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Colombia: Protect residents inside Humanitarian Zone

    Monday, February 13, 2017 - 15:29

    Credit: Photo circulated on social media by Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia to announce its “patrols”


    A group of paramilitaries entered the Humanitarian Zone of Nueva Esperanza en Dios in the Cacarica river basin in north-west Colombia looking for several individuals who they claimed are on a death list. The increase in paramilitary activity in the area is placing residents of the Humanitarian Zone and those accompanying them at risk.


    In the morning of 12 February, eight armed paramilitaries entered the Afro-descendant Humanitarian Zone of Nueva Esperanza en Dios in Riosucio Municipality, Chocó Department. They were dressed in black and some were hooded. Witnesses claim that an indeterminate number of paramilitaries are also present in the vicinity of the Humanitarian Zone. 

    According to local residents, the paramilitaries, who apparently belong to the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, AGC), searched every house in the community looking for a group of people who the paramilitaries said were on a death list. The search included a house used by the NGO Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz), which provides accompaniment for the community. They said that if they could not find them, they would return the following day. The paramilitaries left the Humanitarian Zone after a few hours. While in the Humanitarian Zone, the paramilitaries communicated with others via radio.

    A troop of army soldiers arrived at the Humanitarian Zone around 5pm that same day. Members of the community have asked the soldiers to remain on the perimeter of the Humanitarian Zone. Although soldiers are currently present just outside the Humanitarian Zone, the community has said that the army will leave the Zone’s perimeter on 13 February. Community members claim this is the first time that army troops have been present in the area since reports first emerged almost two weeks ago about a paramilitary presence in the Cacarica region.


    Please send a fax or letter to the Minister of Defence without delay.

    • Start with Dear Minister and a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
    • Explain that, given the incursion of a large number of paramilitaries into the area, you are concerned for the members of the Humanitarian Zone of Nueva Esperanza en Dios, other Afro-descendant communities of the Cacarica river basin, including their leaders, and members of the NGO Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission.
    • Urge him to implement protection measures in strict accordance with the wishes of those threatened, and order full and impartial investigations into the threats and the presence of paramilitaries.
    • Insist that his government takes immediate action to dismantle paramilitary groups and breaks their links with certain sectors of the security forces, in line with stated government commitments and recommendations made by the UN and other intergovernmental organizations. 


    Send your message to

    Señor Luis Carlos Villegas    

    Ministerio de Defensa    

    Carrera 54, no.26-29

    Bogotá, Colombia 

    Postage:    $2.50

    Fax:         011 57 1 266 1003 


    Please send a copy to one or more of the following:


    Señor Juan Manuel Santos    

    Presidente de la República

    Palacio de Nariño, Carrera 8 No.7-26 

    Bogotá, Colombia

    Fax:         011 57 1 596 0631    


    His Excellency Nicolás Lloreda Ricaurte 

    Ambassador for Colombia

    360 Albert Street, Suite 1002

    Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7X7

    Fax:         (613) 230-4416



    The Honourable Chrystia Freeland

    Minister of Foreign Affairs

    111 Wellington Street

    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

    Postage:    None required

    Fax:         (613) 996-9607



    Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz 

    Carrera 37A No 25B-42

    Bogotá D.C., Colombia 

    Fax:         011 57 1 268 7179


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    Additional information

    In 1997 as part of “Operation Génesis”, a military operation coordinated by the XVII Brigade, paramilitaries forcibly displaced over 3,000 members of the Afro-descendant communities of the Cacarica river basin. The majority of the displaced communities began a process of return to the Cacarica river basin in the early 2000s. 

    To guarantee their safety, given on-going death threats and human rights violations community members were facing at the hands of the security forces and paramilitaries, community members created two Humanitarian Zones: Nueva Esperanza en Dios and Nueva Vida. They insisted on their rights as civilians not to be drawn into the conflict. Since their return, the Afro-descendant communities have continued to face constant threats and other human rights violations.

    Since the start of the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC), and especially since September 2015, there have been increasing reports of paramilitary activity in the Cacarica region. Increasing paramilitary activity has also been reported in other parts of the country, as various armed groups seek to gain control over some of the territories previously controlled by the FARC, which is currently in the process of demobilizing and disarming after it reached a peace agreement with the government at the end of 2016.



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