UN Human Rights Commission Hears Report On Situation In Colombia.
The Commission on Human Rights received a summary this afternoon on the human rights situation in Colombia, hearing that while there had been some reduction in violence during 2003, the country's internal armed conflict had continued, guerrilla and paramilitary groups still carried out such crimes as extrajudicial executions and forced displacements, and the country's armed forces and police, in their struggle to end the multiple insurrections, allegedly had committed human rights violations themselves.
Bertrand Ramcharan, acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing a report on the topic (E/CN.4/2004/13), said none of the illegal armed groups operating in the country had in any shape or form responded to urgent appeals that they respect civilians' human rights. Mr. Ramcharan also expressed the opinion that the Government's "democratic security" policy had thus far led to procedures that failed to comply with international commitments undertaken regarding the protection and promotion of human rights.
Mr. Ramcharan said the report contained 27 recommendations addressed variously to the Colombian Government, to the different parties to the internal armed conflict, to representatives of civil society and to the international community
A Representative of Colombia, responding to the presentation, said among other things that during 2003, the number of displaced persons in Colombia had been reduced by 50 per cent; cases of assassinations by 20 per cent; incidents of massacres by 33 per cent; and killings by 57 per cent. The Government was continuing efforts to enhance democratic security in the country and to strengthen the human rights situation.
The Commission also reviewed this afternoon the report of its principal subsidiary body, the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. Sub-Commission Chairperson Halima Embarek Warzazi said the group had focused on a number on topics at its three-week session last year, including new threats to the human rights of women; the effects on human rights of anti-terrorism efforts; the difficulties posed by the widespread ownership of guns; and the consequences for human rights of Government corruption.
Twelve Experts were elected to four-year terms on the Sub-Commission during balloting carried out on a regional basis among Commission members. They were Marc Bossuyt (Belgium), Miguel Alfonso Martinez (Cuba), Ibrahim Salama (Egypt), Gaspar Biro (Hungary), Yozo Yokota (Japan), Gudmundur Alfredsson (Iceland), Halima Embarek Warzazi (Morocco), Janio Ivan Tunon Veilles (Panama), Chung Chin-sung (Republic of Korea), Iulia Motoc (Romania), Assouma Aboudou (Tunisia) and David Rivkin (United States). A thirteenth Expert will be elected on Wednesday, 14 April, following additional balloting among the African Group.
Speaking on the situation in Colombia during the afternoon meeting were Representatives of Colombia, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), the United States, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, and the non-governmental organizations : International Commission of Jurists, speaking on behalf of Colombian Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International; World Organization against Torture, speaking on behalf of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues; Franciscans International, speaking on behalf of Dominicans for Justice and Peace; Human Rights Watch; International League for the Rights and Liberation of peoples; World Federation of Trade Unions; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees; International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; Indian Council of South America; World Organization against Torture, speaking on behalf of International Movement of Apostolate in the Independent Social Milieus; International Organization for the Freedom of Education; Friends World Committee for Consultation - QUAKER; International Service for Human Rights; Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees; Pax Romana; and Permanent Assembly for Human Rights.
Colombia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
Addressing the report of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights were Representatives of Nigeria and the NGOs World Organization against Torture (joint statement with International Movement of the Apostolate in the Independent Social Milieus); International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education; Friends World Committee for Consultation; International Service for Human Rights; Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees; Pax Romana; and Permanent Assembly for Human Rights.
The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 April, and is expected over the course of the morning to begin discussion under its agenda item on the promotion and protection of human rights.
Documentation on Organization of Work of the Session (Situation in Colombia)
Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Colombia (E/CN.4/2004/13), which covers the year 2003 and concerns the national context and dynamics of the internal armed conflict; state policy and follow-up to international recommendations; breaches by the armed actors of international humanitarian law; the human rights situation; the situation of particularly vulnerable groups; and recommendations. The evolution of the internal armed conflict and problems of indebtedness, the fiscal deficit, and legislative policy, marked new challenges for the country, the report states. The first months of the year transpired under a state of internal disorder, in the context of which public-order measures and restrictions of fundamental rights and liberties were adopted, particularly in the "rehabilitation and consolidation zones." The Government also increased operations aimed at maintaining or re-establishing public order under its policy of "democratic security."
Communications between the office in Colombia of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Government, in particular with the Vice-President, and other State entities took place to promote the implementation of international recommendations, the report states. There were some advances, but the implementation of the majority of the recommendations was still pending at the time of the report's completion. Moreover, while according to official figures the number of homicides, massacres, attacks upon the civilian population, indiscriminate attacks, acts of hostage taking, terrorism and new forced displacements diminished, the levels of such infractions continued to be high. The civil population continued to be the most affected in areas under the influence of illegal armed groups; and the main paramilitary groups did not honour, in most regions, their commitment to cease hostilities. The human rights situation in the country continued to be critical, with violations of the right to life, to physical integrity, to personal freedoms and security, to due process and judicial guarantees, to the independence and impartiality of the judicial system, to respect for privacy and intimacy, as well as violations of the fundamental freedoms of circulation, residence, opinion and expression, and violations of political rights. Furthermore, the situation of human rights defenders, journalists and union leaders, as well as of ethnic groups, continued to be critical.
The recommendations in the report cover matters related to prevention and protection, the internal armed conflict, the rule of law and impunity, economic and social policies, the promotion of a culture of human rights and the advisory services and technical cooperation of the High Commissioner's office in Colombia. The recipients of those recommendations are State authorities, illegal armed groups, representative sectors of civil society and the international community.
Presentation of Report of High Commissioner on Situation in Colombia, and Response
BERTRAND RAMCHARAN, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights and humanitarian law in Colombia, said that in only a few instances had the Commission's scrutiny been as insightful as in the case of Colombia, which had set a precedent. Throughout 2003, the Office of the High Commissioner had continued its practical and ongoing relationship with the Government of Colombia and had continued to work painstakingly to support State efforts to improve the situation of human rights and humanitarian law in Colombia. The Office had maintained its presence in various regions of the country, with frequent and systematic visits to areas of concern, and had also continued to offer advice and technical cooperation to State entities and civil society, as well as to activities to promote and disseminate the application of human rights and international humanitarian law principles. An additional regional office had been opened in Bucaramanga.
It was regrettable that he had once again to reiterate profound concern regarding the situation of internal armed conflict persisting in the country and the negative impact it had on the Colombian civilian population and the enjoyment of their legally protected rights, Mr. Ramcharan said. None of the illegal armed groups had in any shape or form attempted to implement the recommendations addressed to them in last year's report. Instead, both guerrilla groups - the FARC-EP and ELN - as well as the paramilitary groups had continued to perpetrate killings, the taking of hostages, forced displacements, the recruitment of minors and the use of anti-personnel mines. The Office had also received reports of some cases of alleged breaches of international humanitarian law and violations of human rights on the part of members of the armed forces and the police, including failure to respect the principles of distinction and immunity of the civilian population.
As acting High Commissioner, Mr. Ramcharan said, he felt it necessary to underline the critical importance of a dialogue process aimed at securing a durable and fair peace, an ending of the internal armed conflict and the demobilization of illegal armed groups. It was essential to ensure that the means and mechanisms used to reach this point appropriately and adequately responded to the situation. The rights of victims and their families to truth, justice and reparations must be protected and guaranteed and the Government should use the comments and concepts forwarded by the Office in connection with the Government's so-called draft law on alternative punishment. Moreover, while there was a need to reinforce and guarantee the rule of law over the entire territory of Colombia, it had been observed that the application of the Government's "democratic security" policy had thus far led to procedures that failed to comply with international commitments regarding the protection and promotion of human rights.
The State faced the weighty challenge of establishing priorities and using adequate tools to achieve the stated objectives of the policy of democratic security, in full compliance with international principles and commitments to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, Mr. Ramcharan said. Legal amendments and legislation should not lead to a weakening in the functioning of the courageous national mechanisms and institutions existing in Colombia. There was also a need to modify provisions contained in the Anti-terrorist Statute which had been identified as incompatible with relevant international instruments, especially those which gave members of the armed forces judicial police powers, including the ability to arrest and search individuals without prior issuance of a warrant.
While the number of violent acts had been reduced in 2003 and the presence of the armed forces and police had been expanded in nearly all municipalities, credible allegations had been received regarding violations of basic human rights, of due process and legal guarantees, of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, of fundamental rights to movement, choice of residence, opinion and expression, and of political rights, Mr Ramcharan said. In addition to credible allegations pointing to the direct responsibility of public servants - including the armed forces and police - sometimes in concert with prosecutors, there had been an increase in allegations of extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, torture or degrading treatment, arbitrary or illegal detention, and violations of due process. Of particular concern were allegations regarding the continuing relationship between public servants and paramilitary groups, as well as continued impunity. The Government must redouble its efforts to implement the recommendations of the international community and must take relevant and prompt action to end impunity. Public servants should be reminded of their legal duty to respect and guarantee the work of human rights defenders.
Twenty-seven recommendations had been addressed to the Colombian Government, to the different parties to the internal armed conflict, to representatives of civil society and to the international community, Mr. Ramcharan said. They focused on prevention and protection, the internal armed conflict, the rule of law and impunity, economic and social policies, the promotion of a culture of human rights, and advice and technical cooperation provided by the Office of the High Commissioner. The effective, full and prompt application of those recommendations would lead to improvement on a number of fronts and would provide encouragement to continue such efforts. Mr. Ramcharan encouraged the Government to proceed in a consistent, comprehensive and ongoing manner to implement the recommendations, and urged it to review its position on those recommendations not implemented to date. The international community should also extend its full support to Colombia's implementation efforts.
CARLOS FRANCO ECHAVARRIA (Colombia) reiterated the Government's commitment to continue collaborating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to be more vigilant in its respect for human rights. In addition to providing support to victims of violence and with the cooperation of the State and civil society, the Government had been constructing social democracy. The Government had also maintained a constructive dialogue, a transparent process. Besides a permanent dialogue within Colombian society, the Government had issued an open invitation to visit to the Commission's thematic Special Rapporteurs. The reports that had resulted were themselves guarantees and signs of the Government's efforts towards strengthening political pluralism. The Government had made further efforts to strengthen the democratic process, to protect and promote human rights, and to reduce cases of violence, often through cooperation with non-governmental organizations and the international community.
During 2003, the number of displaced persons in Colombia had been reduced by 50 per cent; cases of assassinations by 20 per cent; incidents of massacres by 33 per cent; and killings by 57 per cent. Those were signs of the strengthening of the democratic process and of the building of the rule of law. The State's legitimacy had also been further strengthened. The Government would continue honouring its obligations and would continue to strengthen democratic security. The Government had also taken measures to demobilize armed paramilitary groups through negotiations.
Debate on Situation in Colombia
MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union welcomed the commitment of the Government of Colombia to maintaining a full and constructive dialogue with the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia. There was full support within the European Union for the London Declaration and for the ongoing efforts of the Government of Colombia to develop a fully functioning democratic state that was consistent with the rule of law, respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, and the welfare and safety of citizens. The Union supported the Government's fight against the scourges of terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and related criminal activities.
However, there was a need in this context to respect the rule of law, international humanitarian law and international human rights instruments to which Colombia had subscribed. Great importance must be given to the commitment to seek a negotiated solution to the internal armed conflict. A comprehensive negotiated solution should bring about a lasting peace in the framework of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. The recorded significant reductions in the levels of a number of serious crimes against persons were a welcome development, and it was hoped that this would continue. But the European Union continued to feel deep concern over grave and persistent violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law taking place in Colombia.
JEFFREY DE LAURENTIS (United States) said Colombian President Uribe's commitment to strengthen the presence of Government security forces and institutions in conflict areas was immediately evident: in 2003, there had been significant human rights improvements. The presence of police and judicial institutions, under the protection of the Government security forces, had ensured that the voices of all Colombians would be heard, rather than silenced through intimidation or coercion. That presence had also enabled the work performed by religious institutions, labour unions, journalists and human rights non-governmental organizations and humanitarian organizations to prosper. Additionally, the Uribe Administration had continued to express its commitment to improving the human rights situation and to ending military-paramilitary collaboration.
The condition for the Government's entering into peace discussions with the illegal armed groups was a ceasefire, but neither the FARC nor the ELN had been prepared to adopt a ceasefire and enter into dialogue. Moreover, to assess accurately the human rights situation, one needed to examine overall progress on the ground. Although many of the High Commissioner's recommendations were solid and constructive, they should not serve as a litmus test of the situation, nor as the only way of strengthening the Government's ability to promote human rights norms. Among examples of serious progress were an early warning system and human rights protection programmes. An extensive human rights and international humanitarian law training progamme was in place for security force members and had helped dramatically to reduce citizen complaints over the past five years. Thus, although more remained to be done, the overall improvement in the situation was the best indicator of the Colombian Government's commitment to human rights.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) said the Government of Colombia should bear in mind the importance of implementing fully the recommendations of the Commission. The efforts of the Government to reinstall order and security on its territory were recognized, and the results already obtained were commended. However, there was a need to reinforce civil and independent controls on the actions of the forces of order just as there was a need to reinforce human rights guarantees for the civilian population. Concern was felt over information regarding arbitrary detentions of community leaders, human rights defenders and trade union members, as well over reports of extra-judicial executions, forced disappearances and torture attributable to agents of the State.
Switzerland condemned the recruitment of children by the Colombian army and expressed concern over the situation of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities who were the main victims of forced displacements. It also felt concern over the climate of hostility created around the work of human rights defenders and encouraged the Government and non-governmental organizations to establish a serene and constructive dialogue. Any effort aimed at finding a negotiated solution to the armed conflict was encouraged, and the current talks should take into account the rights of the victims of human rights violations to truth, justice, and reparations.
ASTRID HELLE AJAMAY (Norway) said the armed conflict in Colombia was detrimental to the human rights situation there, and although the report showed that some progress had been made, there was still cause for concern, and this was also the case with regard to the state of respect for international humanitarian law. The Government's human rights and international humanitarian law policies were being strongly influenced by its "democratic security" policy. The aim of this policy was to consolidate the rule of law and to guarantee the population's safety; but the Government should ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorist acts were in accordance with its obligations under international law.
It was most important to work for the resumption of the political negotiating process, and in doing so, human rights and international humanitarian law should be taken into consideration from the outset. The fundamental principles of truth, justice and reparations for the victims should be guaranteed, and this also applied to the draft legislative Act on alternative sentences currently under discussion.
PAUL MEYER (Canada) said the Government of Colombia was urged to systematically integrate into public policy the recommendations made by the acting High Commissioner in his report. The Colombian Government was commended for the improved security situation in the country, but concern remained over reports of increased arbitrary and illegal detentions, forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and violations of the right to due process attributed to members of the security forces.
Although a demobilization process was under way, paramilitary abuses continued, and the Government should aggressively confront these groups and hold public officials criminally liable for links to paramilitary operations. Concern also was felt over the difficult situation of human rights defenders and other community leaders. The Government was urged to respect fully the important role that civil society played in a democracy. Canada felt profound respect for the commitment and courage of all Colombians who, under their democratically elected Government, were working for a better day for their country.
ANDRES SANCHEZ, of International Commission of Jurists, speaking on behalf of Colombian Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International, said the recommendations of the Commission and of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with regard to Colombia were not being complied with. The situation in the country had continued to worsen in 2003, not only because of human rights violations but also because of the adoption of Government initiatives to dismantle the social and democratic rule of law. It was time for the Commission to react more energetically to the Colombian crisis. The Government had tried to give the impression that the situation was improving, thanks to its security policy. The reports of the High Commissioner and of the four Special Rapporteurs who had visited the country last year shared serious reservations about this contention.
In 2003, approximately 4,000 people had died. They were assassinated during combat or for political reasons. The majority were killed by paramilitary groups with the support or tolerance of State agents. Many others were killed by State agents directly or by guerrilla groups. Many victims came from groups whose rights had been systematically violated: indigenous communities, trade unionists, human rights defenders, teachers and representatives of other social sectors perceived by the combatants to be allies of their adversaries. In addition, nearly 180,000 people had been forced into internal displacement and more than 2,000 people had been kidnapped.
BEATRICE QUADRANTI, of World Organization against Torture, speaking on behalf of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said the organizations wished to express concern over serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that had taken place in Colombia over the past year. There had been a continuation of attacks and kidnappings generally attributed to the FARC and ELN guerrilla groups, and the civilian population had continued to suffer extrajudicial executions and torture at the hands of paramilitary groups. Despite Governmental commitments to end links between public servants and paramilitary groups, there had not been serious efforts to do so. Moreover, certain provisions of anti-terrorism legislation and a draft act on penal alternatives were worrisome, including the granting of authority to the President to remove from prison those responsible for crimes against humanity if they were members of paramilitary groups.
Threats continued to be common currency on the part of armed groups. Furthermore, since the advent of the Uribe Government, illegal detentions had increased dramatically. The situation of insecurity around the country had been exacerbated by the President's accusations against human rights defenders of trafficking in human rights and defending terrorism. It was necessary to express deep concern in the face of such declarations and to denounce the use by the Government of anti-terrorism rhetoric to cover up attacks against human rights defenders.
JOHN QUIGLEY, of Franciscans International, speaking on behalf of Dominicans for Justice and Peace, said the Commission should pay attention to the links between internal displacement, armed control over certain areas, and economic and political interests in Colombia. There had been an increase in the number of displacements despite a decrease in registered displaced persons. Levels of hunger and malnourishment among displaced persons, especially children, warranted immediate action by the Colombian Government.
Depending on the region, displacements typically occurred in areas where land was needed by an industry such as the banana-growing or cattle-rearing industries. Foreign investment would lead to a large increase in land prices. Shows of force to achieve specific political and economic ends also contributed to displacements. The ineffectiveness of the Colombian Government on this issue was due to a lack of political will to act in a comprehensive manner to solve the problem.
LOUBNA FREIH, of Human Rights Watch, said the Colombian Government had not managed to put an end to the links between security forces and paramilitary groups, nor had it managed to guarantee that those who perpetrated abuses of human rights would be brought before the courts. New legislation adopted in 2003 granted the armed forces powers contrary to international commitments entered into by the State. Reliable reports had been received regarding violations by the armed forces of human rights and of a lack of follow-up to such crimes by the Attorney General's Office. In some cases the authorities had justified arbitrary arrests in ways that were clearly incorrect.
The Commission should continue to request the Colombian Government to implement the recommendations made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who should try to renegotiate the mandate of the High Commissioner's Office in Colombia.
VERENA GRAF, of International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, said Colombia had continued to undergo a deep humanitarian crisis over the past year. Although the Government had announced a decline in the number of violent attacks, specific registers kept by non-governmental organizations showed that violent acts had continued at the same rate as over the past 13 years. The widespread nature of arbitrary detentions also continued to be a source of deep concern.
The President himself had called for widespread detentions, which placed in question the independence of the judiciary. There had also been a daily increase in the prevalence of paramilitary groups, which had shown growing ideological control over civilian populations in areas where paramilitaries were supposedly demobilizing. That showed that the groups actually were being legitimised instead of demobilized. Much concern also was felt over provisions of the Government's new legislation which were not in compliance with international standards of human rights and humanitarian law.
AIDA AVELLA, of World Federation of Trade Unions, said that according to the Central Union of Colombian Trade Unions, 92 trade unionists had been killed in 2003, and 87 of them had been affiliated with the Central Union. In 2004 so far, 11 trade unionists had been assassinated, and the threat of assassination had been extended to the families of trade union leaders. The Colombian Federation of Educators had repeatedly condemned assassinations and the taking of hostages from among its members by armed groups.
News of killings of teachers' union leaders had been a shock for the international community. On 19 March 2004, a leader of the education union in the municipality of Tame had been assassinated; and on 21 March, another teacher unionist had been assassinated by armed men. The Colombian Government was urged to comply with its international obligations and to implement the recommendations of the various Special Rapporteurs on the situation in Colombia.
GLORIA MANSILLA, of International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said the situation of human rights in Colombia continued to be critical. On 1 April, another human rights defender had been killed and the failure of the Government to recognize the right to defend human rights meant that the best Colombians continued to be killed. There was an undeclared humanitarian crisis in Colombia with more than 3 million internally displaced persons, 80 per cent of whom suffered from malnutrition. Furthermore, some paramilitary groups were identified publicly with the Government's policy and it was nationally and internationally understood that the Government had been compromised in its actions and/or failure to act against these groups.
Laws granting impunity to paramilitary groups that entered into negotiations negated the possibility of truth, justice and reparations for victims. Moreover, the arbitrary policy on "democratic security" had led to the adoption by the Government of provisions not in compliance with international human rights standards. Additional mechanisms should be submitted before the General Assembly at its next session, including the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Colombia.
JOSE DANIEL ALVAREZ, of Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees, said that despite the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, human rights violations were a grave problem in Colombia. Under the slogan of the supposed strengthening of "democratic society", a majority of Colombians had seen their rights violated. Disappearances continued, and paramilitary groups were responsible. Among the most affected sectors were farmers and peasants.
No response had been given by the authorities to these forced disappearances. Paramilitary groups harassed the family members of the disappeared, and there was impunity for the perpetrators, which disallowed the right of the families to find out what had happened to their loved ones. There was a need for an urgent response from the United Nations to guarantee victims' rights to truth, justice and reparations.
ANNA BIONDI BIRD, of International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, said the organization felt grave concern over the lack of security of many Colombians who were members of unions, social organizations and human rights groups. Even though the number of assassinations had decreased because of Government negotiations with paramilitary groups, these discussions had led to an unacceptable climate of impunity. Deaths of trade unionists and trade union rights defenders were anyway still very much a sad reality in the country.
On 1 April, trade union defence lawyer Carlos Bernal Ramirez and his bodyguard had been assassinated in the city of Cucuta, in Norte de Santander department. They were killed by paramilitaries operating with the acquiescence of the Colombian army. That was why the international labour movement was again pressing the Colombian Government to resolve the shocking degree of impunity for murderers of trade unionists. Since 1991, over 300 trade unionists had been killed in Colombia, and those disturbing statistics were compounded by the fact that perpetrators had been sentenced in only two of those cases. The remaining murder cases were still unsolved; and the criminals continued to enjoy impunity.
ANDRES PEREZ BERRIO, of Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l'Homme, said the Colombian Government's policy of struggling against paramilitary movements and their links with public servants in Colombia had been insufficient. If one considered specific cases of investigations carried out against paramilitary leaders, one saw the absence of a serious political peace process.
On the contrary, democratic security policies had raised further barriers to any possible reconciliation between the civilian population and armed groups. The Commission was urged to establish a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on Colombia, and to submit a report on the situation of human rights in Colombia to the General Assembly.
TOMAS CONDORI, of Indian Council of South America, said the indigenous peoples of Colombia were calling out to the Commission. Scientific data did not reflect the facts of war. Indigenous peoples had a right to territory, Government, culture and development in accordance with the world vision of the 81 peoples inhabiting Colombian territory.
Paramilitary groups had caused a reign of terror and forced displacements among indigenous peoples. They had created an increase in confrontations, and had obliged indigenous peoples to live as prisoners on their own territories. The Government was selling indigenous natural resources and territories to the highest bidder and was failing to respect Mother Earth and the sovereign right of indigenous communities to decide their fates and their futures. Indigenous groups were victims of the armed conflict and suffered from a lack of justice. They were also subject to arbitrary killings. The indigenous peoples of Colombia declared themselves to be peoples of resistance.
Right of Reply
CARLOS FRANCO ECHAVARRIA (Colombia) called upon interested parties to discuss the situation of human rights in Colombia in further detail, but said the Government wished to express concern over some statements that had run counter to the truth. The bill currently before the Congress on negotiations with paramilitary groups did not give the President the right to remove people from prison, for example. People were not being arbitrarily detained for political reasons, and they were free to occupy various posts and to participate in various political parties throughout the country. Furthermore, there had been no decline in the Government budget for the care of displaced persons.
The Working Group on enforced disappearances had been active in all cases of enforced disappearances, and there was continued Government concern over such crimes. It was not true that the Government had sought to defend such disappearances. Such defamations did nothing to clarify the situation and did not contribute to a useful discussion in the Commission. In reference to anti-terrorist legislation, this legislation was geographically limited to those areas where there were no judicial offices. It was the will of the Government to negotiate with all groups. Like its citizens, the country did not want the conflict to continue. Colombia's national policy included a plan of action and sought to redress violations of human rights.
Source: United Nations Press Release - Commission on Human Rights, 60th. Session- Afternoon 13Apr04
Published online on 19Apr04 by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights