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FARC denounces conditions in Colombian prisons

By Peace Delegation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army |
February 21, 2013
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Fight Back News Service is circulating the following Feb. 10 statement from the Peace Delegation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP). While the translation of the statement is imperfect, we think it will help readers better understand conditions in Colombia. Currently, negotiations between the FARC and the U.S.-backed Colombian government are taking place in Havana, Cuba.

Prisons or human dumps?

In August 2012, the prisoners of war in the jail La Dorada (Caldas), explained to the national opinion that within three months, three of their prisoners had died. The medical inattention killed them mercilessly. They names are James Chiquito Alberto Giraldo, who died on May 8th, Luis Flores Carlos Villareal, died on the 17th of August, and Wenlly Zuleta Muriel Alexander who was killed on August 8th. Wenlly died after he was attacked by another inmate, who caused him 59 stab wounds, at only two meters from the prison’s guard post.

Around 9500 political prisoners are experiencing the cavalry of the Colombian prison system, which actually has become a maze of torture, humiliation and death for inmates of any kind. 90% of the political prisoners are civilians, who are put in prison with the clear intention of dismantling popular organizations and crush the popular dissent about social injustice in Colombia. The remaining 10% are political and war prisoners subjected to the use of the judicial and penal system, which has become a weapon to discourage and punish potential insurgents.

The prison is a scene of overcrowding, stench, suicides, infectious diseases, murders committed by guards, like the one reported by the inmates of the 7th yard of the Dorada prison in October 2011 (by a corporal named “Gallo”); blind, crippled, paralyzed prisoners, or killed by medical inattention, which is not even resolved by tutelage because judges don’t sanction for contempt.

Injustice rules in Colombian prisons, expressed in medical inattention, calabooses up to seventy-two hours, hunger, beating, indiscriminate use of tear gasses, harassment and humiliation, violation of judicial processes, in the middle of a dangerous armed criminal complicity between the INPEC - led by the sleazy general Ricaurte Tapias - and lawyers, judges and prosecutors, without any possibility of complaint; almost 100% of the complaints of prisoners are shelved on the grounds that there are no merits for further investigation.

On January 8, 2011, Jose Manjarrez Albeiro died in his cell, devoured by a stomach cancer. No action, not even the strike of his fellow prisoners was enough for the INPEC [the agency of Colombian government that runs the prison system] to give him medical care. After his death, he was entered in the morgue as NN, although they did have up-to-date information about his family and friends. They never informed them about his death.

Names like Arcecio Lemus, Ricardo Contreras, Jhon Jairo Garcia, Jonathan Snith Aria, Yovani Montes, Luis Fernando Pavoni, Oscar de Jesus Perez, among many other cases, are part of the list of deaths due to torture , mistreatment and medical inattention, together with the persecution of families of the revolutionary leaders who fall into prison.

In Colombian prisons, more than 400 prisoners are mutilated and more than 400 are in hospice situation, without being given the right to reduced penalties.

In these prisons, converted into real human dumps, because of the regime’s indolence and perfidy, inmates of different kinds are all put together on purpose, which produces brawls that sometimes lead to the death of political- and war prisoners, or to their constant intimidation.

Contrary to Law 65/93, which says that in the treatment of prisoners, family relationships are an important element to advance in their re-socialization process, in this case the penalties are designed to loosen family ties, since the prisoners are deliberately located by the INPEC at 4, 6, 10 and up to 24 hours away from their home regions. The possibility that they may see their loved ones and family members is very small.

They are sitting all day, they are swindled in the use of telephones, they don’t get any information, they are transported like animals and live in an incredible inhuman situation of overcrowding. For example, in Bellavista the overcrowding is of 500%. The Riohacha prison has capacity for 100 inmates, while there are 512 inmates, in La Modelo there is space for 2950, but there are 7965 prisoners concentrated. In the prison of Tramacúa in Valledupar, with 40 degrees, 1350 prisoners are throttled by the high temperature. In the best case, they have access to water only for 15 minutes a day. These are flagrant human rights violations, committed by the government, who doesn’t seem to have any intention to resolve these situations.

We ask the government to stop the perfidy of letting the injuries of war end up in physical immobility and/or loss of hands or feet. We ask freedom for those who are terminally ill, or have cancer.

We ask the government to declare a state of health and humanitarian emergency in the country's prisons, allow public oversight, without concealing things and take emergency measures to at least avoid the death of the prisoners who are seriously ill.

We ask the government to show a shred of humanity and seriousness, and to respond to the national opinion about these complaints we’ve made.

PEACE DELEGATION OF THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMED FORCES OF COLOMBIA, People's Army (FARC-EP)