Report on Forced Displacement in Colombia - 1999

Developed by the Support Group for Displaced People Organizations - GAD


"Three years after our displacement / In the middle of the war, we will begin our homecoming / carrying on our shoulders the grief / for our dead and disappeared people; / In our hands, seeds and tools / In our faces, smiles of hope / And in our hearts, the supportive presence / Of those who have helped / To keep the dreams alive / And hope fresh"

Autodeterminación, Vida y Dignidad Community (Self-determination, life and dignity) of Cacarica River. Chocó - Colombia, 1999.

Where we come from... / The world we know is the peasant world we come from / The rural world we come from is the one we could talk about... / Our hands are big and callous, we work with a machete, an axe, motorsaw, paddle and a boat bar... / That is our history, that is our truth.

Ancient people were violently wrenched from Africa and cruelly thrown in America three hundred years ago; today, we are violently wrenched from our fields and cruelly thrown in Quibdó...

Where we want to arrive... / It is where we come from where we want to arrive. / It is nothing else, but it is nothing less. / We want impunity to stop; that the government stops being accessory - because its action or omission - to the armed groups that uprooted us. / We want the land to be for those who work on it, not for the one who exploit it / We want the President, the Governor and the Mayor to make up and develop a real policy for displaced people. / We want damages to be repaired. / We want that those who menaced, tortured and massacred our people to be punished. / We want the solution to our list of negotiation. / We want justice, we want dignity.

Excerpts from statement made before International commission and Colombian authorities by displaced people of the middle Atrato river. Quibdó - Chocó, 1999.



Forced displacement in 1999

Monitoring of state policies

The response of the international community and the civil society

Conclusions and recommendations


Documentation Note.


Colombia has one of the highest rates of forced internal displacement in the world(1). This situation constitutes the greatest humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere today. The plight of the displaced persons becomes worse year after year and remains without a solution in sight.(2)Forty percent of Colombia's municipalities(3)have suffered from the forced expulsion of some of their population in the last three years(4). This indicates that there are almost no safe places left to seek refuge after displacement and has meant an increased migration towards the cities.

Colombia ended 1999 with the desolating internal panorama of an unstoppable and out of control armed confrontation employing new methods of warfare that increasingly involved the civilian population in direct disregard for their rights. This situation that takes place amid the worst economic recession in history, mainly due to the high levels of concentration of income and property(5). Throughout the year there were attacks against the civilian population by the armed groups, showing their lack of willingness and capability to embark upon the political and social solutions that the country urgently demands. One of the most visible results of the armed conflict was the increase in victims of mass, family or individual displacement who were forced to flee in defence of their lives.

In the principal cities of the country there were dramatic scenes of displaced people in the streets trying to find ways to survive, in overcrowded slums, put up in friends or relative's houses or camped out in public places to pressurise the authorities into granting them their rights.

According to official documents 400,000 displaced persons are estimated to exist in the country,(6)while the non-governmental organisation, Consultoría para los derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (Human Rights and Displacement Advisory Office - CODHES) puts the number of people displaced in the last five years at more than a million. However, this significant discrepancy, a critical point in the diagnosis of the situation, does not prevent the comprehension of its seriousness in terms of the enormous suffering brought upon many human beings and the consequences on the social structure.

During 1999 the phenomenon of forced displacement spread over a larger area of the national territory while the numbers of victims dropped slightly with respect to the previous year. At the same time, however, the Colombian State's obligations in prevention, attention and protection were acutely lacking and showed high levels of inefficiency.

The year 1998 ended with the President of the Republic, Andrés Pastrana's announcements on a government peace plan by means of direct high level talks with the armed actors. During 1999 the results of the intermittent dialogues were observed, disrupted by many conflicts of interests and the underlying impetus of the war itself.

On 6 May 1999 both sides officially announced the agreement of a Common Agenda for Change towards a New Colombia. Twelve basic points were included in this document, among them the following are highlighted: a commitment to reach a negotiated political settlement; to bring in an integral agrarian reform; to fight drug-trafficking and corruption; to implement a political reform; a restructuring of the judicial system; and the application of International Humanitarian Law. Specific solutions for victims of forced displacement were not set out on this peace agenda.

Throughout the course of the year the demilitarised zone(7) solicited by the Fuerzas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -FARC) was maintained in five municipalities within their area of influence while the talks were put on ice due to a lack of agreement on: a) The conformation of a Verification Commission in the demilitarised zone, a proposal which was refused by the FARC; b) The lack or absence of measures taken by the state against the paramilitaries; and c) The exchange of soldiers held by the FARC in return for guerrillas held in different prisons of the country. At the same time hundreds of civilians from the municipalities in the demilitarised zone were forced to move to different parts of the country as a result of threats and abuses against them.

Working committees were set up on 24 October to establish agreements on each point of the peace agenda as well as a methodology for this purpose. The deal struck between the two sides was to advance in the peace talks in the midst of the armed conflict. On this same day various sectors of the population held demonstrations in every city of the country under the slogan No más a la guerra,(No More War).

Attempts to set up a peace process with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army -ELN) met with many obstacles. This was mainly due to the impossibility of designating the demilitarised zone solicited by the insurgent group to hold the Convención Nacional (peace talks) with the government. In the midst of these difficulties, the armed group sought to demonstrate its military capacity in different actions involving the civilian population.

Paramilitary organisations tried to attain a certain political status, as valid players in the talks seeking a solution to the conflict,(8)at the same time as carrying out massacres and torture, destroying villages and threatening the civilian population. These actions caused the greater part of the massive and individual displacements in 1999.

As a result of various paramilitary attacks the police and armed forces' complicity or negligence in their obligations was denounced. A worrying fact is that during the year some of the paramilitary groups' large-scale movements and prolonged attacks in different regions of the country occurred in areas with army or naval bases. The police and armed forces' response was late and did not guarantee lasting protection for the population.

By diverse strategies and methods that kept involving the civilian population in the war, the armed groups have consolidated forced displacement as a way of gaining strategic territories. Thus, displacement continues to be an effect of the armed conflict but with increasing frequency it is becoming a strategy of war itself.

This report seeks to give an overview of the state of forced displacement in Colombia in 1999.The first part will provide a quantitative approximation of the population and regions affected, the situation of human rights and international humanitarian law with regard to the events that cause displacement and the current conditions of the population displaced by violence.

The second part will examine the institutional state response in light of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, recently published in Colombia(9). This section is illustrated with descriptions of the most serious regional cases revealing the fundamental aspects of government policy on the issue with regard to its design and execution.

The third part will summarise the civil society's participation in the formulation of supportive and integral responses to the situation of internal displacement. The report ends with a list of GAD's recommendations to the state, the international community and national non-governmental sectors that are involved in attention to populations displaced by the violence and the pursuit of lasting solutions to prevent and overcome forced displacement.


1. Forced displacement in 1999

1.1 Context and characteristics

The human rights situation deteriorated notably in 1999 amid the worsening of the armed conflict and other social and political problems facing the country. While in 1998 an average of nine people per day were victims to the violence, the figure went up to 12 in 1999: six people lost their lives in extra-judicial executions; one person was disappeared; four died in combat; and one was murdered for belonging to a marginalised social sector. Of the total human rights violations and infringements of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) reported in Colombia in 1999, 73% of the cases were attributed to paramilitary groups, 22% to guerrilla groups and 5% to the police and armed forces(10).

Forced displacement due to the political and social violence in Colombia continued to spread in 1999. CODHES estimates the population of people forcibly displaced in 1999 at 288,000. Out of the 28 departments affected, those that showed the greatest influx of this population, in decreasing order, were: Cundinamarca, Bolívar, Antioquia, Santander, Valle del Cauca, Norte de Santander and Córdoba, jointly registering the arrival of 65% of the displaced persons. While in 1998 the arrival of internally displaced persons (IDPs) was registered in 210 municipalities of the country, in 1999 this figure reached 400 municipalities(11). Eighty-nine of them received IDPs throughout the whole year.

As was stated in the 1998 GAD report(12)and is confirmed in the examples summarised in this report the immediate destination of IDPs is the closest municipal capital or principal village of the corregimiento. However, when security conditions or humanitarian aid become difficult the displaced people head towards larger city centres in the hope of adequate solutions. Therefore, the classification of municipalities as expellers or receptors does not allow the specific events of each forced displacement to be correlated. Therefore the estimates given may include information for populations that were displaced before 1999 and have travelled from place to place in search of refuge and assistance.

Around 30% of the displaced persons in 1999 were part of massive exoduses. The departments most affected, in decreasing order, were,: Bolívar, Córdoba, Valle del Cauca, Norte de Santander, Antioquia, Santander, Chocó, Sucre and Magdalena(13). The immediate causes were related to actions by armed groups and their regional repercussions -threats, massacres, selective murders, and fighting that affected the civilian population and their property.


1.2 Events causing displacement

1.2.1 Massive Human Rights violations

The Defensoría del Pueblo (Human Rights Ombudsman's Office) registered 402 massacres in 1999, leaving 1863 victims. This indicates a dramatic rise with respect to 1998 (235 massacres), 1997 (286 massacres) and the period between 1991-96 (152 massacres on average)(14). The total number of people murdered rose by 36% with respect to 1998(15). The participation in these events by the majority of armed groups in the conflict indicates that these crimes have been consolidated as a strategy of war.

Twenty-seven percent of the massacres occurred in the department of Antioquia, also the department most affected by these events in 1998(16). Another 26% occurred in Norte de Santander, Valle de Cauca, Bolívar and Cesar, indicating a notable increase in these departments. In Cáqueta, Cauca, Córdoba, Putumayo, Santander and Tolima 20% of the massacres were committed, also showing an escalation with respect to the previous year.

Comparing the statistics, the departments of Antioquia, Córdoba, Bolívar, Santander, Norte de Santander and Valle del Cauca showed the highest number of massacres, the most massive displacements and the greatest influx of IDPs in 1999.

According to the Human Rights Ombudsman's report, responsibility for 37.8% of the massacres is attributed to paramilitary groups that were able to act due to the collaboration or negligence of the police and armed forces; 16.6% is attributed to guerrilla groups and 2% to the police and armed forces. The Human Rights Ombudsman's Office classifies the rest of those responsible as 'armed groups' (8.96%) and 'others' (35%). These undetermined actors contribute to making the situation of the armed conflict in Colombia more complex and unpredictable.


1.2.2 Actions by paramilitary groups

In 1999 the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia -AUC) carried out massive and systematic attacks covering complete regions. The paramilitary commands established a method that was repeated almost without variation: the target population was isolated, the inhabitants were forced to leave their houses, to gather together and identify themselves; various people were separated off according to a list held by the attackers, then they were brutally tortured and murdered under the accusation of collaborating with guerrilla groups; later, a subsequent 'cleansing' process of the guerrillas in the area was announced. In many attacks, the paramilitaries gave the villagers a fixed deadline to leave the area under threat of losing their lives or accepting the armed group's authority.

This systematic act was applied throughout the year in Norte de Santander, in the central part of the department of El Valle and in the south of Bolívar, where massive displacements took place as a result of the paramilitary attacks. These occurred with greatest frequency in the outlying hamlets of villages, which in many cases, were completely destroyed. The above procedure was made possible by the absence of the police and armed forces or negligence on their part in counteracting the paramilitary phenomenon. It established an atmosphere of terror that became unmanageable for the communities(17).

In their first offensive of 1999, between 5 and 10 January, a considerable number of paramilitary commandos acted in a simultaneous manner in the departments of Antioquia (18 municipalities), Bolívar, Cesar, Magdalena, Sucre, Putumayo, and La Guajira. Between 130 and 140 peasant farmers were murdered, accused by the paramilitaries of helping the guerrillas. In some of the villages, the inhabitants received prior warnings to leave the area, and in others, such as Playón de Orozco (Magdalena), the cruelty of the attack was such that it led to the exodus of all the villagers. During the same period, 75 state employees, including nine mayors, from the department of Cauca were declared 'military targets' by the paramilitaries. Some 6000 peasant farmers from five communities in the department of Putumayo abandoned their homes; after the massacre in the hamlet of El Tigre, 2100 of its 2500 inhabitants fled the area.

In the negotiations for the return of the peasants displaced from the south of Bolívar and the Valle del Cimitarra in 1998, the government recognised that "...[the] paramilitary groups have systematically employed the practices of forced disappearance, torture, massacre, murder, massive and individual displacement and other criminal activities on people unconnected to the conflict, generally poor peasant farmers"(18).

On that occasion, the government indicated that police and military units present in areas where paramilitary commandos operated were under the obligation to intensify their actions and provide immediate and convincing results in the fight against these groups. It also reiterated its political willingness to prevent and combat the punishable association between these groups and various military and police agents. It also restated its commitment to implement a state policy against the paramilitary phenomenon.

However, in 1999 the Colombian Government received numerous recommendations from international organisations regarding the situation, nearly all of which coincided in their expression of the seriousness and extent of human rights violations in the country; the support for paramilitary groups from members of the armed forces and police; the lack of consistent efforts in the persecution and dismantling of these groups; deficiencies in the judicial system concerning negligence on the part of state agents; the seriousness of forced displacement; and the fact that recommendations made in previous years by the United Nations to improve the situation have not been put into practice(19).

The panorama of paramilitary attacks in 1999 showed the capacity of these groups to extend their presence throughout the greater part of the country; the non-existence of effective state measures to combat them, even when they act in areas of high military and police presence; the lack of protection towards the civilian population with respect to the frequent occurrence of crimes against humanity; and the generalised impunity of those directly responsible and the social sectors that support these groups.


1.2.3 Actions by guerrilla groups

In 1999 the practice of mass civilian kidnapping(20)was consolidated by guerrilla groups. Spectacular acts were also employed, for example, the hijacking of the passengers on an internal flight(21)and the kidnapping of a group of churchgoers during mass, both carried out by the ELN. Throughout the year190 electricity pylons were blown up causing a generalised rationing of the electricity supply in the Northwest of the country in the last few months

After the series of attacks en masse against military garrisons in the past few years, the FARC have systematically been implementing the use of home-made explosives of great potential and little accuracy(22)in their attacks against the police stations of municipal capitals. As a result of the use of these weapons, the number of victims injured or killed among the non-combatant population has increased considerably and so has the destruction of civilian property, helping to create the conditions for displacement.

Tens of municipal capitals suffered armed attacks by the guerrillas in 1999. The consequences of these attacks on the civilian population were serious taking into account the slow rate of urban renovation in rural communities and the extensive difficulties involved in attaining a minimum social infrastructure. For example the villages of Ataco, Dolores, Prado Villarica and La Arada (Tolima) were seriously damaged after attacks by the FARC at the end of the year, resulting in losses estimated at $10,000 million Colombian pesos (US$5 million). The town of Nariño (Antioquia), attacked by the ELN, suffered damage to its infrastructure to the value of $2.000 million pesos (more than US$1 million).

Complaints about abuses by the FARC have been made at various times by the civilian population living in the demilitarised zone. These have been recorded by organisations such as the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office and Amnesty International in the absence of the verification committee not agreed by the sides in the negotiation. CODHES estimates that 3900 people were forced to leave the demilitarised zone in 1999(23). This displacement was associated with abuses against the civilian population such as threats, detentions, accusations of collaborating with the armed forces or paramilitary groups, extortion, forced recruitment of children or young people as well as the uncertainty of the way the peace process itself would develop and the consequences of its failure in light of the increased paramilitary presence in the surrounding area.


1.2.4 Actions by the armed forces

Within a process of operative reorganisation the army has established mobile units and new strategies to pursue armed groups on the fringes of the law. In practice an increased force has been used in response to guerrilla attacks, based on the use spy and fighter planes in addition to employing heavy artillery over areas where these groups are concentrated.

Although the Army insists that the so-called 'smart bombs' have not caused damage to civilian property, this has been called into question by opposing reports from communities in various cases(24). Aerial machine-gunning has continued to cause displacements towards the main towns in areas where military operations have been carried out; isolation of the communities in villages caught in the cross fire; prolonged restrictions on the inhabitants' movements; and the destruction of crops.

An illustration of the above is the case of the municipality of Tame in the department of Arauca. On 12 December 1998, clashes began between guerrillas and army units that were supported in their pursuit of the insurgent group by planes and helicopters of the Colombian Air Force. The planes flew over the hamlet of Santo Domingo that day and at the following dawn letting off bursts of machine gun fire and dropping bombs that caused destruction in the whole area, including damage to various houses. On both occasions the inhabitants gathered on the main road and waved white-coloured clothing to draw attention to their non-combatant position. The explosions and shrapnel killed 16 people, among them six children and seriously or permanently injured another 27 people(25).

Despite the media reporting the magnitude of destruction of the houses in the hamlet, the official version indicated that the gun fire had been directed towards the forest area where the guerrillas were supposed to have been hiding(26). Between 200 and 300 people had to leave the area, taking refuge in Tame and when they returned a month later they had to begin negotiations with the government to rebuild the village and seek compensation for the damages(27).

On various occasions, the army's response made the situation of the civilian population worse instead of offering them protection when they were forcibly displaced as a result of actions by armed groups. In the first few days of September 1999 approximately 500 peasant farmers from the border region between Yalí and Yolombó (Antioquia) were displaced due to paramilitary threats; for various days these groups had been fighting ELN guerrillas. Various armed forces helicopters used machine gun fire to make the area safe for the entry on the ground of the XIV Brigade and the peasants were forced to flee through the mountainous zone(28).


1.3 Causes of forced displacement

It is necessary to differentiate between the following two concepts in the escalation of the armed conflict in Colombia in 1999. On the one hand, there has been an increase in the severity of the combats while the application of IHL by the armed groups is almost non-existent. On the other hand, the civilian population has been subjected to direct aggression in what constitutes massive violations of human rights. This has been witnessed, for example, in the paramilitary strategy, labelled as a 'counter-subversive struggle' in the propaganda attempting to cover it up(29). This has lead to a permanent confusion in the treatment of the conflict by some government officials and the media, fuelling the idea that the state's chief responsibility is to carry out successful negotiations with the armed groups over and above complying with its duties in guaranteeing the rights of the population.(30)

In the majority of the cases, human rights violations and infringements of IHL committed against the civilian population, or the threat of their occurrence, either precede direct confrontation between armed groups or are completely independent of them. The fierce territorial dispute manifests itself in attempts to gain control over the civilian population and in the destruction of their ties to any of the sides in the conflict, be they real, alleged or forced. To such an extent that the presence of one or other of the armed groups in a region is met with intimidation or aggression towards the inhabitants by the opposing side. This trend in the armed conflict, characteristic of 1998, did not abate in1999.

An attack by one of the armed groups against a village where the police are not present or have been pulled out and the presence of the armed forces is occasional, creates the conditions for a subsequent 'retaliatory' attack by the opposing group. The attack is justified by the claim that the previous aggressors were given some kind of backing by the inhabitants. This continual change in pressure and intimidation contributes to individual and family displacement that may not be recorded in its totality.

It should also be emphasised that in 1999 the armed conflict became more acute in regions where armed groups showed a heightened interest in increasing their territorial control due to these area's strategic location, their wealth of natural resources or for reasons of military importance(31).

At the end of the 80s and at the beginning of the 90s, internal displacement (ID) was identified only as product or secondary effect of the armed conflict. However, the political projects that fuel displacement processes cannot be explained by just a description of the confrontation and the identification of those directly responsible. Today it is recognised, even in official declarations(32), that in many cases forced displacement is a necessary requisite for taking possession of or dominating territories.

With regard to this issue, different research projects show that in regions where complex social conflicts exist, the uprooting of the peasant population has implications on land ownership; strategies for the accumulation of wealth; speculation in agricultural or potentially valuable land; and the eventual implication of new development models. The latter is made more serious when the armed groups exert pressure on Afro-Colombian or indigenous communities whose ancestral lands are still in process of being legally formalised(33).

The destabilising grasp that social conflicts of rural origin have on Colombia are historically associated with the strengthening of political power by the concentration of agrarian property and income(34). Within the context of the opening-up of the economy(35)and the agricultural crisis, other appreciative factors influence the choice of land considered for appropriation: the availability of water sources to sustain agro-industrial projects; the location of the land with respect to projects for road or waterway infrastructure or ports; the existence of minerals or other subsoil resources; biodiversity; the ease of establishing illegal crops; and the possibilities for urbanisation. These new factors underlie the differences to the typical conflicts at the time of the expansion of the large estates. At present the range of social actors involved is broader and the pressure of the associated investments more intense.


1.4 Trends in forced displacement in 1999

The territorial dispute of the armed groups was characterised by:

  • The strengthening of paramilitary groups and the geographic expansion of their displacement-creating activities, such as in the departments of Valle del Cauca, Norte de Santander and Putumayo. Threats against the civilian population, massacres and restrictions on movement by paramilitary groups have been the greatest causes of massive displacements.
  • The employment of methods of combat that cause indiscriminate damage by the army as much as by the guerrillas has caused people to flee the areas of confrontation.
  • The non-application of the principles of differentiation and immunity of the non-combatant civilian population by the armed groups when pressurising their participation in the conflict, their joining of one of the sides, or leaving the region and their property.

The following consequences of the armed conflict became more serious in 1999:

  • The search for temporary resettlement in less dangerous areas, especially urban areas. According to information from CODHES, 47.7% of the IDPs in 1999 sought refuge in departmental capitals.
  • The insecurity of Peace Communities established in war zones. For example, in the Bajo Atrato and Medio Atrato (in the region of Urabá in the department of Chocó) paramilitary groups circulate freely and control the transport of passengers, food and medicines to communities in the process of returning to their previous or new homes.
  • Ignorance of the declarations of neutrality made by indigenous communities with respect to the armed conflict, especially in the departments of Arauca, Cauca, Antioquia, Córdoba and Chocó(36).
  • The increase in cross-border displacement. Around 11,700 displaced persons fled across the borders to Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador in 1999(37). The governments of these countries still do not recognise Colombians that flee the violence as refugees, even in cases when the victims arrive en masse as a consequence of serious fighting in the border zones. Such is the case of those displaced by the paramilitary attacks on La Gabarra (Norte de Santander) and the clashes in Juradó (Chocó).
  • Internal displacement particularly continues to affect children. According to the previously mentioned reports by CODHES, 86% of the families forcibly displaced include children and young people under the age of 18. They constituted around 65% of the IDP population in 1999(38).
  • The majority of IDPs consists of individuals or families that often are forced to leave homes, property and jobs without the situation being registered. This is made more serious due to deficiencies in humanitarian aid and the lack of protection guarantees that the institutions responsible in the sites of refuge should make. This situation includes cases of massive displacements.

Serious deficiencies were confirmed in the state's response to the situation of forced displacement and the needs of those displaced by the violence in 1999:

  • Solutions conditioned to the development of the negotiations with the armed groups and to future prevention, as is set out in the Action Plan for the Prevention and Attention of Forced Displacement(39).
  • Evident political unwillingness to pursue and dismantle paramilitary groups, neutralise their forced displacement strategies and break links between these organisations and the members of the police and armed forces.
  • A growing time lag between the worsening situation of ID and the state's poor capability to establish a policy oriented at resolving it.
  • A decrease in the displaced population's confidence in the government as a consequence of the latter not complying with pacts and promises
  • Lack of confidence on the part of the government towards the displaced population's spokespersons and the legitimacy of their demands. They were forced to embark upon negotiations to guarantee their fundamental rights.
  • Exclusion of the displaced population and NGOs in the formulation of government policies on the issue as well as temporary and permanent solutions.
  • The government policies do not contemplate the right to compensation of the victims of ID, nor is there a development of the issue in the proposals for lasting solutions for the IDPs.


2. Monitoring of state policies

2.1 The internal displacement issue in the Plan Colombia

The central theme of the National Development Plan 1998-2002 is the government's policy for peace, serving as a basis for the so-called Plan Colombia. Parts of the Plan Colombia are known but a final version has not yet been made public. Each section has been tailor-made for the different states or bodies that might contribute to the funding needed to put it into practice.

The Plan Colombia, as is described in the official paper "The Road to Peace", will make investments in infrastructure, agriculture and the social sectors as part of three strategies considered complementary: a)Special plan for areas affected by the conflict; b) Alternative development plan for the substitution of illegal crops; and c) Policy for attention to the displaced population. The latter sets out to provide adequate humanitarian aid for the victims in the short term and create the conditions needed for the return to their places of origin or the establishment of the resettled community in a dignified manner.

At the end of 1999 there was complete uncertainty as to the funding of the Plan Colombia. The government is currently carrying out diplomatic efforts to obtain the necessary funding from the multilateral credit entities -the World Bank, the IMF and the IDB-, and the European Union and United States to complete the US$3,500 million in foreign aid. The national government will put up an extra US$4,000 million to complete its funding. However, the Second Commission of the Senate raised objections about the process and stated that the source of the government contribution was still unclear at a moment of severe budgetary restrictions.

The source and amount of funding for each part of the Plan Colombia still has not been decided. Its official text(40)emphasises the strengthening of the armed forces' military capacity in the eradication of illegal crops. With respect to this, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States Congress(41)studied a request for additional aid to the amount of US$1,500 million that included 954 million dollars for the armed forces; 50 for economic alternatives in areas of illegal crops; and 70 to support the application of the law, human rights and peace. This last category covers seven areas, one of which is aid for IDPs. Out of the total sum for the armed forces, at least US$740 million is destined for the army, implying a profound change in the United States military aid strategy for anti-drugs operations.

Aerial fumigation has been highly questioned, its results so far are poor with respect to its aims as well as counterproductive in social and environmental terms. There is also no guarantee that the financial aid will not be used in war operations, leading to an intensification in the internal conflict. In this sense the target of this economic aid is unilateral with regard to the mentioned strategies in the Plan Colombia and prevents it having a coherent effect on the social problems that are among the plan's objectives.

With reference to assistance for IDPs, the strategy set out by the government would be coordinated with the peace process and run by the municipal administrations in conjunction with non-governmental organisations under the leadership of the Red de Solidaridad Social (Social Solidarity Network -RSS)(42). The document does not differentiate between the obligatory nature of the state's response towards the IDPs' legally demandable rights and the nature of the civil society's response of solidarity. The latter reaction can be complementary to the activities of the state provided that a coherent and viable state policy exists. Furthermore, it does not take into account the generalised financial crisis currently being experienced by the municipalities and the local administrations' repeated pronouncements to the effect of their incapability in providing attention to internally displaced persons.


2.2 Instruments for the execution of policies on internal displacement

From the perspective of the International Law of Human Rights, the International Humanitarian Law and Colombia's Constitution, it is evident that responsibility for the phenomenon of forced displacement due to the internal conflict comes under the jurisdiction of the state. This responsibility has been built into the regulations on the issue, especially since 1995(43).

After the institutional absence in attention to ID caused by the change in government in August 1998, four events defined the government policy in 1999: 1) The Consejería Presidencial para los Desplazados (Presidential Advisory Board on the Displaced) was abolished in March and its functions were given over to the Social Solidarity Network(44); 2) Control of the Fondo Nacional de Atención Integral a la Población Desplazada por la Violencia (National Fund for Integral Attention to the Population Displaced by Violence) was taken over by the RSS(45) in August; 3) The issuing of CONPES Document No.3057(46)in November; 4) The formulation of working strategies for the RSS(47)the end of the year.


2.2.1 The handling of internal displacement by the Social Solidarity Network

The RSS is responsible for coordinating the National System for Integral Attention to IDPs. This system includes 14 national institutions, among them Ministries and decentralised institutions; and 12 to 16 local institutions. These authorities almost never meet and until now the RSS has not had sufficient capacity in summoning them into action and coordinating their activities. This has had a negative influence on the fulfilment of Law 387/97.

At the time of the transfer of power from the Presidential Advisory Board to the RSS, between March and June 1999, the following critical observations were made:

a) The non-existence of a coherent and sustainable state policy.

b) An excessively centralised management of the issue, demonstrated by the very nature of a Presidential Advisory Board and Home Office entity. This situation was especially obvious in the inefficient registration of the displaced persons.

c) The fragmentation of responsibilities within the entities in charge of attention to ID.

d) The exclusion of the IDPs and civil society organisations in the formulation of policies and strategies.

e) Attention to ID was centred on emergency humanitarian aid without being coordinated to procedures oriented at overcoming it.

f) Financial weaknesses. Only at the end of 1999 was a solid financial structure defined, through the creation of the National Fund for Integral Attention to the Population Displaced by the Violence.

g) Excessive emphasis in the registration of the displaced persons as a prerequisite for their admission to attention programmes.

With respect to the above points, important regulatory advances have been made since. The difficulties now lie in the development of the established instruments in the coordination of the entities involved and the assignation of a budget. It is also evident that the state must seek the real and effective participation of all civil society to be able to attend the problem with some degree of efficiency.

It is hoped that the RSS will overcome the mentioned problems now that it counts upon a solid structure of local offices throughout the country for the development of its programmes. The entity should also direct its programmes in the manner of a state policy to ensure a continuity of the processes in accordance with the scale and complexity of ID. However, key issues, such as the prevention of ID, protection towards its victims and reparation (in the sense that the state admits responsibility) for their violated rights are above and beyond the capabilities and responsibilities of this entity. These aspects need explicit commitments and immediate actions on the part of the National Executive with regard to the police and armed forces, the administration of justice and social investment in the regions.

2.2.2 The work of the Social Solidarity Network

Although this entity was given the responsibility to coordinate the System of Attention to IDPs in March 1999, it only began concrete activities within the programmes established by the institutions that conform it in September(48). More than a year later the Strategic Plan was submitted to President Pastrana's Government. The cost of its execution is calculated at US$360.8 million ($703,560 million pesos) and goals are outlined until the year 2002 on the following issues:

Improvement of the emergency humanitarian aid programmes. Special activities are set out with respect to this point in health and education in 20 IDP receptor municipalities. However, it should be pointed out that the coverage of these programmes is minimal compared to the reported extension of forced displacement and that 1999 was a critical year in the maintenance of local entities due to the financial crisis in the country. For example, educational coverage is limited by the municipalities' capacity in granting school places(49)but even disregarding this, in many cases parents cannot give their children the bare necessities with respect to food, clothing and equipment to make the schooling worthwhile.

Development and consolidation of programmes for return, resettlement and social and economic development. With respect to the goals concerning this issue, a special package of measures was designed in 1999 to cover the temporary sustenance of returned or resettled families setting up an agricultural project. The aim is to establish definite solutions for 64,000 families by the year 2002. It should be taken into account that the Action Plan for Attention and Prevention of Forced Displacement states that since 1996, 25,000 families have been displaced each year(50).

Development and consolidation of the programmes for the prevention of displacement and the protection of the returned or resettled population. With respect to the goals concerning this issue, the design and implementation of an operative action plan for the police and armed forces has been set out, as well as the definition of their responsibilities. An Early Warning System has also been designed. No results are known so far of any government actions that have actually prevented forced displacement or that have given protection to threatened populations.

The Observatory Body on displacement is still in the developmental stage even though it has already been itemised in the national budget. It is worth mentioning that the civil society has made important contributions towards the installation of this watchdog, considering it a highly significant means to prevent ID as well as in monitoring state policies(51).

Improvement of the institutional capacity for response in two components: a) strengthening of the institutional scheme; b) coordination of national and international state and private contributions to set up the National Fund for Integral Attention to the Population Displaced by Violence. Only after August was the RSS authorised to make use of this funding. At the end of 1999 the fund stood at $50 thousand million pesos (US$26 million). The RSS financial report showed promised funding of US$2.9 million for 1999, as well as US$1 million from other governmental bodies.

Integration, development and consolidation of the registration, information, monitoring and evaluation systems. By the end of December 1999 the RSS had registered 6500 displaced persons, i.e. 1.6% of IDPs as estimated by the government. With respect to this point, the RSS states that it has established a single protocol for the national registration of displaced persons. This protocol will be put to the test in three cities from the beginning of the year 2000, namely, Bogota, Villavicencio and Cartagena.

The goals of the policy on attention to ID are based on mechanisms and instruments that have not been developed yet. The prevention of the phenomenon and reduction of ID are envisaged in future projects such as advances in the peace process and the implementation of the Plan Colombia. These conditions, in conjunction with a weak implementation of Law 387/97 (described below), reflect the critical situation that the displaced persons experienced in Colombia in 1999.

2.3 Recognition of the condition of being displaced

The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement reflect international regulations on HR and IHL. They constitute an integral mechanism with which to monitor the actions or omissions of the state and degree of the suitability of their policies with respect to the ID situation(52). Due to this GAD has decided to adopt them as its main instrument in monitoring the state policies.

The Guiding principles (GP) 1 to 4 establish that displaced persons enjoy the same rights and freedoms as all other citizens of the country since their situation does not afford them a different legal status nor an inferior condition within society. They also establish that the national authorities have the primary obligation and responsibility to offer protection and humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced persons.

The first requisite for the displaced persons' access to programmes for humanitarian aid and lasting solutions is the official recognition of their status. Victims of ID must present their identification documents and give a declaration of the circumstances leading to the expulsion from their places of origin(53). This first step presents the following difficulties: a) Assembling all the identification documents, which have often been lost; b) Credibility given to the testimonies; c) Criteria for the verification of the information are not known.

The difficulties experienced by the individual or single family victims of displacement in obtaining state assistance has led to risky return or resettlement attempts based on their own initiative or second displacements that lead to urban integration in miserable conditions. The inefficient registration and monitoring of these victims is made more serious given that the massive displacements are the ones receiving most attention from the government entities in charge of the programmes. The process involved in registration has actually worsened the problem for an enormous number of displaced persons that are not officially entitled to receive humanitarian aid. For others, once having been registered they are then excluded from programmes of economic stabilisation(54). In these conditions, the legally demandable right for state attention to victims at every stage of displacement remains in doubt.

The weakness of the system for attention to IDPs at municipal level is portrayed in a progressive fragmentation of the affected communities, also visible in the cases of massive displacement. The access to attention programmes at different times and places makes it difficult for joint institutional actions, up until now deficient, to contribute to the process of finding lasting solutions for ID. As the victims travel through different areas and their marginal situation is reinforced, the return to their homes appears more as an individual option rather than a possibility for the reconstruction of the social structure in each site of expulsion.

2.4 The prevention stage

The Guiding Principle number 5 reminds the authorities of their duty to respect and demand respect in all circumstances for the obligations of International Law, including HR and IHL with the purpose of preventing forced displacement. Principle number 6 declares the right of every person to be protected against ID, especially in situations of armed conflict, unless it is a requirement for the security of the civilian population.

A prevention policy requires a comprehensive definition of the structural causes of forced displacement to be able to design concrete and efficient actions oriented at redressing them. This is of critical importance in the current situation of ID in Colombia, characterised by a permanent increase in populations and communities affected. Regarding the immediate causes of displacement, it is necessary to make progress in the public debate of the issue, with a wide participation of the rural community, to enable the creation of mechanisms and conditions for a trusting relationship between the inhabitants of risk zones and state security bodies.

With reference to prevention, state policies consider aspects concerned with the construction of Early Warning Systems; the neutralisation of the armed conflict; activities aimed at the peaceful resolution of conflicts; and the promotion of HR and IHL. However, in 1999 there were few such activities, limited to the occasional workshops that did not sufficiently guarantee the required coverage nor monitoring.

Warning was given in advance of the majority of the violent acts that caused most of the displacements in 1999 by the threatened communities and human rights organisations; in many cases the responsible authorities showed an negligent attitude towards the warnings.

The members of the communities affected by the paramilitary attacks in January lacked the protection of the police and military, even though, in some cases, the risk of attacks of this kind had been forewarned. Regarding this matter, the office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR) stated that it had warned the government on several occasions of the situation in many municipalities threatened by paramilitary groups, providing detailed information on the operations and permanent bases of their members. It also drew up concrete recommendations for the prevention of attacks and the adoption of necessary measures to guarantee the security of the affected population(55).

The events in the department of Norte de Santander illustrate the lack of protection towards the civilian population with regard to the systematic actions of paramilitary groups, despite having been forewarned by the communities, HR organisations and the civilian authorities. Despite the seriousness of the crimes committed in May and the appearance of a numerous group of paramilitaries in the region of Tibú, the massacres continued and intensified in the area over the following three months without the victims receiving efficient protection from the police and military before and during the forced displacements(56).

The Human Rights Ombudsman's Office and CODHES are currently running information systems to determine areas where there is risk of HR violations or displacement. Throughout the year they gave public warning of the critical situation of different regions. However, there is no information to suggest that any early warnings managed to prevent the exodus of communities by means of an efficient reaction by the authorities(57). An important factor identifying the problem of prevention is that responsibility for this issue is in the hands of incompetent local entities or that are lacking in political willingness to exercise control over the appropriate police and military units that would have to act in the event of receiving an early warning.

Even though the definition of Internal Displacement expressed in Law 387 covers the majority of the registered causes of forced displacement, one can see the concurrence of political violence and human rights violations in areas where large investment projects are being carried out. These projects affect the members of traditional communities whose demands create a conflict of interests between them and the investors and government's plans. The GP 9 indicates a specific responsibility on the part of the state to protect indigenous and other minority groups that have a special dependence on their land against forced displacement.

An example of the non-application of this principle is that of the indigenous community living in the region of the Nudo de Paramillo, currently facing a concurrence of threats to its ancestral territory; the construction of a infrastructure project that would substantially alter the natural environment of the region and the dispute between armed actors (AUC and FARC) for control of the area. As a consequence of one or other of the factors several families have left the reserve, but the majority of the population is resisting displacement and does not consider it as an alternative, even though the future of the community is seriously threatened(58).

2.4.1 Protection for victims of displacement

Protection is one of the state's principle duties towards its population. And even more so when the population has been internally displaced and is therefore defenceless and vulnerable. This protection refers to people's life, physical integrity and property, to an equal degree in sites of refuge as in return processes begun under the IPDs' own initiative.

The GP 10 sets out the legal duty to protect displaced persons against murder, genocide and forced disappearance. An extreme example of this duty not being observed is the case of the spokespersons of the peasant displacement from the south of the department of Bolívar that have been missing since 27 November 1999. An attempt was made to ensure their protection on the part of the state by explicitly including the issue in agreements made for the return of the displaced persons(59).

The GPs 11 and 12 prohibit threats or acts of violence against displaced persons not participating in hostilities; the deprivation of food as a means of combat; and using IDPs to facilitate or impede military operations and attacks against their settlements among other acts of violence. The GPs 13 and 14 prohibit the recruitment of IDPs into armed groups, especially children; and the right to unhindered movement in and outside the settlements. These principles are applied to cases where the communities have publicly reaffirmed their condition of being a non-combatant population.

The proposal for autonomy with regard to the armed actors, taken up by the displaced communities in Urabá, witnessed a dynamic increase in 1999. This proposal was also taken up by different indigenous organisations in the same region and in the departments of Cauca and La Guajira among others under the concept of active neutrality. At the end of the year various declarations of this concept were also made in municipalities of the departments of Arauca, Antioquia and Cesar as expressions of a joint consensus with the local administrations to demand the respect of the armed groups towards the civilian population.

The 'Peace Communities' are an emergency alternative resulting from the impossibility of the communities being able to count on real and lasting guarantees of protection from the police and military. They are also a civilian response that attempts to break the vicious circle of accusations and retaliations in areas of prolonged territorial dispute by the armed groups. In this way, they are a political expression of community identity with respect to the conflict and its recent evolution characterised by the attacks against the civilian population, rather than being concerned with the direct fighting between the armed actors(60).

The absence of commitments to respect the civilian population in the midst the conflict and the unrecognised condition of non-combatant by the all the armed groups has meant that the communities' declarations have met with no response from these groups. In 1999 the difficulties of the proposal were made obvious in that all the armed actors did not accept the concept of neutrality in the civilian population:

The army considers inadmissible the existence of areas where their presence is not permitted. They argue that the armed forces and police exert state sovereignty in the whole nation and that this is an irrevocable legal duty. The military high command rejects that the army be considered an armed actor by the communities in the same category as the illegal armed actors. They consider that their exclusion from the area of conflict would make their obligation in combating those groups difficult(61). On some occasions it was considered that citizens could not invoke neutrality with respect to institutions and so was deemed as verging on complicity(62).

Various statements by guerrilla groups, in particular the FARC, accuse the peace communities of being a mechanism to weaken their presence in zones of conflict and a manipulation of the population in favour of the counterinsurgency strategies of paramilitary groups or the armed forces and police. In January, members of the V Front of the FARC arrived at the community of Guapá in Chigorodó (Antioquia) looking for food. As a result of the community's negative response in supplying food to the guerrilla group, pointing out their position of neutrality with respect to the armed conflict, they suffered the sacking of their communal houses, the theft of the community's money and the kidnapping of two of their leaders who were later murdered(63).

Although paramilitary groups have participated in agreements allowing the formation of some of the Peace Communities, they keep up pressure and checks on the populations and on various occasions have declared that the communities harbour subversive activities within them. With basis on this belief, a paramilitary commando of the Autodefensas Unidas de Córdoba y Urabá (United Self-defence Groups of Córdoba and Urabá -ACCU) entered the community of San José de Apartadó on 4 April accusing its members of belonging to the guerrilla. Three inhabitants were killed and later when the paramilitaries opened fire indiscriminately on the rest of the population, three other members of the community were injured. Four days later, the AUC attacked several hamlets in Riosucio (Chocó) where the peace community of San Francisco de Asís is located and murdered 5 peasant farmers, accusing them of being guerrillas. The community returned to its lands after being displaced for several months in Pavarandó (corregimiento of Mutatá, Antioquia)(64).

The peace communities refer to the principles and precepts of IHL(65)whose application in the Colombian internal armed conflict is almost nonexistent. The treatment of civilians by the armed groups is controlled by internal norms or by arbitrary conceptions following a pragmatic scheme that has no interest in leaving the non-combatant population out of the hostilities since the dispute often seems to be centred on them and their property.

The Peace Community and active neutrality initiatives are maintained by the cohesion of the community and their decision to find their own way to come to terms with the consequences of the conflict. There is no verification mechanism that guarantees the keeping of the agreements made with the armed actors, if they exist, or that legitimises the tremendous determination of the community. In the current preliminary talks or negotiations with the armed actors there is also no clear recognition of these initiatives. This has led to a relative isolation of the inhabitants of the sites of refuge or resettlement, with extremely strict controls over their movements, the transportation of supplies and serious risks for them in the nearby rural areas.

Thus the GP are founded upon the population displaced or in risk of becoming so, enjoying in equal conditions, all the basic guarantees and freedoms that international and internal law recognise for the other citizens of the country. In this way the mechanisms proposed for the communities should not imply the suspension of the rights to freedom of thought, association, movement and expression and neither the right to prompt and efficient justice.

2.4.2 Displacement towards the borders

In the series of displacements across the border into Venezuela from the department of Norte de Santander the duty of protecting the victims presented additional deficiencies. The regulations of the Guiding Principles cannot be interpreted in such a way that they limit, modify or infringe upon the regulations of any other international HR or IHL instrument or the rights conceded to persons as part of internal law, in particular in soliciting and obtaining asylum in other countries -GPs 2 and 15.

Similarly to the condition of being displaced, the status of refugee is a de facto condition and not governed by legalities. The states parties to the Convention on Refugees must attend to the population that is forced to cross the border by persecution or violence. Part of this attention consists of protection and guarantees for their security implying that the refugees should not be forced to return. Although the first displaced persons from Norte de Santander received humanitarian aid while they were in Venezuelan territory they were not able to rely on the alternative of asylum: the 'Operation Refuge' coordinated by the two countries had the concrete effect of preventing the displaced persons from getting access to international protection mechanisms. The Colombian Government sponsored the repatriation operation without providing adequate conditions for immediate attention to a population of this size and without being able to guarantee short term security for their return to the region.(66)

2.5 Humanitarian aid

According to GPs 24 to 27, humanitarian aid is given in accordance to the principles of humanity and impartiality without any discrimination. The national authorities have the primary obligation and responsibility to provide this humanitarian aid.

As mentioned above, the majority of the state's actions has been concentrated in humanitarian aid -in the form of food aid, health care and support in paying rent- with a time limit varying between three and six months according to article 15 of Law 387/1997. In general the criteria have been to respond to the most demanding needs, just within the bounds of possibility, and conceiving IDPs presence as a breach of the peace. With regard to this service, the UNHCR Liaison Office made the following statement:

"In terms of basic needs; moderate and in some cases severe cases of malnutrition have been reported among the displaced population, particularly in the more vulnerable groups. Furthermore, there is a general lack of basic housing. Eighty percent of the population do not have access to basic medical services and 95% of the displaced women do not receive medical attention during pregnancy. A recent study on land owning rights of displaced persons concluded that before displacement 43% of those interviewed held the rights over their land while after displacement 95% of them had abandoned their lands and did not know what state they were currently in"(67).

During the first week of June, Mr Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, visited our country. Mr Otunnu expressed his deep concern for the serious situation of the displaced population and in his official report he stated:

"These displaced communities in Colombia are on their own. Apart from the limited presence of some NGOs and the Church, the communities that I visited in Soacha [Cundinamarca], Turbo [Antioquia] and Quibdó [Chocó] receive very little, if any, government or international community assistance"(68).

The most frequent difficulty in providing emergency humanitarian attention is the lack of specific resources for this purpose and the budgetary constraints of the IDP receptor municipalities. As well as this, armed groups exert pressure on businesspeople and the community into not paying their taxes as the local mayors are obliged to hand over part of this money to the opposing group(69). In 1999 threats, attacks and kidnaps against local mayors increased and it is estimated that in approximately 500 municipalities the armed groups pressurised these officials into resigning, as well as candidates for seats on municipal councils with the purpose of imposing local government officials sympathetic to their strategy of war(70).

2.6 Return, resettlement and reintegration

The principal objective of the official policy on displacement is to create suitable conditions for the return of the population; relocation(71)is reserved for exceptional cases related to the security situation. This policy comprises of protection, access to land, housing problems and social and economic stabilisation.

The CONPES document No. 3057/99 includes a report on the activities carried out by the RSS in the return processes of the communities of the Cacarica Basin (Riosucio - Chocó), Tierralta (Córdoba), San Pablo (Bolívar), Carepa (Antioquia) and Carmen de Atrato. These return programmes consist of housing projects in addition to ensuring a food supply and agricultural aid. The report also describes support given to relocation processes through agricultural projects and housing aid in nine municipalities of the country.

The nonexistence of suitable responses at the prevention, protection and humanitarian aid stages determines the majority of the problems in the later stages of return or resettlement. For example, if suitable conditions of protection do not exist, return is not an alternative. This was expressed by one of the displaced wanting to return:

"At the moment the conditions are not right to return, not even the government will commit itself to guaranteeing them. There are people displaced by the state forces themselves, how are we going to trust the security that the army provides? At no time have they told us they'll make sure we get back the land and animals that we abandoned"(72).

Some cases of return projects accompanied by national NGOs(73)have been the object of discredit by the authorities. They consider that the community wants to avoid and hinder state authority to the benefit of the guerrillas. Tragic cases such as that of San José de Apartadó are evidence of paramilitary attacks against displaced populations in return processes that have proclaimed themselves Peace Communities and declared neutrality with respect to the conflict.

The GPs 28 to 30 establish that the responsible authorities are under the primary obligation and responsibility to provide the conditions and means to allow the voluntary, dignified and safe return of the internally displaced persons to their places of origin or their voluntary resettlement in another part of the country. The authorities will try to facilitate the reintegration of the internally displaced persons that have returned or that have settled in another part of the country. Special efforts will be made to ensure the full participation of the internally displaced persons in the planning and management of their return or reintegration.

2.6.1 Agreement for the return of displaced peasant farmers in the south of Bolívar and the Valle del Cimitarra

The situation of forced displacement in the south of the department of Bolívar and the Valle del Cimitarra was one of the worst of 1999. In this region, contrary to other expulsion zones last year such as Antioquia and Valle de Cauca, intensification in displacement came after agreements between the population and the state had been signed as a result of peasant demonstrations during 1998. A large part of these agreements was directly related to key factors in the prevention of displacement and although they are stipulated in Law 387, they were hardly put into practice.

The conditions of the conflict are worsened by the extensive areas of illegal crops and commercial centres for intermediaries in the drugs trade resulting from the prolonged deterioration process in agricultural production and the absence of rural development policies.

After a long negotiation process with the displaced persons, President Pastrana's government established a series of short- and medium-term agreements(74). A general summary follows:

a) Guarantees for life, integrity, freedom and the right to justice: state commitment was reaffirmed in ensuring the full enforcement of human rights; preventing and punishing the behaviour of state officials leading to HR violation; guaranteeing the right to truth, justice and integral compensation for victims; putting into practice a state policy to pursue and eliminate paramilitary groups; taking legislative initiatives with regard to the offence of forced disappearance.

b) Human rights development and protection plan for the Magdalena Medio region under the coordination and guidance of the Regional Committee for Permanent Work Towards Peace; strengthening of the agricultural and formal education sectors and the tertiary road infrastructure; investment in health and basic services; mining projects; the establishment of areas reserved for subsistence farming.

c) Safe conditions and integral, economic and social reconstruction for the return: contingency plans in education, health and attention to infants; food safety projects; protection during the return; emergency humanitarian aid.

From the prevention perspective(75), the peasants' demands identified the factors that had caused the displacement. This represented a change in the level of their dialogue with the state, since they were not just victims now, but social actors. In this case these factors were also fundamental for the viability of the return in terms of protection and socio-economic stabilisation.

Since the peasants returned to the south of Bolívar at the end of 1998, paramilitary attacks have not ceased, nor have their controls over the roads and waterways. In the first month after the return 110 people were murdered and 689 houses were burnt.

Amid the guerrilla groups' response and the armed forces' intervention, security for the inhabitants of the region was at an absolute minimum in 1999. Monitoring and verification by state control agencies(76)was insufficient, a situation made worse by the increasing difficulties in reporting the events due to the terror instigated in the area. Displacement was continual in the regions of San Pablo, Simití, Santa Rosa and Arenal: 70 families in January, 3821 people in March, 100 people in April.

In April 1999, peasant farmers that participated in the massive exodus of June 1998 occupied the local council offices in Barrancabermeja (Santander department) to protest at the incompliance of agreements signed with the government. They demanded concrete actions against the paramilitaries and the observance of the government's promise to guarantee respect for human rights and life as well as the implementation of the social investment plan for the region.

From 12 April onwards, bombings and indiscriminate aerial machine gunning affected the municipalities of Simití and Santa Rosa, near the Serranía de San Lucas as part of the armed forces' persecution of the hijackers of a passenger plane. Armed forces and police support for a paramilitary siege of San Pablo and Simití was reported as well as joint activities to control the population. The siege restricted the transport of food and access for humanitarian aid.

The same month, the AUC began to establish a base in Monterrey (Simití): 60 people were murdered and more than 800 houses were burnt. The paramilitaries attempted to restrict the movement of the inhabitants of the corregimiento of Monterrey when clashes with the guerrilla intensified. However, 80 families, defying the threats, sought refuge in San Pablo.

The commercial centre of the coca business in the south of Bolívar is located in Monterrey, a town of 1000 inhabitants with complete unsatisfied basic needs. According to estimates by some regional authorities, at least US$3.5 million are handled per month in this business. The paramilitaries oblige the buyers of the coca base to centre their dealings in Monterrey and Pozo Azul.

After a meeting on 9 May 1999 with representatives from the Home Office, an agreement was reached for the return of the peasant farmers. To verify the presence of paramilitary bases in the municipalities of San Pablo, Simití, and Santa Rosa (Bolívar) a commission of representatives from the Attorney General's Office, the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office, the UNHCHR office and non-governmental organisations was to be established under the control of the Home Office. The results would be handed in to the government Human Rights Commission. A meeting was also agreed to be held with government representatives to evaluate the Integral Development Plan for the Magdalena Medio, south of Bolívar and Valle de Cimitarra.

Despite the agreements the armed conflict and attacks against the civilian population worsened in the second half of 1999 until they culminated in more massive displacements. In October, some 400 paramilitaries took control of the roads and waterways between the municipalities of San Pablo and Simití isolating more than 14 hamlets at the same time as a military operation was being carried out in the vicinity. One of the outlying hamlets was totally destroyed and the paramilitaries killed an undetermined number of people.

Around 3200 people were forced to cross the open country towards the hamlets of the municipality of Cantagallo (Bolívar) and Yondó and Remedios (Antioquia) looking for a route to Barrancabermeja (Santander) without being able to receive protection nor assistance(77). The AUC also prevented the humanitarian aid sent by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from getting through.

The situation in this region illustrates the nonexistence of efficient protection mechanisms for populations during forced displacement and their return. The reports from the inhabitants and the accompanying organisations seriously implicate the police and military in the preparation and maintenance of paramilitary activities(78). The work of the state control agencies is slow and inefficient, a situation fuelled by the complexity of the events and the difficulty in verifying them appropriately.

Apart from the gravity of the situation itself and the non-functioning of the state plans to overcome it, it is logical that the communities that supported the negotiations in Barrancabermeja with the government should take on an untrusting attitude. On the other hand, even if the promises signed by the government with respect to the social programmes had been kept(79), the extreme insecurity for the population would make them unworkable.

The guarantees of protection necessary for the return of the population to the south of Bolívar, in their majority, are also the same measures that are required to prevent future displacements. It is also the legal duty of the state to embark upon these actions, independent of the fact that they have been explicitly proposed in the displaced population's list of demands.

In promoting military and police actions against the 'perturbing factors' the government will have to take into account all the situations that could provoke additional risks of displacement such as bombings and or aerial machine gunning, or that violate the population's security conditions and the right not to be displaced.

Faced with a violent process of social destructurisation in the communities of the region, silence, slowness and confusion is not acceptable in making decisions to comply with conditions laid down by the law. Furthermore, the part played by the armed forces and police in the regional conflict increases the distrust that this institution already commands and strengthens the accusation of collusion with paramilitary groups. The government should clearly state, without ambiguity, what the army's operative mission is in those areas where guerrillas and paramilitaries are fighting for territory in pitched battles or attacking the civilian population.

The desperate choice of the displaced population to head for the jungle is another sign of the absence of an effective prevention and emergency attention system. Despite the permanent presence of the armed forces and police in the region, one year after signing the agreements of Barrancabermeja, the population did not even have the guarantees to choose displacement with the minimum conditions of protection.

2.6.2 The return of the displaced communities to the Cacarica Basin

The return process of the communities of the Cacarica Basin(80)in the region of the Bajo Atrato (Chocó department) has been the most significant in terms of organisation of the victims, capacity for dialogue with the state and development of accompaniment strategies by the accompanying organisations. Out of the approximately 4000 displaced persons, the following numbers participated in the process: 1000-1200 people in Turbo; 120 in Bocas de Atrato; and 300 in Bahía Cupica.

To overcome the problem of emergency humanitarian aid the community drew up(81)a List of Demands in 1998 based on:

The necessity to establish internal protection mechanisms given the persistent armed conflict in the region. The proposal consists in a collective return and does not allow the entry of any armed actor to the settlements.

The recognition of their right to cultural identity and property through the collective land titling of territories in the Cacarica basin(82).

Fulfilment of the state's obligations with respect to protection and the regulations of international law on HR and IHL: conformation of a Mixed Verification Commission(83)(MVC), unarmed state presence by means of the casa de justicia(84), recognition and guarantees for the work of international accompaniment, an observatory body to check agreements are kept.

Social and economic reparation covering a first transitory phase of the return and then a plan for consolidation and stability.

Moral reparation through mechanisms that clarify responsibility for the HR violations and allow the investigation and trial of those responsible.

The MVC has been the backdrop to negotiations for the List of Demands and is an ad hoc mechanism in answer to the state institutions' incapability of providing a response as decreed in Law 387/97. At the end of 1998, after a period of stoppage due to changes in the entities providing attention to IDPs, the process was reactivated with a series of fine adjustments to the List of Demands(85). Visits were made to verify conditions of security and protection for the return proposal, the boundaries of the collective territory and the work required to unblock the waterways.

However, by June 1999 sufficient progress had not been made with respect to the List of Demand to allow the first phase of the return project to go ahead. The RSS committed itself to playing a more efficient role in the coordination of the state entities and government programmes for ID. Between June and August contracts and contributions were finalised for the housing programme, eco-agricultural projects, the casa de justicia, the collective land titling and protection mechanisms.

The return process of the communities of the Cacarica Basin allows a large phase lag to be seen between the organisational process of the victims and government response to their needs. The strengthening of cultural and community links through solidarity and the pursuit of autonomy allowed the displaced persons of the Cacarica Basin to put together an integral proposal whose content went beyond the concepts and realities of state policy.

In the first place, it recognised the victims as being subjects of a social process based on a decision to separate community life from the actions of the armed groups. This does not just mean obligatory measures to avoid becoming targets of one or other of the armed groups in the conflict. It is linked to a 'Life Project', a conception of social justice and an awareness of the right to reparation as victims of forced displacement(86).

In second place, resistance was shown against losing the traditional agricultural methods and relationship with the environment. The agricultural proposals were designed to maintain the sowing and harvesting methods that the communities have developed over a long period of adaptation to the natural conditions of the area and are based upon a sustainable exploitation(87).

Thus, the promise to obey the community authorities, participate in joint activities, share individual earnings, respect the reserves and traditions of the indigenous communities and seek peaceful forms of conflict resolution are fundamental for the community to be able to come to terms with the internal and external pressures on their resources(88).

During the displacement the community reported an intensive and indiscriminate logging activity in the region. This exploitation was declared illegal by the Corporación Autónoma Regional del Chocó (Autonomous Regional Corporation of the Chocó -CODECHOCO)(89)but there is still no control mechanism over the logging and timber companies. The strong economic interests that exist over these resources are an influencing factor in pressures on the territory. The handing over of the control of the timber resource to the community through the collective land titling of 103,024 hectares makes the need for effective safety guarantees more critical.

In October a group of displaced persons began an exploratory visit to the River Perancho in the Cacarica Basin where one of the settlement sites is planned. The purpose was to prepare the land for sowing and to check on the security of the region in preparation for the progressive return(90). However, agreements resulting from the List of Demands have still only been partially kept and various components are blocked by bureaucratic processes and budgetary problems(91).

One of the key points in the protection strategy for the return is ensuring an adequate means of transport. The principal difficulty of this lies in the regular sedimentation of the rivers and tributaries. The communities of the Cacarica Basin have demanded the dredging of the mouth of the River Atrato to avoid the stagnation of the tributaries but they have not had a prompt response. During 1999 the populations of the Bajo Atrato suffered a continuous emergency situation due to the rising river levels(92).

Despite the official complaints made by social organisations of the region, the United Self-defence Groups of Cordóba and Urabá -ACCU- continue to dominate the whole of the Atrato without efficient measures having been taken against them. The ACCU have restricted the transport of food, fuel and medicines against malaria. They also control the sale of rice and the extraction of timber, they force the inhabitants to abandon fields in areas used by the guerrillas as corridors and they prohibit the use of motor launches after six o'clock in the evening(93).

The government considers the Return Project to the Cacarica Basin as the return experience with the greatest impact(94). This could be true with regard to its potential - a result of the proposal-making capability developed by the community. But this appraisal of importance did not correspond to the willingness of state officials and institutions to support it in an effective manner and make it a viable short-term project(95).

2.6.3 Urban resettlement and reintegration

With regard to relocation and return, government proposals and actions have a weakness concerning their socio-economic studies that still do not specify the real needs of the displaced persons, causing difficulties in the agreement processes. The GP 29 states the responsible authorities' obligation to assist displaced persons in the recovery of the property or possessions that they had to abandon. When this is not possible they must provide adequate compensation or another kind of just reparation.

According to Law 387/97 and the National Development Plan, when the return of abandoned land is not possible, the displaced persons will be included as subjects in the agrarian reform. In this case a special legal mechanism that establishes favourable conditions and reparation for victims of ID does not exist. Consequently all the beneficiaries of the allocation of land have to pay 30% of its value(96). With relation to the above, it is not possible to affirm that a suitable and efficient agrarian reform policy exists in Colombia. Therefore the development of viable agricultural projects comes up against the generalised difficulties of the agricultural crisis, giving rise to doubts about the real possibilities of social and economic stabilisation.

The purposes of the Development Plan with respect to guarantees for return or relocation; strengthening of community processes; infrastructure and basic services; credit facilities; tax incentives; support for company management; marketing mechanisms; expanding regional markets; training; institutional strengthening, etc. present the policy for attention to the displaced population as a mechanism for the "recovery of the state's credibility". However, this should rather be the conceptual basis for a policy on the prevention of displacement.

The conditions and requisites have not yet been set out for housing programmes for displaced persons, to be applied according to Law 418/97; new components on this issue in the government peace policy have not yet been defined either. A specific sum has not been budgeted to attend to the housing needs of this population.

It is a fact that if the authorities in charge of providing attention to IDPs cannot coordinate adequate mechanisms to supply humanitarian aid, they will be even more unlikely to be able to take on the more complex process of rural or urban reintegration. Similarly it is evident that deficiencies in the application of existent regulations for IDPs are also shown in areas of urban settlement where violence derived from the internal armed conflict is less intense. An example of this is the resettlement process that the displaced community is managing in Neiva (Huila department)(97).


2.7 Conclusions on state policies

With respect to the above, several conclusions can be drawn regarding the state policies on the treatment of ID:

The design and execution of state policies emphasise a humanitarian response that does not take into account the context of human rights violations where forced displacement occurs. For this reason the obligation to provide reparation for violated rights is a missing component.

Despite the state policies and ideas taking up the terms and issues of the international law of HR and IHL and the Guiding Principles, their application is still a long way from becoming reality.

The absence of a state policy is made evident in the nonrecognition of former agreements and the reinvention of programmes and projects after transitions from one government to another.

The progress made so far is represented by the discursive plan and in the formulation of laws, decrees and CONPES documents. However, the lack of regulations in Law 387/97 has a negative effect on the clarity of the responsibilities and in the execution of the mandates of institutions in charge of dealing with the issue.

The prevention and protection of forced displacement, or a population at risk or under threat of being displaced are state responsibilities that have not yet been taken on. The omission of the government to act against the paramilitary phenomenon is a recurring cause and effect of its worsening.

There is still a lack of special attention to the most vulnerable groups of the IDPs such as women, children and senior citizens. There has been no differentiated treatment as recommended by the United Nations.

The design and development of state policies has been excluding in that it has not been possible to count on the active participation of the of the displaced persons' organisations themselves.

The specific responsibility of state entities with respect to IDPs has been assumed partially by some and in no way at all by others. Similarly some local entities do not feel obliged to act in their duties of reception and attention with the argument that they do not even manage to take care of their responsibilities towards the local population. The cite the enormous crisis in the transference of national government funds and the share of national taxes destined to local government as the reason for this lack of action. Therefore none of them has budgeted specifically to attend to the displaced population.

The state continues not to recognise the condition among IDPs of being victims to human rights violations; this fact means that the displaced persons have to negotiate their rights with the state and demand them using forms of pressure and public social protest.

The inefficiency in the registration process is one of the greatest factors in the lack of information on the majority of those that need attention. It also shows a refusal on the part of the state to recognise their responsibilities towards them. All people should be entitled to their rights whether registered or not.

The state as such does not have experience in emergency attention and neither in providing lasting integral solutions. These tasks have been carried out for a long time now, with greater experience, by non-governmental organisations. However, the state still shows no willingness to co-operate more with those that could provide these services.

Individual or single family displacement continues to be the most unprotected, since the few attention measures that are currently being taken correspond to collective displacements as they are more visible and have more political implications. This situation was reflected in the protests that some groups of IDPs held during the year at the headquarters of the UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Bogota.

3. The response of the international community and the civil society

In response to the seriousness of the problem the international community and civil society's(98)solidarity was seen in the majority of the regions throughout 1999, providing humanitarian aid, accompaniment, counselling, training, protection and in many cases help in facilitating communication between the local and governmental authorities.

3.1 The international community  

The international community was represented by international intergovernmental organisations and agencies and has sought to make an impact in different and active ways through: a) recommendations to the state, proposals for policy design and support for the protection mechanisms towards IDPs; b) economic aid for humanitarian assistance and some agricultural projects; c) encouraging and facilitating contact between the government and the communities; d) support in carrying out and publishing studies and research projects on the issue.

Some of the most noteworthy actions in 1999 were:

3.1.1 Visit of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Internal Displacement, Francis Deng

Francis Deng made a second official visit to Colombia between 21 and 27 May. The representative's mission had the following objectives: to evaluate the development of ID in Colombia since his first visit in 1996 and the degree of application of the recommendations made at that time; to study the current situation of ID in Colombia and with this basis, to make new recommendations for managing the situation.

The representative emphasised the progress made since his last visit: there is greater recognition of the difficulties faced by displaced people in Colombia; the government explicitly recognises its responsibility with respect to IDPs; it has adopted a regulatory framework to manage the ID situation; it has defined institutional mechanisms. In spite of this, the representative observed that the ID situation had deteriorated to a serious extent in the same period, the number of displaced persons had increased dramatically, threats against the physical integrity of displaced persons and those who work for them still existed and humanitarian aid for IDPs had been scarce and inefficient.

With respect to the coverage of the assistance to IDPs, the Representative indicated that the government could improve the situation by abolishing the absurd regulations governing the 'certification' process. This system currently obliges the displaced persons that have lost their identification documents to return to their places of origin to obtain the necessary approval to claim the benefits provided by the law. As well as being a violation of international law, it also puts the victims at risk and results in many of them remaining without documents and without access to the aid programmes(99).

Among the critical points emphasised by Francis Deng towards an integral strategy against ID in Colombia are:

  • The inclusion of attention to ID as a central part of the peace process in its humanitarian and human rights aspects.
  • Respect by the combatants towards the non-combatants and the regulations that protect the civilian population, in accordance with the IHL.
  • An effective response from the responsible authorities in preventing and protecting against arbitrary displacement, especially when it has been forewarned.
  • Protection of the physical integrity of the displaced persons and defenders of human rights that work with them.
  • Suitable and opportune assistance to attend to the needs of the IDPs, providing special attention to the particular needs of women and children.
  • Guarantees for the security of displaced people that return to their places of origin or are resettled. Restitution or compensation for lost property.
  • Clarification of the national regulatory framework, the policies and institutional responsibilities towards IDPs as well as intensified efforts in their application.
  • Strengthening of the coordination between national and local institutions, NGOs and the international community.
  • Allocation of resources in the national budget for attention to IDPs and their prompt transference to local authorities in accordance with their responsibilities.
  • Design and execution of a publicity and sensitisation campaign on the issue of displacement and displaced persons' rights.


3.1.2 Publicising the Guiding Principles on internal displacement

Under the auspices of the United States Committee for Refugees (USCR), the Brookings Institution (Internal Displacement Project), the Norwegian Refugee Council and GAD, a conference was held in May to publicise the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in Colombia. The results of a two-day seminar were presented at the meeting on each of the sections of the Guiding Principles: protection against displacement, protection during displacement, humanitarian aid, return, resettlement and reintegration.

Those participating were: representatives of national and international NGOs that have worked with IDPs in the last few years; representatives of government institutions in charge of designing and executing state policies on internal displacement; UN and OAS cooperation agencies.

It was concluded that within a context of the humanitarian crisis and the worsening of the armed conflict the GPs should be put into practice as a minimum parameter to be respected and guaranteed by and for all Colombians. The GPs provide general guidelines concerning the behaviour of the state, the non-state armed actors, the international community and NGOs. They are beneficial to the efficient prevention of the causes of displacement as well as for the adequate integral protection and attention of the displaced population.

A large part of the legislation and policy planning papers on displacement in Colombia are already based on the obligations and rights put forward in the Guiding Principles. Steps to ensure their implementation and compliance require sufficient funding, efficient action and participation on the part of the state control agencies.


3.1.3 The mission of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu

Olara Otunnu carried out a humanitarian mission in Colombia between 30 May and 6 June 1999. The representative sought to evaluate and emphasise the armed conflict's impact on children; identify concrete measures to guarantee greater protection towards children affected by the war; and to impress upon the sides involved in the conflict the importance of respecting humanitarian norms. The forced recruitment of children by the different armed groups is one of the causes given for family displacements in various parts of the country.

During the visit, Mr. Otunnu visited displaced communities in San José de Apartadó, Turbo, Medellín (Antioquia), Quibdó (Chocó), San Vicente del Caguán (Caquetá) and Soacha (Cundinamarca). The representative appealed to the government to attend to the urgent needs of the displaced communities, especially with respect to health, education, sanitary conditions, accommodation, water, registration and economic opportunities. The government should also guarantee physical protection and the necessary conditions for the return or resettlement of the displaced populations.

Mr. Otunnu expressed the international community's concern over the protection of the civilian population in the midst of the armed conflict in Colombia. He called upon all the armed actors to observe the humanitarian principles and regulations, particularly concerning the protection and the rights of the most vulnerable sectors such as children, women and displaced populations.

At the end of his visit, the Special Representative inaugurated a broad coalition composed of members of the United Nations system, NGOs and civil society representatives to coordinate and raise the profile of the efforts made in meeting the needs of children affected by the war in Colombia. The representative also announced the FARC's commitment not to recruit children under 15 and the army's policy of not conscripting under 18's, decisions that could alleviate one of the immediate causes of family displacements in Colombia.


3.1.4 United Nations High Commission for Refugees Liaison Office -UNHCR

The Colombian Government and the UNHCR signed a preliminary agreement(100)concerning cooperation in the treatment of forced displacement in the areas of: preventive action; protection and solutions; compliance of internal regulations; strengthening of coordination mechanisms; strengthening of international cooperation; and publicising and application of international law for refugees.

The UNHCR's intention of participating in the following activities was highlighted: early warning mechanisms, formulation of policies and methodologies for their evaluation, technical assistance for local committees envisaged in the law, the establishment and putting into practice of the Observatory Body on Displacement.

The UNHCR office in Colombia proposed the establishment of six regional offices in areas where forced displacement is most serious. Initially offices were set up in Barrancabermeja (Santander), Apartadó (Antioquia) and Puerto Asís (Putumayo).


3.1.5 The Inter-institutional Commission in Riosucio

From the 12 to 16 April, an inter-institutional commission visited various areas in the municipality of Riosucio, in the department of Chocó to verify the violent events of the first week in April(101).

According to information given by the communities affected, civilian and military authorities, on 4 April a group of between 300 and 600 paramilitaries of the AUC entered the hamlets of Caño Seco, Arenal and Villahermosa along the River La Balsa. Here they murdered 12 people, kidnapped another seven, stole food and property, retained several identity documents and filmed and interrogated the villagers. A helicopter was also reported to have dropped explosives in one of its flights over the area. The presence of FARC militia in some of the settlements was also described to the commission.

Among the victims were leaders and members of the San Francisco de Asís Peace Community that had participated in the return process. As a result of the fear and anxiety caused by the attacks more than 200 people fled to the municipal capital of Riosucio, including almost the entire population of the hamlet of Clavellino.

The commission demanded that the AUC and the FARC respect the civilian population of the region. They requested government measures to guarantee security and protection for the communities and their leaders by the armed forces; the tightening of controls on transport by land, air and river; the permanent presence of the state control agencies and the Public Prosecutor's office; support from the RSS in prevention, protection and humanitarian aid for the affected communities in accordance with its responsibilities established under Law 387/97.

They also urged the fulfilment of agreements signed by the government guaranteeing the necessary security conditions on the part of the armed forces for the definitive return of the communities still in situations of displacement or on their way back to their places of origin in the Cacarica and Salaquí Basins. They also demanded guarantees for the work of the national and international organisations providing support and humanitarian aid to the displaced communities.


3.1.6 Accompaniment for the protection of human rights

The mere physical presence of observers from the international community is not enough to provide adequate protection for displaced persons and those working for them. Specific plans or strategies on this issue are not usually included in the plans of international NGOs involved in human rights or humanitarian aid. In Colombia, the observers maintain a permanent or periodic presence in different regions, they regularly communicate with the authorities and publish information on the issue. It is an accompaniment that protects against possible HR violations in a dissuasive manner(102).

The presence of international observers or accompanying groups is only one of many factors necessary for the protection of IDPs. Pressure from armed groups puts the viability of return projects at risk as well as the security that Peace Communities can offer. If a regulation is broken by the state or by a group over which the state has power to act, the international accompaniment is effective due to the fact that an international NGO is able to exert pressure on either body. However, in situations of conflict in which the government cannot maintain its executive role within the state, the international NGOs lose their persuasive power(103).

A possible example of this situation is the recent attack against a humanitarian commission in the Chocó. On 18 November a commission of ten people was returning to Quibdó after carrying out the last phase of the European Union humanitarian aid project in the Murindó region. They had also been evaluating the emergency situation of the communities living on the banks of the River Atrato due to its flooding. The wooden boat which bore the name of the Spanish NGO Paz y Tercer Mundo, was rammed by a fast motor boat carrying a group of paramilitaries. Two members of the commission lost their lives as a result of the collision. The dioceses of Apartadó and Quibdó later reported the accusations that paramilitary groups had made against people working on social organisation and humanitarian aid projects in the area(104).

Six days later, after requests of collaboration in clearing up the crime from the Basque Country Regional Government, the police captured nine suspects, all of which were members of the AUC. The paramilitaries threatened to burn the corregimiento of Las Mercedes (Quibdó) and kill its inhabitants in reprisal, accusing them of having given the information to police. Seventy families (around 400 people) were forced to flee to the municipal capital as a consequence(105).


3.2 Civil society

3.2.1 The Church

From the perspective of solidarity against human suffering, the Church provided the first response to displaced persons and groups when the phenomenon was still invisible. Its actions were focused on providing accompaniment and humanitarian aid to the victims, evaluations of the situation, gathering of information, mediation with the respective civilian and military authorities and protection of the victims.

Information is collected in the Parishes that act as social bases, and registers are taken of displaced persons and families. The Movilidad Humana section of the Colombian Synod has a large and detailed database which has been used to make statistical projections and maps of the areas of reception and expulsion. This system is being studied by the working groups on displacement in the cities of Bogota and Neiva.

Currently, the Catholic Church and other churches, for instance the Mennonites, respond to the situation through measures such as research, humanitarian aid and drawing up proposals to overcome the problem(106).


3.2.2 Forum on agrarian resettlement with dignity for displaced communities

As a result of the meeting held in July 1998(107), the issues of reparation and restitution of violated rights in situations of forced displacement were studied in more depth in September1999. A topic that has been given a marginal position as much in the Guiding Principles as in Law 387. Furthermore, the stage of stabilisation and consolidation of IDPs in Colombia has been given the least attention and with the least success.

The right to reparation is a human right within international regulatory machinery: the Inter-American Convention against Forced Disappearance; the United Nations declaration on the issue; the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, etc. The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations, recognises the right of the victims of violations to make a complaint to the authorities, that it will be promptly studied and in obtaining a decision in favour of reparation will include the compensation due. This is fundamental in recovering social peace and promoting reconciliation. Without this mechanism the reintegration into society of displaced persons cannot be successful.

The guidelines on the right of victims of serious violations of HR and IHL to obtain reparation include: prevention, investigation, the trial of those responsible, the provision of adequate and efficient legal resources for those affected and the reparation of the victims.

The state should provide disciplinary, administrative, civil and penal procedures that are quick and effective to ensure an adequate reparation that is easily accessible. Reparation seeks to provide a legal solution, eliminating or making amends for the consequences of the damage suffered as well as preventing new violations being committed.

Reparation should be proportional to the seriousness of the individual or collective violations and the damage suffered, adopting four non-exclusive forms: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and guarantees of satisfaction and against reoccurrence.

3.2.3 Children's conference on human rights and peace

In August 1999, representatives of the young population of 13 displaced communities(108)met to share experiences of work aimed at recognising and protecting children's rights. They also discussed the construction of processes oriented at changing their reality and that of their communities in which they play a leading role.

The purposes of the conference were to:

  • Identify the reality that displaced children experience.
  • Contribute to the construction of work schemes supporting the development of communication and proposal-making capabilities and initiatives in these issues.
  • Promote the formulation and implementation (by the state) of specific programmes for the young displaced population.
  • Contribute ideas for the humanitarian work of the nongovernmental organisations.

Specific activities were carried out during the conference with the organisers of the children's ventures to identify strengths and weaknesses in their work.

Several communities of displaced persons have implemented activities aimed at children in the areas of education, recreation, communication and responses to their particular material needs. However, a lack of training was detected in the organisers that voluntarily take on this work as well as a shortage of equipment to carry it out.

The community initiatives in attention to children has shown up the gaps in the governmental programmes for attention to IDPs. The destruction of the social network and the dispersion of families resulting from forced displacement has worsened the situation of children's rights. They suffer discrimination in the settlement sites and at some schools where they have managed to get in. Their marginal condition exposes them to multiple risks and in many cases they have to work to help support their families.

The participants in the conference concluded that their work should begin with the premise that they are children above "displaced persons". In this way they would take on an active role in the community, participate in the recovery and defence of their cultural identity and contribute to strengthening values of solidarity.


3.2.4 Academic Institutions

The participation of university institutions in the study of ID has been reflected in different research projects and the introduction of the issue onto different courses and seminars.

The evaluation of the IDPs in Soacha (Cundinamarca)(109)is among the studies worth highlighting. This municipality on the outskirts of Bogota receives a high influx of displaced persons. They now constitute 24% of the population, an increase of more than 100% compared with 1995 figures. In their majority they come from the south of Tolima and Cáqueta, but also from further afield such as the south of Bolívar, Chocó or Guaviare, which implies a dramatic uprooting and adaptation to the new environment.

Sixty-five percent of IDPs in Soacha are younger than 19 and 50% of the families are headed by women. Before displacement, 78% of the families interviewed owned to a certain extent and farmed agricultural land. Housing conditions and public services are inadequate in the current settlements, added to the high rate of unemployment this serves to reinforce the marginal circumstances of the IDPs. The situation is made worse by insufficient or no institutional attention programmes.

University participation is essential to ensure the autonomy and independence of the Observatory Body on Internal Displacement due to Violence, set out in article 13 of Law 387/97. This body aims to compile and analyse information on ID with the purpose of producing regular reports concerning its size, trends and the results of state policies in favour of IDPs.

3.3 The population displaced by violence as part of the social movement

In reception sites for displaced individuals or families, e.g. cities such as Bogota, Medellin, Villavicencio and Neiva, the IDPs are disperse, anonymous and do not have institutional mechanisms of attention. However, the organisational process of the victims has shown some important progress. The NGOs, Fundación para la educación y el desarrollo (Education and Development Foundation -FEDES) and ILSA and the corporation Sembrar are assessing and accompanying training programmes to strengthen the social organisation of these communities.

Different organisations are involved in the working groups on displacement: Social organisations of displaced persons; state control agencies; human rights organisations; churches involved in the issue; international cooperation agencies; governmental entities. These organisations provide an opportunity for joint reflection and ventures in pursuit of activities aimed at overcoming the forced displacement phenomenon. They are based on the premise that ID is the responsibility of the Colombian State as it is defined in Law 387/97.

Converting the phenomenon into a process of social responsibility, not just that of the state should be interpreted as willingness on the part of the state to guarantee the conditions for the autonomous work of national and international humanitarian aid NGOs in providing opportunities and means for dialogue. This has been expressed since the approval of Law 387.

The implementation of programmes should start by guaranteeing the participation of representatives of the displaced persons and NGOs. Their proposals should be studied at the design stage of policies on displacement. This would guarantee the displaced persons prompt access to programmes in their capacity as victims and not a social problem. On the other hand, the organisation itself of the IDPs constitutes a fundamental contribution to the viability and sustainability of these programmes. This aspect has been undervalued by the institutions responsible so far.


3.4 Conclusions

There was an important change in 1999 with respect to the understanding and uptake of the rights of victims of ID. An increased awareness was also shown of the fact that these rights are legally demandable. Below are some of the indicators that illustrate this trend:

Specialised documents and texts on the issue, from social, political and legal perspectives.

There is growing awareness that of the fact that the economic, social and cultural rights of the IDPs are legally demandable.

A transition in the demands of the IDPs has been observed from the mere request for humanitarian aid to demands for lasting solutions.

By the close of the year advances had been made in the displaced persons' capacity for social organisation as well as their participation in negotiations and activities in pursuit of solutions.

The psychosocial effects of ID on its victims and their behaviour have been studied in more depth; assistance and counselling on the issue is being offered on a small scale to individuals, families and groups(110).

Displaced communities are attempting to coordinate demands with respect to specific and differentiated needs, as in the case of Afro-Colombian groups.

There is a greater association between national NGOs and international cooperation agencies through joint and complementary activities in humanitarian aid and in pursuit of lasting solutions.

A more active participation of the displaced persons has been achieved in the provision of humanitarian aid as well as contributions to technical studies on nutrition and integral proposals for lasting socio-economic solutions in rural and urban areas.


4. Conclusions and recommendations

Concerning Prevention of Forced Displacement

1. Colombia does not have a policy on prevention of forced displacement that is presently being implemented. Prevention of displacement necessarily includes the protection and guarantee of human rights and the respect for the International Humanitarian Law.

With respect to this, it is necessary that the State implement strategies in order to achieve the effective and real protection of human rights. Respect for International Humanitarian Law must be promoted and demanded from armed groups.

Protection must include other elements related to the development of infrastructure and large-scale economic projects, protection for the possession of land and the guarantee for real and effective enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.

2. It is convenient to emphasise that the purpose of facilitating the "agreement for a greater co-operation and co-ordination with the international community and with the private sector", mentioned in the Lineaments of the New Government, must start from the basic principle, that in the first place, the responsibility for the prevention of the causes of displacement and of the solutions for displaced populations correspond to the State.

3. The strengthening of the mechanisms for the alternative settlement of conflicts, through educational activities, conciliation centers and peace judges, is important to consolidate the community in order to construct a culture for people's coexistence.

4. As the causes of displacement in Colombia are closely related to the complex, systematic and persistent violation of the fundamental rights of the persons and of the community, the emphasis of the State policy on prevention and protection must be directed towards guaranteeing the full exercise of the fundamental rights of the persons and of the communities. To achieve this, it is very important to fight against impunity.

The State must promote policies and legal actions aimed to investigate, judge and punish displacing agents and those persons involved in their activities, be it by omission or commission.

5. Regarding the protection of the right to the possession of land, since 1995, the non-governmental agencies have insisted on the need to implement measures which guarantee the peasants and natives' territorial property. To accomplish this, it is important to grant a title deed, as well as to establish legal instruments that, at the same time, protect the property and the possession, and regulate the marketing of land in violent areas in order to diminish the incentives for violent appropriation.

The measures to grant title deeds must be aimed towards benefiting the original owners, therefore, avoiding the legalisation of appropriation, of illegal repopulation and of the agrarian counter-reform promoted by "private armies."

6. None of the documents known explicitly states a decided political intention to continue progressing in the prevention of the causes which generate displacement. Those policies should be comprehensive and directed towards guaranteeing the protection of human rights in accordance with the State's responsibilities.

Concerning Humanitarian Assistance

7. The government must pass from the design of policies and the drawing up of rules to their full and effective execution. Documents concerning policies and rules create institutions, procedures and establish responsibilities. However, some of them do not exist, or have not been implemented or have not been fulfilled. This makes it necessary to constantly assess the development of the public policy designed to assist displaced population.

This assessment must include: the incorporation of the resources assigned to displacement within the national budget, a permanent and effective fiscal and disciplinary control, and the establishment of management indicators.

8. It is necessary that all State agencies give priority to taking care of displaced populations, within their institutional jurisdiction. Bearing in mind this purpose, it is convenient to define responsibilities within each institution, and that these entities fulfil and assume them. Therefore, political intentions must be transformed into concrete and effective actions.

9. The State and the public must become aware of the phenomenon of forced displacement. It is necessary to change the way of thinking about displaced persons only as a poor population, and to understand that they are the victims of the violation of human rights. This conception must permeate the treatment and the help given to these people.

Besides a social policy, displaced people have the right to be compensated and to the guarantee that violations will not occur again. The concept of human dignity must be present in all types of help given to displaced population.

10. It is necessary to change the conception concerning assistance and to assume that humanitarian assistance is a right of the victims. It is not a handout or an element that can be negotiated. It must be fully and appropriately given.

11. It is necessary to develop specific strategies for different aspects, parallel to the existence of a general policy concerning the attention given to displaced population.

The first aspect to be considered is the effective protection for vulnerable groups due to age, sex and physical or psychological conditions. From the perspective of positive discrimination, it is necessary to carry out actions with an impact focused upon these groups in order to protect them effectively and to give them equal material opportunities.

Secondly, ethnic minorities need specific assisting instruments that respect and protect their cultural autonomy.

Finally, it is necessary to differentiate the assistance given based on the regional and local characteristics of the places where it is implemented. It is necessary to consider the fact which generates expulsion as well as the living conditions before displacement as constitutive elements of an effective policy.

12. The intention to "quantify, identify and determine exactly the number of displaced persons and families" is useful provided that its purpose is to guarantee solutions according to the specific needs of age, gender and culture. It can also be practical if the "provisional documentation" that has been mentioned does not imply, by any means, the establishment of complicated controls and procedures that slow down and prolong even more the access of the victims to emergency humanitarian assistance and socio-economic stabilisation programs, as is the case of the process of registration and certification of the status of displaced people.

13. The express concern for the situation of women and children is quite beneficial. It is expected that the special treatment given based on gender, age and ethnic origin materialises in specific programs with enough financial resources and under the supervision of qualified personnel.

14. Non-governmental agencies are playing an important role in understanding, proposing and carrying out actions concerning internal displacement. It is necessary that the State take them into account within the conditions that permit a real and effective participation, and that it establish alliances on equal terms in order to draw up policies and strategies, while not only looking for binding their operating capacity.

Concerning the Protection of Victims of Forced Displacement

15. Before promoting the initiative to "establish neutral areas for refuge," as a mechanism "to carry out humanitarian assistance actions," it is advisable to thoroughly analyse it with international agencies specialised in protection. The purpose of this initiative is to prevent displaced people from arriving to big cities because their return from them is more difficult and expensive.

16. Protection for displaced people must be a constitutive part of the policy about attention. The guarantee that the facts that caused displacement will not occur again should be given both by humanitarian assistance and by lasting solutions to the persons concerned. All measures implemented in order to protect the population must be effective.

17. The fundamental rights of the persons should be protected by the State under all circumstances. The armed groups should also be obliged to respect the civil population as a whole, independently of its declaration of neutrality, of the organisational schema adopted, and of its freely looking for rural or urban shelters, whether considered as neutral areas or not.

18. In case the establishment of camps or neutral areas is really carried out, displaced persons should be able to freely exercise their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, at all times and in all places. They should also have access to humanitarian assistance and to national and international support, without discriminating against the persons or communities that decide not to go to those places.

19. It should be understood that police actions should be restricted to the fulfilment of its constitutional mandate. Besides, it should not interfere under any circumstances in the free exercise of fundamental rights, in the access to humanitarian aid or in the support given by international agencies.

Concerning Lasting Solutions

20. Lasting solutions offered to displaced population should be economically feasible and comprehensive so that they become a real alternative for these persons. They should also be opportune for them to be able to re-establish their life's projects. Alternatives from the perspective of willingness, dignity and integrity should be offered in all cases. Protection should be a component of lasting solutions because it is an essential element for them to be effective.

21. Alternatives for return, as well as for agrarian resettlement and urban integration should be offered. The State should offer the population these three possibilities through strategies directed towards promoting the social and economic development of displaced populations and of the community to which they are going back to or arriving to.

22. The State's fulfilment of the commitments made with the communities and the results of experiences like the provisional resettlement in "Villahermosa" in the municipality of Riosucio (Department of El Chocó), mentioned by the Vice-Minister of the Interior as an example of "return," and others like the ones in the southern part of Bolívar, La Argelia and El Salado, deserve rigorous assessment in order to identify the positive aspects, weaknesses and gaps.

23. To achieve that the strategy of return continue progressing towards truly lasting solutions for the displaced population, it is necessary to reasonably assess the results of previous experiences and of the way in which the State has guaranteed or not the basic conditions of willingness, protection, dignity, compensation and recurrence.

24. The socio-economic stabilisation strategies should consider the aspects related to the reconstruction of the social and community tissue, the culture and the traditional production modes of displaced communities as fundamental components. In that sense, productive projects should be directed towards offering decent living conditions, food for this population, and sustainable economic, social, cultural and environmental conditions.

25. Therefore, the design and implementation of productive projects should guarantee the participation of communities in order to incorporate their traditional knowledge. This should be done independently of whether they choose any of the alternatives of return, of agrarian resettlement or of urban integration.

26. The critical aspects of other socio-economic stabilisation strategies contemplated in Law 387 (agrarian resettlement and the non-existing programs for urban integration up to date) should be evaluated in detail in order to adjust or create the corresponding mechanisms and procedures.

27. Compensation for the victims of displacement is a basic element in order to do justice and to restitute the rights of displaced persons. In this field, there is a pronounced gap which should be filled with the creation of suitable instruments.

28. In order to partially solve the problem, it is necessary to train displaced people for their own organisation and participation and for facilitating organisational processes. It is essential to overcome the fear of involving them and to actually do it. An important component of both the programs of the State and of the NGOs is to empower them so that they can become actors who can contribute to solving problems. For this reason, round table discussions should be strengthened all around the country.

29. The relationship among the State, the international community and the NGOs should be dynamic and open. These relationships should not be politicised. Bearing in mind the respect and autonomy of each one, it is necessary to create opportunities for dialogue and co-ordination that can result in paying more effective attention to displaced population. It is essential to build trusting relationships in all directions, and to re-establish them where they have been damaged.

30. The situation of displacement and the urgent needs of displaced people are strong arguments to legitimise the demand for the participation of non-governmental agencies, respecting their autonomy. They should take part in the meetings where policies and programs are designed so that they can contribute with their experience in humanitarian support and with the presentation of proposals for comprehensive solutions, which can improve State policies quantitative and qualitative impact.


Appendix 1

Registration process of displaced persons sin Bogotá.

The round table discussions about forced displacement in Bogotá(111)diagnosed the registration of displaced persons in November, 1999. At that moment, it pointed out the procedures required by the district administration:

Displaced persons, according to law 387/97 swore before control agencies (The Municipal Attorney's Office, regional offices of the Attorney General's Office and Human Rights Ombudsman's Office) about the facts that caused their displacement. In Bogotá, the sworn statements are received by officers of the Municipal Attorney's Office in the Unit of Attention to displaced population. Those who go to that unit ask for an appointment which can be given for several weeks later, because this office can only see a certain number of persons each day. This situation is similar to the one that occurred when these procedures had to be done in the Home Office.

The sworn statement is verified with unknown criteria, through a process which takes around 30 days. Therefore, two months can go by before people can receive emergency humanitarian support, provided that this office finally recognises them as displaced people. In general, this is just a reference letter for the institutions that provide health services and for the NGOs that work with IDPs(112).

The procedure to verify the sworn statements also allows exclude families from the registration, having the Home Office (Ministry of the Interior) already recognised them as displaced people.

The participants in the round table discussions recommended to the authorities responsible for the attention to IDPs that:

The sworn statements should be received by one agency, which should be responsible for the follow-up process, without subjecting the population to repeating several affidavits. The deponent should have a copy of the sworn statement.

The RSS should divulge the criteria it is using to identify a displaced person.

Those who make a statement about forced displacement have the right to know their records and to justify their being displaced before being rejected or excluded from the National Registration System. To exercise this right, they will be advised by NGOs working with human rights and by their own social organisations for displaced people.

The institutional mechanisms for following-up on and for advising displaced people focus on the verification of the information given by the deponent. Instead, it is suggested that they should concentrate on establishing the causes, consequences and on identifying the groups responsible for displacement in order to assess the violation of rights and the compensation and relocation allowance to which they are entitled(113).

With respect to the verification of the place of origin and of the facts that cause the displacement, the local entities, the ecclesiastic and community organisations should be consulted because they are the nearest referent to the displaced person.

Attention should be given appropriately, with a permanent schedule and by trained personnel, such as psychologists, social workers and sociologists.

It should be assumed that the deponent acts in bone fide so that this does not prevent him from having access to emergency attention and from receiving it immediately.


Appendix 2

Norte de Santander Department

In October, 1998, there were combats between the military forces and the guerrillas from the ELN and the FARC in the municipalities of Tibú and Sardinata. Several families from the jurisdiction of San Martín de Loba and from five hamlets near the area of conflict abandoned the region as the only way to protect themselves, and went to the City of Cúcuta where they looked for refuge.

The guerrilla groups destroyed the public force's bases in several areas of the Department and prohibited the population from giving any type of help or support to its members. When the police and the army stations were abandoned in seven municipalities and three jurisdictions, at least 2,000 peasants left their land and went to Cúcuta and other neighbouring towns.

In the same month, not less than 15,000 peasants from Tibú, La Gabarra, El Tarra y Filo Gringo went to the City of Cúcuta to ask the government to give up its intentions of establishing an anti-narcotic base in that region. The marchers also denounced the failure to comply with the agreements concerning social investment, subscribed by President Samper in 1996. These agreements included the construction of roads, electric plants, generation of employment, coal mining projects, studies on adaptation of land, contracting new teachers, building primary and high schools, health services; attention to people displaced by Venezuelan guards on the border; establishment of an office for the Human Rights Ombudsman's and for other institutions which defend human rights. These investments were proposed as components of the program for the replacement of illegal crops in the Catatumbo(114).

The Government of President Pastrana promised to socially treat the problems faced by peasants, settlers, and native communities which grow coca, through the implementation of an alternative development plan for the region. This plan should include the projects demanded by marchers. After this agreement, the peasants committed themselves to returning to their places of origin.

Since the end of May 1999, the AUC started working in the Department, choosing the jurisdiction of La Gabarra as their starting point. The paramilitary groups carried out twelve massacres in the municipalities of La Playa, San Calixto, Tibú, El Zulia and in the City of Cúcuta in just two months. The report mentioned that between 50 and 60 persons were killed, 30 disappeared and nearly 3,000 were displaced. No actions were undertaken in order to prevent displacement, in spite of the warnings made by several human rights organisations and of the sequence of events:

On May 23, a group of 150 armed men attacked El Salado hamlet in the municipality of Abrego. The paramilitary groups took five persons whose names were on a list out of their houses and, afterwards, they tied and shot them. The police inspector of the municipality of La Playa and the Hacarí hospital ambulance driver were among the victims executed. The others were farmers.

On May 29, in the road from Tibú to the jurisdiction of the corregimiento La Gabarra, 400 paramilitary men stop the buses that covered this road between the two towns and obliged the passengers to go down. They held five of them and after they laid them down on the floor with hands tied and the face covered, they killed them. At least 27 persons were killed in the next few days, but the exact number of victims was not determined.

Since May 31, the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office of Norte de Santander warned the Governor that in spite of the appeals made to the authorities, measures were not still taken to safeguard the life of La Gabarra inhabitants. The National Human Rights Ombudsman's Office responsible for taking care and dealing with complaints had already made the petition to the commanding officer of the military forces and to the Home Office, organisations which announced the adoption of immediate measures.

At least 3,500 peasants from 110 hamlets from the jurisdictions of La Gabarra and Tres Bocas (corregimientos of Tibú) moved away from the area. As the road to Tibú was blocked by paramilitary men, the exodus went to the border with Venezuela as a way to arrive to Cúcuta.

At the beginning of July, other 600 persons moved away from La Gabarra as a consequence of the confrontation between the paramilitary groups and the guerrillas. The Human Rights Ombudsman's Office in Norte de Santander publicly warned about the possibility of a similar exodus in the next few days, unless measures to protect the population were taken.

A document from the Association for Alternative Social Promotion (Minga) was sent in July to the Presidency, the Army, the General Prosecutor's Office and the General Attorney's Office informing about the purposes of the paramilitary raid. The commanding officer of the V brigade said that the statements were defamatory, underestimated the threats against the population and assured that La Gabarra inhabitants were protected by the Army's 46 Battalion(115).

On July 10, a commission made up of members from the General Attorney's Office in the Department, the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office, the Office for Human Rights of the Home Office, UNHCR, the UN High Commission's Office for human rights, the Vice-presidency of the Republic, the RSS, the Provincial Government of Norte de Santander, Tibú's Diocese, and several NGOs travelled to the zone to verify the situation. After receiving the inhabitants' statements, it recommended public force to implement prevention systems to stop the massacres announced by paramilitary groups(116).

On July 17, the paramilitary men entered the municipality of Tibú. Fourteen persons were killed and between 20 and 30 were disappeared. Several families from the rural area started abandoning their homes.

On July 26, in a communication send to the Secretary of the Provincial Government of Cúcuta, the V Brigade's commanding officer stated that Minga's report was a manipulation against the army.

The Human Rights Ombudsman publicly denounced Carlos Castaño's (AUC's chief) plans in the region. He got to know about them during the actions carried out to release senator Piedad Córdoba(117), kidnapped on May 21 by the AUC.

On July 31, The Human Rights Ombudsman's Office reported that 91 peasants had been killed and that 14 massacres had been done by the paramilitary groups since their arrival to the region in May.

In spite of all these alerts, paramilitary groups attacked the jurisdictions of Petrólea and La Gabarra, the hamlets of Caño Lapa and Campo Dos (Tibú), between August 20 and 22. In La Gabarra, they blew up the electricity and telephone pylons and isolated the population for almost a week. Around 60 persons were killed during the raid, and as a consequence of an ultimatum given to the inhabitants, around 1,100 persons moved away from the area.

On August 26, while 400 soldiers arrived to the region of La Gabarra, the paramilitary groups killed five persons in the rural area of El Zulia. They entered the jurisdiction of San Martín de la Loba (Sardinata) that day, and gave the inhabitants the order to leave the area in 48 hours. At least 2,000 persons run away to Cúcuta. Around 500 persons from the town of La Llana (Tibú) did the same because they feared a paramilitary raid. Displaced people stayed at La Finaria. Although the Army announced the arrival of troops to San Martín de Loba on August 30, peasants initially discarded the possibility of going back because they thought soldiers would be there only for a short time.

In this case, we found again the lack of opportune and effective mechanisms to protect the population from the attacks of the armed groups which produce forced displacement. In addition, the previous existence of collective requests concerning social investment indicated a course of action compatible with the prevention of the structural causes underlying the dynamics of violence in the region. The ineffective and questionable intervention of public force also makes one doubt about the feasibility of return under conditions of safety and dignity(118).

Now, the paramilitary presence is permanent in the region and the armed conflict tends to intensify because the Catatumbo and La Serranía de los Motilones area is one of the options to establish a clearing zone with the ELN for them to hold talks with the government.

Displacement towards the border area in Norte de Santander

On June 2, around 2,200 displaced persons arrived to a border post of the Venezuelan Army through the Catatumbo river and some trails. Other 1,500 displaced persons were not allowed to pass the border. Civil and military authorities of the province of Zulia in Venezuela, as well as the local inhabitants, protected and gave humanitarian assistance to displaced people. However, the governments of the two countries decided to repatriate them because they were classified under the category of "Displaced people in Transit," figure that does not exist in the international legislation(119).

The Minister of Defence of Venezuela recognised that safety measures were redoubled in the border in order to control the peasants' exodus to this country. The authorities' concern in this country was about resources outlays in order to take care of displaced people and about possible problems concerning security, taking into account that they were a floating population coming from an area where coca was grown and processed. Many displaced persons said that they had been sent back to the Colombian territory by the Venezuelan Army.

Although UNHCR delegates who visited the place for settlement explained to peasants the rights they have as refugees and the principle of no return, the Superior Attorney of the Province of Zulia made displaced people sign a form of "Free Statement of Return." In addition, the military authorities did not allow human rights organisations to enter there. As a result, on June 5 and 6, displaced people were taken to the border town of Bocas de Grita where they were received by a commission of RSS, the International Red Cross Committee, the Human Rights Ombudsman's of the Province and UNHCR's office in Colombia.

The national government suggested the possibility for displaced people to stay in the jurisdiction of Agua Clara (municipality of Puerto Santander), which was rejected by the police because it was unable to protect them in that place. Due to the insistence of HR organisations, repatriates were allowed to stay in Cucuta's Coliseum. Most of them asked their relatives and friends in the city and in other towns around the area to help them. The others waited for guarantees to go back to El Tarra, Ocaña y Convención. After the arrival of the exodus, eleven persons who, according to police reports, were the leaders of the peasants coming from La Gabarra were killed by armed groups in different neighbourhoods of Cúcuta.

On June 5, a second group of 150 families arrived to the Venezuelan municipality of José María Semprúm. They were a total 650 persons, among them, 200 children less than eight years old. They came in canoes through Río de Oro, and unlike the previous group, they were residents from the hamlets of La Gabarra.

Displaced people settled in three sectors near the slopes of the river, where they put up tents and improvised huts to protect themselves from the elements out in the open. Thanks to the river nearby, they could have fresh water, but there were no other facilities to guarantee them the minimal sanitary conditions to remain in that place. In June 8, the peasants said that aside from a group from the Venezuelan National Guard which relocated them outside the farms around the area and then went away, no other military or civil authorities were present. Representatives from mass media and from HR organisations were the first to arrive to the place and they were the ones who gather the necessary information for the regional government to start working.

After informing about the rights that protect refugees and about the possibilities to request refuge to the Venezuelan government, the organisations made a list of 105 persons who expressed their wish to ask for asylum to the Venezuelan government. These persons were afraid for their lives due to the domestic conflict in Colombia and to the advance of paramilitary groups in Tibú's area, specifically in the town of La Gabarra from where the majority of the community came from. Those names were sent to UNHCR and to the Office for human rights of the armed forces on June 9, 1999.

The authorities of the Province of Zulia decided to move displaced people up to a command in "Casigua el Cubo," where data from all the people were registered. At the beginning, the peasants' spokesman informed that all of them requested refuge, because there were neither safety nor protection to go back due to confrontations between guerrillas and paramilitary groups. As Venezuela does not have regulations for the right to refuge, displaced people could not have access to a procedure which could facilitate or give them the opportunity to formally make the request, fact that contributed to weaken their wish to do not back to Colombia(120).

Local and Colombian authorities decided to repatriate "Colombian displaced people in transit" through Puerto Santander, a border post, from June 13 on. Colombian government assured that their stay in Cúcuta was only for two days while a deployment of a security operation was organised in order to take them to their place of origin. Finally, all displaced people decided to go back and not to request refuge(121).

In June other two groups of displaced persons moved to the border with Venezuela. The Army applied a measure of automatic return in the same place of entry to the first group. The second group, which was partly composed by natives from the Barí ethnic group, was considered as "invaders" and they received equal treatment. The actions of humanitarian assistance, legal advise and protection were evidently reduced until when they were completely denied.

Disparity between the magnitude of displacement and the number of persons that stayed in provisional accommodations in Cúcuta has been related to the fact that most of the displaced people from La Gabarra was a floating population. Their permanent uprooting conditions and their difficulties to address the authorities when their occupations can be considered as illegal(122), could be showing a void in the mechanisms for the access to the programs of assistance and protection for displaced people. In addition, this is a serious restriction for the process of organisation of the communities aimed to find fundamental solutions for the causes which produce displacement.


Appendix 3

The Êbêra Community in the Region of Alto Sinú (Department of Córdoba)

Urrá's reservoir (South of Córdoba) is a multi-purpose project whose goal is the generation of electrical energy and the control of floods in the basin of Sinú River. It has been a controversial project from the financial, technical and environmental points of view.

The basin of Sinú River is very important because it articulates relevant biological and socio-cultural ecosystems. The highest part corresponds to the National Park 'Nudo de Paramillo,' which has unique characteristics in the continent and where native groups belonging to the Êbêra-Katio ethnic group live. In the middle part, there was a strong native (Zenú's ethnic group) and peasants tradition to exploit periodic floods, alternating agriculture with fishing. In the low basin, there are important mangrove forest extensions which have been exploited for forest and fishing extraction.

Production systems are characterised by a strong community component, complex adaptations to natural cycles and the exploitation of sustainable resources. When Urrá's project was presented, landowners were already pressuring to progressively drain swamps and to take possession of these plots of land, which were considered as waste land. In spite of the fact that several social sectors have been insisting on the recognition of the biological importance of periodic floods and of the advantages these represent for the basin's traditional agriculture, there has predominated a developmental concept which conceives floods as disasters. It also considers the regulation of the water level as a priority for supporting other applications of the soil, such as agribusiness and cattle raising which would be economically relevant for the region.

After several five-year periods of backward state, and once one of the stages of the project was dismissed, the government reactivated the construction of the reservoir in 1992. It said it was necessary to strengthen the country's system to generate electrical energy. The truth is that there was a crisis in the availability of energy due to the drought produced by the 'el niño' phenomenon. This coincided with changes in the environmental legislation, derived from the 1991 constitution. These changes led to the establishment of previous environmental licenses and of consultations to the communities affected by the infrastructure projects.

The construction of the project began in 1996, under the protection of a partial license, which immediately produced negative effects on the river species and which obliged several fishermen hamlets to be resettled. The houses and the plots of land given as compensation did not allow these communities to re-establish their economic activities; thus, generating an accelerated impoverishment and a serious process of social fragmentation. The project will cause 7,400 cultivation hectares to disappear, of which 417 are the most fertile and are in the Êbêra territory. From the very moment in which the course of the river was diverted, between 30,000 and 50,000 tons of fish have been lost.

According to 1995 census data, the Êbêra-Katio group in the region of El Alto Sinú is made up of 444 families (2,500 persons). In 1998, the native council lodged a "tutela" (a writ of protection of constitutional rights) looking for the respect to consultation, compensation and indemnity procedures established by the Law. The Constitutional Court protected the rights of the communities and ordered the company which owns the project to carry out consultations and to negotiate with the communities affected. In a later sentence, the jurisprudence also included the peasant communities from the middle basin. With this sentence the reservoir filling was stopped and it ordered the Ministry of the Environment not to grant licenses for this stage of the project or for the operation of the complex, until the requirements established by the Law were fulfilled(123).

At the end of last December, three advisers of the community's Main Council who took part in the supporting activities to negotiate the share in the profits (1996) and in the process to lodge the "tutela", abandoned the country. They had to go because they were threatened several times by paramilitary groups. Some weeks after it was not possible to come to an agreement concerning the share of the profits, the community's House of Government was burnt by criminals.

In 1999, paramilitary groups threatened the Karagabí, Kiparadó and Widó communities (in the municipality of Tierralta) with massacres. Their members received the peremptory order to move away from these territories in three days time. This caused the exodus of many natives. On January 31, paramilitary groups killed a member of the community who was driving a vessel in the Sinú river and they justified this fact saying that the communities had transported the guerrilla when it killed two wood dealers some months before. They also published a list with the names of several leaders who had been declared as a military objective.

According to the denouncements made by the Colombian National Native Organisation -ONIC, since January 31, the self-defence groups were patrolling the sector known as Gallo, jurisdiction of Frasquillo municipality at the bank of Sinú river. They detained several persons and burnt 14 motorboats. According to witnesses, the United Self-defence Group of Córdoba and Urabá -ACCU- composed by more than 200 men, told the detained persons that it was a reprisal against the people who had helped the FARC during the attack to Carlos Castaño's camp in El Diamante hamlet (Tierralta municipality) on December 28 of 1998. On February 10 of 1999, the corpses of two persons kidnapped during the patrolling were found.

The Association for the Defence of Threatened People, which has its headquarters in Germany, reported that the kidnapping of natives in Frasquillo was one day after a paramilitary group threatened several native families from Kiparadó. The paramilitary group said families had to leave, because obeying a request from the community, the group have not been able to continue its armed actions in that area of the country. They told the natives how to leave the zone, without passing by Tierralta.

In March 1999, The Human Rights Ombudsman's Office informed about ten assassinations, tortures, dislodgements and other outrages done by guerrillas and paramilitary groups against the Êbêra-Katios from Green River and the Iwagadó reservation in the region of Alto Sinú. This Office asked guerrillas and paramilitary groups not to involve the Êbêra-Katio community from Tierralta (Department of Córdoba) and Ituango (Department of Antioquia) in the armed conflict. According to this office, the natives from the region of Alto Sinú have to endure continuous violations to their human and civil rights, even being obliged to be active members of armed groups. The Êbêra have denounced harassments and burning of provisions carried out by the ACCU, as well as intimidations made by the Farc's V Front.

On April 24, Lucindo Domicó Cabrera, a leader of the Êbêra-Katio community from the Alto Sinú and a health advisor for the Main Councils of Green River and Sinú River, was killed. He was one of the four main negotiators and advisors of the Councils involved in the negotiation with Urrá Company Inc. He also worked in favour of the community rights in the construction of the hydroelectric project. Four men with their faces covered and who were allegedly paramilitary men, entered the native's room in the municipality of Tierralta and shot him eight times. After Lucindo's assassination, another two leaders of the community were threatened. They have to go away from the area and have to continuously move to other regions of the country.

In April 1999, The Governors Meeting of the Êbêra-Katio community made a public denouncement about the armed conflict. They stated that they do not have commitments with any of the legal or illegal groups. They also rejected pressures and threats they had received before consultations with Urrá company Inc., and reiterated their concern for the aggressive warnings received from several social sectors of the region, classifying them as enemies of the progress in the Atlantic Coast. The Êbêra have been accused of being responsible for the damages caused by floods, of slowing down negotiations and of fraudulently handling the resources assigned to natives. The Êbêra's position is associated with the guerrillas' interests, creating anxiety and promoting threats against them.

In May 1999, 2,500 members of the Êbêra-Katio community from the Department of Córdoba made an statement requesting political asylum to Spain. They said their rights to live and territory were being violated, and that they were unprotected in the middle of the armed conflict between guerrillas and self-defence groups. The purpose of this request was to communicate the public that they rather preferred the exile than to become part of the displaced people in Tierralta or Montería.

An Êbêra leader and Onic's executive pointed out that the problems for the community have started with Urrá's hydroelectric project. On the one side, natives will have to relocate their sacred places, change their fishing practices and to avoid strangers coming to their land. On the other side, they are being pressured by politicians, the company and the armed groups. Due to the threats, they decide to declared themselves neutral.

In May 1999, the Êbêra-Katio Community asked for the inclusion in the agenda of negotiations with Urrá Inc of the condition that the State should guarantee of their right to freely move within their reservation. This would prevent them from having to move to other areas of the country or from going abroad due to the confrontations between armed groups in their territory.

The representative of the Karagabi reservation expressed his concern about that that can happen after negotiations, because when the previous stage and the internal consultation were being carried out, three leaders of the community were killed, and because other native leaders have also been threatened. The native governors, the traditional chiefs and bailiffs were told not to participate in the armed conflict under any circumstance.

On October 1, 1999, the AUC sent a letter to the Ministers of the Interior, of Mines and of the Environment, also to the president of Urrá's Inc., and to several senators of the Senate Fifth Commission requesting an authorisation to fill the reservoir. In that letter, they stated that the position of the native community was due to the guerrilla's infiltration through leaders and advisors, and that they threatened "not to allow" this to happen. The environmental license was approved on October 6.

The license does not take into account the measures for social and political protection as a consequence of the strengthening of the armed conflict due to hydroelectric project. The company's transfer of resources to the communities has converted them into armed groups pressure objects in order to obtain 'contributions'. The operational infrastructure is also attractive for armed groups because they considered it as a military objective.

A minority part of the community, the Êbêra from the Emerald River, accepted the offers made by the company during the negotiations. The government has presented this output as an expression of the will of the majority in order to disqualify the arguments of the communities from the Green and Sinú rivers (70% of the population). They think that the areas to amplify the reservation, offered as compensation for the zone which will be flooded, did not take into account the proposals made by the community. They said that those are poor quality areas which do not guarantee good conditions to obtain food. In fact, settlers peasants have been in these area, and they have already abandoned them. The only possible activities to be carried out there are those related to reforestation. In addition, they are being offered to natives personally without considering the collective characteristics of the territory.

The communities which have not accepted the negotiations, argue that the compensation for the social and economic impacts of the project should not be individual economic contributions because they threaten their culture stability. The resources available should be invested in productive projects and to strengthen the community structure. At present, US$23 ($45,000 Colombian pesos) are offered to each person, which is an amount lower than what they can earn by the month. The company is also offering a resettlement premium. Environmental authorities in Tierralta are carelessly giving licenses to extract wood. This has been used by the minority from Green river, in spite of the fact that it damages the environment. It has also accepted it because of the government's failure to comply with the commitments.

The process to fill the reservoir, which began on November 18, was done very quickly because of the intensity of the rainy period. Water contamination with the unremoved biomass has produced plagues of insects carriers of infections and several disease outbreaks. Malaria, haemorrhagic dengue fever and tuberculosis are among the most serious ones. One hundred and thirty six natives living in the area have not been resettled: their homes, crops and paths have been destroyed and their ritually important sacred places have also been covered. A great amount of wild fauna has perished and mortality among domestic animals is severe. Drinking fountains have disappeared as a result of the stagnation of the water level. The water down the reservoir, the rivers and swamps have already started losing their water level.

Because of the impossibility to come to an agreement concerning their requests, 170 natives of the community from Alto Sinú and 21 fishing peasants from the low basin decided to walk 800 kilometres in order to protest in front of the Environmental Ministry's head office and to meet with the Ministers of the Interior and of Mines. The Human Rights Ombudsman's office reaffirmed that the consultation process with natives was not legally or appropriately finished. The requests were about the shortcomings in the study on impacts, in the environmental handling and in contingency plans. They also referred to the pressures by paramilitary groups and to threats to leaders and negotiators. The official transfer of the native territory authorising its utilisation for the hydroelectric project has not been done yet and the share in the project's profits has not been established.

The Minister of the Environment assures that the environmental license complies with that which was recommended by the Constitutional Court. On December 28, 1999, an administrative action from the Ministry of Mines ordered to decrease the reservoir's water level while the resettlement program to guarantee physical safety, houses and food for the families affected is finished. It also ordered Urrá company Inc., to hand in periodic reports to verify that water does not enter the reservation. This confirms the monitoring deficient structure concerning the hydrological conditions, which is essential for the project to fulfil its purposes of controlling water level in the whole basin.

On December 14, 1999, 170 members of the native community started walking towards Bogotá in a pacific protest in order to demand the compliance with the legal mandates that protect their culture's integrity. On December 31, 1999, this community welcomed the new millennium in the Ministry of the Environment's garden, where they were patiently waiting for a solution to their problem while they reaffirmed their strong resistance to displacement.


Appendix 4

Southern Part of Bolívar and Cimitarra's Valley

The region is made up of 19 municipalities with a population between 350,000 and 400,000 inhabitants. It comprises a portion of the Departments of Bolívar, Antioquia and Santander. Its economic production is based on fishing, cattle raising, agriculture and mining using traditional methods. According to official data, this region possesses the world's third opencast gold mine from where 42% of the Colombian production is extracted.

There were many continuous, serious and massive violations of the human rights of the population in this region during 1999, specifically due to the intensity and extension of paramilitary raids, as well as to their capacity to stay and to control these areas. Regarding this, it is worthwhile mentioning the public force's lack of effectiveness in pursuing and eradicating these groups, as well as the apparent confluence between the actions of two armed groups.

On June 11, 1998, The ACCU paramilitary groups established a base near San Pablo. From there, they extended their actions to several places between Simití and Santa Rosa, relying on a troop of more than 300 men. This group's announcement to eradicate guerrillas in this region, together with the raid to Cerro Burgos and a series of patrols established in the country's main roads, caused the displacement of at least 10,000 persons to the City of Barrancabermeja (Santander) where they stayed for nearly four months.

Low and Middle Atrato

On February 1997, around 10,000 persons were displaced from the low Atrato's area and from the Cacarica's basin in the northern part of El Chocó after some paramilitary raids and some bombing from the armed forces. They sheltered in Turbo, Bocas de Atrato, Pavarandó and Quibdó. Other groups moved to Bahía Cupica, after their repatriation from Panama.

Temporary resettlement places were established in Villahermosa, Clavellino and Domingodó (Ríosucio) for the ones who moved to Pavarandó, while they waited for the guarantees agreed on with the government to return to their plots of land.

A portion of the people displaced from low Atrato went to other regions without reporting what has happened to the authorities. Others in the middle Atrato are still hiding in the jungle because they are afraid to be killed or because they do not want to refuge in a camp for displaced people(124).

Up to 1999, the majority of the communities displaced had already returned to their settlements or they had resettled in areas near to their places of origin where they established Peace Communities. Safety and protection guarantees have been very scarce and vital support has been given by national and international non-governmental agencies(125). Social organisations in the region have reported the constant presence of paramilitary groups in the whole basin, where they control the inhabitants' mobilisation, as well as the transport of food and medicines.

The eight hundred inhabitants of the jurisdiction of Curvaradó who were sheltered in the municipality of Riosucio, began going back to their village after having sent an advance party on December 10, 1998. After a pedagogy and training process as a Peace Community(126), displaced people started reorganising their community way of living in the hamlet, the second one in size in the low Atrato. According to its leaders, the economical and social recovery required by the community needs the State's support to programs for agricultural financing, provision of tools, seeds, clothes and other essential equipment(127).

The biogeographic Pacific is one of the planet's most important natural regions for conservation and study. The greatest part of its biological richness has not been explored yet, and the application of environmental norms is very weak with respect to the rate of resources depredation, along with the tension created by colonisation.

This is not a secondary aspect if we take into account the interest of different groups in establishing a control on the resources of the zone. This aspect becomes important in the discussions on the strategic characteristics of the region and on the periodic attempts made by different governments to consider the infrastructure works in that area as a priority.

An illustrative example of the development trend which nurtures this perspective is the land connection through the "Tapón del Darién." In compliance with that which was indicated by the CONPES and by Law 188 of 1995, the National Institute for Highways and Roads contracted studies about the Colombo-Panamanian Pan-American's road missing stretch. They mention two priority reasons to do this connection: 1) Global economy requires an efficient transport structure so that domestic products can compete with greater advantages in the world markets; 2) the democratisation and development of communities through the provision of safety, health, education, infrastructure and the creation of new productive systems that generate new sources of income for native population(128).

The basis of this and other infrastructure projects, such as the proposals for inter-oceanic connection, are sustained by the achievement of a greater exchange of goods and services, as well as of capital flow among the countries of the continent. Although the projects have incorporated all the terminology of environmental sustainability and of the benefits for local communities, there are not real or technical guarantees that support these components(129).


Appendix 5

Forced displacement to El Huila Department

In 1999, displacement in El Huila department was characterised by a damming in the requests of the population who had abandoned its land in different regions and times. This Department is a crossing zone for flows of colonisations between the Andean and the western regions of the country. For this reason, it has received hundreds of rootless people as a consequence of a large series of events related to the armed conflict, such as the establishment of the clearing zone which is only the most recent one.

At the beginning of October 1998, not less than 600 peasants displaced by violence (nearly 169 families coming from El Caquetá, Meta, Bolívar, Santander, Tolima and Cesar departments, as well as several municipalities of El Huila) blocked the road between Neiva and Campoalegre for 14 hours(130). They were protesting for the failure to comply with the agreements made with the government the previous year. This measure was used to pressure the government to solve the problems in health, education, food and humanitarian assistance.

After an agreement on four points, the blockage was called off. However, another group of 200 peasants blocked the road to the municipality of San Agustín. Displaced people asked for the fulfilment of the resettlement of 50 families, a housing, an employment plan and a system of social safety which include health and education services and credits for the peasants affected by violence. The administration of the City of Neiva and the Department Governor's Office promised to give them a plot in the city and housing subsidy for the families.

Displaced people blocked the road between Neiva and Campoalegre for the third time. The demonstration was done on the bridge over Arenoso river, 5 kilometres from Neiva. This was done because of the breaking off of conversations between the peasants' representatives and the government. Displaced people requested the fulfilment of the commitments made two weeks before. According to official statistics, 180 families concentrated on the road over Arenoso river.

In January 1999, RSS offered displaced families, which were on the side of the road, a minimum wage for temporary works in Neiva. The proposal for 93 households was to preserve and take care of 100 parks and green spaces in the city for ten thousand Colombian pesos per day. The Solidarity Network gave 90 million Colombian pesos for the emergency project, which will last four months. The Sports and Recreation Institute would buy the tools and the National Training Service - SENA - will be responsible for training displaced people in gardening and adornment.

Displaced people who where living in plastic tents thought that this payment was not enough to satisfy their needs and to cover travel expenses, but it was their only alternative(131). In March, the project was stopped because of the failure to comply with payment of wages and salaries. The cofinancing of the municipality was not approved because of differences between the Council and the Mayor.

After staying four months in the right bank of the Arenosa stream, displaced families decided to invade a piece of land in the Chicalá sector in Neiva. They did it because the agreements concerning the resettlement, signed by the national and local administrations, were not fulfilled. They also had to endure swellings caused by the rainy period.

In the four-hectares piece of land which belonged to the Institute for Industrial Promotion of El Huila - Infihuila -, the families built the "Hope and Freedom" settlement, with 120 shelters, cultivation areas, a community lodging, a classroom, and office to help the population arriving to the city, a shelter for 100 families (coming from the demilitarised zone and El Putumayo department), and several micro-enterprises. They do not have drinking water, electricity or food for the 600 persons settled there.

The Solidarity and Justice Foundation which brought families settled in Chicalá together, collected the IDPs requests and converted itself into a place to receive them, because the Town Council's Committee for Attention did not have a direct emergency attention plan for this population. Thanks to this organisation, a negotiating process with the administration of the municipality was carried out. This agency also informed public opinion about the situation of displaced people in Neiva.

The administration of the municipality do not want to elaborate a plan for attention, because it says it is rather a national problem than a local one. It also argues that the provision of attention could convert the municipality into an attractive zone for migration and that specific attention to the IDPs could cause discrimination with another needy sector. Public service utilities consider that the supply in illegal or invading settlements would give them the right to own the plot of land(132).

The shortcomings to help the population starts in the registration stage. In a follow-up visit done on June 10, 1999(133), it was obvious that there was a discrepancy between the number of families registered by the local committee in charge of the attention (324) and the statements received by the Municipal Attorney's Office (more than 400). In addition, the committee has denied several certifications based on the period of time of the displacement and on the fact that the existence of goods which will not allow the displaced person to receive the benefits stipulated by the law.

The restrictions in giving humanitarian assistance are more serious for displaced people in El Huila, if we take into account the slowness of the institutions responsible for finding lasting solutions, in terms of return and resettlement. Regarding the 50 resettlements agreed on with INCORA and which would have to be done in 1998, only 18 families had been resettled in the municipalities of Palermo and Altamira in the middle of 1999. It was also studying another 4 plots for 36 families more(134). Some families abandoned the places assigned due to the failure in complying with the terms agreed on and to the shortcomings in the resettlement model itself.

As a result of negotiations, the local Attorney's Office committed itself to do a qualitative diagnostic study about displacement in the municipality, based on the application of the Social Reception Record which can be used as an input for the elaboration of legal policies concerning attention. This would be the first massive survey about the situation of human rights in a community of displaced people. However, the proposal to create a space for institutional co-ordination was not accepted because of the ignorance of the municipality and department's authorities with respect to the norms in force and of the confusion concerning their application.

In spite of the advances in the conversations with the administration of the municipality, Infihuila(135)brought a police legal action to clear the plots of land invaded in Chicalá. The community of displaced people, invoking their right to non repetition and the legal responsibility of the government's authorities, urged the Mayor's Office, the Governor's Office and the Town Council's Office for attention to IDPs to present alternatives in order to solve the problem. However, the eviction planned could only be stopped through a legal action. In November, they came to an agreement with the Governor's Office and the Mayor's Office so that the plot could be purchased by the latter and transferred to a housing program managed by the IDPs.

In this case, the situation of the capital of El Huila shows the common difficulties of the receptor municipalities when displaced people do not go to them firstly, but after a more or less large pilgrimage and once they have used up all short-term alternatives. The rootless situation, lack of protection, unemployment and lack of guarantees to return, makes them consider the city as an permanent possibility.

However, this process shows that the municipality does not have a structured policy to help IDPs. These shortcomings include aspects related to budget, administration and institutional co-ordination and, above all, political and social conception. Although a portion of the community pursues agrarian resettlement, the institutional failure to comply with the agreements, and the community organisation process itself lead to urban reintegration.


Santa Fe de Bogotá, March 2000.


1. "ONU pide apoyo para desplazados" (UN seeks help for displaced persons). El Espectador, 28 October 1999, p.6A. Summary of a declaration by Francis Deng, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Internal Displacement.

2. "Colombia's Silent Crisis". The Washington Post, 28 January 2000, pA25, Washington D.C. Editorial by Catherine Bertini, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme

3. A brief note follows on Colombia's geographical and administrative divisions. Colombia is divided into 32 departments (departamentos), headed by a governor and departmental government. Each department is made up of several municipalities (municipios), administrated by a mayor, an executive position, the local council, a legislative body, and a local representation of the Procuradoría (Attorney General's Office) known as the Personaría, a sort of municipal attorney. The municipalities in turn consist of subdivisions called corregimientos, and within these lie veredas, scattered houses in a rather looser arrangement than a village and from hereon called hamlets. These have a non-legislative committee called the Junta de Acción Communal (Communal Action Group). Each municipality has a central town, referred to as the cabecera municipal or casco urbano. -Translator's note.

4. United States Committee for Refugees (USCR) and Jesuit Refugee Service. "The Plight of Colombia's Internally Displaced". An appeal for US assistance to displaced Colombians by seven faith-based and humanitarian organisations. 1 February 2000, Washington D.C. This public report states that the 284 municipalities affected by internal displacement in 1995 rose to 500 by the end of 1998 and that the number of people displaced in Colombia exceeds the number of people uprooted by the conflict in Kosovo (former Yugoslavia).

5. The national unemployment rate in December 1999 was 18.1% and the underemployment rate in metropolitan areas in September of the same year was 21.6%; Income ratio (superior fifth/inferior fifth, measures the relationship between the groups of highest and lowest incomes) was 16.3 in the first quarter. External debt reached US$33.746 million in the third quarter. Current information from the Departamento Nacional de Estadísticas (National Department of Statistics -DANE) at www.dane.gov.co.

6. Departamento Nacional de Planeación (National Planning Department), Ministerio del Interior (Home Office), Red de Solidaridad Social (Social Solidarity Network -RSS). Consejo Nacional de Politica Económica y Social (National Council for Economic and Social Policy -CONPES) Document 3057-99, Plan de Acción para la Prevención y Atención del Desplazsamiento Forzado, (Action Plan for the Prevention and Attention of Forced Displacement. The components of each government's Development Plan are drawn up by the National Planning Department in papers on specific policies. These documents are then put forward for consideration by the National Council for Economic and Social Policy (CONPES).

7. Zona de distensión (Literally 'zone of relaxation [of military authority], also known as the zona del despeje (area cleared [of military personnel] - Translator): An area demilitarised in November 1998 to allow talks to take place between the government and the FARC. The armed forces and police were withdrawn from the following municipalities; La Uribe, Vistahermosa, Mesetas and La Macarena in the department of Meta; and San Vicente del Caguán in the department of Cáqueta.

8. El Tiempo, 14 January 1999, p.3A. After a violent attack that cost 132 lives at the beginning of January, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia -AUC) sent a communication to President Pastrana on 13 of the same month, expressing their willingness to begin talks with the government.

9. United Nations, Economic and Social Council. Document E.CN. 4/1998/53/Add.2, 11 February 1998. 54th Period of the Human Rights Commission sessions. See the minutes of the seminar on the circulation of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, Bogotá, 27-29 May 1999. A publication by the Brookings Institution, Untied States Committee for Refugees and the Support Group for Displaced Persons' Organisations (GAD).

10. Information presented in the joint declaration by Colombian NGOs to the 56th period of United Nations Human Rights Commission sessions based on studies by the Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular (Centre for Research and Popular Education -CINEP), the Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (Colombian Commission of Jurists), Comité Permanente para la defensa de los Derechos Humanos (Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights) and the Comisión Intercongregacional de Justicia y Paz (Intercongregational Commission for Justice and Peace). According to research by Amnesty International carried out in Colombia in 1999, 70% of cases are committed by paramilitary groups, 20% by guerrilla organisations and 5% by the police and armed forces. (El Espectador 5 November 1999, p.6A and El Colombiano, 5 November 1999, p.8A)

11. From the bulletin, Codhes Informa No. 28, "1999: Desplazamiento sin Tregua" (1999: No Cease Fire for Displacement), pp.1-3, February 2000, Bogotá. The figures in this chapter on the number of displaced persons, those responsible for displacement, municipalities and regions affected, correspond to the monitoring of the Information System on Forced Displacement and Human Rights in Colombia. The national information network is made up of the Catholic Church, governmental, state, non-governmental and displaced persons' organisations. The information is verified by means of monitoring press information and field visits. It corresponds to victims of displacement registered in the places where they seek refuge.

12. Section on 'Evolution of Displacement', p9

13. Codhes Informa No. 28 Appendix chart.

14. Information on massacres in 1999 comes from the Human Rights Ombudsman IHL and Peace Office, published on 29 December 1999.

15. The Human Rights Ombudsman's Office classifies the death of three or more people in the same act as a massacre. At the beginning of the year, in reference to a discrepancy with regard to the information from a human rights NGO, this body explained that the armed actors in some municipalities had begun to commit 'diffuse massacres'; committing the murders one at a time in different places to avoid drawing the attention of the press to their acts (El Espectador, 22 February 1999, p. 9A; El Tiempo, 18 February 1999, p.7A). We add, that in many cases, this has also avoided drawing the authorities' attention to them and has enabled the victims' bodies to be hidden (see report by Human Rights Watch "The Ties that Bind: Colombia and Military-Paramilitary Links", February 2000, vol. 2 No. 1(B)).

16. The Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Antioquia reported that from January to August 1999, 116 massacres against defenceless persons had been committed. The paramilitaries were responsible for 369 out of the 679 victims. The Instituto Popular de Capacitación (Popular Training Institute -IPC) reported 112 forced disappearances from a total of 811 in the last four years; 720 are attributed to paramilitary groups and 19 to the armed forces and police. Statistics show that 86.8% of the victims are not found, 11.5% are found dead and 1.7% return alive.

17. See the description of the cases from San Pablo (Bolívar) in the section about Return, Resettlement and Reintegration, and La Gabarra (Norte de Santander) in Appendix 2.

18. Agreement with the Mesa Regional del Magdalena Medio de Trabajo Permanente por la Paz (Magdalena Medio Regional Committee for Permanent Peace Work), p.1, 4 October 1998, Barrancabermeja, Public declaration by the national government. This committee was a mechanism used by the displaced peasant farmers from the south of Bolívar and the Valle del Cimitarra to aid talks with representatives of the national government.

19. Among these recommendations the following are highlighted: a) The US State Department Human Rights Report (February); b) The appeal made by 27 Members of the European Parliament (February); c) The appeal made by the Unión Progresista de Fiscales de España (The Progressive Association of Spanish Attorneys)(March); d)The report by the UN High Commission on Human Rights, Geneva (April); e) The report by the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (April); f) The Annual Report of the UN High Commission on Human Rights Office in Colombia (April); g) The Human Rights Ombudsman's Office Report to the UN (April); h) The appeal made by a group of US senators (June); i) The Amnesty International (AI) Annual Report 1998 (June); j) The AI Report on the Portugal Sessions (August); k)The report by the International Policy Support Mission, requested by an ad hoc commission of 24 national and international NGOs (September); l) The AI researchers report on the human rights situation in Antioquia (October); m) The Human Rights Watch Report (November); n) The AI report evaluating the human rights situation in the country (November).

20. The so-called pescas milagrosas (literally 'miraculous catches', employing a fishing metaphor - Translator) consist of establishing road blocks on inter-municipal motorways. The victims are then searched or kidnapped, mainly for economic purposes. Generally these road blocks are held over weekends or public holidays in popular areas of tourism. In some cases, for example, in the area of El Peñon - Guatapé-Rionegro near Medellín (Antioquia), commercial activity associated with tourism has almost disappeared as a result of these road-block kidnappings.

21. The plane was forced to land in the south of the department of Bolívar, the hostages are believed to be held in the Serranía de San Lucas. Pressure by the army and paramilitaries in responding to this act by the ELN has notably contributed to the intensification of armed confrontation in the region.

22. Such as gas cylinders filled with dynamite and shrapnel.

23. Codhes Informa No. 28, p.10

24. The lack of preventative measures to exclude the civilian population from combats has caused loss of life and property as well as difficulties for medical teams on various occasions, principally, in the department of Antioquia where the IPC reported 22 cases of bombings.

25. El Espectador, "Fuego cruzado deja 16 civiles muertos" (Cross fire claims 16 civilian lives) 14 December 1998, p.8A. In the article reports are given by the Tame Personaría (Municipal Attorney's Office) of the evacuation of 30 children from the affected area. El Colombiano "Denuncian muerte de 21 civiles por bombardeos" (21 Civilians reported dead in bombings), 14 December 1998, p.12C. The commander of the XVIII Army Brigade explained that the incident had been produced by guerrillas firing against troops and helicopters from the inhabitants' houses in the hamlet of Santo Domingo and that they then forced the local population out into the streets to use them as human shields. El Tiempo "Violenta persecución a las Farc en Tame" (Violent pursuit of the FARC in Tame) 14 December 1998 p.8A

26. El Colombiano "Versiones encontradas por bombardeos en Aruaca" (Different versions of the bombings in Arauca), 15 December 1998. El Tiempo, "Exodo a Tame por combates" (Combats cause exodus towards Tame), 15 December 1998, p. 8A. El Espectador, "La FAC dice que no hubo bombardeos" (Air Force denies bombings) 15 December 1998, p.10A. The Commander of the Colombian Air Force denied the bombings and alleged that only machine gun fire had been employed in addition to seven light rockets that were fired into 'woods on the savannah' and would not have affected a house if they had exploded in its vicinity.

27. El Tiempo, 14 January 1999, p. 15A

28. El Colombiano, 7 July 1999.

29. The public statements by the AUC in different newspapers and magazines as well as on the organisation's internet page attempt deceitfully to justify their actions as responses to actions by other armed actors, labelling their victims as 'plain-clothes guerrillas'.

30. See comments below on displacement prevention policies.

31. See below for the case of the South of Bolívar and the appendix 3 on Alto Sinú.

32. National Planning Department. "Plan Nacional de Desarrollo, Cambio para construir la Paz" (National Development Plan, The Road to Peace). Ch. 4, Sections 1 to 3 Policy for Attention to the Displaced Population, November 1998, p236: "Displacement has become a strategy of war, insofar as the population is either forced to abandon the area, thereby facilitating the creation of a military or supply corridor for the sides in the conflict or is accused en masse of collaborating with the military adversary."

33. RUT Informa No. 2. Quarterly Bulletin on Forced Displacement in Colombia published by the Conferencia Episcopal de Colombia (Colombian Synod), p. 11, April-June 1999, Bogota. "... relating the issue of forced displacement to the 'agrarian conflict' exposes some of the interested parties that consider this uprooting as the most 'economical' or cheapest way of achieving aims related to the accumulation of land previously worked by peasant framers and subsequently of higher value.

34. Periódico Universidad Nacional (National University Newspaper) No. 5. "Ordenamiento territorial de los desplazamientos campesinos" (Territorial reorganisation through rural displacement). Article by Darío Fajardo, pp4-5, 12 December 1999, Bogota. "The trend in the expansion of the [agricultural] frontier due to pressure from extensive sole ownership of land in a large part of the country, operates in a violent and widespread manner with the continued participation of state agents. Presently it differs to that occurring in previous decades only by the magnitude and territorial nature of the regions in question, in accordance with various motives such as the control of strategic areas, the appropriation of land, counterinsurgency operations or a combination of the above.

35. A less protectionist economy brought about by reforms in import duties with the purpose of increasing foreign trade.

36. See section 2.4.1 below, Protection for victims of displacement.

37. Codhes Informa No. 28, pp11-12.

38. Codhes Informa No. 26 "Crisis Humanitaria y Catástrofe Social" (Humanitarian Crisis and Social Catastrophe) p. 5.

39. National Planning Department, Plan de Acción para la Prevención y Atención del Desplazsamiento Forzado, (Action Plan for the Prevention and Attention of Forced Displacement. Conpes Document 3057-99, Section 1A. Magnitude and Characteristics of Forced Displacement. "It is hoped that in the next few years this figure [of approximately 25,000 families displaced per year] will be reduced as a result of progress in the negotiations with the armed groups, the implementation of the Plan Colombia and activities in favour of human rights and the prevention of forced displacement".

40. Version released on the internet by the Presidency of the Republic's press agency: www.presidencia.gov.co. The issue of attention to the internally displaced population is included in the Democratisation and Social Development Strategy.

41. Session No. 106, 20 October 1999, Project S 1758. The information given is from the press release by Senator Paul Coverdell on 6 October 1999, summarising the provisions of the Anti-drugs Alliance with Colombia and the Andean Region Act of 1999.

42. Entity created in 1994 as an institutional development of the National Rehabilitation Plan. In 1997 it became a state establishment of national coverage, attached to the Administrative Department of the Presidency of the Republic. Its fundamental objectives are: to contribute to improving the living conditions of the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of the population; to facilitate their participation in social programmes by means of joint efforts with other government institutions, local entities, non-governmental organisations and civil society. The RSS mission is divided into four areas: to promote the progress of decentralisation; to create a greater commitment from local communities in the creation of development strategies; to consolidate coordination and control models for government policies; and to promote equality. Currently the RSS has 14 programmes under way, one of which involves IDPs.

43. The activities proposed in the National Planning Department document follow the lines of the Development Plan, a plan that each government presents at the start of its mandate and is submitted for consideration by the Consejo Nacional de Politica Económica y Social (National Council for Economic and Social Policy -CONPES). In 1995, beginning with the 'Conpes Document' No. 2804 and thereafter, the following strategic approaches were first designed to attend the problem of ID in: prevention, immediate attention, protection and consolidation/stabilisation. Subsequently, the CONPES approved the documents No. 2924/1997 with which the Sistema Nacional de Atención a la PDV (National System for Attention to IDPs) was created. The principal legal tool on the issue is Law 387/97 (whose regulations are still not completely established) by which "measures are adopted for the prevention of forced displacement and the socio-economic attention, protection, consolidation and stabilisation of the internally displaced persons by the violence in the Republic of Colombia".

44. By means of the decrees 387 and 489 of 3 and 11 March 1999, respectively.

45. By means of decree 1547 of August 1999.

46. Action Plan for the Prevention and Attention of Forced Displacement

47. Presidency of the Republic. Social Solidarity Network. Plan Estratégico para el Manejo del Desplazamiento Interno Forzado por el Conflicto Armado (Strategic Plan for the Management of Internal Forced Displacement due to the Armed Conflict. Undated.

48. This lapse was called the 'limbo' by the displaced people. One of the leaders of the working group on displacement in Bogota gave the following account of the situation: "At the moment we have no contact with the government at all. The Home Office is not letting displaced people into the building. Entrance into the RSS offices is also prohibited..." (Nuestro compromiso es la dedicación: apoyar a otras familias desplazadas, seguir buscando soluciones de fondo" (Our commitment is dedication: to help other displaced families and to keep searching for deep-rooted solutions) from the magazine Éxodo, No.12 June 1999, p.26.

49. In November, CONPES approved the rural education programme to provide, in its first phase, schooling for 500,000 children and young people out of a total 1,154,000 that do not have access to education in the rural areas; the whole programme will last seven and a half years. Half of its cost, US$120 million, depends on the approval of a World Bank loan and the other half will come out of national, regional, departmental and local budgets. The other strategy proposed to increase the number of school places is a 'rationalisation' in the distribution of teachers, which hopes to create between 10,000 and 15,000 new places without increasing public spending on education. El Espectador, 14 November 1999, p.10A.

50. Conpes Document 3057, Section I-A: Magnitude and Characteristics of Forced Displacement. It is estimated that there are currently 400,000 displaced persons. This figure is based on information from the National Information Network and that supplied by departmental governments to the Home Office.

51. "Observatorio del desplazamiento interno por la violencia" ( Observatory Body on internal displacement due to violence) from the magazine Exodo No.14 p.6. Includes the proposed regulations for this issue drawn up by the Colombian Commission of Jurists, member organisation of GAD.

52. One of the areas of the mandate of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Internal Displacements is the development of a regulatory framework that overcomes deficiencies in the law in this area. The Guiding Principles are a development of the work of compilation and analysis of the juridical norms applicable to the needs and rights of internally displaced persons, as well as to the rights and obligations of states and the international community with respect to protection and assistance for victims. The Principles try to orient the UN Representative in fulfilling his mandate; states in their treatment of the displacement phenomenon; all other authorities, groups and persons in their relationship with displaced persons; and intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations in their response to internal displacements.

53. The displaced people use the term 'certification' to refer to the paperwork in general that they have to go through to be able to obtain the benefits of the different attention programmes. In the existing institutional mechanisms the first step is a declaration of the circumstances of the displacement in the offices of the state control agencies and then registration (formerly at the Home Office Special Administrative Unit on Human Rights and now at the RSS Attention Centre). For those that were displaced from urban areas and are seeking rural resettlement, certification itself (official accreditation of displaced person status issued by the Home Office Special Administrative Unit on Human Rights, according to the agreement No. 18/1995 of the Instituto Colombiano para la Reforma Agraria (Colombian Institute for Agrarian Reform -INCORA)) is a necessary requirement to be considered for a land purchase subsidy. See the witness account in Exodo No. 12 about 'decertification'.

54. See Appendix 1 on the Bogota working group's diagnosis of the registration process.

55. El Tiempo, 12 January 1999, p.8A

56. For a description of this case see Appendix 2. Similar negligence has been reported in the Magdalena Medio (see below for the return process in the south of Bolívar and the Valle de Cimitarra), in the department of Chocó (see below for the return process of communities of Cacarica) where the authorities were warned of imminent attacks by armed groups and responded with silence or in the withdrawal of their check points and patrols.

57. Flor Alba Romero, National University of Colombia, Institute of Political Studies and International Relations: "Evaluación de las Politicas públicas sobre desplazamiento forzado" (Evaluation of State Policies on Forced Displacement), talk given as part of the International Conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango. Santafé de Bogotá. October 1999. On this issue the she states that "even though all state policy papers have included the setting up of an early warning system to prevent forced displacement and in some cases mention has been made of this system being in operation on the part of the state, it is certain that the necessary steps have not been taken to put it into practice and this network still remains on paper".

58. For the development of the case see Appendix 3

59. Edgar Quiroga and Gildardo Fuentes are the two spokespersons involved. They led negotiations between the peasants that were displaced from the Magdalena Medio and high ranking government officials. They also signed the agreements reached in Barrancabermeja in October 1998. Quiroga was included in the Programa de Protección a Defensores de los DH (Protection Programme for HR Defenders). The AUC released a statement on Saturday 4 December claiming responsibility for the kidnap of the two leaders and accusing Quiroga of being a guerrilla commander. (EL Espectador, 8 December 1999, p.5A)

60. For more on this issue, see Hernandez E and Salazar, Marcela. "Con la Esperanza Intacta: Experiencias comunitarias de resistencia civil no violenta" (With Hope Intact: Community Experiences of Non-Violent Civil Resistance). Oxfam. Bogota, 1999.

61. El Colombiano, 9 April 1999, p. 3A. Declarations made by the commander of the I Division of the Army after the attacks on the community leaders of San José de Apartadó (Antioquia) on 4 April and Riosucio (Chocó) on 7 April.

62. In a letter of 5 March to President Pastrana various businesspeople, cattle farmers and members of the Communal Action Groups of Carepa (Antioquia) discredited the work of NGOs providing humanitarian aid to displaced communities of the region, accusing them of being in contact with the guerrilla and attempting to get the inhabitants to reject the army. They also stated that the Peace Communities were places of refuge used by common criminals to evade the authorities. (El Colombiano, 25 March 1999, p.8A)

63. El Colombiano, 5 January 1999, p. 2A. El Tiempo, 5 January 1999, p.8A.

64. El Tiempo 9 April 1999, p.9A. El Espectador, 9 April 199, p.7A. El Colombiano, 10 April 1999, p.8A. The next day the bodies of 12 of the 15 peasants disappeared in the attack were found as well as a further three victims of the paramilitary group.

65. Particularly the duties of the combatants towards the non-combatants, as is written in Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions.

66. See Appendix 2.

67.UNHCR Operational Plan on Forced Displacement in Colombia. UNHCR Mimeograph. Santafé de Bogotá, 1999, p.5.

68. "The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict ends his mission in Colombia" Press statement reproduced in Exodo, No. 13, September 1999, p.16.

69. "Ataques a municipios...",(Attacks on municipalities...) El Colombiano 19 September 1999, p.7A The Colombian Federation of Municipalities reported that in 270 municipalities the armed groups controlled the destination of the budget.

70. "Asesinados 19 Alcaldes en dos años" (19 Local mayors assassinated in two years) El Colombiano, 22 September, 1999, p.8A; "Los violentos se apoderan del país", (The violent factions take over the country) El Espectador, 22 September, 1999, p.5A. The above federation reports that there are 70 mayors under threat and 12 of them have to carry out their duties from other municipalities.

71. The government policy papers quoted in this report use the term 'relocation' to refer to the process of settling in rural or urban areas different to the displaced persons' places of origin. The Guiding Principles use the term 'reintegration' that puts across a more understanding notion of the needs of the IDPs in that they are required to establish themselves in a different social and cultural environment.

72. Exodo No. 12, p. 6. Witness account.

73. There are several NGOs accompanying this type of process. Cinep, Minga, Justicia y Paz are developing educational programmes of organisation and training so that communities can return and re-establish themselves in basic conditions of dignity and protection.

74. Agreement with the Magdalena Medio Regional Committee for Permanent Work towards Peace. 4 October 1998. Barrancabermeja.

75. The prevention measures that the government should adopt according to article 14 of Law 387/97, include, among others: anticipation of risks that could cause displacement; actions by the armed forces and police to counter perturbing factors; the mitigation of risks against the displaced population's lives, integrity and property; giving guidance to local authorities to include prevention and attention programmes in their development plans.

76. Organismos de control (State control agencies, also called the Ministerio Público); Procuradoría -Attorney General's Office, Defensoría del Pueblo -Human Rights Ombudsman's Office and Personería - Municipal Attorney's Office -Translator's note.

77. Statement of 5 November 1999 by Communal Action Groups and nine human rights NGOs working in the area. By means of a radio-operated early warning system the peasants remained in contact with the Comité Regional par la defensa de los Derechos Humanos (Regional Human Rights Advocacy Committee -Credhos) and were able to receive emergency attention, although very limited due to the lack of resources, from the Asociación Campesina del Valle del Río Cimitarra (River Cimitarra Valley Peasant Farmer Association). The AUC released a statement on 30 October confirming that they had allowed the ICRC to provide humanitarian aid to 2500 peasant farmers in the hamlet of Vallecito (San Pablo) who they said were being held by the guerrillas. El Espectador, November 9, 1999, pg. 7A "Crece éxodo de campesinos en el sur de Bolívar" ( Peasant's exodus grows at Bolívar south). El Colombiano, November 10, 1999, 8A. "Solos, en el monte y en medio de la guerra" (Lonely, in the forest and in the middle of the war)

78. The commander of the V Army Brigade, General Alberto Bravo Silva, recognised that a series of irregularities had occurred with respect to the troops stationed in the hamlets of Vallecito, Pozo Azul and El Diamante during the 'Operation Anaconda' carried out between April and May as a result of the hijack of the plane. The events questioned by the General (document N 040 / DIV2-BR5-CDO, 18 May, V Brigade) coincide with some of the complaints made by the community regarding acts committed by a paramilitary group.

79. INCORA is trying to establish a area reserved for subsistence farming in the region of the Serranía de San Lucas.

80. SALAZAR P. Marcela "Communities in return to the Cacarica: The contribution of the Mixed Verification Commission" Investigaciones DIAL, No. 2 DIAL, Bogota, 1999. p.8

81. With the accompaniment and assessment of the Inter-congregational Commission Justicia y Paz. This NGO, member organisation of GAD, played an important part in the accompaniment and protection of the returning community and facilitated the dialogue with the local and regional authorities.

82. As established by Law 70/1993.

83. The aims of the Mixed Verification Commission (MVC) are: to verify the agreements between the parties and the conditions of security and protection in the return settlements; to participate in making agreements with the armed actors to respect the population; accompaniment in the journey to the settlement sites and presence in these; publication of the agreements.

84. Referred to as the Casa de la Justicia (House of Justice), this body is a non-armed state presence in the area with representation from the Prosecutor General's Office, the Attorney General's Office and the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office. It has the key functions of protection and prevention, as well as providing a judicial service for the population. -Translator's note.

85. Publication and circulation of the Document: Nuestro Proyecto y Normas de Vida, Plan de Retorno Integral (Our Life Project and Guiding Principles, An Integral Return Plan).

86. The five principle of the Life Project are oriented at attaining Self-determination, Life and Dignity. The principles are Truth, Freedom, Justice, Solidarity and Fraternity as the basis of a community project amid the war.

87. See appendix 4.

88. Every person returning to the Cacarica Basin takes on a publicly acknowledged commitment before the community to comply with the Normas de Vida.

89. 0 This is the environmental authority in the department of Chocó.

90. That would begin on 28 November with a group of 650 people leaving Turbo (Antioquia) every three months. Four hundred and eighteen houses would be built in the villages of Nueva Vida (formerly Puerto Nuevo) and Esperanza en Dios (formerly El Limón) both in the Chocó.

91. Related to food, health, educational assistance and the dredging of the caños (tributaries). The issuing of the collective land title to the Consejo Comunitario Mayor del Cacarica (Cacarica Higher Community Council, approved on 26 April 1999 by the INCORA resolution 00841), was programmed for the 12 October, the same time that the exploratory phase was beginning, but was postponed because President Pastrana was not available to present it personally.

92. The lower stretches of the River Atrato have not been navigable since 1998 due to the climatic phenomenon 'la niña' bringing intense rains to the Chocó. The government had destined a sum of money that year to begin dredging work on the 19 mouths of the river. However, by February 1999, the population of Riosucio had been waiting nearly a year in a situation of emergency without the work having been done. As a result of a protest in October the inhabitants managed to get a commitment from the government to send a dredge. A promise that still had not been kept by the middle of November.

93. Reports by the Dioceses of Apartadó (Antioquia) and Quibdó (Chocó) El Tiempo 23 November 1999, p.9A; El Colombiano, 22 November 1999.

94. Conpes Document 3057- Action Plan for the Prevention and Attention of Forced Displacement -DNP-UPRU, Nov. 24/99. I.D.1 Activities embarked upon for return, relocation and social and economic stability. p.3.

95. A similar situation was seen in the Atrato Medio. In April 1999, communities from the River Salaquí tried to return to their lands after two years of forced displacement. They moved into empty houses (due to the displacement of their owners) in the municipality of Riosucio (close to Salaquí) where they managed to survive with the help of non-governmental organisations and the Diocese of Apartadó. An agreement with the sides in the armed conflict allowed this community to receive humanitarian attention. They had not received any attention from the government. They then formed an expedition of 100 men to make their way up the Salaquí. After one hour's journey up river they found that it had been blocked by a landslide. The blockage had caused the destruction of all the vegetation in a wide area along the banks and had obstructed all navigation within a five kilometre radius.

96. In November, the CONPES approved the issuing of agrarian bonds to the value of $60,500 million pesos to raise money for subsidies in the purchasing of land. This sum is part of a total of a $83,600 million peso subsidy programme established for the period 1999 to 2003. The land is bought through the market, the government paying 50% of the subsidy in bonds and 20% in cash to the seller. The beneficiary has to obtain a loan for the remaining 30% of the total cost.

97. See Appendix 5.

98. In this context, including nongovernmental organisations involved in human rights, the Church and grass-roots social organisations.

99. See the article by Francis Deng "Don't overlook Colombia's humanitarian crisis" published in The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, 6 October 1999 and reproduced in Exodo No. 14. December 1999.

100. By the Vice President of the Republic, Gustavo Bell, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, 28 January 1999, Geneva, Switzerland.

101. The commission was conformed of UN Agencies (UNHCR and the UNHCHR), the European Union (ECHO), international NGOs (Cáritas española, Medicos del Mundo-Francia, OXFAM GB, Secours Catholique - Cáritas-Francia) and the Catholic Church (dioceses of Apartadó, Parish of Riosucio, CINEP, Justicia y Paz, Cáritas colombiana).

102. For example, the NGO, Peace Brigades International (PBI) with its headquarters in London, has had a team of some 20 people in an accompaniment and observation role in Colombia since 1994. They are based in Bogotá, Magdalena Medio and Urabá. The objectives of PBI in Colombia, at the request of local NGOs, are the protection of the political activities of the human rights defenders and the displaced population as well as training in issues of psychosocial reparation and reconstruction of the social network. At a national level, the legal consultants, Humanidad Vigente, the lawyers cooperative, 'José Alvear Restrepo', the Latin American Institute of Alternative Legal Services (ILSA), the corporation, Sembrar, have been accompanying different communities with the purpose of providing protection through the application of legal mechanisms such as the tutela [A constitutional legal action aimed at protecting fundamental rights when no other mechanism exists for their defence, or as temporary mechanism to avoid irreparable damage. Political Constitution, Article 86 - Translator], derechos de petición [requests for information] or acciones de cumplimiento [A constitutional action aimed at achieving the fulfilment of a law, resolution or administrative act. Political Constitution, Article 87.-Translator]

103. Eguren, Luis Enrique: "Accompaniment in Colombia: international protection of human rights", magazine on Forced Migrations No. 4 April-September 1999, p.18. Published by Refugee Studies Programme/University of Oxford and the Global IDP Survey by the Norwegian Refugee Council.

104. El Tiempo, 20 November 1999, p.15A and 22 November 1999, p.13D. EL Colombiano, 20 November 1999, p. 8A and 23 November 1999, p. 8A.

105. El Tiempo, 25 November 1999, p. 9A and 28 November 1999, p.8D. El Espectador, 28 November 1999, p. 6A.

106. La Fundación Menonita Colombiana para el Desarrollo (The Colombian Mennonite Foundation for Development -MENCOLDES) is carrying out projects on rural and urban socio-economic stabilisation for displaced families; similarly the Colombian Synod plays an important part in mediation with the government and runs integral programmes all over the country.

107. The first Conference on Agrarian Resettlement Experiences for Communities Displaced by Political Violence, with the participation of representatives from communities in the central region of the country. See "Rebuicación con Dignidad" (Relocation with Dignity), the minutes of the conference published by GAD. Bogota, 1999.

108. From Chocó, Bogota, Meta, Huila, Tolima, Norte de Santander, Santander, Urabá (Chocó and Antioquia). This conference was brought about by GAD with the support of its member organisations, in particular, Benposta -Nación de Muchachos.

109. "De humanos a desplazados, huellas de nunca borrar..."(From humans to displaced persons, footprints that are never washed away...) by Vilma Giraldo, Laura Carreño and Sonia Rojas from the Social Work Department at the National University.

110.Entities such as Corporación para el Apoyo a Victimas de la Violencia Pro-recuperación Emocional (Corporation to Support Victims of Violence in Emtional Recovery -AVRE), a member group of GAD, are involved in this issue.

111.The initiative of the round table discussions about displacement in the City of Santafé de Bogotá was an output of the effort made by different social organisations for displaced people and by non-governmental supporting agencies in order to design policies, and to have citizens inspecting and participating in solving the problems that cause forced displacement. The GAD participated in the discussions through the Mennonite Foundation for Development -Mencoldes- and the "Corporación Jurídica Humanidad Vigente."

112.Agreement 02 of 1998, issued by the Council of the City of Bogotá stipulated the design of an Action Plan for people displaced by violence. The District's Unit for Attention began its activities halfway through 1999, and only at the end of the year the RSS set up a Center for Humanitarian Assistance. ("Headquarters for displaced people," El Espectador, November 30, 1999).

113.Law 387/97, Chapter II, Section I, Articles 1 and 4.

114.Growing coca allowed many families to cope with the agricultural crisis produced by the opening-up of the economy during the government of President Gaviria (1990-1994). The crops covered 35,000 hectares in the area of the Catatumbo, 2,800 of them were in the jurisdiction of La Gabarra (Tibú), which is a stockpile center where the planters trade with drug-trafficking middlemen. According to a communal agreement, each family can only plant three hectares of coca. To avoid the violence produced by drug-trafficking, the communal council decided that crops should only be used for survival and not for becoming rich. Unlike coca paste which multiples its price as it circulates among middlemen, the crops to be harvested are more difficult to market as they are sent far away from the plots of land in which they were grown.

115."Gabarra, another announced massacre," El Espectador, August 24, 1999, p. 4A.

116.AUC's commanding officer recognised that the group had killed around 60 persons in the region, and also said that he had several lists with the names of guerrilla's 'supporters' to be 'executed.' El Colombiano, on July 21, 1999, p. 11c.

117.The senator had visited the town of San Pablo (Bolívar) with the other members of the Senate's Commission for Human Rights one day before her kidnapping. There, they received the community's report about the presence of paramilitary groups and about the lack of support from the military authorities. In the previous seven months, 63 leaders from this town were killed, and more than 1,000 houses were burnt by these groups in the nearest jurisdictions.

118.The battalion settled half an hour from La Gabarra said that the night of the last assault, it had been attacked by paramilitary groups, that troops were patrolling other areas and that the control of the urban area was the police's responsibility. The Public Ministry is investigating the Army and Police's commanders, because it has serious evidence that they have allowed paramilitary groups to enter the Department and to have facilitated their actions against the population. (El Tiempo, November 6, 1999, and El Espectador, November 5, 1999).

119.The information about displaced people in the Venezuelan territory was taken from the document "Global Report: the right to look for and to be given refuge in the Colombo-Venezuelan border zone." This report was written by the NGOs for Human Rights: Supporting Network for Justice and Peace in Venezuela; the Venezuelan Educational Program called "Action in Human Rights," and by the Colombian Association for Alternative Social Promotion, "Minga".

120.The executive director of Human Rights Watch Americas reported several violations to the UN Convention and Protocol for refugees: the return of 600 displaced persons to Colombia was imposed, violating the responsibility of the two countries for protecting refugees; the requests of 100 displaced persons asking for their status of refugees in Venezuela were ignored by the two countries; the representatives of the two countries did not allow UNHCR' staff members to participate in two meetings carried out with peasants, but, in fact, an officer from the Colombian Army was allow to participate as the person in charge of the Catatumbo area. He said that the exodus was conceived by guerrillas. El Colombiano, July 2, 1999, p. 8A.

121.According to the global report mentioned and the information given by the press in Colombia, finally, a minority of displaced people (around 380 persons) were allowed to stay in Cucutá's coliseum and (340 persons) in a plot of land around the area, where they received scarce humanitarian support from RSS. Civic campaigns and collections to obtain food and blankets were also organised. Three hundred and sixty four displaced persons registered, stayed in their relatives and friends' houses in the Atalaya residential complex. They did not receive assistance from RSS, but the paramilitary did several raids there. The majority of displaced people from the region of Tibú, around 4,000, did not request help from the State. As they were a floating population, they possibly decided their course of action on their own.

122.It is the case of the so called "raspachines" who work in the harvest of coca's leaves for some time.

123.Sentences T652 of November 10, 1998, and T194 of March 25, 1999, Courtroom to check Tutelas - Constitutional Court.

124.Around 800 families from Jiguamiandó river, Curvaradó and Murindó went to the jungle when paramilitary raids started in Santafé de Churima (1997). They built refuges with vegetation, got the scattered families together and started cultivating some disperse crops. A portion of the displaced people, the ones known as resisting persons, decided to stay there. There are 58 children in the group and five have died because of a lack of medical treatment. It is estimated that 3,000 displaced persons are still in the jungle near Murrí, Arquía and Bebará rivers. Their fear of paramilitary actions does not allow them to take care of their crops, to go to hospitals and to obtain products.

125.A member of the Peace Community from San Francisco de Asís regretted that the acknowledgement to their work come from abroad (they received the Human Rights Award in France), but not from the Colombian Government, which has not answered yet their proposals to cover their basic needs in education, health and food.

126.The commitment not to cooperate with the actors of the armed conflicts was assumed by the initiative of the inhabitants and with the advise from Apartadó's Diocese.

127.See the research about the case in the Journal called Investigaciones, published by DIAL (Inter-agencies Dialogue). November, 1999. "Communities going back to Cacarica," done by Marcela Salazar Posada.

128.See the publication: "El Tapón del Darién," August, 1999. "El Mundo" publishing house, pg. 4-5. We underlined it.

129.In fact, the same publication considers that the creation of "Los Katios" natural park ( which borders on Cacarica's region) has caused the loss of the dynamics to continue constructing the road.

130. The road mentioned is the one that communicates the Department of El Huila with those of Caquetá and Putumayo.

131.Due to the objections of displaced people, the RSS director in El Huila described them as problematic persons, and affirmed that many Colombians go to the market daily with even less money than the one offered in the project. El Tiempo, January 22, 1999, pg. 8A "Desplazados 'trabajosos' en Neiva" (Displaced persons hard to deal with [pun with 'hard workers'] in Neiva)

132.The concepts given by the HR Ombudsman's Office of the Department specified that the supply of public services legalises the ownership of the plot (Law 142).

133.With the participation of the Municipal Attorney Office, the HR Ombudsman's Office, the General Attorney's Office, the RSS, National Institution for the Agrarian Reform - INCORA, Colombian Institution for Family Welfare - ICBF, the GAD, the Corporación Jurídica Humanidad Vigente, Mencoldes, and community spokesmen. The statements received by the committee are used to send the persons to agencies that render specific services, but it does not cover the totality of displaced people and does not allow to consolidate data.

134.INCORA takes decisions based on the certifications given by the Ministry of the Interior (51 families), in spite of the fact that 100 families do want to be resettled. The purchase of plots of land was stopped due to problems concerning public order and the lack of conditions of the plots of land for sale, which would be used for productive projects. The proposals presented by displaced people were also rejected.

135.Institute which depends on the Department's administration and which owns the plots of land

Documentation note:

Every year the Support Group for Displaced People Organizations - GAD - prepares a report about the evolution of forced displacement in Colombia. The purpose of these documents is to contribute in the design and implementation of public policies aimed to deal suitably with internal displacement and overcome it.

The GAD is a co-ordination unit of 13 non governmental organizations which engage in interdisciplinary work, at different regions of the country, with people displaced by violence. It was created in 1995 and its current members are:

  • Asociación para la Promoción Social Alternativa - MINGA (Association for Alternative Social Promotion)
  • BENPOSTA, Nación de Muchachos(Boy's Nation)
  • Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular -CINEP (Center for Popular Research and Education)
  • Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (José Alvear Restrepo - Group of Lawyers)
  • Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (Colombian Commission of Jurists)
  • Comisión Intercongregacional de Justicia y Paz (Justice and Peace)
  • Conferencia Episcopal de Colombia - Sección de Movilidad Humana (Colombian Episcopal Conference)
  • Corporación de Servicios Profesionales Comunitarios - SEMBRAR (Corporation of Professional Services for Communities)
  • Corporación para el Apoyo a Víctimas pro- Recuperación Emocional - AVRE (Corporation for the Support of Victims of Socio-Political Violence)
  • Fundación para la Educación y el Desarrollo -FEDES (Foundation for Education and Development)
  • Fundación Menonita Colombiana para el Desarrollo -MENCOLDES (Mennonite Foundation for Community Development)
  • Humanidad Vigente - Corporación Jurídica (Juridical Corporation Existing Humanity)
  • Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativos -ILSA (Latin American Institute for Alternative Legal Services)

The GAD works with a permanent coordination team and several work commissions in the following areas: support for organization processes of displaced people; accompaniment to victims of new forced displacements; dialogue and negotiation with governmental authorities; research, communication and dissemination.

Publishing committee

  • Colombian Commission of Jurists
  • AVRE Corporation
  • Foundation for Education and Development - FEDES
  • Latin American Institute for Alternative Legal Services - ILSA

Editor - Executive Co-ordination, GAD

Texts compiled by - Co-ordination team 

Electronic Edition by Equipo Nizkor. EU, 19jun00.

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