The international community calls on the Inter-American Court to protect members of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, Colombia, in light of recent attacks.
German Graciano Posso, legal representative of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, narrowly survived an attempt on his life when five armed men, allegedly members of the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces (AGC) neo-paramilitary group, broke into the Community’s storehouse intending to kill him on 29 December 2017. The attack was foretold – just a week earlier, the Community had publicly warned of the existence of a plan to assassinate him, and had published multiple reports about the escalation of the AGC’s threats against civilians in previous months.
Other Community members rallied to their calls for help and managed to immobilise and detain two of the attackers. The following day, the Peace Community handed them over to the Investigative Unit of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Nevertheless, 24 hours later the two men were freed.
There was an outcry from the international community and 65 international human rights organisations, platforms, networks and international cooperation agencies from Europe, the United States and Canada wrote a letter to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) to express profound concerns over the lack of progress in protecting the Peace Community from attacks. The letter also includes specific requests aimed to prevent new human rights violations.
The Peace Community has been the beneficiary of provisional measures of protection from the IACtHR since 2000. Throughout 2017, the IACtHR made several requests to the Colombian State to provide protection to guarantee the safety and physical integrity of Peace Community members. However, the Colombian State has not taken the threats seriously and the Community has not received the protection it requested.
Since the end of 2016, the presence of the AGC neo-paramilitary group has significantly increased, as it seeks to fill the void left by the FARC guerrilla group’s demobilisation. The AGC have set up roadblocks, networks of informants and permanent camps in order to gain greater control of the region. They have made systematic death threats against members of the Peace Community, and even against international accompaniment organisations.
There has been an increase in killings of human rights defendersand social leaders around the country.1 A recent verification mission to Colombia found that communities in rural areas are once again living in the midst of an armed conflict.2
The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado was created in 1997 by farmers displaced by the armed conflict to resist further displacement to protect the Community, its land and its way of life through non-violent means. The Community’s commitment to defending human rights and its struggle for justice has exposed its members to reprisals and constant death threats over the past two decades. Since the Community was created, 320 of its members have been murdered,it has suffered 350 death threats, 100 incidences of torture and 50 cases of displacement. There have been several mass killings in which multiple members of the Community, including minors, were murdered. Almost none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice. PBI has accompanied the Peace Community since 1999.
1. Somos Defensores, Informe SIADDHH 2017,