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Dozens of young people killed in Colombia, perpetrators unknown | News

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Alvaro Caicedo recalled finding his 15-year-old son’s body on August 12, tortured and lying beside four other lifeless Afro-Colombian teenagers.

His son, Jose, was killed in the impoverished Llano Verde neighbourhood in the western Colombian city of Cali.

Caicedo found the teenagers’ bodies.

“When the children didn’t come home, I was the first parent to go out looking. We went to the police station, then we walked all around, to places we knew he usually went,” Caicedo told Al Jazeera. “When I heard he was with a group of other children, I felt more relaxed. But, we found all of them, they’d been tortured, cruelly murdered, it was horrible.”

This example is just one of a spate of killings that has swept through some of Colombia’s rural regions during recent weeks which have targeted mostly young people and shocked communities.

More than 35 have been killed in just 12 days.

“We need to know who killed them and who is guilty. That’s what we want… that there’s no impunity,” Caicedo said. “We’ve been waiting for many days now and we have had no answers whatsoever.”

‘There’s a lot of fear’

Erlendy Cuero of AFRODES, an association of displaced Afro-Colombians, told Al Jazeera people in Llano Verde are now worried and living in fear.

“People who have children are scared that the same thing that happened to those five could happen to theirs,” she said. “There’s a lot of fear because this massacre made people realise that these groups don’t really care who they’re killing, even if it’s children.”

There were three separate killings in one day on Friday last week, with a total of 17 deaths in the Arauca, Cauca and Narino provinces.

In Narino, eight young people were killed in a separate attack on August 16 when an armed group entered a house and shot them.

Some citizens look at the coffins placed in the street as a symbolic act of rejection of the recent massacres in Colombia [Luis Eduardo Noriega A/EPA]

Local media reported on Monday that three young people were killed by armed groups in the town of Venicia in the Antioquia province.

None of the perpetrators in any of these incidents has been identified.

President Ivan Duque has come under increased pressure and scrutiny to take more action and travelled to the most affected province of Narino, near the Ecuadorian border, on Saturday to hold a security council on the situation.

His visit was met with booing from locals where he visited victims’ families.

The governor of the troubled province requested increased security due to the spate of killings, which are happening at the height of Colombia’s coronavirus pandemic.

Paying the highest price

The Andes director for the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) told Al Jazeera the president’s response has been “disappointing”.

“These are not merely collective homicides due to organised crime and terror. Rather, they are occurring because Duque’s government is not implementing the peace accord and addressing the structural issues that lead to violence,” she said. “The rural, poor, ethnic groups and youth are paying the highest price.”

The Americas director of Human Rights Watch, Jose Miguel Vivanco, has also condemned the spate of attacks, saying “the situation is deteriorating.”  

Oscar Palma, a professor at Rosario University and expert in security issues in Colombia, said these types of killings “are nothing new” and have been used by armed groups for many years to increase territory for cocaine production and drug trafficking in the Andean nation.

“Territorial control is everything. It means controlling [drug trafficking] routes, imposing your own rules on the population,” Palma said, adding that local residents who oppose the groups’ presence can find themselves forcibly recruited to work for them, or be killed.

The researcher said many of the actors believed to be involved, like the left-wing National Liberation Army group (ELN), Clan de Golfo, one of the most powerful drug cartels in the country and dissident fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) clash as they vie for control over territory, highlighting the difficulty the government faces in controlling the violence.

“The state has tried different strategies to reach the communities and fight these criminal groups, but it’s very difficult because there is a significant lack of state institutions in these regions… it’s very difficult to try and destroy these big and small groups,” he said.

‘Those who killed my son need to pay’

For Sergio Guzman, political analyst and director of Colombia Risk Analysis, the most shocking thing is “how quickly the situation on the ground has eroded”.

“When Duque took office there was an encroachment of criminal armed groups that seemed to have gone unabated, taking over significant areas and they’re now in a much more emboldened position, where they are not only exerting territorial control, but now, actually going off and committing these gruesome crimes,” Guzman said.

“President Duque is trying to contain the damage by labelling them as communal homicides, but changing the rhetoric about this is not going to change the truth on the ground, which is that the government is losing ground against criminal groups who are gaining territorial control – that’s what’s most concerning,” he added.

But for parents like Caicedo, now mourning the death of his son, all they can do is wait to see if justice will prevail in a country with infamously high impunity rates.

“There are still a lot of innocent children in this neighbourhood, and we need justice for them. Murderers continue to walk among us, and this is what fills us with fear,” Caicedo said. “Those who killed my son,” he pauses and takes a deep breath, “need to pay for it”.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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FDC activists win Bank of Uganda pig case by simply keeping quiet

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FDC activists Augustine Ojobile and Robert Mayanja

Buganda Road Magistrate’s court has acquitted two opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) activists Augustine Ojobile and Robert Mayanja of common nuisance charges.

FDC deputy chief administrative officer Ojobile and Mayanja have been acquitted by the grade one magistrate Fidelis Otwao on charges stemming from their protest held in November 2018 when they carried pig heads to the central police station (CPS) in Kampala protesting the rot in the Bank of Uganda that had reportedly resulted into the closure of a number of commercial banks in the country for many years.


According to them, corruption at the Central bank had been the sole ingredient for the closure of commercial banks in Uganda over the years because it reportedly mismanaged them and made erroneous decisions that led to their closure.

With fresh pig heads tied around their necks and stinking blood oozing across their white T-shirts, Mayanja and Ojobile walked through the streets of Kampala to the police in a protest that was spearheaded by their pressure group known as the Jobless Youth.

One pig head had a placard bearing the name of the former and late BOU governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile and the other of his former deputy Louis Kasekende.

The protest at CPS came a few days after another that was staged at the Central bank where two piglets were dumped bearing the name of Juma Kisaame (a Muslim), the former managing director of DFCU bank. 

As a result, the duo was arrested and taken to Buganda Road court on charges of common nuisance and the prosecution adduced evidence from five witnesses who included police officers and Muslims who were reportedly angered by the protest.

According to the witnesses, the actions of Mayanja and Ojobile were annoying to the people whose names were mentioned and tagged on pig heads, and the smell that was coming out of the fresh pig heads was most likely to result in injury to a considerable number of the public by affecting their health, and the protest affected businesses since some shops allegedly had to close to see what was happening outside due to their commotion.

But when Mayanja and Ojobile were asked to defend themselves over the allegations, the duo that didn’t have legal representation chose to keep quiet as their defense and let the court make its decision based on what the prosecution witnesses had testified to.

In a judgement read today Friday by Otwao, he indicated that the evidence from the prosecution witnesses is wanting because none of the people alleged to have been annoyed by the actions of the activists testified in the case or recorded a statement with police.

According to Otwao, the testimonies were based on what the witnesses were feeling as individuals and that there were no abusive statements on the pig heads that the prosecution had indicated which would cause annoyance, save for putting the names of people only. 

As such, the court has ruled that such testimonies cannot be relied on to convict a person because the prosecution has failed to prove that there was common injury, danger to the public or destruction of property.

Consequently, the magistrate has acquitted the duo and directed that each of them starts the process to seek a refund of the Shs 500,000 that each had paid to be released on bail.

The activists have welcomed the ruling saying that the court has recognized that the citizens have a right to protest peacefully.

The pig protests have been commonly used by activists who subscribe to this group known as the Jobless Brotherhood which has since rebranded to the “Alternative”.

In 2016, their members including Luta Ferdinand who is now facing trial in the court-martial on different charges, and Joseph Lukwago were arrested for dumping piglets at parliament protesting the Shs 200 million given to each MP for buying personal cars.



Source – observer.ug

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Saudi Arabia executes 81 people in a single day | Death Penalty News

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The death penalty applied for a range of charges in the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom’s modern history.

Saudi Arabia has executed 81 men over the past 24 hours, including seven Yemenis and one Syrian national, on charges including “allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations” and holding “deviant beliefs”, state news agency Saudi Press Agency said, in the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom in its modern history.

The number dwarfed the 67 executions reported in the kingdom in 2021 and the 27 in 2020.

“These individuals … were convicted of various crimes including murdering innocent men, women and children,” SPA said on Saturday, citing a statement from the interior ministry.

“Crimes committed by these individuals also include pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations, such as ISIS [ISIL], al-Qaeda and the Houthis,” it added.

Some travelled to conflict zones to join “terrorist organisations”, according to the SPA.

“The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process,” it said.

“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten the stability of the entire world,” the report added.

The men included 37 Saudi nationals who were found guilty in a single case for attempting to assassinate security officers and targeting police stations and convoys, the report added.

Saudi Arabia’s last mass execution was in January 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people, including a prominent opposition Shia leader who had rallied demonstrations in the kingdom.

In 2019, the kingdom beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shia, in a mass execution across the country for alleged “terrorism”-related crimes.

Saudi Arabia’s human rights records have been under increasing scrutiny from rights groups and Western allies since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

It has faced strong criticism of its restrictive laws on political and religious expression, and the implementation of the death penalty, including for defendants arrested when they were minors.

Saudi Arabia denies accusations of human rights abuses and says it protects its national security according to its laws.

SPA said the accused were provided with the right to a lawyer and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Nigerian student in Ukraine: 'Mummy we keep hearing bombs'

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Hauwa’s son Suleiman is a Nigerian student in Sumy – she says the family are fearful and anxious.



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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