Colombia victims ask for protection following threats

Victims of the 50-year-old armed conflict in Colombia called on President Juan Manuel Santos Thursday to protect witnesses testifying in peace talks and investigate death threats against them.

AFP| Updated: Oct 03, 2014, 11:41 AM IST

Bogota: Victims of the 50-year-old armed conflict in Colombia called on President Juan Manuel Santos Thursday to protect witnesses testifying in peace talks and investigate death threats against them.

According to the United Nations office in Bogota, several of the victims who had recently traveled to Havana to tell their story at negotiations between the government and FARC rebels received letters with death threats, while others have been the target of verbal attacks on Facebook.

As part of the two-year-old talks, victims of the conflict are giving testimony, in a bid to help the two sides reach a deal on reparations.

"We condemn the threats and stigmatization," the group of 12 victims said in a joint statement.

"We call on national authorities for adequate protection and an immediate investigation into these happenings," the group said, in a text read by Camilo Umana, son of human-rights lawyer Eduardo Umana, who was murdered by paramilitaries in 1998.

Since it erupted as a leftist guerrilla uprising in the 1960s, the Colombian conflict has at various times drawn in rightwing paramilitary groups and drug traffickers.

The conflict has killed 220,000 people and caused more than five million to flee their homes.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has made peace deals with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and fellow rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN) his top political priority.

The victims were the third group to testify in the negotiation process. A total of 60 will be heard.