Target: President Juan Manuel Santos
Goal: Demand that the government intercede on behalf of neutral communities threatened by Colombia’s armed conflict
The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, a collection of villages and hamlets in the Apartadó Municipality in Colombia, has been under threat recently as community members are forcibly disappeared or displaced. Sign the petition and implore the government to intercede and protect the safety and security of its citizens.
The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was established in 1997 as a neutral community, refusing to take sides in Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict. The community refuses “to bear arms or provide information or logistical support to either side,” reports Amnesty International, asking only that both sides of the conflict respect the community’s non-involvement. Unfortunately, the community has been plagued by violence and tragedy, with 170 of its members being killed or forcibly disappeared in the decade and a half since it was established, and other community members “have been threatened or sexually assaulted.”
Most recently, a community member was detained and threatened by members of the Colombian army who, according to Amnesty, “told him that the Peace Community would not last long, with paramilitaries on one side and the army on the other, and the ‘military justice system would allow them to do what they want.'” Another community member, Buenaventura Hoyos Hernández, has been kidnapped by paramilitaries in the bordering hamlet of La Hoz. Paramilitaries have also been canvassing towns within the Peace Community, looking for specific community members.
Officially, paramilitary groups were demobilized beginning in 2003, but their strong presence in places like La Hoz and the Peace Community speaks to a very different, grim reality. Witnesses in La Hoz reported that paramilitaries and Colombian soldiers have been within 400 meters of each other, but that the soldiers have done nothing.
The Colombian government has a responsibility to protect all of its citizens, particularly those who refuse to be drawn into Colombia’s tragic history of violence and just want to be left in peace. Sign the petition and exhort the government to protect the Peace Community.
Dear President Santos,
In a country that is increasingly torn apart by violence, communities that embrace peace should be celebrated, not targeted. However, the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó is under constant threat of violence by both military and paramilitary forces. All community members want is to live their lives in freedom from violence and bloodshed, and it is the responsibility of the Colombian government to support and protect them in this mission. I therefore implore you to do all in your power to ensure the safety and survival of both the community as a whole and its individual members.
One community member in particular needs help. Buenaventura Hoyos Hernández has been missing since September 3, 2013. He was last seen in the hamlet of La Hoz, tied up and in the custody of paramilitaries. It is imperative that he be found and reunited with his family, and that a full investigation be launched into the circumstances and people involved in his disappearance.
The government also has a responsibility to ensure that paramilitary groups are no longer in operation. Although paramilitary groups were supposed to be disbanded by the government beginning in 2003, it is clear that they maintain a strong presence in Colombia. The government must finish what it started and guarantee the dismantling of paramilitary groups.
Civilians in communities like San José de Apartadó have a right to live their lives in freedom from fear and violence. I urge you to stand with the oppressed, not the oppressors, and to ensure a brighter future for the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó–and Colombia.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: SMORENO2007