Here, from several Colombian non-governmental organizations, is a disturbing update about worsening security conditions along the Colombia-Ecuador border. The original Spanish can be read here.
Colombia-Ecuador Border Working Group
Situation of Risk at the Southern Border
Due to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Colombia’s border departments with Ecuador (NariÃ±o and Putumayo), the Borders Group, made up of national and international organizations, expresses its concern about repeated violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
During the past year the civilian population of the Colombia-Ecuador border has been affected by acts of violence, manifested in their utilization as “shields for attacks against military targets or to protect, facilitate or impede military operations” (No. 10 of the Guiding Principles for Internal Displacement).
The worsening of the humanitarian situation has been denounced by the NariÃ±o departmental government, the Catholic Church through the bishops of the Colombia-Ecuador border zone, different social and community organizations of NariÃ±o and Putumayo, national and local non-governmental organizations, and the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office [DefensorÃa del Pueblo] through its early-warning system, risk reports and defensorial hearings.
Nonetheless, in recent months the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in NariÃ±o and Putumayo departments has been marked by a series of actions that generate a situaition of persistent risk for communities.
- From August 23 to 26, the county of San Lorenzo in Ecuador’s Esmeraldas province registered the arrival of approximately 1,700 people of Colombian origin, originating from communities along the Mira, Mataje and Nulpe rivers of Tumaco municipality, NariÃ±o department. Simultaneously, the departmental government reported the movement of approximately 6,000 people from these communities toward the areas known as Vallenato, La Guayacana and El AzÃºcar, in the rural zone of Tumaco municipality. These people moved due to presumed pressures from illegal armed groups, with the supposed interest of impeding forced eradication operations against illicit crops. This situation was attended by the Ecuadorian and Colombian governments, civil-society organizations and the international community, seeking to mitigate the complex humanitarian consequences. On August 26, 2007, delegates of the Colombian government and some members of the local communities signed an accord for their return to their lands. So far there has been no known compliance with point 3 of the accord signed by the government delegates and the communities, which specifically concerns the re-starting of negotiations with the “mobilization of southwestern Colombia” [to agree on eradication and government assistance], begun in NariÃ±o department in May 2006.
- Threats from illegal armed groups persist against community leaders who returned to their places of origin in NariÃ±o.
- Pressures from illegal armed groups persist against the civilian population residing in ten hamlets along the Pasto-Tumaco highway in NariÃ±o department.
- Since September 18 there has been combat between the army and the FARC-EP guerrillas during military operations launched by the security forces in the community of Inda Sabaleta, in the rural zone of Tumaco municipality in NariÃ±o department. These hostilities forced the communities of Pilbizita, Sabaleta, Bajo Inda and La Victoria to displace to the Inda Sabaleta Educational Institution in the community of the same name, which is about 25 minutes by road from the town center of Llorente. On Friday, September 21 1,018 people had been displaced, out of 1,172 who live in the AwÃ¡ indigenous reservation in Inda Sabaleta. Of these, 488 are minors, who remain concentrated in the educational institution. There is a risk that the populations of other reservations like Gran Rosario and Inda Guacaray may be displaced for the same reason.
- The link between the internal armed conflict and narcotrafficking has deepened at the southern border, and it could explain the increase in violent deaths in Putumayo department – associated with disputes for territorial control and strategic markets – during the past three months. Last August 26 nine people, among them four minors and a pregnant woman, were killed at a farm in La Paila municipality, about an hour from the town center of Puerto AsÃs, and the authorities have yet to identify the motive. A similar situation exists in La Hormiga municipality, where the police have reported approximately 50 murders so far this year.
- On September 16, the Liberal Party candidate for mayor of Puerto GuzmÃ¡n (Putumayo), Jairo Casanova, was killed as he left a political meeting in the municipality’s rural zone. This situation reflects the lack of security guarantees in the region’s electoral process.
- In Puerto Ospina, in the rural zone of Puerto LeguÃzamo municipality in Putumayo department, along the borderline with Ecuador, three extrajudicial executions were reported for the months of July and August, in the villages of La ConcepciÃ³n and El Tablero. Since September 14 in Puerto El Carmen, in SucumbÃos province in Ecuador, the Pastoral Social [Caritas Ecuador] has reported the arrival of five families of the Siona and Inga ethnic group, displaced from the villages of La ConcepciÃ³n and El Tablero, Puerto LeguÃzamo municipality. These villages have been submitted to blockades and threats from illegal armed groups, and they face a situation of siege, which makes likely new cross-border displacements into Ecuador. Without effective protection measures for the civilian population in the middle of these armed pressures, the murders may continue.
- On June 21, four extrajudicial executions were reported in Dios PeÃ±a, in the rural zone of San Miguel municipality in Putumayo department, and on August 8 two extrajudicial executions were reported in Puerto Bello, in the rural zone of the same municipality, San Miguel. On August 13 two more extrajudicial executions were reported in Puerto Vega, in the rural zone of Puerto AsÃs municipality. In Jardines de SucumbÃos, in the rural zone of Orito municipality, three extrajudicial executions were reported during the week of September 8-12.
In all of these cases, denunciations have been delivered to the competent authorities.
Faced with this situation, we ask state organizations to carry out actions to protect the civilian population being victimized by the internal armed conflict in this zone, which would allow the prevention of forced displacements, and to carry out the necessary investigations related to these human rights violations.
To the international agencies charged with promoting human rights:
- Carry out an urgent visit to verify the humanitarian situation in the Puerto Ospina zone, in Putumayo’s municipality of Puerto LeguÃzamo; and the rural zone of Tumaco, in NariÃ±o, with the accompaniment of state entities that can register denunciations of human-rights violations and international humanitarian law infractions.
- Facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid for the civilian population that needs it, via humanitarian organizations and agents on both sides of the border.
The Borders Working Group, made up of the below-signed organizations, call on all organizations to make their best efforts to coordinate the response and intervntions, and to offer a strong response to the enormous needs of the communities in these departments bordering Ecuador.
- Joint Program SNPS-CRS [Caritas Colombia - Catholic Relief Services]
- CODHES [Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement]
- MINGA [Organization for Alternative Social Promotion "MINGA"]
- CNR [Norwegian Refugee Council]
- Observer: OCHA [UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs]