WAR WITHOUT QUARTER
Colombia and International Humanitarian Law
We would like to thank the many organizations, governmental offices, and individuals who contributed time, energy, and information to Human Rights Watch during the research and editing of this report. For security reasons, we have chosen not to identify them by name. Without their courage and tenacity, this report could not have been written.
Since 1997, twenty human rights defenders have been murdered in Colombia, among them lawyers, students, writers, human rights researchers, and judicial investigators. Some of them were well known while others had less reknown. But they faced the same danger. Their deaths show that there is no safe place in Colombia so long as atrocity and impunity rule.
We dedicate this report to the memory of two brave and committed Colombians who assisted us in the preparation of this report and risked their lives to defend the rights of all Colombians. Josué Giraldo, co-founder of the Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, was murdered by an unidentified gunman on October 13, 1996, as we began research for this report. With his colleagues, Giraldo documented dozens of cases involving human rights and international humanitarian law violations in Meta. Jesús María Valle, president of the Héctor Abad Gómez Permanent Human Rights Committee of Antioquia, was murdered on February 27, 1998, beside the desk where he had served us coffee weeks earlier. At the time, we were concluding this report. Valle helped document many of the Antioquia cases included in these pages, in particular the ones that took place in and near Ituango, where he had served on the town council.
Giraldo and Valle were valued and dear colleagues and we mourn them.Yet their example and their work convinces us that we should keep fighting for the respect of fundamental values; something that shouldn't be so difficult to achieve.
This report was made available in Spanish with the support of the Kaplan fund and was translated by Juan Luis Guillén and edited by José Miguel Vivanco.
At Human Rights Watch, special thanks are due to Megan Himan and Jessica Galeria for research and production assistance. A very special thanks is also due to Patrick Minges for his invaluable production assistance.