The Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP) was founded in 2002 and continued with the work started in 1988 by the Inter-Congregational Justice and Peace Commission, with communities of victims who are demanding their rights in different rural areas in Colombia. It currently has around 55 members and its work focuses on accompanying and supporting afro-descendant, indigenous and mestizo communities and organisations in different regions affected by the conflict and general violence.
CIJP followed on from the Inter-Congregational Justice and Peace Commission, one of the oldest non-governmental organisations defending human rights in Colombia. It was created in 1988 by 45 catholic congregations and led by human rights defender and Jesuit priest, Father Javier Giraldo. In 2002, CIJP took up the mantle of the Inter-congregational Commission’s support for truth, justice and integral reparation; protecting rural lands and the environment; searching for justice and generating proposals for integral reparation, and supporting a negotiated political solution to the internal armed conflict.
In 2003, CIJP led the creation of an Ethical Truth Commission, with national and international commissioners, including the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo Linea Fundadora and the Ethical Commission Against Torture in Chile, that visited different regions of the country “where the Prosecutor General’s Office has refused to go”, to gather testimony and evidence of crimes and human rights violations. In 2006, this proposal for safeguarding collective memory when the State does not guarantee access to truth, justice and integral reparation, was presented and approved at the assembly of the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE).
CIJP works to protect rural lands, the environment and forcefully displaced afro-descendant, indigenous and mestizo communities. In most of the regions where it works, it has permanent teams on the ground which provide integral accompaniment to victims who are demanding their rights, and it develops accompaniment activities alongside peaceful civil resistance processes. Its work is grounded on agro-ecology, access to justice, psychosocial support, gender, communication and spirituality.
CIJP shares its work widely by providing information (publications, reports, documentaries and alerts) on the human rights situation, threats, and risks facing community processes of civil resistance, and generates protection for CIJP’s members and for the people they accompany thanks to its important national and international support network.
Accompanying communities in Lower Atrato
The Lower Atrato river basin reaches around the Gulf of Uraba, a natural port on the Caribbean sea, and crosses three departments: Antioquia, Choco and Cordoba. The region is of geo-strategic importance for being in the far corner of South America, straddling the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, bordering Panama and being close to its canal. It has abundant natural resources, (subsoils rich in different minerals and fossil fuels), and is a trafficking corridor for weapons and illegal drugs to Panama. As a result, the region is under constant dispute between the different armed actors. The Lower Atrato was under the control of different guerrillas (the FARC and the EPL) from the 1970s, and then became the cradle of the paramilitary forces, after the Autodefensas Campesinas de Cordoba y Uraba were created, and the Army’s 17th Brigade was formed, in 1989.
It is a strategically important part of the country for a number of reasons including the existence of strong economic and territorial interests, which intensified the conflict and the violence, and caused significant harm to the civilian population’s human rights.
CIJP accompanies afro-descendant and mestizo communities who are returning to their lands after they were displaced by the armed conflict. They live in Humanitarian and Biodiversity Zones in the Cacarica, Curbarado, Jiguamiando, Pedeguita y Mancilla, and La Larga Tumarado river basins, and in the indigenous communities of Alto Guayabal, and in Dabeiba.
Read about the most serious incidents of violence against the Curbarado and Jiguamiando communities from 2005 to 2013.
The case of Operation Genesis vs. Colombia
In 1996 and 1997, two military operations marked the destiny of the people of Lower Atrato: ‘Operation Black September’, which was mainly carried out in Curbarado and Jiguamiando (Choco) and Dabeiba (Antioquia), and ‘ Operation Genesis’, in Cacarica and Salaqui (Choco), which caused the forced displacement of approximately 15,000 people, a subsequent militarisation of the area, and more than 70 people were either murdered or disappeared. Read more
Land restitution in Curbarado river basin
Between 1996 and 1997 the Lower Atrato communities were victim of military and paramilitary operations which caused the mass displacement of more than 70% of the population, murders, torture and disappearances. After the displacement, banana and palm companies set up operations in the territory. Currently, many of these businessmen are on trial for their responsibility and some have already been found guilty of forced displacement and invading lands of special ecological importance. Read more
Accompanying communities in Valle del Cauca
The Valle del Cauca is in the southwest of the country, a strategic corridor through the Andes to the Pacific, and one of Colombia’s most conflictive regions. The scale of the violence has affected the urban centres too, including Cali, the department’s capital, and the port of Buenaventura. In 2014, the department became the epicenter of Colombia’s organised crime, with different illegal armed groups present in urban and rural areas. Rural areas are mainly inhabited by indigenous communities and afro-descendant farmers and fishermen.
In photoraphs: Community of Afro-Colombians is organized
In photographs: Afro-Colombian community creates Community Council
Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space: Project for life, hope and peace
On 13 April 2014 the Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space was set up in Playita neighbourhood in Buenaventura. It was the start of a new process which brought hope and created a space devoid of illegal armed actors within a fully urban context. CIJP accompanies and advises the families who live in the Humanitarian Space, on issues of protection, security, legal representation, case documentation and distributing information about human rights violations. Read more
Naya: a long road to collective land titling
Since 2002, CIJP has accompanied and advised families from the Naya River Basin Community Council, which is situated between the departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca, on issues of legal security, implementing precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), organisational strengthening and human rights training. Read more
The indigenous Wounaan Nonaam communities
CIJP accompanies Wounaan Nonam indigenous communities, who live on the shores of the San Juan river and its tributary the Calima river, which are strategic corridors for trafficking goods to the Pacific and which are under territorial control of illegal armed groups. In this context of fear, the communities were forcefully displaced on a number of occasions.
Resilience and territory
CIJP advises and accompanies the Wounaan Nonam community of Santa Rosa de Guayacan (a rural area near Buenaventura on the Calima river), since 2010, after a paramilitary incursion in the region forced the community to abandon their homes and take refuge in the urban area of Buenaventura. There, children, adults and elderly people lived in overcrowded hostels for over a year in “subhuman” health and hygiene conditions, according to Father Alberto Franco, a member of CIJP. In June 2011, the IACHR ordered precautionary protection measures in favour of 21 Wounaan Nonam families and asked the Colombian State to “adopt the necessary measures to guarantee [their] life and physical integrity and […] their return to the Santa Rosa de Guayacan Indigenous Reservation in conditions of dignity and security”. Read more
Displacement and the search for a dignified life
At the end of 2014, CIJP began accompanying the Wounaan community of Union Agua Clara (in a rural area near Buenaventura on the banks of the river San Juan, which marks the division between the jungles of Valle del Cauca and Choco). They had been forcibly displaced to Buenaventura’s port because of the armed conflict: the presence of illegal armed groups, the military operations, and the fact of living in a strategic corridor for trafficking illicit substances are some of the causes. They sought refuge in the city’s coliseum, where they lived for over a year in precarious conditions. Read more
The Peace University, a great legacy in people’s struggle for diversity
CIJP leads an educational proposal and forum, Catedra Abierta ‘Territorial subjects of peace with socio-environmental justice’, which came out of the Peace University initiative and the communities grouped under the network Red Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los Territorios (Conpaz).
In June 2016, the southwestern branch of the Peace University was opened, a first step in a much greater challenge: a total of 12 branches will be opened in the rural territories, to “generate, from the communities, a forum for expertise about peace through the exchange of knowledge”. It is a keystone for university training to emerge from the shadows cast by ivory towers in the cities, and become theoretical and practical tools in the places most ravaged by the conflict.
The proposal was presented at the negotiating tables with the FARC in Havana, and at the peace process being prepared with the ELN.
The University’s building, rising above the river’s edge on a hill, is a tribute to Juana Bautista Angulo, an Afronayera woman who was the victim of torture and sexual violence, and was murdered on 14th April 2001 during the forced displacement in Lower Naya by paramilitaries from the Calima Block.
Land rights in Mapiripan
CIJP accompanies the Sikuani and Jiw indigenous communities who are affected by the extensive palm oil plantations in Mapiripan municipality (Meta department), mainly through training workshops on land and human rights. It accompanies some farmers who are reclaiming their land including William Aljure, who was displaced from his farmland in Finca Santa Ana, in La Esmeralda (Mapiripan) after he was pressured by neo-paramilitary groups which are present in the area. Read more
Risks, threats and attacks
CIJP’s members have been the target of many security incidents since 1996, including serious threats to their personal integrity, being followed and subjected to illegal wiretapping and surveillance, assassination plots, kidnapping, and smear campaigns. Further details on the kinds of threats, defamation and illegal activities they have been the target of are available below.
In September 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ordered precautionary measures in favour of CIJP’s members because of the threats, surveillance, media attacks, detentions and raids which have been occurring since 1997 but became more acute in 2003. The Colombian State was ordered by the IACHR to adopt the necessary measures to protect their lives and physical integrity and to inform the IACHR of the actions it took to investigate the facts and put an end to the threats.
In May 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, ordered provisional protection measures for Danilo Rueda, a founding member of CIJP and one of the victims’ representatives in the case of ‘Operation Genesis’. In its sentence, the Court observed “that the human rights defender Danilo Rueda has the highest level of risk against him”.
From the beginning of 2012 its members have been provided with several collective and individual security measures from the National Protection Unit (UNP).
In 2012, CIJP was the finalist for the National Prize for the Defence of Human Rights in Colombia in the category ‘Collective experience or process of the year’.
In 2015, CIJP won the Human Rights Award from the Washington Office on Latin America , (WOLA) which is awarded to organisations or individuals who “exemplify a commitment to a vision for the future, where human rights and social justice are the foundation for public policy”.
In 2016, the organisation was awarded the Loyola University of Chicago Martyrs Award for its “unique work, as an ecumenical human rights organisation, in social analysis, intervention and advocacy”.
PBI has accompanied the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission since 1994.
“PBI’s accompaniment has been very important in the different regions where we work. This accompaniment has enabled the resilience and affirmation of the rights of farming, indigenous and afro-descendant communities we accompany. The accompaniment is fundamental, because the international presence becomes an element of dissuasion and this has saved lives.” (Father Alberto Franco)
 CIJP: Propuesta para la constitución de una Comisión Ética en Colombia, 23 May 2003
 CIJP: VIII Visita de la Comisión Ética de la Verdad, 15 June 2010
 CIJP: Presentación comisión ética internacional para Colombia, 20th February 2007
 More information on the Ethical Truth Commission: Comunidad Santo Tomás de Aquino: Comisión Ética de la Verdad; Movice: Comisión Ética; press statements from the Commission are available on CIJP’s website: Comisión Ética
 Teleantioquia: Urabá se convierte en corredor estratégico para ingreso de contrabando al departamento, 22nd August 2012
 Verdad Abierta: Frente 5 de las Farc, protagonista de la guerra, 12th November 2012
 Verdad Abierta: Urabá: escéptica ante los anuncios desde La Habana, 25th September 2015
 Resolución Defensorial No. 025: Sobre las Violaciones Masivas de Derechos Humanos y Desplazamiento Forzado en la Región del Bajo Atrato Chocoano, October 2002; Verdad Abierta: Veinte años de una guerra sin límites en Urabá, 30th September 2015
 CIJP: Colombia : Banacol. Empresa implicada en paramilitarismo y acaparamiento de tierras en Curvaradó y Jiguamiandó, May 2012
 Defensoría del Pueblo: Resolución Defensorial No. 025, October 200
 CIJP: Ibíd, 15th June 2010
 ColombiaLand.org: Justicia Evasiva. La lucha por la tierra y la vida en Curbaradó y Jiguamiandó, June 2013
 Cijp/Hands of theLand Alliance: Banacol, empresa implicada en paramilitarismo y acaparamiento de tierras en Curbaradó y Jiguamiandó, May 2012
 The Public Prosecutor’s Office, based on evidence provided by members of the community who have been subjected to threats, baseless prosecutions and smear campaigns, brought charges in Case 3856 for the crimes of aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime, forced displacement and invasion of lands of special ecological importance, against a number of businessmen, paramilitaries and land commissioners. This process has, since 2012, put 16 businessmen in prison, 11 more are on the run, and 22 have been called to trial. Cijp: Condenan a dos empresarios por alianza con paramilitares en negocio de palma, 30th July 2013; Cijp: Condena contra 16 empresarios, paramilitares y comisionistas de tierra responsables de provocar el desplazamiento forzado de comunidades negras de Curvaradó y Jiguamiandó, 3rd December 2014
 El Tiempo: En el Valle están siete de los diez municipios más violentos del país, 4th March 2015
 InSightCrime: Los grupos armados hacen del Valle del Cauca la capital de violencia de Colombia, 11th February 2014
 PBI Colombia: Interview with Father Alberto Franco, 22nd July 2011; Radio Macondo: Asesinato desplazamiento y niños muertos en la comunidad Woaunaan, 26th May 2016
 PBI Colombia: Interview with Father Alberto Franco, 22nd July 2011
 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: MC 355/10 – 21 familias de la comunidad Nonam del pueblo indígena Wounaan, Colombia, 2011
 CIJP: Situación de desplazamiento Comunidad indígena Wounaan, 26th December 2014
 Contagio Radio: Proponen creación de 12 universidades por la Paz, 6th October 2015
 Contagio Radio: En el Naya se inaugura la primera sede de la Universidad de la Paz, 10 June 2016
 El Tiempo: Otro atentado contra comunidades de paz, 3rd Abril 2005
 Dial, Oidhaco, US Office on Colombia: Comunicado a la opinión pública – Seguimientos y amenazas a la Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, 4th June 2012
 Inter-American Court of Human Right: Resolución del Presidente en ejercicio de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Asunto Danilo Rueda, 2 May 2014