Sample Petition to the State Department Print
Ambassador Michael Kozak
Acting Assistant Secretary of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State
2201 C St.
Washington, DC 20520
Fax: (202) 647-5283

Dear Ambassador Kozak (Congressperson X, Senator X, Ambassador Moreno, Editor):

As members of (X group, X community, X coalition), we believe that peace is possible in Colombia--but not through military might. Today we stand with courageous Colombians giving their lives to build peace and remain outside the armed conflict. Their efforts to accompany violated and vulnerable communities, protect human rights, and respond to the crisis facing 3 million internally displaced persons are too often rewarded with threats and even death.

We are deeply concerned about the February 21, 2005 massacre in the peace community of San Jos? de Apartad?, a town that since 1997 has prohibited the presence of all armed groups. Eight people, including a co-founder of the community and a total of four adults and four children, were brutally murdered. According to community witnesses, there is evidence of Colombian Army involvement in this horrible crime.

We urge the Department of State to withhold the final certification of military assistance for Colombia for 2004 until there is a transparent, impartial investigation and prosecution by civilian authorities of the authors of this massacre.

There must also be greater progress in breaking army-paramilitary links and prosecuting army officials implicated in other severe violations. Even the most notorious cases have been stalled. To name just one: in March 2004 the Attorney General dismissed the case against General Rito Alejo del Rio, accused of actually forming paramilitary groups while in command of the XVII Brigade of the Colombian Army.

Moreover, military violence against unarmed civilians appears to be on the rise. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 2004 reports an increase in "allegations regarding extrajudicial executions and violations of due process" by public servants, including members of the security forces, compared to 2003 and highlights coordinated actions by members of the security forces and paramilitary groups.

We are troubled for the many communities experiencing armed incursion into their territories from all sides. For example, the Bojay? region in the department of Choc? faces escalating violence from guerrillas and paramilitaries failing to respect the rights or the very lives of civilians. As well, the mid-April 2005 guerrilla attacks on the indigenous peace communities of Torib?o and Jambal? in the southwestern department of Cauca led to a battle between the Colombian armed forces and the guerrillas. The results: the displacement of more than 3,000 people, the death of a nine-year-old child and the wounding of 21 civilians. The lives of these survivors, like the thousands of other Afro-Colombian and indigenous regional inhabitants trying to stay out of the conflict, continue to be gravely endangered.

Regarding the San Jos? de Apartad? case, we respectfully urge the State Department to:
  • a. Pressure the Colombian government to conduct a full and transparent investigation and prosecute those responsible;

  • b. Direct the U.S. Embassy to issue a public statement condemning the massacre in San Jos? de Apartad? to illustrate our concern for the community's safety; and

  • c. Call on the Colombian government to provide protective measures to the community that are determined in careful consultation with community members, as required by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

As tensions continue to mount for the people in Bojay? and Torib?o and Jambal?, we ask that the State Department:
  • a. Encourage the Colombian government to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of communities of the Bojay? region of Choc?, prevent forced displacement and to respond communities already in situations of displacement.

  • b. In response to allegations of continued paramilitary-military collusion in both the violence in San Jos? de Apartad? and the continued attacks against vulnerable populations in the Choc?, make clear to the Colombian Government that the U.S. expects progress in efforts to sever all ties between paramilitary and military forces.

  • c. In response to the attacks and battles in Toribio and Jambalo encourage the Colombian government to send emergency aid to the displaced.

Given the large amounts of military aid and diplomatic support provided by the United States, the U.S. has a responsibility to take a stronger stand in urging Colombia to respect human rights and the rule of law. We hope to see new U.S. leadership on these issues necessary to create conditions for peace in a region long ravaged by the violence of war.

Thank you for your attention to these very important matters. (If possible personalize the closing to the letter as well).


[Name, address]

cc: Representative XXXX

Senator XXXX

Senator XXXX

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