Last Updated:3/8/02
Executive Summary, comments of nine Colombian human rights organizations regarding the conditions of the Andean Regional Initiative, February 28, 2002

Comments of the human rights organizations of Colombia regarding the fulfillment of the conditions of the Andean Regional Initiative

Executive Summary

The below suscribers of this document, the human rights organizations of Colombia, in accordance with the dispositions of Law 107-115 of the United States of America, the Secretary of State cannot validly extend the Colombian government's certification for the compliance of conditions (A), (B) and (C), for the following reasons:

(A) Armed Forces member suspension from active duty

The Armed Forces Commander General has not suspended from active duty several officials, sub-officials and officers against whom accusations exist. Said suspensions have not even been applied to members who have preventive measures or disciplinary sanctions against them for participating in gross violations of human rights, or for having aided or abetted paramilitary groups. Cases in point include the involvement of the Vice Admiral, the colonels and the sergeants of the Navy in the massacre of Chengue on January 17, 2001; the General who was disciplinarily sanctioned for his participation in the massacre of Mapiripán (Meta) in 1997; the sergeants of the Army School of Logistics against whom an arrest warrant was issued for the forced disappearance, torture and assassination of Nidya Erika Bautista in 1987; the Army captain and lieutenants implicated in the massacre of La Cabuya (Arauca) in 1998; the captain and lieutenant from the Colombian Air Force against whom restrictions to barracks OJO were issued for the massacre of Santodomingo (Arauca) in 1998; the National Police major declared disciplinarily responsible for the forced disappearance of John Ricardo Ubaté in 1995; the National Police Captain against whom evidence has been gathered for his involvement in the attack on the life of union leader Wilson Borja in December 2000.

(B) Cooperation with the civilian justice system

The Armed Forces have not been cooperating with the judicial authorities in the investigation, prosecution and punishment, in the civilian courts, of members of the armed forces against whom serious accusations exist for committing gross human rights abuses or for having aided or abetted paramilitary groups. This is evidenced by the fact that several members of the military implicated in these practices are facing trial in the military criminal courts in breach of the Colombian Constitution and laws and in defiance to the recommendations of several inter-governmental human rights organizations. Cases in point include the assassination of Leonel de Jesús Izasa Echeverry in 1993 where officers from the Nueva Granada Battalion, which operates under the auspices of the Army's Fifth Brigade have been said to be involved, and the agents from the First Division of the Infantry Battalion No. 31 "Voltígeros" implicated in the assassination of two negotiators from the Socialist Renovation Movement who were participating in peace talks with the national government in 1993. In both cases the military has refused to transfer jurisdiction to the civilian courts in spite of the recommendations rendered by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. The cases of the Colombian Armed Forces members implicated in the aerial bombardments of the civilian population in Santodomingo (Arauca) in 1998, and the members of the Infantry Battalion No. 11 Cacique Nutibara, implicated in an attack on boys and girls participating in a school field trip in Pueblorrico (Antioquia) in August 2000, also remain under the jurisdiction of the military justice system.

Two generals are implicated in two other representative cases: the forced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial killing of Nidya Erika Bautista in 1987 and the brutal massacre of Mapiripán (Meta) in 1997. In both of these cases the Constitutional Court had to issue an order to legally force the armed forces to transfer jurisdiction to the civilian courts. The military refused until the very last minute, even during the undergoing procedure ]before the Constitutional Court.

In addition to the above-mentioned cases of gross violations of human rights, high ranking military officials promoted and obtained the passage of a new National Security and Defense Law (Law 684 of 2001). This law, which among other things represents an attack against the enforcement of a democratic rule of law, leaves the door open to several sources of impunity regarding human rights violations in which the armed forces may eventually find themselves involved. The law paves the way for the military to carry out activities under the jurisdiction of the judicial police force, - collection of evidence- in cases of gross violations of human rights in which the members of the military themselves may have been implicated. Moreover, the law reduced to a two month period, the time in which the public service office must decide whether to open or not a formal investigation against members of the public forces for their actions during police or military operations against criminal organizations.

(C) Application of effective measures aimed towards severing links with paramilitary groups

The Armed Forces have not taken the necessary measures in order to sever existing links between their members and paramilitary groups. This is evidenced by the massacres, selective assassinations, forced disappearances, forced displacement, and actions aimed towards terrorizing the civilian population by paramilitary groups, supported or abetted by the Armed Forces. In many cases during the year 2001, the armed forces did not respond to accusations and calls for help made by threatened communities, by state and national-level government oversight authorities, and by non-governmental organizations. All of these were aimed towards preventing paramilitary incursions and thus attacks against and assassinations of members of the civilian population. Such was the case of Chengue, where 34 people were killed on January 17, 2001. In many cases the military allowed the paramilitary groups to travel over roads and highways and through ports the military controlled, and, in others, they withdrew troops days or even hours before the paramilitary actions occurred. This was the case in the paramilitary incursions into the municipalities of El Tarra, Teorama, Convención and Tibú (Norte de Santander) in December 2001 and January 2002. In other events, members of the public forces acted jointly with the paramilitary groups. Example of the latter may be found in the criminal investigation of the attack against the life of union leader Wilson Borja, in December 2000, which implicates an army major and a police captain, both in active duty, as well as several retired military members and an army informant. The political commander of the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Consequently, it has been clearly demonstrated that the Colombian government has not fully complied with the human rights conditions required by United States law for the disbursement of proposed economic aid under the framework of the Andean Regional Initiative. Therefore, Colombian human rights organizations consider that the corresponding certification should not be granted.

28 de febrero de 2002,


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