Colombian Dioceses and Civic Groups Team Up for Peace

Make Appeal to Soldiers and Rebels

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QUIBDO, Colombia, NOV. 14, 2003 ( Rebel groups and regular military forces continue violating the rights of civilians in the Atrato region, says the Diocese of Quibdo and other organizations in Colombia.

Guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), paramilitaries and soldiers engage in fierce battles in inhabited areas, disregarding the safety of the residents, the diocese said in a report to the Missionary Service News Agency.

The Cocomacia Farmers’ Association and the Embera Wounaan indigenous organization contributed to the report, which assessed violence over the past few months.

The groups carry out selective murders — FARC committed nine in the past seven weeks — and attack and pillage boats along the Atrato River, the report said.

Villages and rural zones are bombed by the air force, and paramilitaries raid indigenous communities. Youths and children are forcefully recruited.

«Together with the Diocese of Apartado and the association of community councils of Lower Atrato, we are organizing a ‘Campaign for Life in the Atrato Region’ with the objective of overcoming the economic and social blockade that for seven years has impeded the population from navigating along the Atrato River,» continues the report received by the missionary news agency.

«To achieve this objective, the spiral of violence must be stopped and there must be guarantees regarding respect of human rights and international humanitarian norms,» the appeal says. «We ask the military forces to abstain from indiscriminate operations that put at risk the security of civilians, not to use civilian areas for military actions, or shelter in civilians’ homes, or involve them in intelligence work — turning them into military targets.»

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