February 19, 1999 - Personal Web Site: RPCV Congressman Sam Farr talks about Human Rights in Colombia

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Colombia: Peace Corps Colombia : The Peace Corps in Colombia: February 19, 1999 - Personal Web Site: RPCV Congressman Sam Farr talks about Human Rights in Colombia

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RPCV Congressman Sam Farr talks about Human Rights in Colombia

RPCV Congressman Sam Farr talks about Human Rights in Colombia

February 4, 1999

# USCR's Colombia Campaign

On January 28, four Colombian human rights defenders were kidnapped by paramilitaries under the command of Carlos Castano, the country's infamous paramilitary leader. Two days later, two human rights defenders who worked for the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners were pulled off a public bus and killed by reputed paramilitaries. These all took place in the department of Antioquia.

Far from unusual, these latest incidents form part of a pattern of attacks on human rights defenders. Last year alone, five human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia. The year before, more than a dozen were killed, some on orders from Castano. Colombia continues to be among the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights work.

Despite repeated calls from the international community, little or nothing has been done to protect the lives and well being of these brave and committed Colombians. The time to act is now. We in the United States, together with Colombians and people from all over the world, must show men like Castano and those who support or condone this criminal behavior that it will not be tolerated. It will not be tolerated.

A series of Colombian governments have claimed to have broken the Colombian military's ties with paramilitary groups like Castano's. But again and again, we hear of cases showing that there is tacit and even open support by the Colombian military for the paramilitary groups that commit most of the human rights violations registered every year in Colombia. However, it is my understanding that the new Colombian administration is working on a policy to address the safety of human rights workers and the attacks lead by paramilitaries. I hope the efforts of this administration will be successful.

For its part, the United States can no longer pretend that paramilitaries are a minor annoyance. If requested, the United States should assist the Colombian government in any way possible to find and arrest those who attack and kill innocent Colombians, including human rights defenders.

I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Medellin and am deeply concerned about Colombia's future. That is why I co-sponsored a letter signed by eight of my colleagues here in the House of Representatives calling on the government of President Andres Pastrana to take all necessary measures to ensure that these men and women are released safely and their kidnappers caught and prosecuted with all the force of Colombian law.

I believe that peace is the only way out of this nightmare. But it must be peace with justice, a peace that holds no safe haven for the abusers of human rights.

Let me end by making a special appeal directly to Mr. Castano. Let them go. Let Jairo Bedoya, Claudia Tamayo, Jorge Salazar, and Olga Rodas go safely back to their homes and families. They are not guerrillas; they are not "parasubversives." They are Colombians who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights for all Colombians.

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Colombia; Congress; Human Rights



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