Last Updated:8/1/00
Letter from five human rights organizations to the State Department regarding human rights consultation, July 31, 2000
Ambassador Peter Romero
Assistant Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Ambassador Romero:

The human rights conditions and certification process included in the recently approved U.S. aid package to Colombia provide the U.S. government with an important opportunity to work with the Colombian government and its security forces to improve their human rights record. The undersigned organizations believe that the brief consultation that has been scheduled for August 1, unfortunately, will not allow human rights organizations to contribute to the certification process in the manner envisioned in the legislation, or in a way that will assist the State Department in promoting human rights reforms.

The meeting scheduled for August 1, to which several human rights organizations were invited, affords only an hour and fifteen minutes for a discussion of Colombia's progress in meeting the human rights conditions of the aid legislation. Given the complexity of Colombia's human rights situation, the manifold conditions contained in the legislation, and the number of groups that would be taking part in the conversation, the time allotted to the meeting would allow only the most superficial and summary discussion of the issues. Because such a meeting could not be considered a serious consultation regarding Colombia's efforts to comply with the legislation's human rights conditions, the organizations that have been invited to participate must respectfully decline the invitation. We do, however, strongly encourage the State Department to schedule for a later date a consultation that reflects the following recommendations.

First, the participating organizations and the State Department should have the opportunity to discuss the agenda prior to the meeting. The agenda should be shared and agreed upon in a manner that will enable human rights organizations to prepare and provide the best information possible relevant to the human rights conditions contained in the aid legislation.

In addition, the meeting should allow for sufficient time to analyze each condition. Perhaps this would entail multiple meetings, each one allowing for consideration of one or two conditions, or a single, much longer meeting that would allow for each condition to be discussed thoroughly.

Finally, the undersigned organizations believe that it is necessary that internationally recognized human rights organizations based in Colombia be included in the consultation process. Certain Colombian nongovernmental organizations enjoy consultative status at the United Nations or other international or regional organizations; they closely monitor the daily situation on the ground in Colombia, as well as the steps taken by the Colombian government to improve human rights conditions. Such organizations are vital sources of information on the human rights situation in Colombia's fast-changing and complex internal conflict. The undersigned organizations are convinced that a consultation that reflects the suggestions outlined above will be much more effective in meeting the requirements of the aid legislation. We look forward to discussing further with you a process that meets our shared goals of promoting human rights in Colombia.


José Miguel Vivanco
Executive Director
Human Rights Watch, Americas

Carlos Salinas
Acting Director of the Legislative Program
Amnesty International, USA

Winifred Tate
Senior Fellow
Washington Office on Latin America

John Fredriksson
Associate Executive Director
US Committee for Refugees

Rachelle Schlabach
Legislative Coordinator
Mennonite Central Committee

Cc: Thomas Pickering, Under Secretary of State, US Department of State
Harold Koh, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, US Department of State
Arturo Valenzuela, Senior Director for Inter-American Affairs, The White House

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