Church denounces State Abandonment in Cordoba and Urabá  

3 February 2017

Church denounces State Abandonment

in Cordoba and Urabá

The Bishop of Apartadó and the Catholic Church denounced the increase in killings of social leaders and political activists in the regions of Cordoba and Urabá. The Bishop Monseñor Hugo Alberto Torres Marin explain the gravity of the situation that they are facing in these regions of Colombia.

According to the Catholic Church and NGOs working in the regions of Cordorba and Uraba, the power vacuum left by the FARC, with their movement on masse to the “Transitory points and Normalisation Zones” where they will demobilise,  have been occupied by the neo-paramilitary groups (also referred to as BACRIM or Criminal Gangs). These neo-paramilitary groups continue to be responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against the civilian population. In the first 23 days of January 2017, 14 human rights defenders were killed, the majority by these paramilitary groups.

The Bishop Hugo Alberto Torres Marin, in a Public Statement published on 3 February 2017 expressed his pain at the abandonment by the state of the Urabá and Cordoba regions of Colombia. They are seeing scenes of forced displacement, drug trafficking, youth gangs violence increasing, increased destruction of the ecosystem due to illegal mining, and especially an increase in killings. These have escalated in Uraba and Cordoba, for example, in just one day, 19 January 2017, there were 4 killings.

The Church is calling on the Colombian Government to ensure that these regions of the country are not abandoned to these illegal neo-paramilitary groups but that the State ensures that it exercises democratic governance of these regions, takes action against the neo-paramilitary groups prevents their violence, and protects the citizens of these regions.

ABColombia has also been receiving other alerts from partners of ABColombia members in the area of Uraba one of which is the Comision Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz

The Comision Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (Justice and Peace Commission-CIJP) a Christian Aid Partner reported that approximately 600 neo-paramilitaries plan had announced that they plan to establish themselves in Curvaradó “to secure land for their bosses,” and for that purpose they would have to “remove the Justice and Peace Commission and the Patriotic March.” “Our mission is to secure the land for those who are in jail.” [1]

Of grave concern is that, according to our partner CIJP, the illegal armed neo-paramilitaries in this region have publicly declared they are going to initiate a project to “recover” the territory and that anyone opposing them will be killed. This “recovery” suggests forced displacement of the Afro-Colombian communities living on their collectively owned land in Curvaradó, Jiguamiandó and Bijao who have for many years been resisting displacement.

According to PBI, who accompany human rights defenders in the region of Urabá, about 60 neo-paramilitary combatants with insignia of the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces (AGC) Darien Chocó Front, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, entered the local communities of Bijao and set up camp.

It is worrying that despite several meetings to monitor the precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (CIDH), where the risk faced to the population of the Humanitarian Zones has been mentioned repeatedly, there has been no effective response on behalf of the Colombian state.

Even more concerning is what appears to be the lack of action against these neo-paramlitary groups by the State.

It is essential that the State implements immeadiately the Peace Accord point 3.4 agreed with the FARC which contains a Chapter on Security Guarantees. [2] This Chapter states that an independent unit with its own investigators, elite police force, policy committee and funding will be set up to investigate, prosecute and dismantle the economic and political structures behind the paramilitary groups (BACRIM). We urge the Colombian Government to prioritise the implementation of this chapter, especially in the light of the killing of 85 Human Rights Defenders in 2016 and over 11 in the first 23 days of January 2017, and in Uraba alone 8 just one week. 

ABColombia also reccommends that they Colombian Government to issue an official invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders to visit Colombia, especially given the precarious situation of human rights defenders, who are vital to peace building and ensuring sustainable peace with social justice.


[1] They are referring to the paramilitary bosses that were jailed for Crimes against Humanity following the paramilitary demobilisation process in 2005. During this demobilisation process the mid-ranking officers did not take part in this demobilisation and continue to operate to-day; it is these groups that are referred to as the neo-paramilitaries. However links between many of these groups and the “paramilitary bosses” have continued.

[2] For further information on the Security GHuarentees Section of the Peace Accord see page 14 in ABColombia's Report: Self-protection Mechanisms: Colombian Rural Defenders and Communities.

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