United Nations visit to the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

The situation in the Peace Community continues to be worrying, and threats against its most visible leaders persist: recently, it was discovered that there was a plan to kill German Graciano Posso, the Community’s legal representative, Gildardo Tuberquia, a historic leader and member of the Internal Council and Hugo Molina, a member of the Community[1]. Nevertheless, the Peace Community continues to be united and strong, to respond to this risk situation; one of their tools to protect themselves is to publicly report the incidents and threats against the Community on their website and to inform their support network. However, this protection tool used by the Community is also at risk: “On Friday 5 October… Judge MARIELA GÓMEZ CARVAJAL, of the Second Municipal Court of Mixed Jurisdiction in Apartadó, ruled to “protect the rights to a good name of the military personnel of the Seventeenth Brigade” ordering the Peace Community to “rectify the information it has published” in the last 8 public statements on the Community’s website”[2]. The community has already declared that they will not rectify the information, exercising their constitutional right to conscientious objection.[3]

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Within this context, on Monday 29 October, the Peace Community received a visit from the Regional Office in Antioquia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), who met with different leaders from the Community to hear their stories and current situation first-hand. The Office visited the La Holandita farmlands, the Community’s main settlement, passing by the “memorial park”, created to remember more than 310 people from the Community who have been killed during its 21 years of existence. Then they visited the areas where cacao is produced and the storeroom where they prepare the bags of organic cacao which they sell to the British company Lush.

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The Community explained how they organised themselves as a community, their current economic project and how they found a way to survive during the most difficult times of the armed conflict, when the paramilitaries imposed economic blockades[4]. The situation today is also of concern. The land in San José de Apartadó is beautiful and fertile, perfect for growing crops, which leads to conflicts. One month ago, a group of 70 people occupied and destroyed crops in the La Roncona farmlands, which the Community has been using for more than 20 years to cultivate sustenance crops and cacao[5].

The Peace Community is a community of small-scale farmers who on 23 March 1997 declared themselves to be neutral in the context of the armed conflict. They reject the use of violence and promote a way of life based on solidarity between families living in the community. In these times of peace building, it is worrying to see that they continue to be attacked and threatened for defending their ideals and for rejecting the use of violence to resolve conflicts.

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In this special year, in which we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration for the protection of human rights defenders, and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is important to support local initiatives for peace and respect for life. We thank OHCHR for its visit to the Community and its support for human rights defenders in Colombia.

Nathalie Bienfait

Footnote

[1] CdP: Descaros en ruta de fatalidad, 14 October 2018

[2] Ibid.

[3] CdP: Impunidad, Corrupción, objeción de conciencia, ruptura y constancias históricas, 14 October 2018.

[4] PBI Colombia: Durante varios años la Comunidad de Paz vivió una situación de terror, 5 May 2017

[5] CdP: Nuestros ojos siguen viendo y nuestros cuerpos siguen sintiendo, 20 September 2018

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