1995: The Magdalena Medio region at the centre of socio-political violence

The Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (Corporación Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos – CREDHOS) is one of the organisations that originally requested the presence of PBI in Colombia. In this second video, we talk to CREDHOS president Iván Madero, who tells us about the context of armed conflict and socio-political violence in the city of Barrancabermeja and about the impact of PBI’s arrival in the city. CREDHOS has been working since 1987 for the promotion and protection of human rights in Barrancabermeja (department of Santander) and the Magdalena Medio region.

Today CREDHOS continues to promote human rights through workshops and training, and litigates in cases of serious human rights violations, both within the Special Peace Jurisdiction (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz – JEP) and in the ordinary justice system.

Throughout this process of demanding and protecting human rights, the members of CREDHOS have received constant threats and attacks because they report human rights violations all over the Magdalena Medio region. Indeed, due to their high level of risk, in 2000 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures to the CREDHOS board of directors. As part of their work supporting the civilian population, CREDHOS receives around 800 reports of human rights violations every year from victims and communities. The organisation has also worked on a ‘pedagogy for peace’ so that the population can familiarise themselves with the contents of the Peace Agreement. They were also the first social organisation to present a report on human rights cases to the JEP[1]. The report contains 30 cases of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and massacres committed during the armed conflict in the Magdalena Medio region.

In recent years, CREDHOS has worked to defend the environment and the right to participate in decisions that could affect the health of local populations. CREDHOS supports complaints made by small-scale farming leaders and environmentalists related to impacts caused by oil exploration projects and different kinds of environmental pollution occurring in the region. Barrancabermeja and the Magdalena Medio region have been severely impacted by the conflict; the massacres of 198[2] and 199[3] are a tragic example of this. Within this context, CREDHOS has been documenting the presence of neo-paramilitary groups for years [4], because of the risk they represent to the civilian population in the region. By gathering testimonies from victims, the organisation has been able to decipher the dynamics of the conflict and to establish patterns of specific and systematic behaviours of the illegal armed groups. On the basis of this documentation they have begun to make complaints to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Procurator General’s Office, which have led to formal investigations and arrests. Because of this work, in 2017 CREDHOS received the National Human Rights Prize in the category of ‘collective of the year’, awarded by the Church of Sweden and Diakonia[5].

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[1] El Mundo: Víctimas del Magdalena Medio entregarán primer informe a la JEP, 19 April 2018

[2] El Espectador: “Veinte años de verdades negadas en Barrancabermeja”, 16 May 2018

[3] El Espectador: “La masacre olvidada de Barrancabermeja”, 27 February 2019

[4] Descendants of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, demobilised under Law 975 on Justice and Peace, passed by the government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez in 2005. See  Fundación PARES: “BACRIM, Neoparamilitares y grupos post-desmovilización paramilitar”, 31 March 2016

[5] El Espectador: Conozca a los ganadores del premio a la defensa de los derechos humanos, 20 September 2017

This video was realized by Javier Bauluz and produced thanks to the support of the International Cooperation Agency of Extremadura for the Development (AEXCID).


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