THE RIGHT TO PERSONAL SECURITY AND HUMANE TREATMENT
What follows are the international provisions contained in the
American Convention on Human Rights and the national provisions
contained in the 1991 Constitution of Colombia that protect and defend
these fundamental rights and punish violations thereof:
PROVISIONS IN EFFECT IN RESPECT OF THIS RIGHT
WAYS IN WHICH THIS RIGHT HAS BEEN VIOLATED
The right to security and humane treatment was discussed at
length in the Commission's 1981 report.
Given the many petitions received at that time concerning the
unlawful mistreatment and torture inflicted upon detained persons at the
time of their capture, while under interrogation, during the
investigation and thereafter, even in prison facilities such as the La
Picota Penitentiary in Bogota, the Model Prison in Bogota, the Bella
Vista Prison in Medellin, the Villanueva Prison in Cali, the Modelo
Prison and the Good Shepherd Prison in Bucaramanga, and in certain
military detention facilities, the Artillery School, the Cavalry School,
and the Brigade of Military Institutes and Baraya Battalion in Bogota,
all of which the Commission visited personally.
The conclusion that the Commission reached at the time, after
examining the documents and information in its possession, was that
serious violations of the right to personal security and humane
treatment had been committed. These
violations, which consisted of unlawful mistreatment and torture, had
occurred during interrogations of persons arrested by virtue of measures
enacted to combat the violence of subversive groups.
The Commission also observed that through the Office of the
Attorney General of the Nation, investigation procedures had been
instituted and processed aimed at confirming complaints concerning these
violations, and that virtually none of them led to any disciplinary
action against those allegedly responsible.
Often, the cases were simply closed, arguing that there was not
sufficient merit to prosecute any criminal investigation.
It became apparent that efforts to prevent and suppress abuses of
this type had not produced sufficiently effective results.
By comparison to the situation at the time of the 1981 report,
obviously the human rights situation in Colombia has changed as regards
the right to personal security and humane treatment.
Colombian prisons are no longer full of political prisoners and
there are few such prisoners in Colombia today because violations of the
right to life have reached terrible proportions.
Proof of this are the bodies that have appeared and unfortunately
continue to appear every day in cities nationwide, bearing the
unmistakable signs of abuse and torture.
This means that the right to humane treatment and personal safety
is being violated continually and then compounded by the violation of
the right to life.
RELATIVE TO THIS RIGHT
There is one case, among the many, that eloquently demonstrates
how abuse and torture are used against the victims of unlawful arrest
and subsequent disappearances carried out by paramilitary groups with
the support, participation or complicity of the Colombian armed forces.
The case, Case 11,007, was denounced by the Interdenominational
Conference of Justice and Peace, a serious, credible and cautious
institution. The events in
question, which took place in the municipality of Trujillo, Department
of Valle del Cauca, involved a network of criminal activities that left
a total of 52 victims. Law
enforcement personnel in active service were part of that network,
collaborating with groups of armed civilians in the employ of drug
The chief witness, Mr. Daniel Arcila, describes one of the acts
of torture by Colombian Army Major Alirio Ureño Jaramillo, from the
Sonora District, at a ranch owned by a drug trafficker.
Called "La Granja", the ranch was used as a base to
coordinate operations in the vicinity:
The Major shot water into their faces using a pressurized hose.
He used his penknife to pry up their fingernails, cut pieces off
the soles of their feet with fingernail clippers and then threw salt on
the wounds. With a gasoline
blow torch, he burned them on various parts of the body until the flesh
blistered and cracked. He
put the hose in the genital area; cut off the victims' penises and
testicles and stuck them in their mouths; finally, he dismembered them
with a chain saw, and as they did this the torturers yelled `ai
hombre'... I asked one of
them what they were doing with the chain saw and he told me that they
were cutting off the heads and cutting the bodies in half to let the
blood drain out that day, so that they could throw them away that night.
They then discarded the mangled pieces one by one...
I saw the bodies as they were throwing them into the dump truck;
they were inside sacks. There
were around twelve sacks; in one sack they threw the trunks of the
bodies and in another they threw the heads.
Daniel Arcila recounted how the dismembered bodies were thrown
into the Cauca river: "They
killed all of them that way and then they threw them out at night...
They used a blue Ford 56 dump truck." "It was a Sunday night when they threw out the bodies,
the night of April 1. "...
I transported the bodies of those who had been tortured and killed.
I had to do it because if I didn't, I was a dead man... A dump truck was used to take the eleven (11) bodies to the
river, and I drove. Some 15
self-defense people, the lieutenant, and the sergeant were in other
The main victim in the instant case is Jesuit priest Father
Tiberio de Jesús Fernández Mafla who, since his youth, had been a
prominent peasant leader and enthusiastic supporter of the cooperative
movement. Since his arrival in Trujillo, Father Tiberio had been active
in social work within his parish to assist the more economically
disadvantaged sectors, while encouraging the creation of urban and rural
community businesses, convincing the people of the importance of
On April 17, 1990, Father Tiberio went to the city of Tuluá
to be the chief celebrant in the funeral services for a person who had
been murdered the day before. On
the road to Tuluá, at the entrance to the hacienda known as El Topacio,
there was a group of people inside a white Toyota jeep who covered their
faces when Father Tiberio's taxi went by.
The people in the taxi with Father Tiberio noticed this.
While on the return trip to Trujillo, at a distance of some 25
kilometers from Tuluá, several people, among them the mayor of the
town, saw another white jeep carrying a number of armed men. The vehicle
carrying Father Tiberio and others, among them a niece Alba Isabel
Giraldo Fernández, age 22, was stopped.
Father Tiberio and those with him were forced out of the car and
put in another vehicle. Eyewitnesses recognized some of the armed men who kidnapped
Father Tiberio, whose body was discovered in the Cauca river on April
23. Father Tiberio had
been decapitated; his thorax and abdomen had been opened and the body
mutilated and castrated. The
next day, the body was identified by relatives and friends.
When X-rays of fractures that the priest had sustained in two
previous accidents were compared, his identity was fully established.
OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE NATION CONCERNING
As mentioned in Chapter I, during the visit made by the Special
Preparatory Committee in December 1990, the then Attorney Delegate for
Human Rights, Dr. Jaime Córdoba Triviño, made some public statements
on the question of unlawful arrests, enforced disappearances, and abuse
and torture as methods used by the security arms of the Colombian armed
forces. Because these
statements came from such an authoritative source, they were important
to the Special Committee's investigatory work.
According to the Attorney Delegate for Human Rights, "...
enforced disappearance has been used by State security agencies in
Colombia as a method of investigation:
individuals are surreptitiously captured; the security agencies
conceal the fact of their arrest; they are tortured; information is
Describing some of the tortures used in the country, Dr. Córdova
Triviño mentioned the fact that people are staked out in the sun during
the day and left out in the cold at night; they are beaten, threatened
with death, forced to watch other people being tortured, to experience
mock executions by firing squads that have no ammunition in their
weapons. He added:
"The creative minds at the State security agencies have added still
other methods of torture to this list."
The State's repeated use of enforced disappearance, as mentioned
by the Attorney Delegate for Human Rights of Colombia, is very serious;
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights already knew of this
practice from the many denunciations it had received in that regard.
Qualifying his statements, Dr. Córdova Triviño pointed out,
however, that while torture and enforced disappearance can often be
blamed on State agents, these practices are not the policy of either the
State or its armed forces.
Apart from this extraordinary statement, the Special Commission
also had an opportunity to learn from very reliable sources that severe
mistreatment and torture of political detainees has become widespread
practice. The Special
Commission was also told that these same methods are used to extract
information from individuals accused of common crimes and from
individuals suspected of collaborating with drug traffickers.
According to the report of the Office of the Attorney General of
the Nation of September 1991, prepared exclusively on complaints and
matters brought to that agency's attention, that Office has some 272
cases under investigation, cases that concern 664 alleged victims of
torture; the report states that in 48.48% of the cases, the torture is
blamed on members of the National Police; in 20.47% of the cases, the
torture is blamed on the military, and in 29.17% inquiries were being
conducted to determine who was responsible. Of those 664 alleged victims, 46.58% were peasants, 16.97%
were independent workers and workers from the informal sector of the
economy, and 12.42% were prisoners.
As for mistreatment and personal injury, the report of the Office
of the Attorney General notes that this human rights violation is the
one most frequently denounced to the Office of the Attorney General,
which had received a total of 941 complaints from people who claimed to
have been the victim of some physical aggression or of various types of
personal injury inflicted by State agents.
The report underscores the fact that 76.25% of the agents blamed
were with the National Police; 155 agents had been sanctioned, and of
these 148 belonged to the police forces.
In a more recent communication, the Office of the Attorney
General remarked that the Public Prosecutor's Office receives a
complaint involving the torture of a citizen every day.
Between April 1991 and July 1992, 304 complaints of torture were
filed; of those, 47% have been filed (144 cases), 45% are undergoing
preliminary investigation or under investigation (137 cases), and 8%
have gone to trial and been decided (23 cases).
Involved in these complaints are 106 members of the National
Police, 93 members of the Army, 9 members of the Administrative Security
Department (DAS) and 6 members of the Technical Corps of the Criminal
OTHER RECENT CASES SEEN BY THE COMMISSION
The Commission has continued to receive information from serious
and reliable sources, who report that torture continues to be practiced
On May 19, 1992, in the city of Barrancabermeja (Department of
Santander), a peasant farmer by the name of Enrique Saavedra was
tortured along with three other farmers, after being detained in the
hamlet of El Pueblito by a patrol of the Nueva Granada Battalion.
According to a statement by witnesses, the peasant farmers were
beaten, threatened with death and accused of being
rights organizations reported that the civilian population continues to
be victimized by the law enforcement and military personnel in the
counterinsurgency struggle, all because the military believes that all
peasants are "aiding the guerrilla movement."
As for the problem of torture in the city of Barrancabermeja,
CREDHOS (the human rights committee in the region) presented the IACHR
Special Commission with an album containing photographs of hundreds of
people in the area who had been horribly disfigured by torture.
On May 7, 1992, in the city of Barranquilla, Department of
Atlantico, Mr. Luciano Pérez Cueto was found murdered on the Juan Mina
road. He had been shot several times in the head.
The victim's father reported that several policemen had taken him
away by force from a shop in the Las Américas district.
He had been forced into a taxi and had been punched, kicked and
hit in the head with a weapon. The
father tried to follow the taxi in which his son was taken away, but the
police threatened to kill the young man if he followed them.
Typical of the reports of mistreatment and torture that the
Commission receives month after month, showing the changes in the human
rights situation where this right is concerned, the following is a
statistical report sent by the Centro de Investigación y Educación
Popular (CINEP) for June 1992, which includes a list of murder victims
whose bodies showed signs of torture and who were properly identified.
June 3. LUIS
ALFONSO LOPEZ RESTREPO, Caldas (Antioquia).
A merchant found murdered, together with two other people, on the
road to the municipality of Fredonia in the vicinity of the village of
Piedra Verde. He lived in
Bello. The bodies of the
victims had multiple 9 mm bullet wounds and were partially burned with
sulfuric acid. The victims
had been detained at various sites in Medellin.
SADY FERNEY PEREZ URIBE, Caldas (Antioquia).
A history student at the Universidad Nacional, Medellin campus,
found murdered in the hamlet of Sinifariá.
Her body had multiple bullet wounds, showed signs of torture and
was partially burned. She
lived in the workers' district of Medellin and some days earlier had
been taken by force from the university, by persons unknown.
MARIA LUISA PARRA NOSA, Caldas (Antioquia).
She was found murdered, together with her husband and a merchant,
in the village of Piedra Verde. Her
body showed signs of torture and was burned with sulfuric acid.
The victims had been detained at various sites in Medellin. JOSE BENIGNO CAÑAS ZAPATA, Caldas (Antioquia).
He was found murdered, together with his wife and a merchant, in
the village of Piedra Verde. His body showed signs of torture and was burned with sulfuric
acid. The victims had been
detained at various sites in Medellin.
June 4. MAXIMO
SERGIO FLOREZ SANCHEZ, CARLOS MARIO HENAO AND JORGE NARVAEZ, Riohacha
(La Guajira). Members
of the Esperanza, Paz y Libertad Movement, murdered together with seven
other people, among them 3 former EPL guerrillas.
The murders were the work of approximately 15 men dressed in
police uniforms who went to the "El Socorro" ranch, located in
the village of El Mamey in the district of El Mingueo, where 15 children
and 14 adults were sleeping. They
shot the people who were there. Four
of the victims were taken to the Barranquilla Hospital where they died.
The members of Esperanza, Paz y Libertad were taken to a bridge
on the Caribe Highway, where apparently they were tortured and then
thrown from the highest point of the bridge.
The former guerrillas were natives of the municipality of Planeta
Rica (Córdoba); they were registered with the Atlantico Reassimilation
Office and managed the Tamacá Restaurant in Barranquilla.
They had disappeared two days earlier.
June 4. JORGE
VELEZ TRUJILLO and PABLO JIMENEZ, Plato (Magdalena).
Workers on the "Santa Martica" ranch, found murdered
inside a jeep in which they had been travelling some hours before.
The bodies were burned and had multiple bullet wounds. OCTAVIO MARIN and HERNAN ANTONIO, Dos Quebradas
(Risaralda). Members of
a gang of kidnappers, murdered by persons unknown.
Their throats had been cut.
The gang was apparently planning to kidnap the owner of a
hacienda in the village of La Esperanza.
The rest of the gang managed to escape.
CARLOS ALBERTO MORALES ALZATE, LUIS DIEGO LOPEZ and RUBEN
DARIO MORALES ALARCON, Envigado (Antioquia).
These men were found dead inside a Renault 4, on the Las Palmas
Road. They had been
tortured and wounded with steel weapons.
With the bodies was a sign that said "This is for car
thieves who take the cars to Cali."
The victims lived in Manizales.
GUMERCINDO ALTAMAR GUZMAN, a bricklayer and native of
Acandí (Chocó); DARISNEL CASSIANI OBESO, a bricklayer known as
"Pastrana" and a native of the Department of Bolívar; ALCIDES
N., known as "El Chirri"; JOSE GUSTAVO FONSECA, a
native of Cúcuta, whose name appears twice with SIJIN for petty theft;
and ROBERTO JULIO MENESES VILLABNA, a criminal known as "La
Pantera" who had a record with the SIJIN for petty theft and drug
trafficking, Tubara (Atlántico). Found
murdered on the "La Lucha" ranch, located in the Cuatro Bocas
Police District. The
victims lived in the Nueva Colombia district of Barranquilla.
The victims were tied up and had multiple bullet wounds and signs
of torture. Two of the
victims had criminal records for petty theft.
ELKIN ARREDONDO GUZMAN, Medellin (Antioquia).
Found murdered on the road to the municipality of Caldas.
He was nude and his hands had been amputated (they were in a
June 9. JOSE
DELFIN TORRES CASTRO, Cerrito (Santander).
Secretary of the Tabeta Departmental Inspection Burear, murdered
along with the inspector, by a patrol of the García Rovira Battalion.
At the place known as "Alto de las Cruces", the
Secretary was detained by a patrol of twelve soldiers and taken to a
place nearby, where for two hours he was questioned and tortured.
He and the inspector were then boarded into Delfín Torres
Castro's van, driven by a soldier; moments later, several shots were
heard; witnesses to the arrest ran to the place and found the bodies
alongside the van. José
Delfín was still alive, but died moments later.
The soldiers took his identification papers, $500.00 in cash and
the keys to the van. On
February 5, 1987, the wife of the Secretary, Irma Vera, had been
murdered by members of García Rovira Battalion.
June 10. LUIS
ALFONSO CHILLITO DOMINGUEZ, Candelaria (Valle).
An elderly man 70 years of age, who worked as a guard at the
"José Hilario Illera" sand pit; he was found murdered on the
banks of the Cauca River, near the Juanchito Departmental Inspection
Station. He was gagged, his
feet and hands were bound and he had been shot, tortured and choked.
Two days earlier, several men wearing hoods and carrying weapons
came to the sand dump, grabbed the three guards and tied them up, took
two dump trucks and one pistol, and then took the old man away.
NORBERTO JAVIER RESTREPO, Abejorral (Antioquia).
He was working as a contractor with architects; his body was
found in the hamlet of El Cairo. It
had been burned with sulfuric acid from the waist up (all that was left
of the head was bone). One
arm had been broken in three places.
Near the body was a pyre that apparently was to be used to burn
the body. The mother of the
victim said that he had been a member of the Unión Patriótica.
June 12. LUIS
ANTONIO SOTO GARCIA, Yumbo (Valle).
A boy 9 years old was found murdered.
The body of the child showed signs of strangulation.
He had disappeared 12 days earlier.
June 29. JOSE
RAUL BUITRAGO MORENO, El Tarra (Norte de Santander).
A peasant, murdered by persons unknown at the place known as
"Barranquilla" in a rural part of that town.
He had been covered with gasoline and then set on fire, after
which he was shot several times. The
body of an employee of ECOPETROL was found several days later at the
June 30. ALFREDO
MARBERI LOPEZ and WALTER AMININTON RODRIGUEZ MOSQUERA (et al), Cali
(Valle). They were
found murdered at the place known as "La Viga" on the road to
the municipality of Jamundí. The
bodies had multiple bullet wounds; they were bound hand and foot and
gagged. Needles had been
driven into their backs and their bodies had cigarette burns; their
heads were covered with plastic bags. JOSE FERNANDO BEDOYA ARIAS, Ciénaga (Magdalena).
A peasant farmer found murdered in the Tucurinca district had
been shot several times and his skull had been fractured.
He had been missing since March 28, when he was taken by members
of a paramilitary group, as he was in a rural area of the municipality
of Aracataca. OMAR ZUÑIGA
VASQUEZ, Cartagena (Bolívar).
A peasant farmer murdered by members of the Marine Infantry, who
detained him, tortured him and riddled him with bullets.
Relatives of the victim reported the crime at the Summit Meeting
of Atlantic Coast Prosecutors, which was attended by the Attorney
General and the Public Defender, who pledged to prosecute the
investigations to clarify the facts.
The right to personal safety and humane treatment is seriously
imperiled in Colombia. The
Commission is disturbed by the fact that in spite of observations made
as far back as its 1980 on-site visit, torture continues to be used at
an alarming rate. More
dramatic still is the fact that for a number of years now, bodies are
being discovered every day. They
are the bodies of the victims of extrajudicial executions and show
visible signs of torture. It
would seem that these cruel and inhuman methods have not been eliminated
and are used by some members of the armed forces and State security
agencies to obtain information unlawfully and even to extract