Press Release

IACHR Deplores Armed Clash with Civilian Victims in Cauca, Colombia

February 14, 2011

Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over armed clashes between illegal armed groups and the Colombian Army in the settlements of El Vergel and El Pedregal, in the department of Cauca, in which Rocío Coicue Campo, who had been granted precautionary measures by the Commission, suffered a gunshot wound to her head.

According to the information the Commission has received, on February 3, 2011, the Colombian Army installed itself just a few meters away from the school in El Pedregal. Clashes between the soldiers and members of guerrilla groups took place that day and the next, in the vicinity of the school and surrounding areas. The information provided to the IACHR indicates that Rocío Coicue Campo was seriously wounded by a bullet to her head during these encounters.

The area where these events took place is home to 179 families who are protected by Precautionary Measures 97/10, granted by the Inter-American Commission on August 13, 2010. The request for these measures had indicated that these families were in a situation of extreme danger as a result of the armed conflict and the lack of measures to protect civilians who live in the area. At the time the measures were granted, residents of the area had already been victims of forced displacement and gunshot wounds.

According to the information provided to the IACHR, threats and acts of violence against some beneficiaries of the precautionary measure had reportedly intensified over the last three months. Specifically, on December 25 and December 28, 2010, and January 17, 2011, two members of the community were allegedly threatened by members of the Army, who accused them of collaborating with the guerrillas. It was also indicated that several teachers at the school in the area had received threats through text messages sent to their cell phones. The messages were signed by an illegal group that calls itself the "Aguilas Negras" (Black Eagles).

The Inter-American Commission considers it to be of the utmost seriousness that the State of Colombia has not taken the necessary steps to implement the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR to protect the life and integrity of the 179 families of El Vergel and El Pedregal. The IACHR urges the State to immediately adopt any measures that are necessary to guarantee the life, integrity, and security of the families who are beneficiaries of these measures. The Commission also urges the State to prevent the continued occurrence of armed clashes that endanger the lives of the civilian population in the area.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 10/11