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Tuesday, 10 October 2017 15:10

UN Verification Mission in Colombia press release on killings in Tumaco

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We publish here the UN Verification Mission in Colombia press release on killings in Tumaco.

On Sunday, 8 October, a Humanitarian Mission including participants from the office of the Governor of Nariño, the municipal ombudsman of Tumaco, the Diocese of Tumaco, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human rights (OHCHR), the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, and the OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP-OEA) departed from Tumaco toward the hamlet of El Tandil, to follow up on the events that took place on 5 October in the Community Council of Alto Mira y Frontera of which the precise number of dead, missing and wounded, as well as the circumstances leading up to these events, remain unclear.

According to the Political Constitution of Colombia, civil authorities have jurisdiction over the security of their region, in addition Law 62 of 1993 establishes that they can issue orders to the National Police regarding police actions. The Governor´s office of Nariño was not only aware of the mission but formed part of it.

The Humanitarian Mission from Tumaco undertook all necessary communications in order to complete its trip.  After obtaining the necessary authorizations, it departed for the area moved to the area where the events of 5 October had occurred, traveling by car for 40 minutes, by boat for 40 minutes, by pickup truck for 30 minutes and on foot for 30 minutes, always having visible the markers and identifiers for the participating organizations.

Upon arriving at the location of El Playón, the Humanitarian Mission came upon a number of human rights organizations, journalists and Awá indigenous people, among others, already present.
In El Tandil, one representatives of UNHCR, one representative of MAPP-OEA and two representatives of the Governor of Nariño spoke with two captains of a unit of the National Army and, subsequently, went to the site of the events and spoke with someone who identified himself as a Captain of the Anti-Narcotics Police in charge of the area; he did not provide any identification. Furthermore, some members of the Police had their faces covered.

The Humanitarian Mission explained the purpose of its visit and requested authorization from the Captain for a part of the delegation to continue their journey to the place where it was reported that a corpse of a person who may have died during the protests over the eradication of illicit crops may be located, while other representatives of the UN Verification Mission, OHCHR, the Governor´s office, MAPP-OEA and the Diocese continued talking with members of the community.

Once the Captain authorized entrance into the area, part of the Mission began to walk toward the location where the body might be found.  According to a member of the Indigenous Organisation of the Awá People (UNIPA), the territory belongs to the Indigenous Reserve Piedra Sellada of the Awá community.
In the middle of the tour the delegation was attacked by members of ESMAD and Antinarcotics Police with a stun bomb at 2:20 pm. In response, members of the Mission shouted to identify themselves, while doing so, another stun bomb was launched at 2:22 pm.  The delegation then withdrew, at which time another two stun bombs, at 14:23 and 14:24 respectively, were fired, one of which almost impacted individuals within the group; at this time shots were also heard and some kind of gas was used.

In the midst of these events, officials of OHCHR, the UN Verification Mission and MAPP/OEA, along with one of their guides, were approached by members of the Counter-narcotics police and ESMAD who requested identification which the UN and MAPP/OAS functionaries provided.
After the four bomb detonations, the shots fired, and the gas, the group that had been talking with community members urged the Captain to take action on behalf of the delegation whose entry he had authorised.

Once the entire delegation returned, the Mission withdrew to the hamlet of El Tandil. On the way to this location, Mission representatives spoke a second time with two captains of the National Army and related what had occurred. The Mission held further discussions with community members to gather their impressions of the events of 5 October 5. The Mission then withdrew from the area and returned to Tumaco.
In view of these events, the UN Verification Mission, the Office of the High Commissioners for Human Rights and the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia of the Organization of American States (MAPP-OEA) point out that at no time during this visit had there been a lack of communication with Colombian Public Security Forces regarding the purpose of their visit and in order to coordinate access to the location.  Nor did members of the Mission undertake any type of action that would justify a violent response from Public Security Forces.

The UN Verification Mission, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Mission for Support to the Peace Process in Colombia of the Organization of America States (MAPP/OAS) object strenuously to the aggression suffered by all the organizations and institutions present and trust that the Government will take all necessary measures to ensure that such incidents do not recur.