ISHR-Colombia: Activity Report 2010

These books have been distributed among many schools in very poor neighborhoods of Medellin.
These books have been distributed among many schools in very poor neighborhoods of Medellin.

Prepared by:
Sociedad Internacional para los Derechos Humanos –
Capitulo Colombia

Country Condition
We must take into account that Colombia is a very large country and a big part of it is a huge forest. Fighting is going on permanently between the guerrillas and the country’s police forces and in these wars there is also a strong presence of militia groups which are in many cases protected by some members of the Colombian military.

There are two different war situations in Colombia
One of these situations is prevalent in the rural sections of the country. More than two million people have been driven away from their homes as a consequence of the violence generated by the constant confrontation between the guerrillas and the army.

The guerrillas in their fighting strategy usually bury anti-personal mines in the areas in which they are present; this is especially damaging to the peasant and indigenous population as they are the ones who fall victims of the field mines and either die or their bodies are mutilated.  This is a very cruel war practice and many of the families flee the area abandoning their land and seeking refuge in the big cities, increasing the population and problems of the so called poverty belts in the outskirts of the cities.

Another situation is that in which the drug trafficking people recruit the underage and the unemployed newly arrived in the city so that they can control the sale and distribution of drugs, the collection of money extorted from the business people, and from “the mules” and the human slavery traffic.
All of this makes young people form groups to take control of the cities causing deadly confrontations among them.  They mark their territory restricting the circulation of the people.

Between the months of January 2009 and July 2010, there have been more than 1,560 deaths in the city of Medellin and most of those who died were young gang members between the ages of 13 and 18. These young people are at the service of criminal groups that are fighting to control the centers of vice of the city.

There are approximately 140 juvenile gangs in the country known as “Combos”.  Shooting in the streets of Medellin is frequent.  Normally the gang member will start his criminal life at early as 13 and very few of them get to live to be adults. The constant fight between neighborhoods has a negative effect on children who grow up in that environment and seem to absorb it as soon as they are able to walk. Toddlers as little as 3 years old have become spies and notify the gang leaders when the police are coming.  These children work as messengers for the gangs by the time they are 7 years old and at 13 they have already become part of the “Combo” gang.

In the neighborhoods where the street wars take place more often, parents do not send their children to school afraid that they will not come back home alive.

In Colombia, the number of crimes that go unpunished is very high;   the percentage being as much as 90%.

Illegal tapping of phones and e-mail messages
During the past few years the Colombian intelligence services are in charge of the security of the country by means of intelligence practices and infiltration and follow-up of any criminal act; they have used a great part of their resources to spy on the leaders of the political opposite parties, Supreme Court Judges, and human rights advocates.

The previous three Directors of these intelligence services, and some Deputies, are either in prison or being investigated by the Supreme Court of Justice which is the organization in charge of investigating the high government officials.

One of the Directors of these intelligence services named Jorge Noguera, has been accused of instigating the assassination of some human rights advocates and of passing information to the militia groups so they would murder some labor union leaders and some human rights advocates.

Executed without a fair Trial
More than 2,000 young people were killed by the Colombian army between the years 2005 and 2008. These youngsters were offered jobs away from their homes but were taken to rural areas of the country where they were murdered and later presented as guerrillas that had died while fighting.

This situation remains unchanged as many of the members of the military who perpetrated these crimes remain in active service and all of them have been acquitted by a judicial system not capable of doing its work due to fear or simply because they like the person.

Some of these trials will take place in the months of July and August this year and we are afraid that impunity will become the common factor in these cases.

Acts of prevention and promotion of Human Rights by the ISHR in Colombia
Being aware of the situation in Medellin, the No Matarás Movement of the ISHR is actively working to show the children that crime does not pay and with the help of 2.000 volunteers conduct seminars in the schools teaching the basic rights of the human being such as physical integrity and right to life itself.

At the present time we are negotiating with 15 Combos for peace between them and to stop the killing of their own members and of some other innocent young people.  Seminars are being conducted to teach them that problems can be solved without having to use violence. The seminars are taught in schools, as well as in family groups to try to end violence in the family.

Human Right Training Seminar
More than 50 volunteers who donate their time to the ISHR have been trained on basic issues pertaining to human rights this year in Colombia.  There are more than 1,500 volunteers helping in the workshops at the neighborhood.
The volunteers are fine young people committed to respect human rights and to support the peace process in the country.

Human Rights Workshops
In the past year, more than 100 seminars have taken place in different neighborhoods and schools in the city of Medellin. The Miami office has been supportive and helpful; they have sent us books that teach the peaceful resolution of conflicts and that have been of great help in the seminars.
The subjects of discussion in the seminars are:

1. Human Rights
2. Juvenile violence and how differences can be resolved peacefully
3. Violence within the family – respect for women and children

It is not easy to have the seminars because sometimes we find groups of people who are hostile and aggressive, but once we begin a dialogue with them, remarkable progress can be achieved.

This group also works with children and we have received a donation of teaching materials from the Miami office to teach reading and writing, as well as mathematics. These books have been distributed among many schools in very poor neighborhoods of Medellin.

We organize camps for the young and sometimes we have as many as 300 children attending. Local donors help with this activity. Children are taught:

1. Human Rights
2. Peaceful resolution of conflicts

The Miami office helps with the office expenses. The activities are carried out and paid for with the contributions of the active members.