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HRW: Illegal armed groups force residents to flee Colombia city
HRW: Illegal armed groups force residents to flee Colombia city
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[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] issued a report [text, PDF] on Friday stating that illegal armed groups have caused hundreds of people to flee Colombia’s main Pacific port of Buenaventura in the past two years. Historically, illegal guerrilla groups within Colombia have been concentrated within the rural areas outside of Buenaventura. Recently, the military successor groups known as the Urabenos and the Empresa have centered their efforts into the urban areas of Buenaventura. HRW states in its report that these specific groups within the city have recruited inhabitants’ children, extorted their businesses and acted violently towards anybody who have opposed them. In a press release [text] accompanying the report, HRW details the gruesome acts perpetrated by these groups:

Several residents we spoke with report having heard people scream and plea for mercy as they were being dismembered alive. In March 2014, after criminal investigators found bloodstains in two suspected ‘chop-up houses’ in the city, the police said they had identified several locations where perpetrators had dismembered victims alive before tossing them in the sea.

These acts have driven many citizens from their homes and have contributed to Columbia’s large population of internally displaced people.

Criminal activity by illegal armed groups has been an ongoing issue within Colombia. In August Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled [JURIST report] that a law providing reduced penalties for rebels who confess crimes related to their membership in illegal armed groups is constitutional. The bill, known as the “Legal Framework for Peace,” was challenged by rights activists who claimed that by granting judicial pardons to rebels, it is “contrary to the State’s duty to investigate and punish crimes, especially main violations of human rights” and that its measures to satisfy victim’s rights are inadequate. In its reasoning, the court analyzed the bill’s balance between the pursuit of peace and the rights of victims. In November 2012 a spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed serious concern [JURIST report] regarding the expansion of military justice jurisdiction, claiming [press release] it would “seriously undermine previous efforts undertaken by the Colombian Government to ensure that human rights violations, allegedly committed by members of the Colombian military and police forces, are duly investigated and perpetrators held to account.”