Atrocities by Guerrillas, Criminal Groups Go Unpunished
July 30, 2014
The FARC has a tight grip over the lives of many Tumaco residents, who are forced to keep silent as the guerrillas plant their fields with landmines, drive them from their homes, and kill their neighbors and loved ones with impunity.
José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director

(Washington, DC) – Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas are committing widespread abuses with impunity in the mostly Afro-Colombian city of Tumaco and its surrounding rural areas, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch documented a wide range of abuses committed against scores of victims in Tumaco in 2013 and 2014 in which there is compelling evidence the FARC was responsible. These abuses included killings, disappearances, kidnapping, torture, forced displacement, attempted forced recruitment, planting landmines, extortion, and death threats against community leaders. Official data indicates the FARC has also committed sexual violence in Tumaco in 2013 and 2014.

“FARC abuses are devastating Tumaco’s Afro-Colombian communities,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The FARC has a tight grip over the lives of many Tumaco residents, who are forced to keep silent as the guerrillas plant their fields with landmines, drive them from their homes, and kill their neighbors and loved ones with impunity.”

Paramilitary successor groups also engaged in rampant atrocities in Tumaco until they stopped operating in the municipality in late 2013. There is compelling evidence that members of the security forces have been responsible for some human rights violations there as well.

Human Rights Watch visited Tumaco in May and June and interviewed more than 90 abuse victims, their relatives, community leaders, and local officials, among others. Research also drew on government data, official reports, and criminal case files.

Human Rights Watch documented abuses in Tumaco against more than 70 victims since 2013 in which there is strong indication the FARC was responsible, including 12 killings, 3 disappearances, 6 cases of attempted forced recruitment, and 5 cases of torture, among other types of abuse. Human Rights Watch also documented abuses against 16 victims in recent years in which evidence points to the perpetrators being paramilitary successor groups, including the disappearance of three teenage girls and attempted forced recruitment of two teenage boys.

Official data strongly suggests that the FARC and paramilitary successor groups have committed more than 300 killings and dozens of disappearances in Tumaco over the past several years.  Tumaco has among the highest officially reported levels of homicides, disappearances, conflict-related sexual violence and abuse, landmine victims, and forced displacement in Colombia. More than 10,000 Tumaco residents have fled their homes annually since 2011, according to government figures.

Over the past decade, the FARC and paramilitary successor groups – principally the Rastrojos – vied for control of Tumaco. Paramilitary successor groups emerged in Tumaco after the deeply flawed official demobilization of right-wing paramilitary organizations.

Since late 2013, the FARC has established an undisputed presence in many of the urban and rural areas of Tumaco, after numerous Rastrojos members were arrested and several neighborhoods succeeded in expelling the group. Some Rastrojos members stayed in Tumaco – and there has been concern among residents and officials over the possible arrival of another paramilitary successor group, the Urabeños – but, at this time, the FARC’s influence is uncontested by other armed groups.

“Almost no one has been held accountable for the atrocities in Tumaco,” Vivanco said. “As long as Colombia fails to deliver justice in Tumaco, residents will remain vulnerable to abuses, whether from guerrillas, paramilitaries, gangs, or security force members.”

The Attorney General’s Office reported that only seven of its investigations into the more than 1,300 homicides committed in Tumaco since 2009 have led to convictions. Prosecutors have not obtained a single conviction in any of their more than 680 investigations into disappearances and forced displacement committed since 2009 in Tumaco and several nearby municipalities. Only four of the 314 investigations into sexual violence and abuse in Tumaco since 2009 have led to a conviction. Eight local prosecutors interviewed by Human Rights Watch were handling more than 1,100 investigations each. In some of the cases documented, justice authorities delayed – or completely failed – to take basic steps to investigate abuses.

The municipality of Tumaco, in southwestern Colombia, has roughly 200,000 residents, 89 percent Afro-Colombian. Slightly over half of the municipality’s population lives in the city of Tumaco, Colombia’s second-largest Pacific port. Much of Tumaco’s rural population lives on land that is collectively owned and governed by what are termed Afro-Colombian “community councils” and on indigenous reserves. Tumaco’s poverty, illiteracy, and infant mortality rates are all more than twice the national average.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the UN independent expert on minority issues have found that Afro-Colombians nationwide face discrimination, socio-economic exclusion, and pervasive violence.

The FARC should immediately end its abuses against civilians in Tumaco and the rest of Colombia, Human Rights Watch said. It should stop using antipersonnel landmines, and disclose information on where landmines are laid so they can be cleared; stop interfering with school safety and children’s education; and reveal the whereabouts and/or return the remains of disappearance victims.

The Colombia government should promptly and effectively investigate, prosecute, and punish atrocities in Tumaco, Human Rights Watch said. It should significantly increase the personnel and resources assigned to the Tumaco prosecutor’s office, and establish a robust witness protection program for Tumaco cases. It should also address the issue of racial discrimination when carrying out policies to improve socio-economic conditions and curb abuses in Tumaco.

“As the FARC discusses peace in Havana with the Colombian government, in Tumaco its members have been brutalizing some of the most vulnerable communities in Colombia,” Vivanco said. “A peace agreement could eventually improve conditions in Tumaco but, in the meantime, the FARC needs to end its abuses against the civilian population, and the government should ensure justice for atrocities by all sides.”

Abuses in Tumaco: Summary of Findings
The following is a summary of the findings of recent Human Rights Watch research in Tumaco, including research on killings, disappearances, sexual violence, forced recruitment, forced displacement, and impunity. It concludes with the details of 10 illustrative cases.

Killings
The FARC and paramilitary successor groups have been responsible for widespread killings in Tumaco. Each year between 2011 and 2013, the annual homicide rate in Tumaco was at least 110 homicides per 100,000 people, more than three times the national rate (which is the 10th highest of all reported national rates worldwide, according to UN data).[1] A range of officials told Human Rights Watch that paramilitary successor groups and guerrillas have committed the vast majority of the homicides.[2]

The government’s Victims Unit, which provides reparations to conflict victims, registered 366 conflict-related killings committed in Tumaco between 2011 and 2013, more than in any other Colombian municipality.[3] The vast majority – if not all – were of civilians.[4] The FARC was presumed responsible for a majority of the killings, according to Victims Unit data.[5] Many killings and other abuses by paramilitary successor groups were not registered by the unit or are probably attributed to unidentified perpetrators.[6]  

Human Rights Watch documented 17 killings committed in Tumaco in 2013 and 2014, 12 in which there is strong reason to believe the FARC was responsible, 3 in which there is evidence security force members carried out unlawful killings, and 2 in which it is unclear who was responsible. In 5 of the apparent FARC killings, there is evidence the victims were tortured. Tumaco residents Human Rights Watch interviewed described numerous other FARC and paramilitary successor group killings in their communities over the past several years.

Disappearances, Dismemberment, and Kidnapping
Human Rights Watch documented six disappearances committed in Tumaco since 2013, three with compelling evidence of FARC responsibility, and three in which a paramilitary successor group appears to be responsible. The Victims Unit registered 30 conflict-related disappearances committed in Tumaco between 2011 and 2013, the second-largest number of all Colombian municipalities during the period.[7] The unit’s data points to the FARC’s responsibility in a large portion of the registered cases.[8]

Residents of urban and rural areas said that paramilitary successor groups sometimes dismembered people they killed. Residents of two neighborhoods said the Rastrojos maintained three houses there where they repeatedly took victims to dismember them. According to official reports, the dismembered body parts of at least six people have been found in Tumaco since 2012, including Zolanyi Cortés Arroyo, a 14-year-old girl found on the shore of the city in July 2013 after she had been missing for two weeks.[9]

Human Rights Watch documented the kidnapping of a man in Tumaco in 2014 in which there is strong evidence of FARC responsibility.[10]

Sexual Violence
Human Rights Watch documented the rape of two women and a teenage girl in a Tumaco village by a group of unidentified armed men in 2012, as well as the rape of a teenage girl the same year by a man who identified himself to the victim as a FARC member. In all six disappearance cases Human Rights Watch documented – of five teenage girls and a young woman – families of the victims received information indicating they may have been raped.

Tumaco residents said the Rastrojos had raped women and teenage girls in their communities. The Victims Unit has registered 55 cases of conflict-related sexual violence and abuse committed in Tumaco since 2011, the second highest number in Colombia during the period. According to the Victims Unit’s data, the FARC was presumed responsible in 33 cases, paramilitary successor groups in 2, and unidentified attackers in 20.[11]

FARC and paramilitary successor group members in Tumaco have attempted to make young women and teenage girls their girlfriends or sexual partners through threats and intimidation, according to relatives of the young women and a community leader. Some families have sent their daughters away from areas where these groups have a strong presence to protect them from potential sexual exploitation or abuse.

Forced Recruitment, Recruitment and Use of Children, and Interference with Education
Human Rights Watch documented the attempted forced recruitment of 4 adults and 2 teenage boys by the FARC since 2013, as well as the attempted recruitment of 2 teenage boys by a paramilitary successor group during the period. In several cases, the victims had to flee Tumaco to avoid recruitment. Residents said the FARC is currently recruiting children under age 18 and reported seeing children actively operating as FARC members in their communities, including as gun-carrying members and lookouts.

The FARC and paramilitary successor groups have attempted to recruit children at Tumaco schools. One day in mid-2014, the FARC placed explosives roughly 10 meters from a village school’s entrance when the military was in town, forcing cancellation of classes for the day, residents said. The FARC has held meetings with students and teachers at the same school.

Use of Antipersonnel Landmines
The FARC are planting antipersonnel landmines in Tumaco’s rural areas. The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, to which Colombia is a state party, comprehensively bans antipersonnel landmines and their use is a violation of international law.[12] According to official data, there have been 121 new victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance in Tumaco since 2011, more than in any other municipality in Colombia, which has one of the world’s highest annual rates of new landmine victims.[13] Of the 81 civilian victims, 16 died, and 65 were injured, 6 of whom had limbs amputated.

In one instance in 2011 that residents of an Afro-Colombian collective territory described, a woman stepped on a landmine, and when her husband tried to rescue her, his movement detonated another landmine, which killed him. The woman bled to death because residents were afraid of setting off another landmine if they tried to rescue her, a community leader said.

Community leaders said the FARC usually plant landmines when the military is in the area, or to protect coca crops. According to the UN, in 2013 there were 16,336 acres of coca – the raw material for producing cocaine – in Tumaco, more than three times the area planted in any other municipality in Colombia, which is the world’s second largest coca producer.[14]

Extortion, Restrictions on Movement, Social Control, and Forced Displacement
The FARC and paramilitary successor groups have been responsible for widespread extortion in Tumaco, with victims ranging from large businesses to informal street vendors, as well as community council governments, according to victims, business leaders, and justice officials.

Residents of various urban and rural communities told Human Rights Watch the FARC is imposing severe restraints on their movements and daily activities. In certain communities, the FARC prohibits people from walking around at night and levies fines of roughly US$250 for traveling by river after 6 p.m. It insists on approving visitors to some communities, and prohibits people – including community council leaders – from visiting areas within their own communities. Some residents also said they were forced to attend a FARC meeting under the threat of a fine, and that people – including members of a victims’ association – had been prohibited from meeting in large groups.

Community council leaders described the FARC’s social control and abuses as a direct threat to the autonomy and cultural traditions of Afro-Colombian communities. For example, one leader said people can no longer hunt or fish at night – traditional practices within his community – because of the FARC’s restrictions on movement and use of landmines.

Abuses by the FARC and paramilitary successor groups, and fighting between the FARC and security forces, have driven thousands of Tumaco residents from their homes. Each year between 2011 and 2013, more than 11,000 Tumaco residents were newly displaced, placing it in the top three Colombian municipalities in numbers of people displaced during those years.[15] Human Rights Watch also documented the cases of dozens of Tumaco residents displaced by the FARC and paramilitary successor groups since 2013.

Impunity
Colombia has consistently failed to ensure justice for abuses in Tumaco. There have been more than 1,300 homicides in Tumaco since 2009. The Attorney General’s Office reported that only seven of its investigations into these crimes have led to convictions, and that just 11 are at the trial stage.[16]

Local prosecutors are investigating 285 cases of disappearances and 379 cases of forced displacement committed since 2009 in Tumaco and several other small municipalities nearby. All investigations are in the preliminary stage, with no one charged, let alone convicted.[17] A specialized unit dedicated to investigating disappearances and forced displacement has an additional 210 open investigations into such crimes in Tumaco, all in the preliminary stage.[18] Of prosecutors’ 314 investigations into sexual violence crimes in Tumaco since 2009, only four have led to convictions, and eight are at the trial stage.[19]

The specialized prosecutorial unit dedicated to investigating paramilitary successor groups has not obtained a single conviction against members of such groups for homicides, disappearances, forced displacement, or sexual violence committed in Tumaco since 2009.[20]

The local prosecutors’ overwhelming caseload sets them up to fail. Human Rights Watch interviewed 9 of the 11 prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office in Tumaco. Eight of them were handling at least 1,100 investigations each.[21] For example, one prosecutor was investigating 1,421 cases, including 402 homicides and 72 cases of sexual violence and abuse. The prosecutor with the lightest caseload had 740 investigations. The Attorney General’s Office has not yet followed through on its January 2014 commitment to assign 10 additional prosecutors to the Tumaco office.

In some cases Human Rights Watch documented, interviews with victims and justice authorities indicated that prosecutors and investigators had delayed – or completely failed – to take basic steps to investigate serious abuses. This included repeatedly refusing to take testimony from a family member about the people allegedly responsible for a disappearance, waiting at least three weeks to assign investigators to a murder case, and failing to interview a murder victim’s nuclear family members. For example, more than a year-and-a-half after unidentified gunmen killed Miller Angulo, a renowned victims’ rights leader in Tumaco, criminal investigators still had not interviewed his family or even verified that he was in fact a victims’ rights leader. Over a nearly year-long span in 2013 and 2014, no steps were taken to investigate the case.[22] 

Another obstacle to justice is that many abuses by guerrillas and paramilitary successor groups go unreported due to fear of reprisals, abuse victims, their families, and prosecutors told Human Rights Watch. When cases are reported, pervasive fear of retaliation among witnesses, victims, and their families impedes cooperation with investigations.

Justice officials also face serious security risks in carrying out their work in Tumaco. On July 17, 2014, individuals who identified themselves as FARC members intercepted four Attorney General’s Office officials as they were driving back to the city of Pasto after exhuming bodies in Tumaco, sources in the Attorney General’s Office said. The FARC held the officials captive for roughly two hours, during which they threatened to kill them, told them not to return to the area, and burned their car.[23]

Abuse victims’ families described the devastating consequences of the impunity enjoyed by those who killed or disappeared their loved ones, such as having to endure threats and intimidation from the people responsible for the crimes. A woman said the FARC members who killed her husband in 2014 subsequently walked by her home on repeated occasions, peering inside, intimidating her. She fears her family would suffer reprisals if she reports the men to authorities.[24]

Socio-Economic Exclusion
Many residents believe the high poverty rate, lack of economic opportunities, and limited access to basic services in Tumaco have created an environment in which armed groups thrive by easily recruiting members.

The latest available government figures on Tumaco’s rates of multidimensional poverty[25] (84.3 percent, 2005), illiteracy (17 percent, 2005), and infant mortality (59 deaths per 1,000 births, 2009) are all at least twice the national average.[26]

Even though more than half of Tumaco residents live in the city, just 0.3 percent of its households were connected to the sewage system in 2011, compared with 72 percent of Colombian households nationwide.[27]

Selected Cases

Killing and torture of Mónica Julieth Pernia Cortes, Tumaco, June 5, 2014

On the afternoon of June 5, 2014, Mónica Julieth Pernia Cortes, a 25-year-old mother of three, left her home in Tumaco, telling her family she would be right back. She never returned. On June 7, her body was found floating off the shore of the El Bajito neighborhood in Tumaco, her ankles bound by a cable. Her body had “signs of torture,” according to the police report, which describes multiple open wounds on her back, shoulders, right hand, head, neck, and breasts.[28]

Human Rights Watch received a credible report that on the night of June 5, El Bajito residents saw two men on a motorbike bring Pernia Cortes to the neighborhood, where more than a dozen other FARC members were waiting. The FARC members then moved her to an abandoned area nearby.[29] According to the report, at some point that night she momentarily escaped and screamed for help, but FARC members threatened to attack neighbors if they assisted her, and the group recaptured her. Residents heard her screaming for about an hour.[30] Several sources confirmed to Human Rights Watch that the FARC have a strong presence in El Bajito.[31]

More than two weeks after Pernia Cortes’s body was found, the prosecutor who had been assigned the investigation told Human Rights Watch that he was unaware he had been assigned the case and indeed, had not even heard of the killing.[32] (Two justice officials confirmed to Human Rights Watch that the prosecutor had been assigned the case three days after Pernia Cortes’s body was found.[33]) Nearly a month after the killing, no investigators – who conduct criminal investigations under the orders of prosecutors – had been assigned to work with the prosecutor on the case.[34]

Killings and torture of Germán Olinto Méndez Pabón, Edilmer Muñoz Ortiz, and two other men in a town in the Las Varas community council, Tumaco, 2013 and March 2014
Human Rights Watch documented four other killings in Tumaco in which there is also evidence that the FARC tied up and tortured the victims before murdering them. On March 18, 2014, the bodies of police Major Germán Olinto Méndez and Patrol Officer Edilmer Muñoz Ortiz were found in San Luis Robles, a rural town in the Las Varas community council, three days after the FARC had abducted them in the area. The judicial police crime scene report said that both were found with their hands bound, and multiple open wounds.[35]

A crime scene photograph depicts a small wooden stake driven into the back of the neck of one of the men. The medical examiner’s office concluded that the causes of Muñoz Ortiz’s and Méndez’s deaths were a slit throat, and blunt force trauma to the head, respectively. According to the medical examiner’s office, both bodies had evidence of “repeated blunt force traumas to different parts of the body capable of causing intense pain, as well as signs of defenselessness due to being tied up,” which were findings “consistent with the medical diagnosis of torture.”[36] On March 23, the FARC’s secretariat issued a statement admitting FARC members had detained the policemen and killed them.[37] Prosecutors have ordered the arrest of nine alleged FARC members for the killings.[38] 

In another case, a witness told Human Rights Watch that in early 2013, he saw two Las Varas community members with their hands and feet bound near a park in San Luis Robles. The witness said the two men’s faces looked severely beaten, that some of their teeth were lying on the ground next to them, and that he subsequently saw the FARC drive out of town with the men in a car. The witness, and another person interviewed separately by Human Rights Watch, said the FARC later killed the two men.[39]  

Disappearance of a young woman and two teenage girls, Tumaco village, 2013
Over a two-week span in 2013, two teenage girls and a young woman went missing from the same FARC-dominated village in Tumaco, according to a member of one of the victims’ families.[40] One of the victims, who left her home for a brief appointment, was last seen that day in the village with a known FARC member walking behind her. On separate occasions, FARC members told one of the families that the group had abducted and killed all three, but refused to hand over their bodies or disclose their whereabouts. A FARC member told one family member that their relative had been tied up by the group and raped. The family member told Human Rights Watch:

I always feel sick, really sick. I cannot sleep, thinking about whether it’s true that they raped her, that they tied her up, and that they killed other people in front of her…. Could it be true that they did all this, without me being able to do anything? I want them to return her to me, or to know the truth – what is it that they did to her?[41]  

In 2014, a FARC member, believing one of the families had received a government reparations payment for the disappearance, tried to extort the money and threatened to kill more relatives.[42]

Killings of Sebastían Preciado and Angelo Cabezas, Chilví, Tumaco, May 14, 2014
On May 14, 2014, at around 4 p.m., the FARC carried out an attack with explosives against a group of policemen playing soccer in the village of Chilví, resulting in the deaths of Sebastían Preciado, 13, and Angelo Cabezas, 14, and wounding eight policemen. The two boys were sitting right next to the soccer field watching the police play immediately prior to the attack, according to several credible sources.[43] The same sources said that Cabezas had just come from finishing soccer practice, and Preciado had come to Chilví’s town center to pick up his little sister from school. Initial reports said the attack was with a grenade; however, justice authorities are verifying what kind of airborne explosive device was used.

The police issued a public statement the day after the attack blaming Cabezas and Preciado for launching airborne explosives on the FARC’s behalf,[44] but Human Rights Watch found strong reasons to believe the boys were bystanders, and not responsible for the FARC attack. Regardless of whether the boys set off the explosive device, there is overwhelming evidence that the FARC is responsible for killing them: either the FARC carried out the attack with the boys present or they used the boys for military purposes.  

Evidence against the police version of the events includes that both boys were known in the small community to be well-behaved, active students who were friendly with the police, for whom they often ran errands.[45] Chilví residents who were near the attack told the Ombudsman’s Office that individuals driving on a motorbike had launched the explosive device.[46] Many Chilví residents publicly protested the police’s accusations. One of the two police who initially told justice authorities the boys were responsible for the explosion has since retracted his claim.[47]

In a public letter, the FARC’s top commander, alias Timochenko, said a FARC member – and not Cabezas and Preciado – threw a grenade at the police.[48] Timochenko said the FARC had verified that no civilians were in the area prior to the attack, but claimed that the boys coincidentally had run out of a house near the field and crossed in front of the police right at the time of the explosion. Timochenko’s claim that the boys suddenly ran out of a house contradicts several credible accounts that the boys had been sitting next to the field watching soccer when the attack occurred.

Evidence also strongly suggests that following the attack, Cabezas received grossly inadequate medical care as law enforcement authorities interrogated him in the San Andres de Tumaco Hospital. Preciado died at 4:48 p.m., immediately after arriving at the hospital, and Cabezas died at 10:15 p.m. Cabezas’ mother said she arrived with her son at the hospital at around 4:30 p.m., but that he did not receive any medical attention until 9 p.m., although she repeatedly pleaded for assistance.

According to medical records, Cabezas was bleeding from an ear, said his whole body was in pain, and had 27 open shrapnel wounds, as well as lacerations to his intestines and liver.[49] Instead of being treated, Cabezas’s mother said, he was accused and interrogated by law enforcement officials for more than four hours. Cabezas denied setting off any explosive device and said he saw a smoking object fly above his head at the time of the attack, his mother said. Hospital records confirm that at 9:10 p.m., Cabezas “entered into [cardiac] arrest at the moment the prosecutor was interrogating him.”[50]

The hospital denies that it failed to treat Cabezas opportunely but its account of the night has serious inconsistencies. Hospital records indicate that Cabezas arrived there at 6:42 p.m. – more than two hours after the explosion and at least two hours after Preciado arrived at the same hospital – and that he was not admitted to the emergency room and given treatment until 7:50 p.m. However, in a subsequent letter responding to the Tumaco Diocese’s public call for an investigation into possible negligence, the hospital said Cabezas actually arrived there at 4:45 p.m.[51] The arrival time stated in the letter coincides with the accounts of Cabezas’s mother and two other witnesses, who, like his mother, told Human Rights Watch that medical staff refused to treat Cabezas. The evidence therefore strongly suggests that Cabezas arrived at the hospital around 4:45 p.m., but either was not treated until 7:50 p.m., as hospital records said, or 9 p.m., as his mother said, before being declared dead at 10:15 p.m.

A justice official said the hospital’s possible negligence is not under investigation.[52]

Forced displacement of eight leaders and dozens of their family members from the Las Varas community council and killing of a Las Varas community leader, 2013 and May 11, 2014
On the morning of January 29, 2013, a regional FARC commander called the president and legal representative of the Las Varas community council government and told them they had been declared “military targets” of the guerrilla group.[53] The council’s legal representative then received a phone call alerting him that armed FARC members were looking for him at his home in Las Varas. After the president and legal representative received another phone call from the FARC commander threatening to kill them, the authorities evacuated them from Tumaco on January 30. Their families, as well as six other Las Varas community leaders and their families, fled Tumaco over the next several days. In total, the FARC threats displaced roughly 40 people.[54]

Abuses against the Las Varas leaders continued: on May 11, 2014, two people on a motorbike shot dead Marcelino Castillo, a community leader, in San Luis Robles. In separate interviews, community members and officials told Human Rights Watch they had received information pointing to the responsibility of the FARC, which has a powerful presence in Las Varas.[55]

Kidnapping of a man in Tumaco, 2014
In 2014, FARC members kidnapped a man in Tumaco and held him for ransom for nearly a week, said the victim and an official.[56] Juan (pseudonym) told Human Rights Watch that when driving in Tumaco one night, armed men forced him out of his car, blindfolded him, and took him on a boat for several hours until they reached a small riverside village, where they placed him in a house.[57] In the morning, Juan’s captors told him to call his family to have them contact the group to arrange a ransom payment. The next morning, his three captors, carrying rifles, machetes, and shovels, woke Juan up and told him they had received an order to bury him. Then they said they would give him a final opportunity to call his family about the payment, which he did. During his captivity, Juan said, several other armed men repeatedly visited his captors.

Juan believed his captors belonged to the FARC because he knew they dominated Tumaco’s rural areas and could hear them talk about their activities in other areas of Tumaco where the FARC is strong. After he was released in exchange for a ransom payment, Juan said, he was able to visually identify a FARC member as one of the men involved in his abduction.[58]

Extortion and death threats against Tumaco business owners, 2013 and 2014
The extortion demands on Jorge and Maria (pseudonyms), the owners of a small business in Tumaco, started on October 1, 2013, when they received a letter signed by the FARC threatening to throw a grenade at their business if they did not pay US$1,500.[59] About a week later, an armed man who identified himself as a FARC member went to their business, put a gun to Jorge’s head, demanded the payment, and took roughly $400 from the cash register.

Several days later, Jorge and Maria received a call from man who identified himself as a guerrilla member, demanded a $1,000 payment within two days, and threatened to kill their children if they did not pay. The business owners reported the extortion to the authorities and several days later Jorge received a call from a man who said he would cut out his tongue and decapitate him for having called the police.

The extortion continued through April, when two men who identified themselves as FARC members entered Jorge and Maria’s business, pointed a gun at their teenage daughter, demanded $1,500, stole roughly $550, and threatened to kill them. The daughter fled Tumaco. Authorities subsequently arrested a man as he collected an extortion payment from Jorge and Maria. The death threats and extortion demands have continued, however.[60] 

Attempted military use and forced displacement of two teenage boys, Tumaco village, 2014
In early 2014, FARC members threatened two teenage boys, telling them not to say anything after they saw the group transporting weapons in their village in a Tumaco community council, one of the boys’ relatives said. Two days later, six FARC members entered the boys’ school in the village and told them to place a bomb in a location where the military was camped. The boys refused and subsequently fled the village out of fear for their lives.[61]

Disappearance of three teenage girls from Tumaco neighborhood, 2013
One night in early 2013, two sisters and their friend, ages 13, 14, and 15, left their homes to meet in their Tumaco neighborhood, and never returned.[62] A neighbor told the families that he had heard the girls crying and screaming that night from inside a house in the area.[63] The neighbor told them he had heard the girls being beaten, and that they were removed from the house at around 4 a.m. Based on the neighbor’s account of the screaming, and other similar rape cases and rumors in the neighborhood, relatives think the girls were raped.

The girls’ families suspected that a paramilitary successor group was responsible for the disappearances. They said a successor group operated in the neighborhood at the time and had killed other female victims from the area. A relative of the two sisters said that roughly a week prior to their disappearance, a paramilitary successor group member told her threateningly to watch out for the girls “because they’re very pretty.”[64]  

Killings of Daniel Quiñones Riascos, Alex Quiñones Pai, and Ricardo (pseudonym), Tumaco, 2013
On the night of December 10, 2013, the police set up checkpoints on the main roads out of Tumaco following a grenade attack in the city. Shortly after the attack, at roughly 10:30 p.m., a 24-year-old college student named Daniel Quiñones Riascos failed to stop at a police checkpoint on the Pindo Bridge in Tumaco, driving around it on his motorbike with his friend Alex Quiñones Pai on the back.[65] A report by a policeman at the scene said that the police then fired warning shots into a “cleared area” and shouted at Navy marines stationed closely down the road to stop the motorbike; and that the marines then fired on the two men, knocking them and the motorbike over. Several marines who were there claimed, however, that the police shot directly at the two men.[66]

Daniel Quiñones Riascos’s father said witnesses told him the two young men raised their arms and said not to shoot after passing the police checkpoint, and that both Navy and police personnel had shot at the two young men. Quiñones Riascos was shot in his right shoulder blade area and right forearm and Quiñones Pai was shot in both legs.[67] Quiñones Riascos was declared dead at 10:40 p.m. and Quiñones Pai died later that night.

The policeman’s report said that after the shooting, the marines had cleaned their weapons, reloaded them, and picked up and rearranged the bullet shells they had fired. The marines refused to provide judicial police with their weapons or information about on-duty personnel, according to the report, which alleges that a Navy lieutenant told police his superior had ordered them not to hand over the information. Marines later went to the police station to hand over 11 rifles, which looked “recently cleaned and washed with oil,” according to the report.[68]

As of June, the investigation into the incident was in the preliminary stage, with no suspects charged. The prosecutor handling the case said he may send it to the military justice system.[69]

Several months prior to those killings, Navy personnel fatally shot another unarmed young man near the Pindo Bridge, the man’s mother said. One morning in mid-2013, Ricardo (pseudonym), 18, arrived at his home and told his mother that marines had just searched him and his friends as they crossed the bridge, and hit his face with the handle of a rifle. Shortly afterward, as Ricardo and his mother walked near the bridge, a marine told him not to come close “because he would blow him away.” The marines tried to grab Ricardo, and then at least one of them fired at him, said his mother, who said she was standing next to her son at the time. She said Ricardo fell to the ground with bullet wounds in both legs and died in the hospital that night.[70]

 

 

[1] Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (INML), “Official data about violence in Colombia,” http://www.medicinalegal.gov.co/forensis (accessed July 21, 2014); United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “UNODC Homicide Statistics 2013,” http://www.unodc.org/gsh/en/data.html (accessed July 17, 2014).

[2] Human Rights Watch interviews with officials from the Attorney General’s Office, Tumaco mayor’s office, and police intelligence, Tumaco, May and June 2014.

[3] Victims Unit, “Victims by type of abuse,” Cut-off date July 1, 2014, http://rni.unidadvictimas.gov.co/?q=v-reportes (accessed July 21, 2014).

[4] The Victims Unit can only register killings of civilians and cases of security force members killed outside of combat; it is prohibited from registering killings of members of irregular armed groups. According to data compiled by the Tumaco’s mayor’s office, only 29 of the more than 460 total homicides in Tumaco in 2012 and 2013 were of security force members. Available data does not indicate how many of these 29 homicides were committed outside of combat and/or registered by the Victims Unit. Email from Tumaco mayor’s office official to Human Rights Watch, April 25, 2014; Law 1448 of 2011, article 3.

[5] Email from Victims Unit official to Human Rights Watch, July 8, 2014. Of the 366 killings, the unit registered 907 spouses, partners, and other relatives of victims in cases attributed to the guerrillas, 39 in cases attributed to paramilitary successor groups, 5 in cases attributed to the security forces, and 353 in cases attributed to unidentified perpetrators.

[6] The Victims Unit has repeatedly denied requests for reparations made by victims of killings and other abuses by paramilitary successor groups on grounds that their crimes are not related to the armed conflict.

[7] Victims Unit, “Victims by type of abuse,” Cut-off date July 1, 2014, http://rni.unidadvictimas.gov.co/?q=v-reportes (accessed July 21, 2014).

[8] Email from Victims Unit official to Human Rights Watch, July 8, 2014. Of those 30 disappearances, the Victims Unit registered 92 spouses, partners, and other relatives of victims in disappearance cases attributed to guerrillas, and 36 in cases attributed to unidentified perpetrators. (See endnote 6 on the lack of registration of cases by paramilitary successor groups.)

[9] Emails from INML official to Human Rights Watch, July 7 and 10, 2014; Ombudsman’s Office of Colombia, Early Warning System, “Follow-up Note No. 007-14,” April 14, 2014, p. 14.

[10] Human Rights Watch interviews with a Tumaco resident and an official, 2014.

[11] Email from Victims Unit official to Human Rights Watch, July 8, 2014. (See endnote 6 on the lack of registration of cases by paramilitary successor groups.) 

[12] The Colombian government is a party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and on their Destruction. Colombia signed the Convention on December 3, 1997, ratified it on September 6, 2000, and it entered into force on March 1, 2001.

[13] Colombian Presidency’s Program for Integrated Action against Anti-Personnel Landmines, “Victims of Anti-Personnel Landmines,” http://www.accioncontraminas.gov.co/Paginas/victimas.aspx (accessed July 21, 2014).

[14] UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Government of Colombia, “Monitoring of Coca Crops 2013,” June 2014, www.unodc.org/documents/crop-monitoring/Colombia/Colombia_Monitoreo_de_Cultivos_de_Coca_2013_ web.pdf (accessed July 14, 2014), p. 20.

[15] Victims Unit, “Displacement – People,” http://rni.unidadvictimas.gov.co/?q=v-reportes (accessed July 14, 2014).

[16] Email from Attorney General’s Office official to Human Rights Watch, July 15, 2014.

[17] Human Rights Watch requested data about cases of disappearances and forced displacement exclusively in Tumaco but the Attorney General’s Office provided data about local prosecutors’ investigations into such cases in Tumaco and several surrounding municipalities. Email from Attorney General’s Office official to Human Rights Watch, July 15, 2014.

[18] Email from Attorney General’s Office official to Human Rights Watch, July 11, 2014.

[19] Email from Attorney General’s Office official to Human Rights Watch, July 15, 2014.

[20] Email from Attorney General’s Office official to Human Rights Watch, July 3, 2014.

[21] The prosecutors investigate crimes in Tumaco and several surrounding municipalities. Human Rights Watch interview with prosecutors, Tumaco, May 2014.

[22] Human Rights Watch interview with justice official, Tumaco, June 2014.

[23] Report from Technical Investigation Body (CTI) office in Pasto to prosecutors in Pasto, July 22, 2014, on file at Human Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with justice official, July 22, 2014.

[24] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco resident, 2014.

[25] The Multidimensional Poverty Index is employed by the UN Development Programme and measures poverty by identifying multiple deprivations at the individual level in health, education, and standard of living.

[26] “Agreement No. 019 by which some adjustments are made to the Tumaco Mayor’s Office’s Development Plan for 2012-2015,” Tumaco Municipal Council, November 13, 2013, http://tumaco-narino.gov.co/apc-aa-files/61616166346535623838616166343139/acuerdo-n-019.pdf (accessed July 17, 2014).

[27] “Agreement No. 005 by which Tumaco’s municipal indigenous and Afro food and nutrition plan is adopted for 2012-2022,” Tumaco Municipal Council, March 13, 2013, http://www.tumaco-narino.gov.co/apc-aa-files/31396130663234376265616637336262/acuerdo-no.-005.pdf (accessed July 22, 2014); National estimate from the Encuesta Nacional de Calidad de Vida - ENCV 2011, as reported by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation, http://www.wssinfo.org/documents/?tx_displaycontroller[type]= country_files (accessed July 17, 2014).

[28] Judicial police report, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[29] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco resident, 2014.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Human Rights Watch interviews with Tumaco residents, 2014.

[32] Human Rights Watch interview with prosecutor, Tumaco, June 24, 2014.

[33] Human Rights Watch interviews with justice officials, Tumaco, June 2014.

[34] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with justice official, July 3, 2014.

[35] SIJIN, “Technical Inspection of a Cadaver,” Report No. 528356000538201400745, March 18, 2014, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[36] INML, “Press Release No. 3,” March 19, 2014, http://www.medicinalegal.gov.co/oficina-de-prensa (accessed July 14, 2014).

[37] “The FARC recognized the killing of police in Tumaco,” El Espectador, March 22, 2014, http://www.elespectador. com/noticias/nacional/farc-reconocieron-asesinato-de-policias-tumaco-articulo-482434 (accessed July 14, 2014).

[38] Human Rights Watch interview with justice official, 2014.

[39] Human Rights Watch interviews with Tumaco residents, 2014.

[40] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco resident, 2014.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco residents, 2014; Ombudsman’s Office, “Report on the grenade attack against police in the village of Chilví in Tumaco in which two children died,” May 15, 2014; “The case of the child-bombs in Tumaco was false?” Semana, May 25, 2014, http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/falsos-ninos-bomba/389155-3 (accessed July 14, 2014).

[44] National Police, “In the town of Chilvi in the municipality of Tumaco, eight police were wounded when an explosive device was thrown,” May 15, 2014.

[45] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco residents, 2014; Diocese of Tumaco press release, May 20, 2014; “The case of the child-bombs in Tumaco was false?” Semana, May 25, 2014.

[46] Ombudsman’s Office, “Report on the grenade attack against police in the village of Chilví in Tumaco in which two children died,” May 15, 2014.

[47] Human Rights Watch interviews with justice officials, Tumaco, June 2014.

[48] “FARC announce unilateral ceasefire for the second round,” Semana, June 7, 2014, http://www.semana.com/ nacion/articulo/farc-anuncian-nuevo-cese-el-fuego-por-segunda-vuelta-electoral/390926-3 (accessed July 14, 2014).

[49] Hospital San Andres de Tumaco E.S.E records for Angelo Cabezas, May 14, 2014, on file at Human Rights Watch; INML, “Expert Autopsy Report,” May 15, 2014, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Letter from Hospital San Andres de Tumaco to the Dioceses of Tumaco, May 30, 2014, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[52] Human Rights Watch interview with justice official, Tumaco, June 2014.

[53] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco resident, 2014.

[54] Victims Unit, “Resolution by which it is decided whether or not to register in the Victims Registry, by virtue of article 156 of Law 1448 of 2011 and article 37 of Decree 4800 of 2011,” March 6, 2013, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[55] Human Rights Watch is withholding the details of the information out of concerns for the safety of the sources of the information. Human Rights Watch interviews with Tumaco residents and officials, 2014.

[56] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco resident, 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with official, 2014.

[57] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco resident, 2014.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco residents, 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with justice official, 2014.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco residents, 2014.

[61] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco resident, 2014.

[62] Criminal complaint filed with the Attorney General’s Office, date withheld, on file at Human Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch interviews with Tumaco residents, 2014.

[63] Human Rights Watch interviews with Tumaco residents, 2014.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco resident, June 2014; Report sent from police witness to Tumaco police commander, December 11, 2013, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[66] Reports sent from marine witnesses to Navy commanders in Tumaco, December 11, 2013, on file at Human Rights Watch; report sent from police witness to Tumaco police commander, December 11, 2013, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[67] INML, “Expert Autopsy Report No. 2013010152835000299,” December 12, 2013, on file at Human Rights Watch; Centro Divino Niño Hospital records for Alex Quiñones Pai, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[68] Report sent from police witness to Tumaco police commander, December 11, 2013, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[69] Human Rights Watch interview with prosecutor, Tumaco, June 2014.

[70] Human Rights Watch interview with Tumaco resident, 2014. 

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