News from Colombia
In the town of Uribe in central Colombia thirteen people were arrested on Sunday in a military raid which local human rights groups have complained is based on false charges aimed at discrediting the community. All those arrested have been accused of “rebellion”, a common accusation made against poor farmers living in regions with guerrilla presence. As is often the case, the arrests have been made based on alleged information received from demobilised guerrillas. As the international organisation Human Rights First reported in a comprehensive report on the illegal prosecution of human rights defenders, such evidence is often used to generate trumped up charges. The Constitutional Court has ruled that this type of evidence used from individuals seeking reinsertion benefits should be “treated with suspicion”. The Colombian prosecution services instead use this evidence on a regular basis to bring charge against trade unionists, community activists, and peasant farmers who live in conflict affected regions. There are reportedly close to 9,500 political prisoners in Colombian jails.
In the case of the town of Uribe, the population has long been victim to stigmatisation efforts and has suffered considerable violence at the hands of both the military and right-wing paramilitaries. In the 1980s many members of the community were killed as part of the political genocide carried out against the Patriotic Union political party. This persecution continues today with the arrest of the town Mayor, Marcelino Chacón, and twelve other members of the community.