Colombian National Movement of Victims' of Crimes of the State/Ottawa Gatineau Section

March 04, 2008 11:20 ET

Colombian National Movement of Victims' of Crimes of the State/Ottawa Gatineau Section

For the Disappeared - For the Displaced - For those Massacred - For the Executed - For the Truth Worldwide Day of Protest Victims of Violence in Colombia

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 4, 2008) - Colombian refugees and immigrants residing in Ottawa/Gatineau will join with Canadians concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Colombia at a vigil on Parliament Hill on March 6 at 12:30. They will honour the thousands of Colombians (their sons and daughters, friends, colleagues and loved ones) who have been murdered and the millions forced from their homes by brutal paramilitary forces, often in collaboration with the Colombian Army or Police. (See attached Fact Sheet)

The group will deliver a set of demands to the Colombian Embassy on Albert St. following the vigil.

This vigil will join with similar groups in Bogota, Colombia and many cities across North America to call international attention to the millions of victims of violence, murder and forced displacement in Colombia.

"Nothing can justify the horrendous suffering caused by this violence, not national security, not counter-insurgency, or any other arguments" says Colombian Diego Porras residing in Gatineau. "Most of these crimes have gone unpunished. Human rights violations continue unabated. We demand an end to these crimes. We demand justice".

There are 3.8 million displaced persons in Colombia. Some 12 million acres of land have been stolen by paramilitaries and are being used for large scale cash crops such as heart of palm and bananas. Eighteen Indigenous Peoples are in imminent risk of extinction. 2,460 Indigenous have been murdered in the last several years of whom 900 were leaders or authorities. Close to 500 trade unionists have been hunted down and murdered since President Alvaro Uribe Velez came to power in 2002.

Also, thousands of students, teachers, workers, community leaders, human rights defenders, peasants and journalists have been tortured, murdered and disappeared in Colombia by paramilitaries and agents of the Colombian State.

Former history professor Leon Florez decided to leave when two well-known colleagues were murdered. Many others received death threats, including Florez. Now residing in Gatineau, Florez says, "The murderers assume that they will never be held accountable for their crimes."

Meanwhile, the Colombian government engages in a multi-million dollar international public relations offensive to show improvements in the human rights situation. Their propaganda efforts have convinced the US, Canada and Europe to initiate trade negotiations with this government.

Demands to be delivered to the Colombian Embassy include:

1. A humanitarian accord to exchange guerilla-held hostages for prisoners held by the army;

2. A transparent peace process involving the state, the insurgency and civil society leading to a negotiated settlement to the 40 year-old armed conflict;

3. A trial for crimes against humanity at the International Court of Justice;

4. Full reparation to victims of crimes against humanity and forced displacement;

5. Full transparency of the terms of the trade negotiations between Canada and Colombia; and

6. Suspension of trade negotiations until the government demonstrates improvements in human rights.

Fact Sheet on Human Rights in Colombia

Colombia has the highest rate of violence against trade unionists in the world; there have been 2,500 recorded killings of trade unionists in Colombia since 1986. 480 trade unionists have been killed in the last five years. The government has a 1.9% conviction rate for these killings.

31,000 Colombians "disappeared" by paramilitary death squads since 1990. 10,000 bodies have been found in 3,000 common graves. Other bodies were just thrown into the rivers.

17,000 Indigenous and Afro-Colombians murdered

5,000 politicians of the political party Patriotic Union hunted down and murdered

Paramilitaries supposedly demobilized since 2002 but they have murdered 600 civilians each year since. Crimes go unpunished.

Colombian army carried out 955 summary executions in the last five years. 7,500 persons have been arbitrarily detained.

Colombia's current government is accused of corruption, links to paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers, and state sanctioned impunity for crimes committed.

Criminal networks control economic activities and political institutions in 23 of the 31 provinces.

Paramilitary terror and massacres have been used to try to dismantle Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and other social movements and vulnerable groups in order to take over their resource rich territories for the benefit of the mostly multinational extractive industries and agriculture such as "African" palm oil. Few controls exist to ensure that extractive companies behave responsibly.

There are 3.8 million internally displaced people, 57% of which are women. The UN calls this the worst humanitarian disaster in the Western Hemisphere and it is growing.

Contact Information

  • Diego Porras
    Sheila Katz
    613-526-7407, 613-866-7432