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  • The Truth Comission called on the armed groups operating in Choco to respect the lives of the social leaders.

    The Truth Comission called on the armed groups operating in Choco to respect the lives of the social leaders. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 January 2020
Opinion

Colombia's Truth Commission urged the Colombian government and regional entities to take urgent action to protect the lives of the threatened social leaders

The President and Representative of Colombia's Truth Commission Francisco de Roux categorically rejected the new threats against social and Afro-Colombian leaders in northwestern departments of Choco and throughout the country's Pacific coast. 

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"In previous days we received a report on the horrors of the armed conflict in Choco from the Pacific Inter-Ethnic Truth Commission, whose technical secretary is Leyner Palacio, who is one of those threatened," de Roux warned, also urged for the Colombian government and regional entities to take urgent and prompt action to protect the lives of those who have been threatened.

Palacio is a survivor of the Bojaya Massacre in 2002 and one of the 60 victims of the armed conflict who were present at the peace negotiations and a participant in the Encounters for Confidence that the Truth Commission holds between victims and former Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) combatants.

"We urge the local and regional authorities and the national government to take the urgent and necessary measures to clarify the truth and guarantee the life of Leyner and all the leaders of the communities that are in danger today," Roux added.

The Commission also recalled that last year it accompanied the handing over of the 78 boxes containing the remains of the victims of Bojaya, following a confrontation between the FARC and the paramilitaries, and was emphatic in saying that "Bojaya cannot repeat that tragedy."

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Finally, the organization called on the armed groups operating today in Choco, and specifically on the Atrato River, to respect the lives of those fighting for the rights of their communities.

"To the National Liberation Army (ELN) and all other armed groups, we demand respect and the cessation of aggression against the population of Bojaya and the Bajo Atrato," the communiqué concluded.

According to the Foundation Peace and Reconciliation, a total of 10,468 homicides have been officially recorded in Colombia between January and November 2019, corresponding to a rise of 2.34 percent compared with the previous year. From those figures around 230 murders of social leaders were registered according to the Institute Indepaz between January and Dec. 17, while the Foundation "Somos Defensores" counted 120 during the same period of time.

In December 2019, Colombia's Attorney General Fernando Carrillo urged Ivan Duque's government to stop the systematic murder of social leaders in that country. The official demanded to convene the National Security Guarantees Commission "immediately and ensure its operation."

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