VICTORY: Peace community validated by Colombian court
Today, on the anniversary of the massacre of members of the peace community of San José de Apartadó, we write with exciting news: Colombia’s constitutional court has ruled in favor of the peace community.
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this landmark victory, not only in recognizing the atrocities against the Colombian peace community, but in beginning to recognize the groundbreaking active nonviolence in the peace community of San José de Apartadó. FOR, with your generous support, has had peace accompaniers in Colombia supporting the peace community for more than 10 years.
We couldn’t have done it without your support — and now, we’d like your help to take one more step to solidify this victory.
For eight years, the peace community of San José de Apartadó has requested that Colombia retract stigmatizing statements made by then-President Uribe following the 2005 massacre in their community. Uribe’s public accusation (see “background,” below) stigmatized the community, belittling their nonviolent resistance and denying their neutrality in the midst of a civil war.
Now, the Colombian constitutional court has backed the peace community in a decision establishing, among other points, a formal retraction of all stigmatizing comments in the aftermath of the massacre.
Today, on the eighth anniversary of the February 21 massacre of 2005, we must once again take action.
The Colombian government has long owed an apology to this community. We all look forward to a public event that honors this recent ruling, helps restore the good name of the peace community and ensures its protection in the coming years.
On Feb. 21, 2005, a joint army/paramilitary operation carried out a massacre that violently took the lives of eight peace community members, including three children.
Less than a month later, in a speech delivered on March 20 following a meeting of his security council in Carepa, Antioquia, then-President Uribe said: “The peace communities have the right to establish themselves in Colombia thanks to our regime of liberties. But they cannot, as is practiced in San José de Apartadó, obstruct justice, reject the Public Force… In this community of San José de Apartadó there are good people, but some of their leaders, sponsors and defenders are seriously signaled by people who reside there as auxiliaries of the FARC, and they want to use the community to protect this terrorist organization.”
Eight years later, the case of the massacre still remains short of real justice. While few lower-ranking officers have been condemned, higher-ranking officials, despite evidence of joint military-paramilitary operations, have been almost completely omitted from responsibility.
The constitutional court ruling (A 164/12) is a product of years spent defending and fighting for a peaceful alternative. It not only legally validates the community’s longstanding position, but is the first real move toward real reconciliation. It is a product of every innocent civilian who has suffered from war, of every person who lives in fear from violence, and every human rights defender who has stood against impunity and injustice.