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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-28-08 07:42 PM
Response to Original message
1. Background on history of current struggle:
From the original article, followed by another source:

In its previous statements, produced by 17 national and international hearings and six specialised hearings prior to last weeks final session, the PPT had stopped short of describing the plight of indigenous people in Colombia as genocide.

But the final verdict states that in this South American country, which has basically been in the grip of civil war since 1946, indigenous groups and the labour movement are the targets of genocide, which was also committed against the Patriotic Union, a leftist party that emerged in 1985 from a peace agreement with the leftist guerrillas but was completely wiped out by death squads.


Jaime Pardo Leal, the
leader of the Patriotic
Union, killed by the
Colombian military

The Human Rights Crisis
Whilst the declared role of the paramilitaries was to combat the guerrillas, their growing involvement in the drugs trade and their unwillingness to actually engage the FARC on the battlefield in fact meant that their primary military objective became civilians. Those suspected of sympathising with the guerrillas or who opposed the interests of the paramilitaries, or the politicians or businesses behind them, were the principal objectives.

In the 1980s and 1990s the human rights situation in Colombia became one of the most critical in the world: Thousands of members of the political opposition were murdered, thousands of trade unionists were assassinated, and hundreds of journalists, student leaders, human rights defenders, indigenous activists and progressive lawyers were killed. And whilst it was the paramilitaries who physically carried out the majority of the killings, there were countless cases of the army or police perpetrating assassinations themselves. The collaboration between the AUC and the security forces became widespread and, in some areas, the two acted together openly. To give just one example, the army and paramilitaries jointly exterminated the entire Patriotic Union political party - a broad leftwing party supported by the trade unions - by selectively assassinating over 5000 of their activists.

But widespread use of assassinations was not the only violation of human rights that occurred. Thousands of people were forcibly disappeared, torture and death threats became common and the paramilitaries perpetrated massacres almost on a daily basis from the mid-1990s onwards - particularly against members of communities deemed pro-guerrilla or anti-government. Huge numbers of people have also been imprisoned and many hundreds of political prisoners still languish in Colombia's jails.

Forced displacement too became a common occurrence as millions were forced from their homes and lands by the paramilitaries who then stole the land and, in many cases, the natural resources which lay beneath it. Today, with 3.6 million Colombians having fled in this way, the country has the second highest displaced population in the world.

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