InfoBrief - September 22, 2003
InfoBrief is a weekly news summary of events in the U.S. and Colombia produced and distributed by the U.S. Office on Colombia. Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London. Other sources include U.S. and Latin American newspapers, and reports from non-profit and grassroots groups. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Office on Colombia. If you would like to receive InfoBrief please contact firstname.lastname@example.org indicating why you would be interested in this weekly news service.
U.S. Current Affairs & Media
Colombia, U.S. Sign Accord Exempting U.S. Citizens from ICC Prosecution On September 17, the United States and Colombia signed an agreement that exempts Americans in Colombia from prosecution before the new International Criminal Court (ICC). The accord comes two months after the Bush Administration suspended $5 million in military aid to Colombia because the Colombian government had not adequately agreed to protect U.S. citizens from the international court. As a result of the pact, the United States will not withhold the $130 million in military aid that it had threatened to suspend in 2004. Colombias decision to sign the accord was met by harsh criticism from Human Rights Watch and members of Colombias own congress, who contend that the agreement undermines the rule of law. In response, the Colombian Foreign Ministry maintained that this agreement in no way affects Colombias commitment to fulfill the obligations it assumed on ratifying the  Statute of Rome, which created the ICC. More information is available online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/19/international/ americas/19COLO.html.
Human Rights Watch Issues Report on the Widespread Use of Child Combatants in Colombia In a report released on September 18, Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimated that 11,000 children under the age of 18 currently fight in Colombias armed conflict. This number represents a dramatic increase from the late 1990s, making Burma and the Democratic Republic of Congo the only two countries with significantly larger numbers of child combatants than Colombia. Although all of Colombias illegal armed groups rely on child combatants, 80% of them are affiliated with one of the two primary guerrilla groups, the FARC and the ELN. Several thousand of these child combatants are under the age of 15, meaning that assigning them combat responsibility is categorized as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. The report urges both paramilitaries and guerrillas to end child recruitment immediately and to demobolize those in their ranks. The full report, entitled Youll Learn not to Cry is available online at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/colombia0903/.
President Uribe Draws Criticism, Support on Eve of Visit to Washington As his visit to Washington D.C. on September 30 approaches, President Uribe has been both criticized and praised for his controversial proposal for the demobilization of members of illegal armed groups. According to the draft legislation, paramilitary leaders classified as terrorists by the State Department would only face community service and fines if they agree to disarm. A New York Times editorial on September 20 noted that killers who have massacred dozens of civilians would be able to avoid or walk out of prison by paying a fee. Robin Kirk of HRW criticized the proposed law in an op-ed last week, noting that if Colombia wants to continue receiving millions in aid, it cannot allow known criminals to escape justice by, in effect, writing a check. But according to an article published in the New York Times last week, the Bush Administration has not only offered support for Mr. Uribe but also has been consulted as his administration drafted the legislation. The Times article can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/15/international/ americas/15COLO.html and the Times editorial at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/20/opinion/20SAT2.html? ex=1065237950&ei=1&en=48a23c2f357a6e60 while the Kirk editorial is available at: http://hrw.org/editorials/ 2003/colombia091403.htm.
U.N. Reports Decreases in Colombias Coca Crop According to a new report issued by the United Nations Drug Control Program on September 17, the production of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, has dropped 32% in Colombia in the first seven months of 2003. The report attributed much of the decrease to the U.S.-backed aerial fumigation program, which has been met by profound concern about its effects on the environment and human health. Despite this encouraging and positive news, however, the U.N. report also warned that coca production is rapidly expanding in the neighboring countries of Bolivia and Peru, threatening to counteract any progress made in Colombia. More information is available online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/18/international/americas/ 18COLO.html?ex=1064462400&en=9c83e00bb68d41f3&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE.
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