On 13 February 2013, three pellets were fired at the vehicle of Father Alberto Franco, a prominent human rights defender and Executive Secretary of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace CIJP).
Father Alberto has been a partner of SOA Watch since 2006, when SOA Watch was invited to join the Ethics Commission of Justicia y Paz. Father Alberto traveled twice to Fort Benning, Georgia to join the November Vigil to close the SOA (click here to view his powerful speech from the stage in November 2010).
The CIJP is a church-based human rights organisation working to expose human rights violations committed by state security forces and paramilitary groups in conflict regions in Colombia.
The attack follows acts of surveillance and intimidation of Father Alberto Franco during recent weeks and coincides with the hearing of the case on “Operation Genesis”, a joint military and paramilitary operation which resulted in the killing and forced disappearance of many civilians; a case which the CIJP has provided key evidence for.
On 13 February 2013, at approximately 7:50 am, the front window of Father Alberto Franco's vehicle was hit with three pellets. It is reported that the attack was an attempt to test the level of protective plating in the armoured vehicle used by Father Alberto Franco, which he received as part of a government protection programme, as directed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
In recent weeks, Father Alberto Franco has been subjected to acts of surveillance and intimidation. On 11 February 2013, at approximately 7:30 am, two unknown individuals in a grey Mazda Coupe 323 car were witnessed close to the human rights defender's home, observing his movements. One of the individuals got out of the car to continue his observations, but upon being sighted by witnesses, got back into the car and left immediately. A similar incident reportedly happened during the morning of 30 January 2013. These acts follow recent statements made by Father Alberto Franco in the media regarding the role of government officials of former President Álvaro Uribe in impeding the restitution of lands and collective farms in the communities of Curvaradó y Jiguamiandó.
As a result of their work in denouncing human rights violations, members of the CIJP have been continuously subjected to acts of intimidation and harassment, which have increased in recent weeks, since the opening of the hearing of the case regarding “Operation Genesis”.
On 11 February 2013, the CIJP became aware of a defamatory letter against the CIJP which was submitted to the Inter-American Court and Commission on Human Rights, the Ambassador of the United States in Colombia and the Colombia Mission of the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID). The letter claimed that the CIJP had links to the guerilla group FARC and had represented them on various occasions internationally.
The letter also made false accusations against CIJP member Mr Abilio Peña and CIJP National Coordinator Mr Danilo Rueda, as well another human rights defender, Mr Javier Giraldo. The letter, which was submitted hours before the hearing in the case “Operation Genesis” began, accused Danilo Rueda of procedural fraud by way of providing 100 million pesos to each individual testifying against the accused military and paramilitaries.