Friday, March 6, 2009

Accompanying my penpal in Bogota

An article i pulled together for indymedia. To see photos visit

False Positives are State Crimes

“False positives”, recognised in International Law as extrajudicial killings, have been part of Colombian reality for more than twenty years. Civilians, normally peasant farmers or young people from the lowest income sectors of society, are killed under official orders and later presented as guerilla killed in combat in order to show them as deaths in the so-called “war against terrorism”. This allows the Colombian military to gain rewards or inflate the statistics of the war.

I am part of Espacio Bristol-Colombia's penpal protection plan [1] and yesterday I met my penpal and her husband for the first time. Their two sons were killed together while travelling to the nearest town to buy some more cattle by the army. A large number of extrajudicial killings in Casanare occur in municipalities where BP, a multinational oil company, has activities and are all carried out by the 16th Brigade, who have been historically contracted by BP.[2]

They made the difficult decision to leave their farm for 5 days and travel to Bogota to take part in yesterday’s assembly of victims of extrajudicial killings and the march this morning against false positives.

They are fearful of what may happen to them as other people who report state crimes have received threats or in worst case also been killed. Yet they are determined to remain brave and to keep some hope alive that they will find some justice one day. Today she handed me a letter that she had written with the help of her son which I have just read at home.

“Con mi familia he luchado en sobresalir adelante sin hacerle daño a nadie siempre haciendo el bien….Despues de que los mataron, noa ha dejado un vacio muy grande en mi familia, ya que tendremos que soportarlo hasta el fin de nuestra vida cotidiana”

“with my family, I have struggled to improve without doing any harm to anyone, always doing what is right…after they were killed, it has left us a large whole in our family since every day we have to endure the pain”

Three other people from Casanare participate in the mobilisation. They are family members of victims of state crimes and also penpals with Bristol residents.

The Coordination Colombia-Europe-United States and the Colombian Platform for Human Rights, has reported more than 1400 of these cases since 2002 when the the democratic security policy of President Uribe began. This odious practice was officially recognised in September 2008 when 19 young people were disappeared in Soacha, a poor neighbourhood of Bogotá, and then later found in mass graves in rural areas more than 500km away.

Colombia lives a bloody war. In the last 11 years there has been 3000 mass graves, more than 30000 disappeared, 4.2 million displaced and 23000 kidnapped, figures that shed light on the victims of this conflict.

The Network of Solidarity and Friendship (La Red de Hermandad) stands in solidarity with the victims of paramilitarism, para politica and State crimes.

We demand from the Colombian government:

The immediate end to the persecution and imprisonment of the members of social organisations, unions, human rights defenders, journalists, students, peasant farmers, indigenous and those who democratically oppose the government.

Truth, justice and reparation and no more repetition of crimes against human dignity.

We call on the national and international community to echo this demand and contribute to the construction of a true democratic society en Colombia, supported by peace, social justice and the comprehensive respect for human rights.

Extrajudicial killings are state crimes

Truth, justice and reparation for the victims of state terrorism in Colombia.

United to recover our memory for a Colombia that does not forget.

No more mass graves.
No more forced displacements.
No more kidnappings
No more state crimes
No more extrajudicial killings.
No more crimes against humanity.

[1] for an explanation on the penpal protection plan.

2] To learn more about the grave humanitarium crisis in Casanare and its relation to the oil industry:
Report of the International Solidarity Mission Roque Julio Torres Torres, Casanare, Colombia

BP in Casanare, by Cos-pacc

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