Case History: Alfamir Castillo
Since 2012, Alfamir Castillo and her family have been facing death threats and persecution. On 17 May 2013, a pamphlet was pushed under the door of the office of Comité Mujeres Corteras de Caña which read: “MUERFE A AlfaMIR A SUS aBOGados POR meTERSE on los lovos peses” (death to Alfamir and her lawyers for messing with the wolves and fishes).
Alfamir Castillo is president of the Comité Mujeres Corteras de Caña (Committee of Women Sugar Cane Harvesters) and mother of Darvey Mosquera Castillo, a young victim of extra-judicial killing.
Human rights defenders Ms Alfamir Castillo, Mr Jorge Eliécer Molano and Mr Germán Romero Sánchez were subjected to a new death threat, one week before the commencement of a trial they are all involved in.
On 17 May 2013, a pamphlet was pushed under the door of the office of Comité Mujeres Corteras de Caña which read: “MUERFE A AlfaMIR A SUS aBOGados POR meTERSE on los lovos peses” (death to Alfamir and her lawyers for messing with the wolves and fishes).
All three human rights defenders are involved in the criminal proceedings being brought against several high-ranking military officers of the Colombian Army, accused of the extra-judicial executions of Darvey Mosquera Castillo and Alex Hernando Ramírez Hurtado, in Manizales in 2008. The two men were killed and presented as having died in combat, an extrajudicial killing known by the misnamed term 'false positives', in which members of the Colombia Armed Forces kill someone and then claim they were guerilla fighters in order to claim promotions, financial and/or other compensation.
The latest threat comes just a week before the trials of senior military officials implicated in the case: due to take place on 24 May 2013 at 9am in Manizales. Seven senior officials have already been convicted so far in this case. Since 18 July 2012 the families, witnesses, lawyers and civil servants affiliated with the victims have been faced with constant threats from unknown sources. Front Line Defenders issued a previous urgent appeal on 19 October 2012.
On 10 October 2012, death threats were issued against human rights lawyers Mr Jorge Eliecer Molano Rodríguez and Mr German Romero Sánchez. The lawyers are assisting the mother of a victim of human rights violations, Ms Alfamir Castillo, who also received a death threat on the same occasion.
Jorge Eliecer Molano is a legal advisor for human rights organisations such as the Sembrar Organisation, NOMADESC, la Corporación Jurídica Utopía (Legal Utopia Organisation) and Fedeagromisbol. He provides legal representation to victims of human rights violations. German Romero Sánchez is legal assessor of the NGO Corporation Yira Castro, and provides legal representation to victims of human rights violations committed by senior military officers or paramilitaries.
On 10 October 2012, at 7.40am, Alfamir Castillo left her town of Pradera, in the Cauca Valley, on a public bus in the direction of the city of Santiago de Cali. At 8.10am, during a stop on Vía Versalles in the town of Palmira, a passenger boarded the bus, approached her, aimed a firearm at her chest and told her to “tell that snitch of a lawyer he is going to die, and so are you”. The man then jumped off the bus and disappeared from view into the “Olímpico” store. Alfamir Castillo continued her journey to Cali where she reported the incident to the Asociación para la Investigación y la Acción Social – NOMADESC (The Association for Research and Social Action). She reported recognising the man from a previous occasion, on 13 January 2012, when he followed her as she left the Cauca Valley office of the National Public Prosecutor's Immediate Response Unit, which she had visited to report a previous threat made against her.
German Romero Sánchez and Jorge Eliecer Molano Rodríguez are currently assisting Alfamir Castillo in a trial in which several high-ranking military officers stand accused of involvement in the death of her son and another man, on 8 February 2008. Alfamir Castillo's son was killed in what is known as a 'false positive', where members of the state security forces kill someone and then claim that they were a rebel. Seven members of the military have already been convicted for their involvement in the operation.
Several high-ranking line officers currently stand accused of involvement in ordering the operation. The threats received by Alfamir Castillo came 48 hours before the scheduled hearing in which Major Josue Yobanni Linares and Captain Julio César Álvaro Pedreros were to be charged, and in which the court was to decide whether it would detain the two officers. The human rights lawyers have also requested that two further officials from the line of command of the same brigade, Colonels Emiro José Barrio Jiménez and Jorge Enrique Navarrete, be linked to the investigation, and removed from the professional development courses to become Generals which both are currently attending.
Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned for the security and physical and psychological integrity of human rights lawyers Jorge Eliecer Molano and German Romero Sanchez, especially in light of the ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation against them. The situation of human rights defenders in the Cauca Valley, especially those involved in bringing to light human rights violations committed by the state and the armed forces, is increasingly dangerous.