Thu, Feb 12, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Colombia governor accuses FARC of slaying 17 civilians

AFP , BOGOTA

The governor of Colombia’s Narino department on Tuesday accused the FARC leftist rebel group of murdering at least 17 indigenous peasants over alleged collaboration with the army.

Socialist Governor Antonio Navarro said the alleged massacre occurred last Wednesday, according to information related by a witness who survived the slaughter.

Navarro said the witness alleged the victims, members of the Awa indigenous community, had been tied up and stabbed to death. The governor said, however, that human rights officials had not yet been able to launch an investigation.

PROBE

Navaro said UN officials had indicated that the area lacks the “basic security conditions” necessary to conduct a probe.

“It is a difficult jungle area, filled with anti-personnel mines and with a very aggressive guerrilla force that has not the slightest reservations against attacking the civilian population,” Navarro said, adding that he feared a widespread exodus of indigenous people who might flee fearing that they too could be targeted.

The FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the largest guerrilla group operating in the country, has been at war with the federal government for more than four decades.

The southern department of Narino is among Colombia’s most violent, with a heavy presence of various armed groups and military forces, and with some of the country’s most lamentable records on human rights and humanitarian concerns.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday slammed the FARC’s “utter disregard for the lives of civilians and refusal to respect the most basic tenets of humanitarian law.”

NO JUSTIFICATION

“These cruel killings violate the most basic principles of human decency and dignity,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for the group. “There is no possible excuse or justification for these horrific actions.”

HRW called on Colombia’s state and local officials to provide aid to displaced people fleeing the violence and to ensure that rights violations by both the rebels and the government are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted.

Last week the FARC released six hostages to a peace group led by a Colombian senator. The FARC said in a statement it hoped the release would unblock stalled talks aimed at completing a hostages-for-prisoners swap.

On Monday six Colombian soldiers were killed in the southern part of the country in an attack the military said was conducted by FARC rebels.

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