Letter to the President of Colombia Concerning the Abduction of Four Human Rights Workers

Tuesday, February 09 1999

Dr. Andres Pastrana Arango
President of Colombia Palacio de Nariño,
Carrerra 8
No. 7 – 26
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia

Fax: 011-571-286-7434

Dear President Pastrana,

We wish to bring to your attention our profound consternation concerning the abduction of four human rights workers in Medellín on January 28, 1999. Jairo Bedoya, Claudia Tamayo, Jorge Salazar and Olga Rodas were all taken from their workplace, the Instituto Popular de Capacitación by armed paramilitaries. Apparently they are still alive, and are being held by an organization calling itself the “United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia.”

The Instituto is well-known to Canadians as an important Colombian NGO that has received financial support from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace over the past 6 years. Some of the staff have visited Canada in the past, in particular, Claudia Tamayo.

We respectfully request, Mr. President, that you act immediately to guarantee the safety of Colombian human rights defenders, and specifically intervene to effect the early release, without harm, of the four IPC staff members. Our request takes on even more urgency given the distressing news of the assassination of two members of another human rights group who were pulled from a bus that left Medellín on Sunday morning and subsequently shot to death.

Given the violence against human rights defenders in Colombia, we urge you to take urgent and firm measures to dismantle all paramilitary organizations that continue to commit such atrocities across the country.


Mgr Francois Thibodeau, C.J.M.
Chairman, Human Rights Committee

cc Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada
His Excellency José Ma. De Guzman, Colombian Ambassador to Canada