ALL RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS PRESENT IN THE VIGIA DEL FUERTE AREA ASK FOR A SUSPENSION OF AERIAL MILITARY ACTIONS AND A TEMPORARY CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES.
Today, Tuesday 7th May, at 14:00 hours there was knowledge of a flyover by a ‘Mirage’ plane which dropped nine bombs on the area of Napipi, Bojaya, in the Choco Department. Since 6th May the IV Army Brigade has prohibited national and international news journalists from entering the zone of the recent events. According to the journalists, the FARC-EP would have communicated them to enter the zone in order to verify what is happening.
On 6th May the Life, Justice and Peace Commission, the Diocese of Quibdo, gave information to national and international human rights organizations about the grave situations of insecurity in which the residents of Bellavista, Vigia del Fuerte, Napipi and Murindo live, owing to the military offense with aerial attacks.
The indiscriminate aerial actions produced yesterday irreparable damages in the Afrocolombian communities, which were forcibly displaced. In the case of Napipi, two Afrocolombians were wounded, and the young MARIA UBERTINA MENA (21 years old) was killed, as a result of the aerial operations carried out since past Saturday. In accordance with the reports the number of victims could be higher, as the official aerial attacks are indiscriminate against around 3,000 inhabitants of this zone.
It is feared that the air and river operations will extend their radius of action … with the same methods and mechanisms over the basin towns of the Jiguamiando, Truando, Salaqui and Cacarica, as in some of these towns flyovers were heard in the early morning hours since past Saturday.
In Bellavista and Vigia del Fuerte, state humanitarian response has not arrived, in spite of official announcements expressed via news media indicating that there had, in fact, already been a response. Until the present, humanitarian aid of blankets, medicine and food has been carried out by the Colombian Red Cross and the Diocese of Quibdo.
Last Saturday the Peace Commission of the Diocese of Quibdo, communicated that in Vigia del Fuerte state military actions were being carried out that impeded humanitarian proceedings and search actions for those possibly assassinated and disappeared. Owing to intervention by the Air Force and the Navy, more victims from the civilian population have been predicted. This call and request was not looked into by the Colombian state.
On 21st April, the Peace Commission and other entities of the Catholic church and human rights organizations, gave reports of the military incursion inside of the paramilitary strategy at Vigia del Fuerte, after crossing over the Atrato river, in particular through the municipality of Riosucio, where military units have developed a strict control over the circulation of goods and of fluvial transport since 20th December 1996.
Since then to 1st May paramilitaries extended their proceedings to Bellavista, with threats and intimidation, at the behest of a commander nicknamed ‘Camilo’. In spite of the repeatedly reiterated reports turned into government and state entities there was no reaction from the Public Forces against the behaviour of this group of close to 200 camouflaged and heavily armed men.
On 1st May, battles developed that made possible military monopolization by FARC-EP in Vigia del Fuerte, while confrontations worsened in Bellavista. On 2nd May, between 8:00 and 10:00 am there was maintained a confrontation between FARC-EP and paramilitaries. Out of that, at 10:15 am came the explosion of a cylinder that affected the chapel-temple where the town hid in refuge, provoking more than a hundred civilian casualties and dozens of injured.
In spite of the request and the call by the Church Diocese to cease aerial and fluvial operations, and of the requests in the same vein raised to the national government by the international community, there continue to be military deployments and military proceedings, which not only create fear in the Afrocolombian population and impede humanitarian aid but which are resulting in serious and systematic human rights violations, and grave breaches of international humanitarian law on the part of the State in the intent of confronting the FARC-EP with illicit methods and objectives of war.
We ask of national and international human rights organizations, of humanitarian agencies, of solidarity groups, to exhort the Colombian State headed by the President of the Republic Andres Pastrana, Supreme Chief of Military Forces, to:
1. Suspend aerial, fluvial and terrestrial military operations that are taking place in the mid and lower Atrato that are going on with his knowledge.
2. Temporarily declare a bilateral suspension of armed hostilities and a cease-fire in to allow humanitarian aid by the Catholic church and human rights groups on behalf of the civilian population.
3. To immediately give a response to the humanitarian crisis … in respect of food, health and housing owed to the affected population via the Network of Social Solidarity, and to expedite with urgency a Humanitarian Order-in respect to institutional response of civilian character.
4. To authorise entrance to both national and international news media into the zone in order to collect testimonies and reports of what is going on.
To the humanitarian agencies, solidarity groups and churches to support a humanitarian aid in coordination with the Life, Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Quibdo, in respect to humanitarian support required via medical and technical support, and of emergency goods to attend to the affected population.
Life, Justice and Peace Commission, Diocese of Quibdo Intercongregational Commission of Justice and Peace