)
  3. Amazon Watch (USA)
  4. Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA) (Regional-Americas)
  5. Colombia Human Rights Committee (USA)
  6. Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (Colombia)
  7. EarthRights International (Amazon)
  8. Indigenous Environmental Network (USA)
  9. Mujer U’wa (USA)
  10. Perifèries del món (Spanish State)
  11. Rainforest Action Network (USA)
  12. Rete Numeri Pari (Italy)
  13. University of California Irvine Community Resilience Projects (USA)
  14. Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) (USA)
  15. Wayunkerra Indigenous Women’s Initiative (Switzerland)
  16. Yaku (Italy)

Tags: ELN, False Positives, Indigenous Communities