Live in terror: interviews of 105 people "residents of the Arauca and Apure are living in fear - said José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch for the Americas - while the armed groups recruit their children and impose their own rules, threatening residents and punish those who disobey, even with the murders, or months of forced labor in the fields. The groups operate with impunity is almost absolute, he added, "on both sides of the border, and especially in Venezuela, are sometimes in collusion with the security forces and the local authorities". Human Rights Watch has visited Arauca in August 2019 and has interviewed 105 people, including community leaders, victims of abuse and their relatives, humanitarian workers, officials of the human rights, judicial officials and journalists. "Human Rights Watch has also sent requests for information to the authorities, colombian and venezuelan, and has consulted a number of sources and documents," reads a statement released by the organization
Extortion and the replacement of government rules. It was also discovered - through the dossier of Hrw, that the armed groups in both Countries have established a wide range of rules, usually imposed by governments and groups to apply them brutally. These include curfew; prohibitions on rape, theft, and murder; and the regulations that govern the daily activities such as fishing, the payment of the debt and closing times of the bar. In some areas, the groups, which will ban the wearing of helmets by the rider in such a way that members of the armed group could see the faces of the travellers. The groups extort habitually money from virtually anyone who carries out economic activity.
The death threats and the increase of the murders. The groups have committed murders illegal to Arauca, including human rights defenders and community leaders. In 2015, when the FARC declared a cease-fire to advance the peace talks with the colombian government, the authorities recorded 96 murders in Arauca. The murders have increased, reaching 161 between January and the end of November 2019. The armed groups are responsible for most of these murders. Human Rights Watch has also received allegations credible murders by armed groups in Apure, but the venezuelan authorities have not released statistics reliable and complete. At least 16 bodies of civilians found to Arauca in 2019 had scribbled pieces of paper accusing the victims of being "informers", "rapists", "drug dealers" or "thieves". Some were signed by the dissident group of the FARC that operates in the area.
The practice of forced labour: on pain of death. of The armed groups in Arauca and Apure are punishing the residents with forced labor, sometimes requiring them to work for months without salary, agriculture, street cleaning or cooking in the camps of the armed groups, which are often in Venezuela. "Here, we must do as they say, or you die," said a resident who fled from the city after being threatened by armed groups. "The rules are ... you can't talk with the army; you cannot get out of the house late at night ... If we do not respect the rules, the penalty is death ". About 44,000 venezuelans live in Arauca. Most came from the 2015, fleeing from the devastating humanitarian crisis, political and economic situation in their country of origin. Venezuelans to Arauca often live in precarious economic conditions, sleeping on the streets or form of makeshift settlements. Thousands of people have also caught on to the walk from the border region, often unaware of the dangers along the path, including the armed groups predators.
abuse of the venezuelans. The venezuelans have also suffered abuses that are not directly associated with the armed groups. There are credible news according to which women are trafficked, sexually exploited and forced to sell sex. In some cases, once you arrive ??in a brothel of Arauca, their documents are withheld, and they receive clothing, food, and "housing" for which they must pay with sex. The venezuelans also face xenophobia to Arauca and are often accused by the residents of the offence.
The absent responses of the colombian authorities. The colombian authorities have sought to wrest the power to the armed groups, but the impunity for serious abuses remains the norm, and security of the residents is limited. In September, the office of the attorney general and the colombian had obtained convictions for only eight murders committed in Arauca by 2017, more than 400 suspects. None of the convictions pertained to members of the armed group. Neither the government has condemned members of the armed group and other crimes such as rape, threats, extortion, recruitment of minors, forced displacement, or the crime of "enforced disappearance" by 2017. The armed groups seem to feel even more free to operate in Venezuela. Groups have kidnapped people in Arauca and brought in their fields in Venezuela. Residents, community leaders, journalists and humanitarian workers have said that in at least some cases, armed groups acting in collusion with the security forces of venezuela and the local authorities.
Pessimism on the possibility that things will change. The results of Human Rights Watch suggest that it is unlikely that the situation in Arauca the best if the colombian government continues to deploy military there without strengthening at the same time, the judicial system, better protection of the population and to ensure adequate access to economic opportunities, and educational and public services. On the contrary, the local development programmes - in particular those relating to the strengthening of the judiciary, the protection of the activists of the community, and the provision of economic opportunities and education - could help to undermine the power of armed groups and prevent further human rights violations in Arauca.
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