The Witness for Peace International Team in Colombia will be traveling to the northern part of the country this week to take part in an international verification mission.
In collaboration with local Afro-descendent, indigenous and campesino communities, as well as with other non-governmental organizations, over 170 participants will document the threats facing rural communities inside and outside of Indigenous Reserves and Humanitarian Zones in the Urabá region in the province of Chocó.
It will mark 15 years since the U.S.-funded and trained Colombian military carried out operations “Black September” and “Genesis,” which left over 500 civilian community members killed or forcibly disappeared and caused 21 collective displacements. It also coincides with the 2nd anniversary of the aerial bombardment of the community of Saltico by the Colombian Armed Forces, which gravely injured members of the civilian population and violated international humanitarian law.
As part of a verification mission, we will bear witness to the physical and cultural threat to communities posed by armed actors in the region. A strengthening paramilitary presence has led to an increase in illicit crop cultivation and drug trafficking, putting the local civilian population at a heightened risk of having their land seized or becoming victims of violence by public security forces and illegal armed groups.
For more information about the context in Urabá look for our video blogs from the field the week of February 20th. For more information about the international verification mission, check out the website of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission.