Situation of human rights in Colombia.
The Commission on Human Rights welcomes the extension of the mandate of the office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights granted by the Government of Colombia for a four-year period until 2006. This office plays a vital role in the work against ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Colombia. The Commission also strongly supports the role of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Colombia.
The Commission trusts that the Government of Colombia will continue to allow the office in Colombia of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to carry out its activities without any impediments to the fulfillment of its mandate, and welcomes the intention shown by the Government to benefit fully from the mandate of the office and to maintain an effective dialogue with it.
It encourages the eventual establishment of field sub offices in Colombia in addition to the ones already opened in Cali and Medellín.
The Commission calls upon the Government of Colombia to make use of the services of the office in Colombia of the High Commissioner for Human Rights when preparing its reports to treaty bodies.
It welcomes the very detailed report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Colombia (E/CN.4/2003/13) and takes note of the document containing the observations of the Government of Colombia on that report (E/CN.4.2003/G/64, annex).
It urges the Government of Colombia to comply fully with the recommendations contained therein, as well as with recommendations adopted by the Commission at its fifty-eighth session that remain unimplemented. It further urges the civil society in Colombia to cooperate with the office of the High Commissioner in achieving compliance with those recommendations.
The Commission recognizes that the Government of Colombia is cooperating with United Nations bodies and mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights and it encourages the Government to consider recognizing the competence of the committees established under articles 21 and 22 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and in accordance with article 14 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It also encourages the Government to consider ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
The Commission welcomes the standing invitation issued by the Government of Colombia to all United Nations special procedures and mechanisms for the protection of human rights to visit the country. It calls upon the Government of Colombia to implement their recommendations fully and to make use of the technical services of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Commission expresses its deep concern at the further deterioration that the collapse in February 2002 of the process of dialogue and negotiation with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as well as the suspension of the process of dialogue and negotiation between the Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), have brought about in terms of security of the civilian population, respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, good governance, democracy and the rule of law, while recognizing the efforts made by the Government of Colombia to build a peace process.
The Commission strongly believes that a negotiated solution is necessary in order to seek an end to the internal conflict in Colombia and bring about a lasting peace in the framework of good governance, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. In this context, it attaches great importance to President Uribe's commitment to seek a negotiated solution. It also underlines the role that can continue to be played by the international community, in particular the United Nations through the Special Adviser to the Secretary General. While understanding the priority placed by the new Government on increased security and fighting violence, terrorism and drug trafficking, in order to strengthen State institutions, establish the rule of law throughout the country and bring a solution to the long lasting internal conflict that has brought so much suffering to the Colombian people, the Commission stresses the responsibilities of the Colombian Government with regard to the human rights situation and the observance of international humanitarian law. It further emphasizes that all measures taken have to respect human rights, humanitarian law and democratic principles. The Commission welcomes in this context the commitment of the new Government to the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, good governance, democracy and the rule of law.
The Commission takes note with interest of the inclusion in the National Plan of Development 2003-2006 of a Policy of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, under the direction of the Colombian Vice-President and oriented to the strengthening of a preventive approach, the consolidation of protection programmes for vulnerable groups, the attention and prevention of enforced displacement, the strengthening the administration of justice, the implementation of measures of International Humanitarian Law, strengthening of the links with the human rights international community, the NGOs and territorial and institutional strengthening to fulfill the State obligations on promotion, guarantee and protection, and calls upon the Government of Colombia to implement these policies in accordance with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.
The Commission notes the effort of the Government of Colombia to increase human rights training, but remains concerned at continued reports of human rights abuses attributed to the armed and security forces. It takes note of the ruling of the Constitutional Court declaring unconstitutional parts of Decree 2002 granting judicial police powers to the armed forces and appeals to the Government not to seek to make these powers permanent through law.
It urges the Government of Colombia to further ensure that the members of State forces against whom credible allegations exist are suspended whilst speedy investigations are undertaken in order to bring those responsible to civilian justice.
The Commission is deeply concerned at reports that the Fiscalía General de la Nación (Office of the Attorney-General) is not showing sufficient willingness to investigate serious violations of human rights.
It recognizes the challenging tasks and vulnerability that the officials of the Fiscalía General de la Nación face.
The Commission urges the Attorney-General to secure and strengthen the independence of the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Unit of his Office, to guarantee the protection of its prosecutors and investigators and to secure the funding necessary for the continuation of its investigations, including into possible links between members of the armed forces and the paramilitary.
The Commission strongly condemns the persistence of impunity in Colombia, especially with regard to violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law. It urges the Government to take further necessary measures to end impunity and recalls the importance of bringing the full force of the law to bear on those responsible for the crimes committed by bringing to trial in civilian courts in accordance with international standards of fair trial. It emphasizes that any solution to the conflict must not lead to impunity for such crimes.
The Commission, in this context, acknowledges the ratification by Colombia of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The Commission calls upon the Government of Colombia to interpret and adjust all national legislation, as well as to implement it, in accordance with the Government's obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. It also calls upon the Government to ensure that it does not put the civilian population in jeopardy by further pulling it into the conflict.
In this context, the Commission recalls General Assembly resolution 57/219 of 18 December 2002, in which the Assembly affirmed that States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law. There must also be full compliance with international obligations inside the "zones of rehabilitation and consolidation".
The Commission urges the Government of Colombia not to take any measures that might weaken the constitutional mechanisms for the protection of human rights, justice and ombudspersons, or that might undermine the independence of the judiciary.
The Commission firmly condemns all acts of terrorism and other criminal acts, such as attacks against life, physical integrity and personal liberty and safety, committed by all illegal armed groups. It strongly appeals to all those groups to respect international humanitarian law, especially as it applies to the protection of the civilian population. It also condemns the recruitment of a large number of children by illegal armed groups and urges those groups to stop the recruitment of children and to demobilize immediately those children currently in their ranks.
The Commission firmly condemns all acts of violence and breaches of international humanitarian law committed by paramilitary groups, particularly against the civilian population. It also strongly condemns the growing practice of extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions.
The Commission strongly condemns all breaches of international humanitarian law committed by other illegal armed groups, especially FARC, in particular through attacks on the civilian population. It urges all illegal armed groups to comply with international humanitarian law and to respect the legitimate exercise by the population of their human rights.
The Commission strongly condemns the practice of kidnapping, whether for political or economic reasons, expresses its deep concern at the high number of persons kidnapped and urges the immediate and unconditional release of all of them.
The Commission strongly condemns all threats, attacks, kidnappings and assassinations of persons who carry out peaceful political activities by paramilitary or other illegal armed groups. It reiterates its request to all illegal armed groups to respect persons exercising their political rights, and reminds them that the taking of hostages is a violation of international humanitarian law.
It also condemns the campaign of intimidation against mayors and town councillors, which represents an unacceptable offence against local liberties and the running of democratic institutions.
The Commission strongly deplores the persistence of links between paramilitary groups and members of State forces who collaborate with and consent to or acquiescence in criminal acts carried out by the former. It urges the Government of Colombia to implement fully the measures adopted to combat, repress and dismantle paramilitary groups, as well as to investigate and bring the links between military forces and the paramilitaries to an end.
The Commission warmly welcomes the adoption of Law 759 on compliance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, and encourages the Government to implement fully the norms adopted for the eradication of anti-personnel mines. It urges all illegal armed groups to abide by the international obligations concerning the banning of the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of anti-personnel landmines.
The Commission is seriously concerned at the worrying increase in attacks against the life, physical integrity and safety and freedom of movement of human rights defenders, trade union leaders, lawyers, social activists, journalists and Church dignitaries. The Commission also condemns the violation of the freedom of opinion and expression and the free exercise of political rights that affects these groups in particular. It urges the Government of Colombia to continue to adopt adequate measures to make effective full observance of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as of the recommendations made by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders after her visit in November 2001.
The Commission encourages the Government of Colombia to complete the process of ratification of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons.
It reiterates its appeal to the Government of Colombia to implement provisions in the Criminal Code regarding enforced disappearances, which affect journalists, human rights defenders, trade unionists and political and social activists. There are serious allegations that members of State forces who collaborate with paramilitary groups and consent to or acquiescence in criminal acts are involved in some of the disappearances. Enforced disappearances are a particularly serious and disturbing violation of human rights.
It expresses concern at the alleged existence of a campaign to create a climate of hostility towards non-governmental organizations that work in the field of human rights. NGOs play an important role in the attenuation of humanitarian crises and the promotion of human rights and social justice. The Commission reiterates its recommendation that the Government of Colombia further promote Presidential Guideline 07 on support, dialog and collaboration of the State with the human rights organizations carrying out humanitarian activities in the country among public officials and ensure that they are prosecuted if it should be violated.
Likewise, it urges the Government to implement the measures adopted to guarantee the right to life, the physical integrity and the ability to function freely of leaders of trade unions and employers' organizations, as set out in article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Attacks against trade union officials undermine the very foundations of their organizations, thereby reducing the possibility of social dialogue and consultation. The Commission is encouraged to learn that the Government of Colombia has reactivated the Inter-Institutional Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Workers' Human Rights and hopes that its work will lead to the adoption of additional and more efficient measures to guarantee their life and personal safety and strengthen their protection, in particular by implementing recommendations of the International Labour Organization.
The Commission urges the Government of Colombia to ensure the efficiency of the Special Protection Programme for Witnesses and Threatened Persons under the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, to establish clear standards of risk, to extend the number of beneficiaries and to provide adequate resources to that effect.
The Commission is alarmed at the fact that the deterioration of the conflict has brought about a considerable increase in the number of internally displaced persons in Colombia, a great number of whom are under 14 years of age, and at their deteriorating situation of vulnerability and insecurity. The Commission believes that this problem must be tackled effectively and calls upon all actors in the conflict to halt all actions that would further aggravate this serious problem. The Commission appeals to the Government of Colombia to implement provisions and mechanisms in place, such as those provided for in Law 387, pursuant to the ruling of the Constitutional Court and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in support of protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons, in particular women and children, and of action to ensure their safe return.
In this regard, it calls upon the Government of Colombia to continue to implement the recommendations of the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons and encourages further cooperation with international bodies, especially the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as non-governmental organizations, not only through the adoption of protection measures, but also in the field of prevention, and sanctioning those responsible for causing internal displacement. The Commission supports the role of the United Nations and the cooperation of the Government of Colombia in drawing up the United Nations Inter-Agency Humanitarian Action Plan to assist internally displaced persons.
The Commission deplores attacks against indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and urges all actors to respect the special cultural status of minorities and indigenous communities. It calls upon the Government of Colombia to adopt effective protection measures for the leaders, defenders and other members of those communities which are under threat. Likewise, it appeals to all illegal armed groups to respect the identity and integrity of these minorities and indigenous communities.
The Commission encourages the Government of Colombia to pay special attention to social and economic reforms and in particular to step up measures and adopt further policies to revitalize the Colombian economy, to further equal access to the generation of income and to strengthen good governance and the rule of law and, thereby, the democratic pillars of Colombian society.
The Commission is aware of the efforts of the Government of Colombia to combat the illicit production and trafficking of drugs and welcomes the significant 30 per cent reduction in coca cultivation in 2002. However, these efforts have to be undertaken in full respect of human rights and the environment. Furthermore, such efforts have to be matched by comprehensive and sustainable alternative development programmes to provide farmers with lawful incomes. Such programmes could centre on community-based approaches, gender mainstreaming and livelihood strategies and be supported by the Government, the United Nations Office on Drugs Crime and the international donor community, based on the principle of shared responsibility.
The Commission requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit to it at its next session a detailed report containing an analysis by his Office of the situation of human rights in Colombia in accordance with the agreement between the Government of Colombia and his Office on the operation of the permanent office in Bogotá.
[Source: COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Fifty-ninth session, Agenda item 3,2003]
This document has been published on 28jul03 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.