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Witness for Peace received this urgent alert from the "Joel Sierra" Regional Human Rights Committee from the department of Arauca. We met with members of this committee while in Colombia. The following is a direct translation of their communique:

Saravena, Arauca
April 1, 2002

The Joel Sierra" Regional Human Rights Committee denounces and rejects with indignation before national and international public opinion, the press, and via the network of international and national non-governmental organizations in defense of human rights and before the entities of the Colombian State, the following:

1. On Tuesday, March 26, 2002, in the municipality of Saravena approximately at 8:00 p.m., two young men, WILSON DUARTE RAMON and LEONARDO BUENAHORA FUENTES were detained by the National Police under the command of Lieutenant SASTOQUE MURILLO, Commander of the police station in that municipality. After the arrest, they were taken to the police office where they were physically and psychologically tortured. At 8:30 p.m., the mothers and relatives of the detained went to ask about their whereabouts, and were denied by the Police, who told them to leave or the Police would not be responsible for what might happen to them. While the family members were near the police station, they heard cries for help, which came from the tortures being carried out. The relatives left for their homes around 1:00 in the morning, at which time the Police put the detained men into a gray Mazda. They gagged and tied them and took off toward the Barrio COOVISA, where one of the detained men was able to escape. As he fled, the police shot at him, wounding him in the leg. He was able to get away. Immediately the police proceeded to shoot repeatedly at WILSON DUARTE RAMON, who is 24 years of age and the father of a one-year old boy. We hold the commander of the police station, Lieutenant SASTOQUE MURILLO, as well as the National Police and Army, responsible for what may happen to the young man who was able to escape as well as for what may happen to his family.

2. On Wednesday, March 27, 2002, in the municipality of Tame at 6:00 a.m., supposed paramilitaries established a roadblock in a place known as the "Y," a fork in the road that splits toward Puerto Rondon and Saravena. The men stopped several cars which they later riddled with bullets. Later the (supposed paramilitaries) left on the highway that goes from Tame to Puerto Rondon, passing through Rincón Hondo where they assasinated the taxi driver ALCIDES PARALES DURAN.

3. Also on Wednesday March 27, 2002, in the municipality of Arauquita, specifically in the rural community of Los Angelitos, at approximately 7:30 a.m. four young men were hunting, a traditional Holy Week activity in those communities. On the way back to their homes with two hunted animals, they were indiscriminately attacked by soldiers of the National Army from the "Heros of Saraguro" Battalion. In this attack of gunfire and grenades, HUGO HORACIO HURTADO CASTRO, 17 years of age, was killed. He was a 7th grade student in the Llano de Arauquita Junior High School. The three other young men, ALCIDES MONTAÑÉS SALAMANCA, JOLMAN SÁNCHEZ RODRÍGUEZ and JULIO POLICARPO HURTADO CASTRO (brother of the one who was killed), were detained and taken to the PF1 station of the oil complex Caño Limón, where they were mistreated and accused of being guerrillas.

4. On Saturday, March 30, 2002 in the community of Betoyes (Tame), a group of supposed paramilitaries surrounded the town and established a roadblock, taking with them four civilians. They were there more than five hours, during which time there was no action taken by the state security forces in compliance with their constitutional mandate. It is worth noting that the previous day there had been a military roadblock 30 minutes from the community of Betoyes.

5. In an Urgent Action dated March 22, 2002, we expressed our concern for intentions to carry out paramilitary actions during Holy Week in the municipalities of Cravo Norte, Puerto Rondon and Tame. In that Urgent Action, we held responsible the national government, the Commander of the 18th Brigade, Brigadier General CARLOS LEMOS PEDRAZA as well as the Commander of the Rafael Navas Pardo Engineers' Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel JORGE ALBERTO SEGURA MANONEGRA, in the event that paramilitary actions would occur in those municipalities, considering we had told them very early on about what was happening and the preventive measures required. Unfortunately, the events of Holy Week speak for themselves, and there is no justification that events such as those that took place in Betoyes and the "Y" happen and no one is held accountable. Supposedly, state security forces were pulled out of the municipalities of Cravo Norte and Puerto Rondon with the pretext of carrying out an effective control of the area, and yet actions in the name of supposed paramilitaries continue to increase.

6. We urgently request the presence of the Special Investigative Unit to receive and advance investigations about the cases denounced and that it take the corresponding precautionary measures.


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