Caritas urges protection after Colombia threats

03 May 2010 10:01:00 GMT

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author’s alone.

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Caritas calls on the Colombian Government to guarantee safety to people carrying out humanitarian work following threats to humanitarian organisations working in Colombia.

The armed group Rastrojos-Urban Commandos have declared people who work for humanitarian organisations and those who defend human rights to be permanent military targets in southern Colombia.

“While there have been improvements in the situation in Colombia there have also been worrying signs recently regarding the rearming of paramilitary groups,� says Msgr Hector Fabio Henao, director of Caritas Colombia.

“This along with renewed activities by the FARC (left-wing guerrilla group) over the past few months and extra-judicial killings causes us great concern.�

Caritas in Tumaco has been specifically threatened by the group. Sr Yolanda Cerón, head of Caritas Tumaco, was assassinated in 2001 after speaking out against paramilitary groups. Caritas aid worker was killed in the area two years ago. Caritas Colombia also says that a missionary was recently killed in the northern town of Tierralta.

Caritas urges the Government to provide protection to aid workers who help poor communities and asks armed groups to let them work without risk.

Caritas also wants the Government to present the finding into investigations of previous threats towards humanitarian organisations.

Paramilitary groups in Colombia have a reputation for massacres, killings, rape, forced displacement and the repression of human rights. The Government has made efforts to demobilise them but they appear to be on the rise again.

Right-wing paramilitaries, left-wing guerrillas and the Colombian Government have been fighting out a decades-long civil war in which many people have been injured through landmines and lost their lives, and millions of people have fled from their homes.

For more information, please contact Michelle Hough on +39 06 69879721/+39 334 2344136 or hough@caritas.va

[ Any views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not of Reuters. ]

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