2002: In the heart of urban violence

The year that saw Pastrana’s administration end and Uribe´s begin was one of the most violent years in modern Colombian history. According to the organization Human Rights Everywhere, that recently published The Cartography of Enforced Disappearance, it was the year with the highest number of victims of this criminal practice.

That year, peace negotiations with the FARC-EP ended and dialogues began with the paramilitary group, the United Self-defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), who at that point had achieved a major territorial expansion and control. On 2 May of that year, 74 civilians were killed when a cylinder bomb launched by the FARC-EP guerrillas exploded in the church where the civilian had sought protection. This event took place during a confrontation with the AUC paramilitaries in Bojayá, Chocó[1]. Today, this event is recognized as one of the most deadly massacres.

The city of Medellín also suffered attacks from the different legal and illegal armed groups, and the paramilitary counterinsurgency fight. This was especially true in the Comuna 13 (13th District), where six military operations were carried out, leading to enforced disappearances, homicides, injuries, and arbitrary detentions.[2] Operation Orion which, according to the National Center for Reparation and Reconciliation, was “the largest urban military operation carried out in Colombia,”[3] with one dead, 28 injured, and 355 detained.

The Corporation for Judicial Freedom was one of the few organizations to accompany the Comuna 13‘s people, documenting cases of enforced disappearances and others. Adriana Arboleda, the organization’s president, remembers those times and PBI’s accompaniment during these difficult moments.


PBI Colombia


[1] Victims Unit: Bojayá, 17 años reconstruyendo esperanzas, 30 de octubre 2019; El Espectador: El día en que la vida de Bojayá explotó, 1 May 2019

[2] CJL: Memoria histórica de la Comuna 13 en Medellín, 2 July 2009

[3] Semana: La foto que destapó los desmanes de la operación Orión, 15 August 2015


**Video realized by Joni Restrepo (Equipo Cosmico) and produced thanks to the support the International Cooperation Agency of Extremadura for the Development (AEXCID)


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