IACHR Expresses Concern About Extradition of Colombian Paramilitaries

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern about the extradition of paramilitary leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), which seriously limits the ability to shed light on grave crimes perpetrated during the armed conflict in Colombia.

On Tuesday, March 13, the State of Colombia informed the Commission about the extradition to the United States of 14 paramilitary leaders, including Salvatore Macuso, "Jorge 40," and "Don Berna," to face trial on drug trafficking charges. The individuals who were extradited had applied for benefits under the Justice and Peace Law, designed to prosecute crimes committed against the civilian population by armed groups operating outside the law in Colombia.

The Commission notes that this extradition affects the Colombian State’s obligation to guarantee victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparations for the crimes committed by the paramilitary groups. The extradition impedes the investigation and prosecution of such grave crimes through the avenues established by the Justice and Peace Law in Colombia and through the Colombian justice system’s regular criminal procedures. It also closes the door to the possibility that victims can participate directly in the search for truth about crimes committed during the conflict, and limits access to reparations for damages that were caused. This action also interferes with efforts to determine links between agents of the State and these paramilitary leaders.

The IACHR has closely followed the demobilization process in Colombia from the beginning, acting on a mandate from the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) and on its authority under the American Convention on Human Rights. In this context, it has on numerous occasions underscored the importance that the State guarantee that victims of the armed conflict can exercise their right to truth, justice, and reparations.

[Source: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Press Release No. 21/08, Washington, 14may08]

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