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Each night they kill groups of five to six defenseless people, who are cruelly and monstrously massacred after being tortured. The screams of humble people are audible, begging for mercy and asking for help.

Judge Leonardo Iván Cortés, Mapiripán, Meta

July 1997

At the time of this writing, there are at least seven groups allied under the name United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC): the Peasant Self-Defense Group of Córdoba and Urabá (Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba and Urabá, ACCU), the largest and most public group; the Eastern Plains Self-Defense Group (Autodefensas de los Llanos Orientales, also known as Los Carranceros, after their leader, Víctor Carranza); the Cesar Self-Defense Group (Autodefensas del Cesar); the Middle Magdalena Self-Defense Group (Autodefensas del Magdalena Medio), the group with the longest history; the Santander and Southern Cesar Self-Defense Group (Autodefensas de Santander y el sur del Cesar); the Casanare Self-Defense Group (Autodefensas del Casanare); and the Cundinamarca Self-Defense Group (Autodefensas de Cundinamarca).

Applying the laws of war to the AUC gives them no special status or recognition. As we showed in the section devoted to the Colombian state forces, AUC units operate frequently in direct coordination with the Colombian security forces. In this report, we refer to them as paramilitaries because of this historical and continuing relationship with the Colombian military. Within Colombia, these groups can also be referred to as “self-defense” groups, a description the AUC uses.

However, the AUC does act independently, and has a separate command structure, source of weapons and supplies, and operation planning. The AUC leader, Carlos Castaño, has repeatedly stated a willingness to pledge his forces to respect the laws of war. Nevertheless, he has qualified that pledge by stating he would not respect the rights of guerrilla fighters hors de combat or civilians he suspects of guerrilla collaboration, an exception that renders his purported commitment almost meaningless.


The AUC is a descendant of Muerte a Secuestradores (Death to Kidnappers, MAS), an alliance formed in the 1980s between the Colombianmilitary, the police, and Middle Magdalena businessmen and ranchers. At the time, the army and paramilitaries characterized their activity as necessary to fend off

guerrilla incursions.29

By 1983, however, Internal Affairs had registered over 240 political killings by MAS, whose victims included elected officials, farmers, and community leaders. In his report, Internal Affairs chief Carlos Jiménez Gómez identified fifty-nine active-duty members of the police and military who belonged to MAS, including the commander of the army’s Bomboná Battalion. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Carlos Castaño, AUC founder and Colombia’s most powerful paramilitary leader, traced his first involvement in paramilitary activity to the training he received in the early 1980s at the Bomboná Battalion.30

Castaño began as a guide, fought with troops, and identified suspected subversives.31 Meanwhile, his elder brother, Fidel, was amassing a fortune from drug trafficking. Fidel invested his earnings in land, and became one of northern Colombia’s most powerful ranchers. With Fidel’s profits as well as contributions from landowners and businessmen, the Castaños decided to form their own army in the mid-1980s, known as “Los Tangüeros,” after the Castaño ranch called Las Tangas.32

“Guerrillas can act outside the law, so this battle is not equal,” Carlos Castaño told Human Rights Watch in an interview. “We realized we could use the same tactics as the guerrillas and adopt their methods of combat.”33

It was on Las Tangas, for example, that foreign mercenaries and active-duty army officers taught paramilitaries and professional hit men who worked for drug kingpins how to shoot, make bombs, and ambush people in the mid-1980s.34

The Castaño strategy produced a particularly violent record, described by one government commission as “one of the most tragic chapters in this country’s recent history of violence.” For example, on January 14, 1990, the Tangüeros kidnapped and killed forty-two people from the Urabá town of Pueblo Bello, apparently revenge for the earlier killing by the EPL of several Castaño gunmen.35 Months later, the bodies of six of those taken were found in unmarked graves holding a total of twenty-four bodies at Las Tangas and Jaraguay, another Castaño ranch.36

Fidel Castaño was convicted in absentia for his role in that massacre.37 Carlos Castaño has admitted his family’s role in the Pueblo Bello massacre, but claimed that it was “an error” due to poor training. “Our military force had grown enormously, and sometimes the men used the weapons for bad purposes,” he said.38

Massacres by the Tangüeros caused massive forced displacement throughout the late 1980s, as the inhabitants of entire villages left in fear.39 According to one group that works with the displaced, abandoned land would then be purchased cheaply by the same traffickers-turned-landowners funding the Castaño army, fueling the campaign to rid the region of guerrillas and their perceived supporters.40

This trend continues, with drug traffickers buying huge tracts abandoned by fleeing families. “Land-buying by drug traffickers changes the war’s course, because these new land owners become part of the paramilitary structure,” commented Alejandro Reyes, a sociologist who has studied political violence, in an interview with Human Rights Watch. “It is then that the traffickers begin to defend themselves territorially.”41

The Tangüeros established a clear pattern of operation, which continues to be used by the AUC. At first, rumors of an imminent attack, graffiti, and written death threats circulate. On the chosen night, heavily armed men drive in and begin pulling people from their homes to be killed. No one we interviewed in the department of Córdoba in 1992, including government authorities, was aware of any clash between the Tangüeros and the security forces; to the contrary, known paramilitary leaders would often sleep in military installations apparently as protection from guerrilla attack.42

In the village of El Tomate, for example, considered by paramilitaries to be sympathetic to the EPL, armed men commandeered a public bus and killed five passengers on August 30, 1988. Gunmen executed ten more El Tomate residents after dragging them from their homes. They burned twenty-two houses and the public bus, with the driver shackled to the steering wheel.43

People who were perceived to be sympathetic to guerrillas or their ideology — including teachers, community leaders, trade unionists, human rights defenders, and religious workers — were also considered legitimate targets even though they took no active part in conflict. Often, it was the work itself that put them at risk. Among the victims of the Tangüeros was Sergio Restrepo, a Jesuit priest who administered the Tierralta parish in Córdoba. Apparently, Restrepo became a target because of his work with the poor, identified as being pro-guerrilla and communist. A Castaño gunman shot and killed him in 1988 outside the Jesuit parish house.44

As the Castaños themselves have acknowledged, some of the victims were also bystanders, killed by mistake.

After other massacres carried out by Middle Magdalena paramilitaries and their army patrons in 1989, including the killing of two judges and ten government investigators at La Rochela, Santander, the government of Virgilio Barco issued Decree 1194, which established criminal penalties for civilians and members of the armed forces who recruit, train, promote, finance, organize, lead, or belong to “the armed groups, misnamed paramilitary groups, that have been formed into deathsquads, bands of hired assassins, self-defense groups, or groups that carry out their own justice.”45

Despite this decree, neither Fidel nor Carlos Castaño have ever been arrested for their roles in directing a private army or ordering massacres, though both have multiple outstanding convictions and warrants for their arrests.46

By 1990, EPL guerrillas were decimated by the combined action of the army and the Tangüeros. In August, Fidel Castaño and some paramilitaries from the Middle Magdalena offered to hand over their weapons if the EPL disbanded, an agreement that led to the demobilization of over 2,000 EPL militants on March 1, 1992. Castaño also delivered some weapons to authorities. Through a family foundation, called the Foundation for the Peace of Córdoba (Fundación por la Paz de Córdoba, FUNPAZCOR), the Castaños donated land, money, and cattle for hundreds of former guerrillas to set up small businesses, farms, market networks, schools, and training programs.47

Nevertheless, peace was short-lived. By the time former EPL members had formed Esperanza, Paz y Libertad, a legal political party, the FARC had expanded its activities in northern Colombia, occupying much of the EPL’s former territory. Some EPL members rejected the terms of the negotiations and returned to combat. For that reason, Carlos Castaño told us, his family decided to reactivate its private army as the ACCU and convert it into a national force to defeat guerrillas.

In press interviews, Carlos Castaño has claimed that his elder brother Fidel vanished on an overland trip from Colombia to Panama in 1994, not long after writing to then-Interior Minister Horacio Serpa of his desire to take part in peace negotiations with the government and guerrillas. The offer bore no fruit. Since Fidel’s disappearance, Carlos has become the leader of the ACCU and later the AUC.48

“By 1993, we had 600 guns. We began to establish ‘fronts’ in other regions to fight the guerrillas. A front would be established at the request of people living in the region who were willing to pay for it.”49

The ACCU quickly became Colombia’s most organized and largest paramilitary group. Although each front has a local leader, Castaño says that all coordinate through a central command. Castaño is the commander-in-chief. Like the guerrillas they consciously emulate, the ACCU has a general staff (estado mayor conjunto) made up of the leaders of each regional paramilitary group. Regional groups also have a general staff (estados mayores regionales). The fighting force is divided into two types of unit: stationary groups, known as local self-defense associations (juntas de autodefensas locales) and support groups (grupos de apoyo); and mobile groups (frentes de choque), better trained and equipped and able to move quickly throughout Colombia.50 Among the men pledged to the ACCU are former EPL guerrillas, some of whom surrendered directly to the ACCU.51

Both local and special fighters receive a base salary plus food, a uniform, weapons, and munitions. The funds to cover these expenses come from localranchers and businesspeople.52 There is also an emerging body of evidence linking Castaño to drug trafficking in Antioquia and Córdoba, a business that has earned his family millions.53

One businessman explained to Human Rights Watch how he had been told to attend a meeting that Castaño had called in northern Antioquia to collect funds for a new ACCU unit. “Each person was expected to pay a quota of between U.S. $3,000 to $5,000, and everyone knew what it was for,” he told us.54

In contrast to the 1980s, when the Castaños’ army was essentially a regional force, the ACCU sponsored a national summit to form an alliance of like-minded groups in December 1994, which led to the founding of the AUC. 55 Within the AUC, according to Castaño, “Each front is autonomous and responsible for its region in terms of funds and should take responsibility for or reject responsibility for actions that are attributed to them.”56 However, regions share munitions, weapons, and even men.57 Observers agree that Castaño exerts ultimate control over the AUC and has the clearest plans for its future.58

Castaño denies that he works with the army, though he says there is “sympathy” between the ACCU and the security forces. On occasion, he told Human Rights Watch, if the paramilitaries find themselves fighting guerrillas and the army appears, “it’s natural that we would combine forces with the army todefeat a common enemy.”59 During their Third Summit, the group acknowledged a continuing relationship with the armed forces, which “want to use us, because it is well known that we are the ones who, in the last instance, put ourselves into combat and in a good number of antiguerrilla operations.”60

Indeed, evidence is abundant and consistent that Castaño frequently coordinates with the army, including on high-profile political killings. For instance, the Attorney General’s Office formally accused Castaño of involvement in the 1994 murder of Colombian Sen. Manuel Cepeda, carried out with the alleged assistance of the army’s Ninth Brigade.61

The ACCU began its campaign to eliminate guerrillas in northern Urabá, then expanded south into the departments of Antioquia, Chocó, Bolívar, and Sucre. By the time we spoke with Castaño in 1996, he claimed to have over 2,000 trained, armed, and equipped fighters distributed among five fronts in addition to his headquarters in San Pedro de Urabá. Colombian government analysts estimate the same armed strength, augmented by hundreds more depending on the location where Castaño plans an operation.62

By the end of 1996, the AUC included paramilitaries from the Middle Magdalena, led by Ramón Isaza, and the eastern plains, led by Víctor Carranza.63 At that time, the AUC planned new fronts in the departments of Guaviare and Putumayo, leapfrogging to Colombia’s southernmost border.64 For its part, the ACCU has also crossed Colombia’s northern border with Panama in pursuit of guerrillas, who have for years used the thinly populated area as a refuge.65

After the ACCU was linked to ninety killings over a space of twenty-two days in late 1996, the Colombian government announced a “full offensive” against them and a U.S. $1 million reward for information leading to Castaño’s capture.66

Over the following months, however, the security forces made no effort to find and arrest him. Indeed, Castaño continued to meet normally with reporters, municipal and national government officials, and representatives of the church in areas he controlled. When the reward was repeated a year later, this time paired with Castaño’s photo, the government promised to send a special, police-led team against him.67

As of this writing, the Attorney General’s Office and police had captured some paramilitary leaders, including Víctor Carranza. However, Castaño himself remains unhindered and has launched a new offensive in the department of Putumayo.68

The AUC and International Humanitarian Law

The AUC has recognized some principles of international humanitarian law and accepts training in the laws of war from the ICRC. However, the group has yet to conform their behavior in the field to these standards. Instead, the AUC has called for “negotiations” with guerrillas to “reach an agreement that would permit the civilian population to be excluded from the conflict and in this way comply with International Humanitarian Law,” ignoring the fact that no negotiations are needed to apply these standards immediately.69 Talks with government representatives have been sporadic, but ongoing.70

Within the AUC, the ACCU has the most receptive position. ACCU statutes prohibit fighters from forcibly recruiting members and attacking individuals who take no part in the conflict. Fighters who disobey the statutes, it states, will be punished and potentially expelled.71

In other material, the AUC has prohibited the recruitment of combatants under eighteen years of age; forced displacement; and the kidnapping or forced disappearance of civilians.72

“In the past, the self-defense groups committed errors,” Castaño told two reporters from the daily El Tiempo in 1997. “It was the result of a lack of professionalization and ignorance, but we have begun a process of recuperation. We carried out a kind of coup d’etat on certain groups. We took away their guns and expelled their men. We carried out a clean-up, and in that way unified the movement.”73

At the same time, however, Castaño has argued that the nature of Colombia’s war — with many combatants out of uniform uniforms or any identification — makes strict standards difficult if not impossible to apply.74 Instead, he has advocated a “creole” version of international humanitarian law, adaptable to Colombia’s irregular warfare.75

“We have not shot people indiscriminately,” he told the magazine Cambio 16 in December 1997. “Massacres don’t exist... The only thing I accept is that I kill guerrillas hors de combat.”76

After a detailed review of cases, Human Rights Watch has concluded that far from respecting the laws of war, the AUC depends on the explicit, deliberate,and systematic violation of these standards in order to wage war. Government investigators, church officials, humanitarian aid groups, and victims of AUC attacks agree that Castaño and the AUC have paid only lip service to the protections contained in Common Article 3 and Protocol II. To the contrary, the AUC has repeatedly and energetically flouted international standards by committing massacres, executing civilians and combatants hors de combat, torturing, mutilating corpses, circulating death threats, torture, forcing displacement, taking hostages, and looting, among other violations.

“People die because they live in areas dominated by guerrillas and because they are seen by the paramilitaries as supporting them,” one government intelligence analyst told Human Rights Watch.77

In 1997, the Data Bank recorded at least 155 massacres apparently committed by units allied under the AUC, making it responsible for the vast majority of killings in violation of the laws of war in Colombia.78 In that same time period, the Attorney General’s Office formulated accusations in 271 cases implicating AUC members, many involving massacres.79

For its part, the ACCU, the AUC’s most powerful member, denies hundreds of reports that its members routinely torture captives and mutilate and decapitate the bodies of people it has executed.80 However, such reports are consistent, widespread, and based on credible sources. Such practices are not only routine, but are a deliberate strategy. Of the 150 cases of torture registered by the Data Bank in 1997, 141 were attributed to paramilitary groups. Of those, most involved individuals tortured and then killed. In many cases, bodies were also dismembered, decapitated, and mutilated with machetes, chain saws, and acid.81

In interviews, Carlos Castaño can be forthright and unapologetic about tactics that flout the laws of war. In an interview with journalist Germán Castro Caycedo, Castaño said that the Tangüero strategy of purposefully massacring thecivilians they believed brought guerrillas food, medicine, and other supplies was a useful one that the AUC has energetically employed.

“We realized that we could isolate [guerrillas] and saw that this was a strategy that had very good results,” Castaño said. “Today, we continue to apply the same mechanism [in Urabá]... with the same excellent results we experienced then.”82

In its conclusions to its third summit in 1996, the AUC provided a virtual hit list of those it considers military targets, completely ignoring the careful distinctions combatants are required to make to protect civilians. “All of the inhabitants of a region dominated by any of the [groups in conflict] are potential combatants, be they active sympathizers who take no direct part in the conflict but do assume the key responsibility of transmitting orders and information, establishing lines of communication, providing supplies of every type, infiltrating the enemy, ‘collecting’ funds, and acting as political commissars,... or passive sympathizers, who take on the duty of seeing, hearing, and especially knowing nothing.”83

An ACCU pronouncement circulated in the department of Bolívar in December 1996 encapsulates Castaño’s strategy. ACCU fighters planned to carry out a population census, the pronouncement said, to distinguish between “people who are dedicated to working honorably from those... who will be detained and executed.” The latter category included “those who assist [guerrillas] ideologically or with material support, because in this way we are striking at the guerrillas’ foundation and contributing to the work of their destruction.”84

As is clear, these statements and the behavior of AUC units in the field reflect a profound rejection of the laws of war even as Castaño has learned to praise them in public documents and interviews.

Throughout 1996 and 1997, AUC units established a clear pattern of violations of the laws of war. A unit would enter a village, execute civilians believed to support guerrillas, and leave. In hundreds of cases, as sociologist Alejandro Reyes pointed out in the daily El Espectador, massacres of civilians achieved a definite, albeit brutal purpose.

“The massacre of those suspect of guerrilla ties [by paramilitaries] serves as an efficient notification to the population to sever any ties of support they may have with guerrillas,” he noted. “Many of those who may have sympathized with guerrillas get scared and flee the region. Then the self-defense groups organize their own local support network, preferably of families who have lost members to the guerrillas. As a result, the self-defense groups consider the region recovered from their enemies.”85

For example, on April 2, 1997, an estimated 200 ACCU members crossed the border into Panama and entered the villages of La Bonga and Titiná, Panama, settled by Colombian refugees. Paramilitaries reportedly executed three residents after dragging them from their homes. A fourth, Remberto Arrieta, was killed as he attempted to escape. Although the ACCU, which claimed responsibility for the attack, said the dead were guerrillas, human rights groups, who interviewed witnesses later, described them as a lumberjack, a peasant woman, and two farmers, who paramilitaries accused of assisting guerrillas, not taking a direct role in hostilities. Subsequently, many fled the region.86

When Human Rights Watch asked Carlos Castaño why the ACCU had killed several butchers in and around Tierralta, Córdoba, in 1996, his answer both recognized the group’s responsibility for the killings and demonstrated its policy of violating the laws of war. Guerrillas, Castaño said, steal cattle from ranchers, then trade the stolen herd for cattle belonging to small farmers. When the small farmers take the stolen cows to the local slaughterhouse, butchers buy them. Therefore, Castaño reasoned, butchers assist guerrillas and relinquish their status as non-combatants. “The killing of butchers was to send a message that people could no longer provide this economic support to the guerrillas,” he told Human Rights Watch.87

Castaño has also admitted targeting for attack leftist politicians simply because of their views, violating the protection guaranteed civilians by the laws of war. The conclusions to the AUC’s First Summit in 1994 state that as long as guerrillas continue to execute security force members and the families ofparamilitaries, they will consider “political and trade union operatives of the extreme left” as prime targets, in essence a policy of violating the laws of war by deliberately targeting civilians.

Castaño reaffirmed this position in 1997, when he told reporters that his forces would kill candidates perceived as supporting guerrillas.88

This violates the laws of war, which protect even a civilian who speaks out in support of a party to the conflict so long as that civilian takes no direct role in hostilities. Also, the laws of war make no exception for abuses committed because an enemy commits them; all sides are bound to uphold the laws of war regardless of whether their enemies do so.

Also targeted are human rights defenders who report on paramilitary abuses. After the Santander and Southern Cesar Self-Defense Group killed eleven residents and arbitrarily detained at least thirty-four others in Barrancabermeja on May 16, 1998, human rights leaders protested and called on authorities to investigate.89 Subsequently, the paramilitary group, which belongs to the AUC, circulated a threat naming Osiris Bayther, president of the Regional Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (Comité Regional para la defensa de los Derechos Humanos, CREDHOS) a Colombian human rights group that covers the Middle Magdalena region, and declaring her a “military target” for allegedly working in coordination with guerrillas. On June 4, government investigators announced that Joint burials of massacre victims, like this one in Barrancabermeja in 1998, have become common in Colombia.

© Agencia Tomaparamilitaries had told them that at least twenty-three of those detained had been shot and their bodies burned, a serious violation of the laws of war.90

To counter accusations of abuses committed by the AUC, Castaño says that his group first consults at least three unconnected intelligence sources to prove that a prospective target is a combatant before carrying out a killing. To reporters, Castaño has said that suspects are only killed after being sentenced by a panel of three paramilitary judges, who must gather evidence from two independent sources before issuing a verdict.91

Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch collected evidence showing that rarely does the AUC even follow these grossly inadequate procedures before killing those it accuses of supporting guerrillas. Instead, talk of gathering evidence and panels of judges appears to be part of a cynical public relations effort to justify the unjustifiable: the massacre and executions of non-combatants and combatants hors de combat.

Human Rights Watch was able to test the AUC’s “trial proceedings” on the case of one individual well known to us who, Castaño had said, had been proven to be a guerrilla by his so-called independent intelligence sources. According to Castaño, the individual had supplied tents, food, and medicines to guerrillas and had traveled in guerrilla-held areas. As a result, Castaño noted, his name was on a death list.

We pointed out that the individual, a humanitarian aid worker, was at the time in question assisting hundreds of families forcibly displaced by the armed conflict. The individual may have handed supplies to a guerrilla; however, the individual’s job was to distribute tents, food, and medicines to displaced families, not distinguish between guerrillas dressed as civilians and non-combatants, and deny aid on that basis. At no time did the individual take a direct role in hostilities.

Castaño conceded that his sources were sometimes unreliable and may not have taken the individual’s duties into account. However, it was clear that this type of reasoning has, for the AUC, turned almost anyone living and working in areas where guerrillas are present into a target.92


Caicedo, Antioquia: After an April 12, 1996 assault by the FARC in which one police officer was killed, the National Police withdrew from this town. Despite the desperate pleas of local authorities urging them to stay, police officials charged that residents supported guerrillas and therefore did not merit protection.93 Eight days later, the ACCU seized the town and forced its residents to the central square. Working from lists of names, the armed men selected four people — Dario Restrepo, Caladino González, Jorge Eliécer Castro, and Isaías González — and killed them. All were merchants the ACCU accused of selling supplies toguerrillas.94 In an interview, the ACCU claimed responsibility for the killings.95 The fact that a merchant living in a war zone sells goods to one side or the other does not convert them into a target.

Media Luna, Cesar: Traveling in three pick-up trucks, an estimated sixty ACCU members seized this village around noon on October 27, 1996, after cutting telephone lines. The armed men executed seven residents and abducted seven others, one of whom was found dead the next day. The remaining six were reported as forcibly disappeared.96 Before leaving, the men painted machine guns and the letters “ACCU” on walls.97 Afterwards, the media reported that the ACCU was circulating a death list of 200 names of suspected guerrilla supporters.98 The Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating the ACCU’s involvement in the massacre.99

Colosó, Morroa, and Toluviejo, Sucre: On December 3 and 4, 1996, an estimated thirty members of the ACCU entered the town of Colosó and seized Elsa Rosa Silgado, a police inspector, and two others, who were later executed. The next day, this same group set up a roadblock outside Colosó and detained seven travelers, four of whom were killed on the spot. Later the same day, the group surrounded a party in Colosó and detained thirty people whose names appeared on their lists. After announcing that they would “clean” the area of guerrillas, the men released their captives and continued on to Pichilín, where they killed two men, leaving their bodies in the road. Finally, in the village of Varsovia, the ACCU killed sevenvillagers. All told, sixteen people were slain. According to police, the location and identification of bodies was especially difficult since they were spread over a radius of thirty-five kilometers. Many of the victims were found with their hands bound behind their backs and multiple shots to the head.100 In the days after the massacre, an estimated 350 farmers fled the area in fear. The ACCU continued to circulate pronouncements saying that guerrilla collaborators would be killed.101 After an investigation by the attorney general’s office, arrest warrants were issued for fourteen men identified as ACCU members.102

Mapiripán, Meta: From July 15 through July 20, 1997, the ACCU seized the town of Mapiripán, Meta, killed at least thirteen people, and threatened others with death. An investigation by human rights groups concluded that paramilitaries had arrived in the region via chartered airplane, which landed at the San José del Guaviare airport days before the massacre. This case also illustrates the deadly results of the army and police policy of acquiescence in paramilitary killings. Local army and police units ignored repeated phone calls from a civilian judge in the area asking for help to stop the slayings. At dawn on July 15, an estimated 200 heavily-armed ACCU members arrived and began rounding up local authorities and forcing them to accompany them. Among those they searched for were peasants who had taken part in a 1996 department-wide protest against coca eradication and the government’s failure to provide viable economic alternatives for the region. ACCU men detained residents and people arriving by boat, took them to the local slaughterhouse, then bound, tortured, and executed them by slitting their throats. The first person killed, Antonio María Herrera, known as “Catumare,” was hung from a hook, and ACCU members quartered his body, throwing the pieces into the Guaviare River. At least two bodies — those of Sinaí Blanco, a boatman, and Ronald Valencia, the airstrip manager — weredecapitated.103 Judge Leonardo Iván Cortés reported hearing the screams of the people they brought to the slaughterhouse to interrogate, torture, and kill throughout the five days the ACCU remained in the area. In one of the missives he sent to various regional authorities during the massacre, he wrote: “Each night they kill groups of five to six defenseless people, who are cruelly and monstrously massacred after being tortured. The screams of humble people are audible, begging for mercy and asking for help.”104 ACCU leader Carlos Castaño took responsibility for the massacre, and told reporters that an ACCU “shock front” of seventy men executed thirteen people, and threw some bodies in the Guaviare River. Arriving only days after the ACCU left, authorities located five bodies, though the ICRC estimated to reporters that as many as twenty more may have been killed and thrown into the Guaviare River.105 Castaño denied reports of torture, yet promised “many more Mapiripans” for Colombia in subsequent press interviews.106 Hundreds of people fled the region, including Judge Cortés, who was forced to leave Colombia with his family because of threats on his life. The Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating the ACCU’s involvement in the massacre and hasissued arrest warrants for Castaño and two of his men for planning and carrying out the killings.107 The Internal Affairs continues to investigate official involvement.108

Despite Judge Cortés’s eight telephone pleas for help along with the calls of at least two others, neither the police nor the army’s “Joaquín París” Battalion in nearby San José reacted until the ACCU had left town. As a result of their internal investigation, the army put Seventh Brigade Commander Gen. Jaime Humberto Uscátegui on administrative duty for failing to act promptly to stop the massacre and detain those responsible. The armed forces also claimed to be investigating Maj. Hernán Orozco Castro, acting commander of the “Joaquín París Battalion, Maj. Horacio Galeano, and Capt. Luis Carlos López. In an interview, General Bonett told Human Rights Watch that General Uscátegui would not be promoted and that his career was over. However, Human Rights Watch subsequently learned that General Uscátegui was returned to active duty without any apparent punishment. It is also noteworthy that the army, which controls the San José airport, claimed that it had not registered the arrival of the ACCU’s chartered airplane despite a policy of registering every arriving plane and passenger, including Human Rights Watch representatives during a May 1997 visit.109

Murder and Torture

Edilma Ocampo and Stella Gil: Ocampo and Gil, her daughter, were seized at their home by paramilitaries belonging to the ACCU on February 21, 1996, in the village of Las Cañas, near Turbo, Antioquia. According to human rights groups, the paramilitaries, some of whom were hooded, bound them and accused them of being guerrillas. “For them, we have a special treatment,” they reportedly said. The paramilitaries beat them, then decapitated them. Afterwards paramilitaries cut opentheir torsos and placed Gil’s body over Ocampo’s. Paramilitaries told villagers they had six months to completely abandon the village. If not, they promised, they would return and burn everything in their path.110

Héctor Hernán Correa, Jairo de Jesús Sepúlveda, and William de Jesús Villa García: Correa, a mentally retarded man, was in his home in La Granja, Antioquia, when an ACCU unit of an estimated twenty men arrived on June 11, 1996. Residents rushed to close doors and windows, but paramilitaries began to beat down the door of Correa’s house. As Correa’s elderly father hid in the bathroom, he and his mother crouched in the kitchen. A paramilitary burst into the kitchen, grabbed Correa, pulled him into the living room, and shot him dead. The mother was dragged to the living room, where she saw her dead son. “Where are the weapons?” the paramilitary demanded. When the man asked if the person he had killed was her husband, Correa’s mother said yes, hoping to protect her husband, still hidden in the kitchen. Before leaving, paramilitaries sacked the Correa home, taking clothing, a radio, and even Correa’s school photo framed on the wall. That day in La Granja, the ACCU also killed Jairo de Jesús Sepúlveda, a teacher they dragged from a sports center, and Correa’s cousin, William de Jesús Villa García, who had been shot from the ladder where he had been painting a house. Before leaving, the paramilitaries reportedly told residents, “This is just the beginning” and they were going to continue to act until they “got rid of everyone who had something to do with the guerrillas.” Three days later, the Correa family abandoned La Granja.111

Guillermo León Barrera Henao, Francisco Javier Taborda Taborda, and Álvaro Vásquez: Barrera and Taborda, both professional drivers, were taken from their homes by ACCU members on June 13, 1996 in the Chocó hamlet known as El Siete. Paramilitaries forced them to sit beneath an image of the Virgin Mary before torturing and executing them.112 The same paramilitaries then attempted to commandeer a vehicle being driven by Vásquez, who refused to hand over his keys. He was dragged out of his vehicle and shot, and his vehicle was burned. TheACCU painted graffiti in the area saying, “Death to snitches, get out guerrillas of the southwest, ACCU.” The ACCU also distributed a flyer taking responsibility for the killings.113

Corregimiento Coyongal: Paramilitaries belonging to the ACCU seized this Magangué, Bolívar, village on December 9, 1996 and detained three residents, Pedro Nolasco Arroyo Martínez, Tomás López, and Jacobo Rivera. ACCU members accused them of helping guerrillas. Arroyo and López worked on the boats that provide public transportation and Rivera sold street food. Two days later, residents found their corpses, which showed signs of torture.114 A year later, the area was still plagued by paramilitary violence, and ACCU checkpoints along the river continued to operate without interference from the government.115

Eli Gómez Osorio: This El Carmen de Viboral, Antioquia personero investigated reports that members of the Barbacoas Battalion worked with paramilitaries and had raped local women in 1996. After soldiers visited the farmers who had filed the complaints to force them to withdraw them, Gómez held a meeting with Fourth Brigade Commander Gen. Alfonso Manosalva (now deceased) to complain. Afterwards, he began receiving threats. On November 26, 1996, men believed to belong to the ACCU intercepted him in town and shot him dead.116

José Miguel Domicó: A member of the Emberá-Katío indigenous community, Domicó was seized by the ACCU near his village in the Dabeiba region of Antioquia on December 21, 1996. Hours later, Domicó’s body was found with several gunshot wounds. The ACCU accepts responsibility for killing Domicó, butclaims he was engaged in planting mines.117 While Domicó may have been a combatant, in this case, he was clearly hors de combat when he was killed.

Marino López: On February 27, 1997, about sixty armed and uniformed ACCU members arrived in Vijao, Chocó, and set up three machine guns on tripods. After indiscriminately strafing the town, where some guerrillas were living, they captured twenty residents who they accused of supporting guerrillas. Residents were given three days to leave the area. While paramilitaries were searching the town house by house, they discovered a military uniform and munitions in the home of Marino López. Although López and residents insisted the material belonged to someone else, paramilitaries took López to the nearby river, decapitated him, then cut off an arm and a leg before throwing his body into the river. Residents told humanitarian aid workers that paramilitaries kicked López’s head like a soccer ball before discarding it.118 Government investigators refused to travel to the area for security reasons.119

Claudio Manuel Pérez, Javier Galarcio, and Álvaro Taborda: These three teachers were captured and killed by the ACCU for allegedly carrying out the FARC bombing of FUNPAZCOR and the Córdoba Ranchers Federation in Montería, Córdoba, in 1996. In a letter to Human Rights Watch, the ACCU claimed that it had convicted the three after an investigation.120 Subsequently, Castaño played for the New York Times a tape of Taborda’s purported confession, in which he said that he sold information that allowed the FARC to plant the October 1996 bomb that killed four passers-by.121 Taborda’s body remains unaccounted for. Currently, theAttorney General’s Office is investigating the ACCU for the killings.122 Based on this information, we cannot determine if these three individuals were combatants. However, even if they were FARC members, they were protected by Article 7 of Protocol II, which prohibits the killing of combatants hors de combat. Moreover, the ACCU’s procedure makes it clear that its leaders have no intention of implementing anything remotely resembling a fair trial for detainees, as required by Protocol II, Article 6.

Diego Márquez Zapata: Paramilitaries identified as ACCU members forced this local leader and human rights committee member from his home on March 18, 1997 and shot him dead fifty meters away. Márquez had reported in July 1996 that he had come into the possession of a "black list" circulated by the Salgar, Antioquia police commander and apparently obtained by the ACCU. The list was addressed to the army’s Cacique Nutibara Battalion, and identified five people, including Márquez, as guerrillas and guerrilla collaborators.123

La Victoria de San Isidro, Cesar: On March 24, 1997, the ACCU seized this village and forced the 600 residents to gather in the central square at 4 a.m. William Pérez Durán, a town council member, and Calixto Oñate, a resident, attempted to flee and were shot dead. As paramilitaries searched the houses, they took money and jewelry. According to a report by village residents, “they said that they would kill everyone on their lists and that they would burn all of the large stores that sold to the guerrillas and kill their owners.” As the ACCU fighters left, they took with them seven residents. Approximately 300 meters beyond the village, they executed Edelfonso Rangel Contreras and José Daniel Quintero, whose body showed signs of torture. One of the villagers, Manolo Durá, reported that a paramilitary cut offa piece of his beard and the skin attached to it as a “memento” of the visit. The remaining captives were released.124

Juan Camacho Herrera: After six months of rumors that the ACCU planned to seize the town of Rio Viejo, Bolívar, an estimated sixty heavily armed men arrived on April 25, 1997 and forced residents to gather in the central square. There, they executed Juan Camacho Herrera, a street vendor, and decapitated him. They did it, residents told journalists, saying, “This is to give you an example of how guerrillas should be killed.” Paramilitaries had also searched for the Rio Viejo mayor, who managed to flee out the back door of his house as armed men kicked in the front door. Unable to locate him, they destroyed part of his house and looted personal belongings.125 To return, Mayor Luis Santiago de la Rosa told authorities, would be to “dig my own grave.” Mayor de la Rosa later resigned.126

Luis Fernando Rodríguez, Darío de Jesús Londoño Vargas, and José Jairo Blandón: The public bus these three men were traveling on near Betulia, Antioquia, was stopped at an ACCU roadblock on May 17, 1997. Rodríguez and Londoño were passengers; Blandón was the driver’s assistant. Paramilitaries with lists of names forced them off the bus and killed them. Authorities found ACCU literature around the bodies when they were recovered later. Authorities also told the press that the men’s bodies had been doused with a corrosive liquid which caused their skin to peel off.127

Taking of hostages

Guerrilla family members: From July through November, 1996, the ACCU took hostage at least twenty family members of FARC and ELN combatants, holding them under threat of death as retribution for guerrilla hostage-taking. None of the hostages were themselves involved in guerrilla activity.128 The ACCU took responsibility for the following kidnappings, and some hostages were allowed to see ICRC representatives and correspond with family during their captivity. In its Third Summit report, the AUC concluded that the tactic “has proved its efficiency in demoralizing the enemy” and should be continued. All of the hostages were later released.129 Among the hostages were:

· José Ricardo Sáenz Vargas, the brother of Guillermo León Sáenz Vargas or “Alfonso Cano,” a member of the FARC’s General Secretariat. Sáenz was taken by ACCU members on July 24, 1996. Along with other hostages, he was released under the auspices of the ICRC and Catholic Church on March 28, 1997.130

· Carmen Emilia de Arango, the mother of Luciano Arango Marín, who uses the name Iván Márquez as a member of the FARC’s General Secretariat. Arango was taken on October 16, 1996 with her daughter and Luciano’s sister, Edna Maritza Arango. Along with Isabel Ruiz de Chamorro, mother of an UC-ELN commander known as “Ernestino,”Carmen was released on December 2, 1996, while Edna was released on March 28, 1997.131

· Janeth Torres Victoria, sister of Hernando Torres Victoria, who uses the name Pablo Catatumbo as a FARC commander. Torres was taken in Cali on July 29. She was released on December 16, 1996.132

· Leonor Palmera de Castro, sister of Ricardo Palmera, known as “Simón Trinidad” as a FARC commander. Palmera was taken in Valledupar on August 25, 1996. She was released on March 28, 1997.133

· Guillermo López Nieto and his two children, Germán López Bustos and Diana María López, were taken by ACCU members who identified themselves as members of the Attorney General’s Office on September 13, 1996 in Medellín, Antioquia. López’s other son, Bernardo, is a member of the EPL. The ACCU returned to their home the same day to get other relatives, who had already fled. The three López family members were released later that month.134

· Nuria Carvajal Reales, sister of William Manjarres, who uses the name Adan Izquierdo as a FARC commander, and her husband, Luis Alberto Montoya, were taken near Santa Marta, Magdalena on November 10, 1996. They were released on March 28, 1997.135

Attacks on medical workers, installations, and ambulances

Luz Marina Arteaga: According to human rights groups, this doctor and two store owners were taken captive by the ACCU on March 3, 1996, near Mutatá, Antioquia. Paramilitaries later killed the store owners. During the two days she was held, Arteaga was told by paramilitaries that “they would exterminate all of the people in the town who had even the smallest relationship with guerrillas.” Arteaga was released, apparently to carry this message to other residents.136

Bolívar medical workers: After a series of attacks on southern Bolívar towns that included threats to medical workers, departmental medical authorities reported that seven villages – including Tiquisio and Rio Viejo, mentioned above – were completely without medical care, since doctors, nurses, and medical workers had fled out of fear for their lives. In repeated incursions, ACCU members had demanded that medical workers provide them with a list of the guerrillas they had treated.137

Norberto and Silvio Baquiaza Tascon: According to a human rights group, these brothers were at a Christmas party when paramilitaries who identified themselves as ACCU members seized the village of San Juan del Ité on December 25, 1997. Firing indiscriminately, paramilitaries seriously wounded two men, including Norberto. Silvio took Norberto to a clinic in the town of Puerto Berrío, Antioquia, where he was given first aid and put onto an ambulance that would take him to Medellín. However, the ambulance was stopped by hooded paramilitaries near El Porce. They forced the brothers to leave the ambulance, then executed them with shots to the head.138

Threats against civilian population

October municipal elections: The ACCU prohibited campaigning in towns throughout the departments of Bolívar, Magdalena, and Cesar, threatening those belonging to leftist political parties with death for their supposed links to guerrillas. Politicians who were suspected of negotiating agreements with guerrillas in theirregions were also threatened. In an interview with El Tiempo, Carlos Castaño took responsibility for the threats.139

Non-combatants: The ACCU denies that it threatens the civilian population. Rather, the ACCU “warns... [The ACCU] wants to prevent harm and teach the population about the harm done to it by guerrillas.”140 However, reports of threats and the actions carried out when threats are not heeded are numerous and credible. A threat issued by the ACCU to the communities of Carmen de Atrato, Bolívar, Betania, Salgar, “or anyplace in southeastern Antioquia” takes responsibility for the killings of Guillermo Barrera, Álvaro Vásquez, and Francisco Javier Taborda, all accused of “collaborating with the Juan Camilo and Ernesto Che Guevara Fronts of the ELN.” The document goes on to “sentence to death” twenty-six people, including someone identified only as “the village doctor.”141 Telephoned and written death threats from the ACCU in 1997 led two government investigators working on massacres where the ACCU was implicated to leave the country for their safety. In a letter, the AUC warned that if they “insisted in their persecution and partial attitude toward civil antisubversive organizations, we will be obligated to take up our weapons against the subversives hidden in these institutions.”142 The AUC has also repeatedly threatened the civilian population that if they travel to certain areas, they will be declared “military objectives” and killed. In October 1997, the AUC notified pilots and charter air companies that if their flew to Puerto Alvira or Barranco de Mina, Guainía, their aircraft would be “destroyed or brought down by any of our units.” Companies immediately suspended the thirty-threedaily flights to the region, causing shortages in food and medicine and prompting residents to flee.143

29 Human Rights Watch interview with AUC founder Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996; and Carlos Medina Gallego, Autodefensas, Paramilitares y Narcotráfico en Colombia (Santafé de Bogotá: Editorial Documentos Periodísticos, 1990).

30 In numerous press interviews, Fidel and Carlos Castaño have maintained that they went to the army after the Fourth Front of the FARC kidnapped their father, Jesús, who died in guerrilla custody. For more on the history of the Castaño family, see Germán Castro Caycedo, En Secreto (Santafé de Bogotá: Planeta, 1996), pp. 141-232.

31 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996.

32 Fidel Castaño denied involvement in drug trafficking and claims that his considerable fortune was earned through cattle ranching and an art dealership. However, his role as enforcer for the Medellín Cartel is amply documented by many sources consulted by Human Rights Watch, including the National Police and the U.S. Embassy, which dedicated dozens of cables to his exploits between 1990 and 1994. These were released to Human Rights Watch through our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. “Yo fui creador de los Pepes,” Semana, May 31, 1994, pp. 38-45.

33 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996.

34 A tanga is a bird native to the Córdoba plains. In 1998, the Attorney General’s Human Rights Unit issued formal arrest warrants for several of the foreign mercenaries who taught at Las Tangas, including the Israeli Yair Klein. Human Rights Watch interview with El Caramelo survivors, Montería, Córdoba, October 16, 1992; “Testimonio clave,” Semana, September 28, 1993, pp. 44-47; and Americas Watch, The “Drug War” in Colombia: the Neglected Tragedy of Political Violence (New York: Americas Watch, 1990), pp. 19-23.

35 Comisión de Superación de la Violencia, Pacificar la Paz: Lo que no se ha negociado en los acuerdos de paz (Santafé de Bogotá: Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Relaciones Internacionales (IEPRI), 1992, pp. 25, 160-161.

36 “Identificados sólo 7 cadáveres en Córdoba,” La Prensa, April 19, 1990.

37 A court also found Fidel guilty in absentia of conspiracy (concierto para delinquir) for having helped carry out the 1988 killings of seventeen banana workers on the La Honduras/La Negra and Punta Coquitos plantations. The court issued a sentence of twenty years, upheld by the Supreme Court. In addition, Fidel was convicted of the kidnappings and murder of Sen. Alfonso Ospina and has been formally accused by the Attorney General’s Office of ordering the 1988 Segovia massacre of fifty people. “Corte condena a ‘Rambo’,” El Tiempo, February 17, 1994; “Condena de 30 años para Fidel Castaño,” El Tiempo, June 28, 1997; and Centro de Información de Colombia, Press Bulletin No. 338, “Fiscalía entrega resultados de investigaciones sobre

masacres,” May 19, 1998.

38 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996.

39 Human rights groups also recorded the activity of smaller private armies working for powerful local businessmen and landowners. All operated with the tolerance and occasional open support of the army. Human Rights Watch interview with forcibly displaced family, Montería, Córdoba, October 16, 1992.

40 Human Rights Watch interview, Montería, Córdoba, October 16, 1992.

41 Human Rights Watch interview with Alejandro Reyes, Santafé de Bogotá, December 6, 1997.

42 Human Rights Watch interviews in Montería, Córdoba, October 16-18, 1992.

43 Human Rights Watch interview with El Tomate survivors, Montería, Córdoba, October 16, 1992.

44 Human Rights Watch interview, Tierralta, July 8, 1996.

45 Translation by Human Rights Watch from Decree 1194. That year, paramilitaries working for drug traffickers also killed three presidential candidates: Bernardo Jaramillo, Carlos Pizarro, and Luis Carlos Galán.

46 Despite their seemingly disastrous legal status, the Castaños have maintained regular and close contact with the security forces throughout the 1990s. In 1992, Fidel Castaño had a falling-out with Medellín Cartel leader Pablo Escobar, formed a group known as “People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar,” also called “Los Pepes,” and helped authorities locate and kill the fugitive trafficker on December 2, 1993. As Fidel Castaño stated in an interview with the newsweekly Semana, the Pepes supplied information to the authorities and attacked Escobar associates and lands, forcing Escobar to go on the run. The Pepes were considered fundamental to the government’s success in tracking down Escobar. “Yo fui creador de los Pepes,” Semana, May 31, 1994, pp. 38-45.

47 These details come from a summary of FUNPAZCOR activities given to Human Rights Watch by its director, Sister Teresa Gómez Alvarez, in Montería, Córdoba, on July 8, 1996.

48 “Revelan carta de ‘Rambo’ a Serpa,” El Tiempo, September 20, 1994; and “‘Fidel Castaño está muerto,’” Semana, July 9, 1996, pp. 32-38.

49 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996.

50 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996; and ACCU Statutes.

51 For example, in July 1996, an EPL group that had refused the government amnesty in 1992 gave itself up to the ACCU and some former guerrillas were incorporated into its ranks. Continued rivalry between Esperanza, some of whose sympathizers have joined the ACCU, the FARC, and EPL guerrillas who refused to demobilize is believed to be at the root of much of the political violence registered in Urabá since 1991. For more, see the sections in this report on the EPL and the FARC. “60 guerrilleros buscan su reinserción social,” El Tiempo, July 31, 1996.

52 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996; and ACCU Statutes.

53 Human Rights Watch interview with Antioquia businessman, Guarné, Antioquia, December 11, 1997; “Apreciación situación actual narcotráfico en Medellín,” Departamento

Administrativo de Seguridad, April 1, 1998.

54 Human Rights Watch interview with Antioquia businessman, Guarné, Antioquia, December 11, 1997.

55 Primera Cumbre de las Autodefensas de Colombia, December, 1994; “Paramilitares se habrían unido,” El Tiempo, April 20, 1997.

56 Translation by Human Rights Watch. Bibiana Mercado and Orlando León Restrepo, “Urabá: el fin de la pesadilla,” El Tiempo, September 28, 1997.

57 Ibid.

58 Francisco Santos, “Proyecto contrainsurgente,” El Tiempo, April 29, 1997.

59 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996.

60 “Tercera Cumbre Nacional,” Movimiento Autodefensas de Colombia, 1996.

61 Castaño is also being investigated for his alleged participation in the killing of presidential candidate Bernardo Jaramillo, a member of the Patriotic Union Party, in 1990. “A juicio Castaño,” El Colombiano, October 22, 1997; and Human Rights Watch interview with Human Rights Unit, Attorney General’s Office, Santafé de Bogotá, December 4, 1997.

62 Human Rights Watch interview with Colombian government intelligence analyst, Santafé de Bogotá, December 2, 1997.

63 III Cumbre Nacional, Movimiento Autodefensas de Colombia, 1996.

64 “Guerra en el fin del mundo,” Semana, February 16-23, 1998.

65 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996.

66 “Precio a la cabeza de Carlos Castaño Gil,” El Tiempo, December 11, 1996.

67 On December 3, 1997, the government issued Decree 2895, which created a “Search Block” (Bloque de Búsqueda) to capture and investigate paramilitary groups. The Search Block is headed by the defense minister.

68 “Critican ofrecimiento de recompensa por Castaño,” El Tiempo, January 10, 1997; “Ganaderos se alían con paras,” El Espectador, January 14, 1997; and Bibiana Mercado and Orlando León Restrepo, “Urabá: el fin de la pesadilla,” El Tiempo, September 28, 1997.

69 Translation by Human Rights Watch. Letter from Estado Mayor-AUC, to José Noé Rios, presidential peace counselor, November 27, 1997.

70 See, for instance, Serpa’s announcement that he would talk to the ACCU. “Polémica por diálogos con las autodefensas,” El Tiempo, January 4, 1996.

71 Although the ACCU refers to an internal rules document, which we requested, we were never provided with a copy. AUC, “Naturaleza Político-Militar del Movimiento,” June 26, 1997; and ACCU statutes.

72 AUC, “Colombia Libre,” August 1997, No. 2.

73 Translation by Human Rights Watch. Bibiana Mercado and Orlando León Restrepo, “Urabá: el fin de la pesadilla,” El Tiempo, September 28, 1997.

74 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996.

75 Bibiana Mercado and Orlando León Restrepo, “‘Las Farc infiltraron listas de los partidos tradicionales’” El Tiempo, September 29, 1997.

76 “‘Esta guerra no da más,” Cambio 16, December 15, 1997.

77 Human Rights Watch interview with intelligence analyst, Santafé de Bogotá, December 2, 1997.

78 CINEP and Justice and Peace, Balance 1997, p 6.

79 Human Rights Watch interview with Human Rights Unit, Attorney General’s Office, Santafé de Bogotá, December 4, 1997.

80 Letter to Human Rights Watch from the ACCU, July 27, 1997.

81 CINEP and Justice and Peace, Balance 1997, p. 4-5.

82 Translation by Human Rights Watch. Germán Castro Caycedo, En Secreto (Santafé de Bogotá: Planeta, 1996), pp. 153-154.

83 “Naturaleza Político-Militar del Movimiento,” AUC, June 26, 1997.

84 Translation by Human Rights Watch. “Al pueblo del Departamento de Bolívar, Que pretenden las Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá,” December 1996.

85 Translation by Human Rights Watch. Alejandro Reyes Posada, “El negocio de las masacres: ganancias privadas y costos públicos,” El Espectador, January 19, 1997.

86 Letter to Human Rights Watch from the ACCU, July 27, 1997; CINEP and Justice and Peace, Noche y Niebla, April-June, 1997, No. 4, p. 25; and Luis Alberto Milo Rueda, “Temen otra invasión ‘para’ en Panamá,” El Tiempo, May 28, 1997.

87 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996.

88 Translation by Human Rights Watch. Bibiana Mercado and Orlando León Restrepo, “‘Las Farc infiltraron listas de los partidos tradicionales’” El Tiempo, September 29, 1997.

89 Julio César Niño Orozco, “Paras de Santander, autores de masacre,” El Espectador, May 28, 1998.

90 “Asesinados 25 jóvenes secuestrados hace 19 días,” El Tiempo, June 4, 1998.

91 Joshua Hammer, “‘Head Cutters’ at War,” Newsweek, June 2, 1997.

92 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996.

93 Letter from Aracelly Tamayo Restrepo, personera, to Col. Hugo Pulido, National Police adviser, May 17, 1996; Human Rights Watch interview with Antioquia deputy commander Col. Antonio D’ León Martínez, Medellín, Antioquia, July 2, 1996; and “Las Farc atacaron a Caicedo en Antioquia,” El Tiempo, April 14, 1996

94 When the FARC attacked Caicedo, the army reacted by sending helicopters to strafe the surrounding area. However, the army did nothing when paramilitaries seized the town. Human Rights Watch interview with a government investigator, Medellín, Antioquia, July 2, 1996; and Justice and Peace, Boletín, April-June 1996, p. 12.

95 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996.

96 Amnesty International Urgent Action 251/96, November 1, 1996.

97 CINEP and Justice and Peace, Noche y Niebla, October-December 1996, p. 27.

98 “Six die, nine disappear in Colombian massacre,” Reuters, October 27, 1996; and “Autodefensas amenazan a La Guajira y Cesar,” El Tiempo, November 9, 1996.

99 Human Rights Watch interview with Human Rights Unit, Attorney General’s Office, Santafé de Bogotá, December 4, 1997.

100 This was one of the massacres that prompted the Colombian government to issue its first reward for information leading to the capture of Carlos Castaño. Letter to Human Rights Watch from Gen. Harold Bedoya, Commander, Colombian Armed Forces, July 2, 1997; and “Autodefensas masacran a 16 campesinos en Sucre,” El Tiempo, December 6, 1996.

101 Laureano Romero Colley, “Autodefensas anuncian nueva masacre en Sucre,” El Tiempo, December 17, 1996.

102 Letter to Ernesto Carrasco, Attorney General’s Office, from Human Rights Unit of Attorney General’s Office, May 14, 1997.

103 The report by the representative of the attorney general who recovered Valencia’s body noted that the head was found ten meters away from the body, which was found on the river bank. Formato Nacional de Acta de Levantamiento de Cadaver, July 20, 1997.

104 Translation by Human Rights Watch. “Nadie quiso evitar masacre,” Cambio 16, November 3, 1997.

105 The lack of a precise body count is due to several factors. Because it is in a coca-growing area, Mapiripán has a large, transient work force made up mostly of young men, who work the coca fields, and young women, who work as prostitutes; permanent residents often do not know their names or recognize people only by their nicknames. Also, many of the bodies were thrown into the Guaviare River, and little attempt was made to search its banks for remains. Before dumping the bodies, witnesses say, paramilitaries eviscerated them to make sure they would not float. Finally, people abandoned the area so quickly after the massacre that it was difficult for authorities to confirm if those missing were dead or forcibly displaced. Bibiana Mercado and Orlando León Restrepo, “Urabá: el fin de la pesadilla,” El Tiempo, September 28, 1997; and “‘Soy el ala moderada de las autodefensas’,” Cambio 16, December 22, 1997.

106 Castaño had announced his intention to move a unit to the Guaviare in a July 1997 release. “Frente Guaviare: Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia-AUC, July 1997.

107 Human Rights Watch interview with Human Rights Unit, Attorney General’s Office, Santafé de Bogotá, December 4, 1997; and “Primera decisión judicial por masacre de Mapiripán: Carlos Castaño, nueva medida de aseguramiento,” El Tiempo, July 5, 1998.

108 Letter to Human Rights Watch from Jesús Orlando Gómez López, Internal Affairs Delegate for Human Rights, November 28, 1997; and Human Rights Watch telephone interview with María Cristina Caballero, Cambio 16, November 5, 1997.

109 Human Rights Watch interview with General Bonett, Santafé de Bogotá, December 12, 1997; “‘Nadie quiso evitar masacre’,” Cambio 16, November 3, 1997; and “Investigación contra 4 militares y 5 civiles por masacre de Mapiripán,” El Tiempo, October 15, 1997.

110 Justice and Peace, Boletín, January-March 1996, p. 37.

111 Human Rights Watch interviews with La Granja survivors, Medellín, Antioquia, December 11, 1997; and Justice and Peace, Boletín, April-June 1996, p. 70.

112 Letter to Human Rights Watch from Raymundo Moreno Lobon, regional advocate-Chocó, November 28, 1997.

113 Justice and Peace, Boletín, April-June 1996, p. 70; and “Muerte a Guerrilleros y Militantes,” Movimiento de Autodefensas Campesinas de Urabá and Córdoba.

114 CINEP and Justice and Peace, Noche y Niebla, October-December 1996, p. 53.

115 Letter from Carlos Rodríguez, CCJ, to John Donaldson, president, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States, February 24, 1998.

116 Human Rights Watch interview with Rafael Rincón, Medellín personero and president of the National Association of Personeros, Medellín, Antioquia, December 10, 1997; and Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos Castaño, July 9, 1996; and ACCU Statutes.

117 CINEP and Justice and Peace, Noche y Niebla, October-December 1996, p. 53; and letter to Human Rights Watch from the ACCU, July 27, 1997.

118 Letter to Human Rights Watch from humanitarian aid worker, June 1997; Letter from Father Javier Giraldo, Justice and Peace, to President Ernesto Samper, March 12, 1997; and CINEP and Justice and Peace, Noche y Niebla, January-March 1997, p. 36.

119 Colombian government’s response to cases submitted to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, January-June, 1997.

120 Letter to Human Rights Watch from the ACCU, July 27, 1997; and “Gobierno anuncia medidas contra las autodefensas,” El Tiempo, January 15, 1997.

121 Diana Jean Schemo, “Anti-Rebel Groups Become the Terror of Colombia,” New York Times, March 26, 1997.

122 Human Rights Watch interview with Human Rights Unit, Attorney General’s Office, Santafé de Bogotá, December 4, 1997; and letter to Human Rights Watch from Sandra Peñaloza Cuevas, Oficina de Asuntos Internacionales, Attorney General’s Office, June 6, 1997.

123 Human Rights Watch interview with María Girlesa Villegas, Public Advocate’s Office, Medellín, Antioquia, December 9, 1997; Amnesty International Urgent Action 85/97, March 26, 1997; and CINEP and Justice and Peace, Noche y Niebla, January-March 1997, p. 50.

124 Letter to Human Rights Watch from La Victoria residents, March 1997; CINEP and Justice and Peace, Noche y Niebla, January-March, 1997, p. 50; and “Autodefensas matan a 9 personas,” El Tiempo, March 25, 1997.

125 Urgent Action, CREDHOS, April 1997; Letter from the Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de Bolívar, May 14, 1997; and “‘Paras’ dan látigo en el sur de Bolívar,” El Tiempo, April 30, 1997.

126 Translation by Human Rights Watch. “Más Ejército para el sur de Bolívar,” El Tiempo, May 2, 1997; and “Renuncian dos alcaldes en Bolívar,” El Tiempo, June 26, 1997.

127 CINEP and Justice and Peace, Noche y Niebla, April-June, 1997, p. 37; and “Accu matan a 3 campesinos en Betulia,” El Tiempo, May 19, 1997.

128 In a letter to Human Rights Watch, the ACCU admitted responsibility for these hostage-takings. Letter to Human Rights Watch from the ACCU, July 27, 1997.

129 Human Rights Watch interview with Pax Christi, Washington, D.C., May 12, 1998.

130 In a confused incident, a former guerrilla-turned-army informant told the magazine Alternativa that Sáenz had in fact been kidnapped by ACCU members working with the army’s Twentieth Brigade, which drafted him to take part. The informant later recanted. However, Human Rights Watch has received corroborating information indicating that the Twentieth Brigade took part in the kidnappings and executions of guerrilla family members (see case of Jorge Velandia in the army section). “Colombia: armed groups release civilians,” ICRC News, April 3, 1997; Equipo de Alternativa, “‘Ejército secuestró al hermano de Cano,’” Alternativa, January 15-February 15, 1997, pp. 18-19; and “Pille el detalle,” Alternativa, February 15-March 15, 1997, pp. 14-15.

131 “Colombia: armed groups release civilians,” ICRC News, April 3, 1997; and “Paramilitares liberaron madres de jefes guerrilleros,” El Colombiano, December 20, 1996.

132 CCJ, Colombia, Derechos Humanos y Derecho Humanitario: 1996, p. 67.

133 “Colombia: armed groups release civilians,” ICRC News, April 3, 1997; and “‘Cada noche sueño con la liberación de Leonor’,” El Tiempo, March 26, 1997.

134 “Los ‘paras’ van a la universidad,” El Tiempo, February 18, 1997.

135 “Colombia: armed groups release civilians,” ICRC News, April 3, 1997; and Carlos Alberto Giraldo, “Informó Pax Christi en Ginebra,” El Colombiano, April 9, 1997.

136 Justice and Peace, Boletín, January-March 1996, p. 60.

137 “Por violencia, siete municipios sin médicos,” El Tiempo, April 30, 1997; and “Amenazan a médicos y maestros,” El Tiempo, May 3, 1997.

138 CREDHOS, "S.O.S por Yondó (Antioquia)", Barrancabermeja, February 12, 1998; and CINEP and Justice and Peace, Noche y Niebla, October-December 1997, p. 49.

139 “Autodefensas boicotearán las elecciones,” El Tiempo, May 28, 1997; and Bibiana Mercado and Orlando León Restrepo, “‘Las Farc inflitraron listas de los partidos tradicionales’” El Tiempo, September 29, 1997.

140 Letter to Human Rights Watch from the ACCU, July 27, 1997.

141 Human Rights Watch obtained a copy of this threat, which was circulated in 1996. “Muerte a Guerrilleros y Militantes,” Movimiento de Autodefensas Campesinas de Urabá and Córdoba.

142 Human Rights Watch interview, December 11, 1997.

143 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Rocío López, regional Public Advocate’s Office, Villavicencio, Meta, October 28, 1997; and “Las Auc crean zona de restricción aérea,” El Colombiano, October 22, 1997.

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