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Forced displacement of civilians is prohibited under article 17 of Protocol II. Unless civilians are required to be moved for purposes of their own safety or due to a clear military imperative, any displacement for reasons related to the conflict is prohibited. It should be noted that forced displacement often occurs as the result of other violations, including killings and threats.

As far as Human Rights Watch is aware, there are no accurate figures on the level of forced displacement from the Zone. It is clear, however, that the FARC-EP's control of the Zone has generated some forced displacement. According to the Consultancy for Human Rights and Forced Displacement (Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento, CODHES), an independent human rights group based in Bogotá, at least 3,700 people left the Zone in 1999.73

Some fled because they were specifically threatened. Others fled out of fear that their children would be recruited by the FARC-EP or that they would be attacked because the FARC-EP accused them of links with paramilitaries.74 An informed source based in the town of San Vicente estimated that some 300 persons had fled the San Vicente area because of threats or fear since the Zone's establishment.75 The People's Advocate has documented several cases of displacement, including that of Bogdan Bujalski, a priest who was based in La Julia, Uribe, and who was forced to flee on September 12, 1999 on the FARC-EP's orders.76

73 Human Rights Watch interview, Santafé de Bogotá, May 29, 2000.

74 Human Rights Watch interviews, Florencia, Caquetá, May 31, 2000, and San Vicente del Caguán, Caquetá, June 1, 2000.

75 Human Rights Watch interview, San Vicente del Caguán, Caquetá, June 1, 2000.

76 Letter from the office of the People's Advocate, September 13, 1999.

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