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Sun Jun 28, 2015, 04:53 PM

A “Peace Community” Tries Nonviolent Resistance in Colombia

A “Peace Community” Tries Nonviolent Resistance in Colombia
Posted 28 June 2015 16:30 GMT

The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó celebrated its 18th Anniversary in March 2015.
Photo: Nikki Drake

This article by Nikki Drake was originally published on NACLA's website and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

We are now more than two years into the Colombian peace talks. Meeting in Havana, negotiators for the Colombian government and its principal antagonist, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), have been trying to agree upon an intricate deal to end the country’s long-running armed conflict. Meanwhile, as the talks proceed, some communities have attempted to diminish the violence by maintaining an active and credible distance from all major parties of the conflict. The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó (PC) in the northwestern department of Antioquia is one of those communities.

Created by peasant farmers in 1997, the Peace Community seeks to avoid being drawn further into the country’s armed conflict by peacefully resisting the occupation of its lands by both government-supported and oppositional armed actors. From the beginning, PC members refused to participate in a government security program being promoted known as CONVIVIR, which, among other things, used civilians as informants against guerrilla forces. Participation in this program would have undermined the group’s neutrality—one of its founding principles—and put it at even greater risk of violence.

After a massacre that took the lives of seven Peace Community members in 2005, which then president—and former governor of Antioquia—Álvaro Uribe blamed on the FARC guerrillas, he publicly accused PC leaders of “being in the services of the FARC” and “of wanting to use the Community to protect this terrorist organization.” However, Colombia’s Attorney General later determined that the massacre was carried out by the paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) in coordination with the Colombian National Army’s 17th Brigade. State entities and public forces have been linked to acts of violence against Colombian communities for years. Uribe himself has been accused of ties to paramilitary groups throughout his political career. An official investigation was opened against him in 2013, but in March of 2014 he was elected to the Colombian Senate, where he remains a powerful political force—an opponent of the Santos administration and the current round of peace talks.

Almost since its inception, the Peace Community has been covered by protective measures of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), a body of the Organization of American States (OAS). These measures require that the Colombian state respect and protect the Peace Community, as well as investigate the crimes perpetrated against its members. The OAS system, however, does not have the power of enforcement, relying on international political pressure as its tool for the implementation of rulings. The Colombian Constitutional Court (CCC) upheld the IACHR’s measures in 2003 and 2007. Additional national directives prohibit Colombian public forces and government officials from stigmatizing or defaming human rights defenders such as the PC and its accompaniment organizations. However, these court rulings and directives have often been disregarded.


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