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Obligations arising from International Human Rights Law are applicable to governments and state officials of any kind.

On 1st December 2002 the paramilitaries of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) declared a unilateral cessation of hostilities. From that date on the Government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez commenced a so-called "peace process" with these illegal armed groups.

Two years later the process continues and has resulted in the freedom of paramilitary groups in the areas under their control and declarations that such areas are "outside the law" to the extent that ordinary Colombian jurisdiction does not apply and extradition orders relating to drug-trafficking or the membership of organized criminal groups are of no effect, (as in the case of Salvatore Mancuso who is a member of one of the most important families in the Calabrese Mafia).

Equipo Nizkor herewith declares its unqualified support for a negotiated solution to the civil war in Colombia and reaffirms its position that such negotiation must guarantee the following:

- The non-implementation of legal or de facto norms which grant impunity for offenses constituting crimes against humanity and which are intended to be established as part of the continuation of the peace process, thereby attempting to legitimise the violation of the current Colombian Constitution and international human rights standards and/or international humanitarian law;

- The non-acceptance of the agrarian counter-reforms obtained by the narcotraffickers based on the simple plundering of smallholders;

- The right to land ownership by all displaced persons and the annulment of all sales and purchases made under pressure or coercion;

Similarly, all land purchases which have created new estate holdings should be preventively challenged and the origin of the funds used to make the purchases should be investigated according to the norms which control organized crime. Where necessary, these should be expropriated pursuant to such norms.

In no case should the guarantor countries allow the negotiation to become a legitimisation of drug-trafficking, forced expropriation and agrarian counter-reform. All of these facts have been analysed in US Department of State reports and recognised by all the international organizations which have studied the Colombian situation without exceptions of any kind.

The solution to the problem of cocaine and poppy cultivation lies in an agrarian reform which guarantees ownership of land by smallholders and community ownership for indigenous Colombians as well as a large capital investment in those areas over which the Colombian State has not exercised any control in the last 50 years.

We would remind the Spanish Government that the conduct of the paramilitaries in Colombia reflects a pattern of implementation of covert military operations which renders the military forces and the Colombian Army General Staff responsible for war crimes, kidnapping, forced disappearances and other crimes included within the concept of crimes against humanity.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its reports concerning the Atlacatl Battallion in El Salvador, these crimes are not subject to statutory limitations or amnesties. This would also be the case if their obligations were analysed using the parameters applied by the international criminal courts and the current doctrine on International Humanitarian Law.

There is an obvious pattern of civilian population extermination, utilizing modern "social control" techniques (such us computer simulation techniques). Lists of civil, political, social and cultural activists are made and: a) these persons are targeted; b) they are publicly threatened in order to identify them to the paramilitaries; c) security coverage zones in rural and urban areas are cleared in preparation for executions; and d) communications and logistical support are arranged and the moment of execution is determined.

These deeds fall under the concept of criminal organization and the systematic planning of civilian extermination.

In this context, the absence or weakness of the measures frequently announced by the Colombian authorities confirm the ambivalence which persists in the State's assumption of responsibility to combat the groups calling themselves "self-defence groups". In fact, the Office of the United Nations in Colombia has been witness to statements by high-ranking army officers who have stated that the paramilitaries are not attacking the constitutional order and as a consequence it is not the duty of the army to fight them. Situations such as these expose the limits of the demarcation between the State and paramilitarism thereby limiting them to the area of public statements or the making of policies which are never implemented.

Given the foregoing:

We call on the Spanish Government to withdraw its support for a military solution to the civil war in Colombia, to stop subsidizing the so-called "Colombia Plan" and to instruct its diplomats in the European Union and in Colombia itself that under no circumstances should they obstruct the work of international organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross or the Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia.

We note the withdrawal of the United Nations Special Adviser for Colombia, Mr. James LeMoyne, and consider this to be a clear symptom of the failure by Colombia to accept international norms. We ask the Spanish Government to publicly express its appreciation for the work of Mr. James LeMoyne. The Spanish Government should use all diplomatic measures available to it to ensure that the United Nations is able to continue its work in Colombia to which end it is essential that the guarantor countries express their support for international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

We request that the Director General of Foreign Relations of the Council of Europe, Eneko Landaburu Illaramendi and the Director for Latin America of the European Commission, Tomás Duplá del Moral, to conform their political discourse to international law standards which, on the other hand, must be respected by public officials, in particular, those who occupy positions of responsibility vis-à-vis third countries, and we further request that they cease to use a discourse which can be interpreted as supportive of criminal organizations (in the sense used in Nuremberg jurisprudence, i.e. organizations whose objective is the commission of illegal acts constituting crimes against humanity) who have committed crimes against humanity; and we remind them that European criminal jurisdiction is applicable to them in full.

We also ask those high-ranking officials of the Council of Europe that they cease to formulate propositions which are inconsistent with the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission and Court, as this conduct can be construed to be obstruction of justice or denial of jurisdiction of an international court equivalent to the European Court of Human Rights. We would remind these officials that the crimes against humanity in respect of which the Colombian Government is illegally - and with their agreement - seeking an amnesty are subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, which jurisdiction is binding upon them.

We ask the Spanish Government to take all necessary steps to request that the belligerent parties in the Colombian armed conflict adopt appropriate measures to comply with the norms of International Humanitarian Law, recognising that these are the minimum requirements in an armed conflict, and that they should find the means for a peaceful solution consistent with International Law and which allows for a peace guaranteeing the legal recognition of the victims and which complies with the resolutions and decisions of the Inter-American Commission and Court on Human Rights.

We remind the Government of Colombia that provisions granting amnesty for crimes against humanity, whatever form they may take, are illegal and contrary to the resolutions of the Inter-American Commission and Court, the norms of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law and therefore are null and of no effect or validity whatsoever.

We reaffirm here our statement of 27th September 1999 entitled "Paramilitaries act with impunity in areas under military control".

We reaffirm our statement issued on 27th February 2001 entitled "Systematic Crimes Against Civilian Population Constitute Crimes Against Humanity, Not only War Crimes" and in particular the following paragraphs:

According to the Nuremberg Statute and judgments, as well as subsequent judgments of the ad-hoc International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), military commanders and civil servants who control the area where the paramilitaries have acted must be held responsible for not preventing paramilitary crimes as if they had directly ordered the operations within their command area.

The commanders of the militarized zones who are at the top of the chain of command and who are therefore the superiors to the Battalions and their commanding officers, are responsible for not halting the activities of the criminal organizations that make up the paramilitary groups. Allegations of territorial subordination are not sufficient when the offenses involved are of such a nature. Those responsible must be brought before a tribunal not only on the basis that "they should have known" but that "they are in a duty to know" what takes place within their command area, as has been established in the Tihomir Blaskic verdict dated 03mar00, issued by the ICTY.

The paramilitaries must understand that, according to the Geneva Conventions, mercenaries are not entitled to the status of combatant or prisoner-of-war and therefore they will be tried as members of an organization with criminal purposes.

EU, 12 March 2005
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small logoThis document has been published on 28Mar05 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.