Got Rights? Human rights in Colombia


Located in northern Colombia, Barrancabermeja has been described as the worldfs most dangerous city. It has come to symbolize Colombiafs civil war, which has raged for nearly forty years. Unlike other parts of the country, where most fighting occurs in the jungles and mountains, the war has taken on an urban form in Barrancabermeja.

The city is beset by symptoms of conflict: massacres, forced displacement, kidnappings,
and deep poverty. Instead of open battles between guerillas and government troops,
combat is waged between sicarios (hired killers) who are contracted by both the right-wing paramilitary squad and the left-wing guerilla forces to assassinate suspected enemies. However, many of those killed are ordinary citizens. Journalists investigating and writing about human rights and political violence have also been targeted. By August 2001, eight journalists had already been killed. Many more journalists have been kidnapped or have received death threats.

Human rights activists have risked their lives to shed light on wide spread abuses and the warfs effect on civilians caught between paramilitary death squads and insurgent guerillas.

Masaru Gotofs documentary career began while living in Barrancabermeja. In 1992, his close friend, human rights worker Julio Cesar Berrio, was assassinated for an outspoken stance on behalf of families of the gdisappeared,h detained, and tortured. Masaru left Colombia in 1993 after his name was put on a gdeath list.h A decade later, he returned to the town of Barrancabermeja to find the families he knew and to document the violence that continues to haunt the community.


 

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