Last Updated:11/19/02
Letter from 15 U.S. organizations regarding Colombian government search of Permanent Assembly of Civil Society for Peace, November 19, 2002

November 19, 2002

President Álvaro Uribe Vélez
Presidency of the Republic of Colombia
Palacio de Nariño
Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia

Dear Mr. President:

We wish to express our deep concern about the October 25 forced entry and search of the offices of the Permanent Assembly of Civil Society for Peace, a broad-based civil-society peace organization headquartered in Bogotá.

At 4:45 that morning, about forty members of the Colombian Army and secret police broke a window and forced their way into the Permanent Assembly's offices. For the next hour and forty-five minutes, they went on to break locks, read through files and view the contents of computer hard drives.

The power to perform such searches is one element of the "state of internal commotion" your government has declared. We fail to understand, however, why the Permanent Assembly of Civil Society for Peace would be chosen for such treatment. The group's mission is to support a negotiated settlement to Colombia's long-standing conflict, and it has brought together diverse sectors, both at the regional and national level, to give voice to their proposals for peace. Since 1998, three national meetings of the Permanent Assembly have brought together thousands, including church and business community representatives, and the group's statements have shown a clear distance from all armed groups in Colombia's conflict.

We are also concerned that, in apparent contravention of the "internal commotion" decree, the search was carried out without the presence of officials from the Attorney-General's office (Fiscalía) and Solicitor-General's office (Procuraduría).

Human rights defenders worldwide have expressed fears that the Colombian government's new security measures, such as the "internal commotion" decree, might end up affecting peaceful reformers - human rights and peace groups, unionists, journalists, opposition parties - more than they impede the abuses of illegal armed groups. Some now fear that the raid on the Permanent Assembly may be the first of many such actions.

We urge you to keep these fears from being realized by respecting the freedom of association of those working non-violently for peace, human rights, democratic reforms and other causes. We would welcome any explanation for the events of October 25.


Gabriel Camacho
Chapter President
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
Massachusetts Chapter, AFL- CIO

Gary L. Cozette
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)

Cathy Crumbley
Colombia Vive

Stan De Boe, OSST
Office of Justice and Peace
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Marie Dennis
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Cristina Espinel and Barbara Gerlach
Colombia Human Rights Committee

Todd Howland
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights

Adam Isacson
Coordinator, Colombia Project
Center for International Policy

Neil Jeffery
Executive Director
US Office on Colombia

John Lindsay-Poland
Fellowship of Reconciliation Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean

Kirsten Moller
Executive Director
Global Exchange

Saul Murcia
Co-Director, Latin America and Caribbean Program
Mennonite Central Committee

Bill Spencer
Executive Director
Washington Office on Latin America

Rev. David A. Vargas
Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean
United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
in the United States and Canada

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