In February, three Americans were kidnapped and brutally murdered in Colombia. The soldiers responsible for the violence were captured by the guerilla group they work with to face trial. If found guilty, they could be executed by a firing squad.
Amnesty International is an independent worldwide movement working for the international protection of human rights. It seeks the release of people detained because of their beliefs, color, gender, ethnic origin, language or religious creed, provided they have not used nor advocated violence... It works for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners and works on behalf of such people detained without charge or trial. It opposes the following acts: the death penalty; extra-judicial executions (political killings); 'disappearances'; torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment; and punishment of any prisoner without reservation.
The three Americans were profiled in our last Making a Difference, Slayings in Colombia. The three American environmentalists had gone to Colombia in February 1999 as part of an international campaign by environmental groups to support the U'wa indigenous community in the north-east of the country. While there, they were kidnapped and killed.
FARC, a revolutionary group, has claimed responsibility for the violence, stating that a group of soldiers within the organization acted independently in the killings. It is FARC's plan to have an internal trial for Commander "Gildardo," the man believed responsible for the killings. According to the codes of the organization, a trial could result in the death penalty, with execution by firing squad.
However, many human rights groups are now concerned that Commander "Gildardo's" human rights will be violated if his trial is handled independently by FARC instead of in the normal court system. Although, these groups are completely opposed to the violence of "Gildardo's" group, they disagree with FARC's approach. If found guilty of internal laws, FARC may execute "Gildardo." Some human rights organizations oppose the use of the death penalty, believing it is cruel and inhuman punishment, thereby violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many also believe Gildardo wouldn't be given a fair trial within the FARC system and feel that the trial should be handled independently, with sentencing following international standards.
What do you think of the death penalty? Does someone deserve to die for kidnapping and killing three people? Do you think Commander "Gildardo" of FARC, the man allegedly responsible for the killings, should be killed by a firing squad? Do you think the FARC is capable of giving Gildardo a fair trial?
Amnesty International, one of these human rights groups, is urging you to share your opinions on this issue. Send your thoughts as soon as possible via e-mail to the International Secretariat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
This issue is current until April 15, 1999. If you want to send a letter after this date, please check first with Amnesty International.