Concerns of the Colombian Human Rights Community

In the United States we have a special responsibility to question and monitor continued U.S. weapons transfers, training, and other aid to the Colombian Army and National Police, in view of the dismal human rights record they share and the general failure of U.S. drug control policy in Colombia. As part of efforts to support the incipient peace process, we should help articulate and communicate the chief concerns of the Colombian human rights community. These were summarized as follows in a recent document from the delegation from the Coordinación Colombia-Europa that traveled to Washington between October 1 and 2:

    With respect to the paramilitary groups:

  1. The Government of Colombia should confront the paramilitary groups in every aspect, including militarily, in the understanding that they are armed groups acting outside the law.

  2. President Pastrana, with the powers he enjoys under the Constitution, should remove all state agents with ties to the paramilitary from active service, including those who belong to the military and police forces.

    With respect to the justice system:

  3. There are certain legal situations at work in Colombia that foster impunity and the criminalization of social protest, in particular the military criminal justice system (Justicia Penal Militar), the faceless-judge courts (Justicia Regional), and the failure to define the forced disappearance of persons as a crime.

    To address forced displacement:

  4. The Pastrana Administration should formulate a comprehensive policy to address the ongoing problem of forced displacement that addresses the wide array of rights of the displaced that have been violated (civil, political, economic, and social).

  5. Persons displaced by the violence should be guaranteed the right to return in conditions of security and with safeguards to ensure against repetition of the events that forced them to flee their lands.
  6. The Pastrana Administration should attack the fundamental causes of displacement, which are basically the actions of the paramilitary groups.

    With respect to human rights defenders:

  7. We human rights defenders believe that the best protection is prevention, where the main focus is fighting paramilitarism, the immediate removal from their posts of state agents who work with these groups, and the measures described above.