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| 11/20/2009 12:00:00 AM

Rise in Colombia extrajudicial killings may be linked to pressures on military

Nov 20--In March 2006, Martha Giraldo returned to her father’s farm outside of Cali, Colombia, to find the property surrounded by soldiers and her father dead. Based on accusations he was involved with guerillas, the military shot José Orlando Giraldo, and, standing over his stripped and mutilated body, warned Martha and her family members that they could share his fate.

“It was the gravest humiliation that one can feel, to find your father assassinated. We saw his body completely destroyed,” Giraldo said. “In the middle of the night, the national army comes and murders your father.”

While horrific in many respects, José’s death is hardly unique, nor are the numerous questions such killings raise under international humanitarian law.

“This isn’t just the story of my family. The same thing is happening to many Colombians, especially marginalized members of Colombia communities, like Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples,” Giraldo said.

Through a translator, Giraldo spoke about the impunity enjoyed by the government actors carrying out extrajudicial killings of Colombian civilians, at an event hosted by the Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights. According to human rights organizations, the Colombia military killed 535 civilians between January 2007 and June 2008. Extrajudicial killings have increased dramatically over the last few years, a rise many attribute to the implementation of a “democratic security policy” designed to fight guerillas and insurgents. Intimidation and reporting issues hinder the collection of accurate date regarding extrajudicial killings. While 2,981 cases were filed from 2002-2008, many suspect that number underscores the true extent of the issue.
 
Read more here.
 
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