Enforced disappearances in La Esperanza

Between 21st June and 27th December 1996, the paramilitary group Autodefensas Campesinas del Magdalena Medio (ACMM) disappeared 16 people, including three children, in the hamlet of La Esperanza in the municipality of El Carmen de Viboral (Eastern Antioquia), having labelled them as collaborators of the illegal armed groups that operated in the area.[1] In his testimony, the former paramilitary leader Ramon Isaza Arango, alias ‘El Viejo’, confessed that these actions were ordered by deceased General Alfonso Manosalva Florez, who at the time was the commander of the Army’s 4th Brigade, which had its headquarters in Medellin and had jurisdiction over large parts of Eastern Antioquia,[2] and were carried out by two other people who are also deceased: his son Omar Isaza, alias ‘Lieutenant’ and Major David Hernandez.

According to Oscar Correa, a member of the Corporation for Judicial Freedom (CJL), “Ramon Isaza Arango appears to be following a strategy, (…) to lay responsibility on people who are already dead. He also tried to prove that there was no relationship or connivance between Security Forces and the Autodefensas Campesinas del Magdalena Medio, and that they were acting autonomously, when it is obvious that these Autodefensas had to have had institutional support”.[3]

In 2014, CJL brought the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACourtHR), due to the Colombian authorities’ failure to investigate the facts:[4]

“More than ten years after the implementation of the Justice and Peace law, the victims of La Esperanza have not been able to access the truth. With regards to this Transitional Justice mechanism, we have always said that what is more important than obtaining criminal convictions, prison sentences or other punitive measures, is to get truth for the victims. This is even more important when dealing with enforced disappearances”[5], Correa explains.

It is significant that as well as providing legal representation to the relatives of victims of enforced disappearance, CJL’s accompaniment has enabled the inhabitants of La Esperanza to speak out to express the suffering and pain they have endured for all these years.[6]


Footnotes:

[1] Verdad Abierta: La Esperanza, 15 años de permanente recuerdo, 1st December 2011; El Colombiano: La Esperanza está viva tras 20 años de la masacre, 20th June 2016; IPC: Víctimas de La Esperanza pidieron no legalizar cargos a Ramón Isaza, 18th November 2016
[2] Verdad Abierta: Op. Cit., 1st December 2011
[3] Interview with Oscar Correa, 9th October 2015
[4] IACourtHR: Caso Vereda La Esperanza Vs. Colombia
[5] Interview with Oscar Correa: Op. cit.
[6] Verdad Abierta: Op. Cit.

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